This is probably my longest post yet. It's also a bit difficult to type right now, for a variety of reasons that will be explained further on.
Thage: -she walks in from the kitchen, a hot bowl of crab meat covered in cocktail sauce in one hand and a fork in the other- ... Ava's been quiet all day.
Me: -I stare blankly at the floor-
Thage: -she pokes me with the non-business end of the fork- Talk to me.
Me: Wuh? What?
Thage: I said Ava's been quiet all day. As in, no screams from waking up from a nightmare.
Me: If her last post was anything to go by, I don't think she's sleeping. She's too busy fighting it.
Thage: Fill me in. I haven't had a chance to catch up on all the blogs lately.
Me: Apparently Red turned a part of her own psyche against her and she wants to gut me with mirror shards. Oh yeah, she broke your mirror. And carved her name in your wall. And wrote her autobiography on every available surface.
Thage: Would you believe I've seen stranger things?
Me: Considering I was probably responsible for several of them, yes.
Thage: I'll just make you re-plaster and -paint the walls later, and I've got a few hand mirrors in my room I can use 'til I get a new one.
Me: Did I ever tell you that you're a very forgiving person?
Thage: I blame my upbringing.
Thage: -she takes a seat and starts stirring the bowl of food- Well, unless it involves otherworldly abominations in business suits, my parents always told me it was okay to tell them to piss off.
Me: How did that make you forgiving?
Thage: Family secret.
Me: And here I thought I was going to get to learn about more about the past of the mysterious Spectator.
Thage: Most of it's pretty average, so there's not much to tell you can't garner from watching The Wonder Years or Saved By The Bell.
Me: I'll take your word for it.
Thage: Ever watch Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Me: At the risk of being attacked like I was when Ava asked me the same thing; no.
Thage: Well then, you're in for a treat. -she pops the DVD into the the player, then throws herself back on the couch- Back on-topic. So this means you'll be here a while longer?"
Me: It looks like it. Sorry to impose but short of breaking down your door, there's not much I can do and I'm pretty sure that wouldn't really help Ava.
Me: -I break the awkward silence by commenting on the film- They stole this opening sequence from Donald Duck.
Thage: Oh yeah?
Me: Well, Scrooge McDuck, if you want to be specific. This is exactly like two of my favourite childhood comics. I had the strangest collection of literature when I was younger. It was really just whatever was in the attic.
Thage: Whatever was on clearance, here. Mostly the classics.
Me: I read 1984 alongside Scrooge McDuck. I had an odd upbringing.
Thage: I would watch the History channel one day and Nickelodeon the next.
Me: Isn't Nickelodeon that thing with the anthropomorphic sponge? I'm the oddest combination of really clued-in and totally clueless when it comes to the past forty years of media.
Thage: It could be worse. You could be trying to blog using a printing press and word of mouth.
Me: Or I could be Jack Tyler. -another awkward silence- I'm tired, Thage. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
Thage: -she looks up from her dinner- Tired as in "sleep for a week" tired, or "sleep and not wake up" tired?
Me: Tired as in exhausted but can't sleep.
Me: I've finally got my humanity back but every day there's another stress and strain, more pressure and worries. I haven't had the time to enjoy being mortal again.
Thage: Welcome to being mortal.
Me: I thought regaining my humanity would make me happier but the world's only gotten more painful.
Thage: -she shrugs and takes another bite- Why do you think people revere heroes so much?
Me: Do people admire heroes? Or just their idealistic image of them?
Thage: Bit of both. But the root reason is the same--they're standing against all the efforts the world makes to break them. We all give in to vices and we all let the world put us on its track at some point or another. Heroes are revered because they make the world accomodate them while working to better it.
Me: I'm no hero then, 'cause the world has my rightly caught by the arse at the moment.
Thage: In all honesty, I don't think there are any heroes in the real world, that's why we're so drawn to them in movies, books, and games. So people like you and me will have to do the best we can, find someone the people can rally behind, and do all the dirty work so this person can remain untarnished while we catch all the heat for it.
Me: Ah, but now our master plan will be revealed because this conversation is after getting profound, which means I'm obligated to post it on the blog.
Thage: All the better if they know the plan because they'll know who to turn on if it doesn't work.
Me: If you say so. -yet another awkward silence- I'm afraid that I've ruined Ava's life like I ruined yours.
Thage: Reach, destroyer of worlds, sorrow-harvester, aficionado of good cooking? -she smirks-
Me: -I can't even pretend to smile- Redlight never wanted to assimilate her. He wanted to use her to get to me. He planted a seed inside her mind and it grew into a vine that wrapped itself around her brain and now it's telling her to kill me.
Thage: -she sits back, twirling the fork- I could strap her down to the bed until such a time passes that that's not a risk anymore but atrophy would be a serious issue.
Me: I don't care about being killed, I care that someone I love has had their mind tampered with because they were close to me. I'm a hazard to anyone I care about.
Thage: Well, if you're going to give in to paranoia, why don't you go lift a sniper rifle from somewhere and take Redlight out from three city blocks away?
Me: If that's a joke, I don't get it.
Thage: I'm serious. Redlight's only so powerful. Painting the sidewalk with his brains sounds like a good way to solve this conundrum.
Me: Well, for one thing, I don't know where Redlight is, and for another, three city blocks is an unnecessarily difficult shot. Also, killing Redlight won't kill what he planted in Ava's mind.
Thage: It might, it might not.
Me: I'm reasonably sure it won't. Redlight's too good a planner to let his death get in the way of his schemes. That's probably why he's grooming Cynthia.
Thage: -she tosses me a can of Sprite and opens one for herself-
Me: -I open the can and start drinking- I hope you have no plans for the future 'cause it looks like Ava and I will be here a while. Or at least no plans that we conflict with, anyway.
Thage: Nothing of the sort, really. I was thinking about taking a week and not engulfing myself in the King's lore though.
Me: Mind if you join you? I could do with a break from all of this.
Thage: Feel free.
Me: Sounds wonderful.
I'm going to type the next part prosaically because describing it as a conversation would just be weird.
Right after I said, "Sounds wonderful", there was a loud thump from upstairs. From Ava's room.
I stared at the ceiling for a couple of seconds, before bolting out of my seat and up the stairs. I started hammering on Ava's door.
"Ava! Are you okay in there?"
There was no response but suddenly Thage was beside me with a survival knife. I hammered on the door again.
"Ava!? Can you hear me!?"
At that point, I knew I had to do the one thing I'd been dreading doing since Ava locked herself behind the door. I turned to Thage.
"Sorry about this."
I pulled back my fist and punched a hole right through the door. Thank god for America's flimsy construction standards. Thage muttered something about putting it on my tab but I wasn't really listening. Through the hole, I could barely see the room inside. Ava had left the light off but the room was dimly lit by the humming glow of her laptop monitor. I could see her on the floor, vaguely.
And I could see him outside the window. Not Redlight.
I have never been so afraid in my life. You'd think that being under him for all those decades, I'd have gotten used to him, desensitised. Maybe I had when I was a Revenant, but at that moment, as I looked through the hole in the door, I was more human than ever.
He was just standing there, looking at her with his blank, eyeless gaze, tentacles writhing, hundreds, thousands, millions, BILLIONS, convulsing repulsively. They started to slither over the window, melting into each other like wax, until the whole window was blacked out.
And then, his face melted through and stared right at me. I could hear him whisper in my mind and this time it wasn't just remembering. He was in my head again. He wanted me to come to him. He wanted me to walk into his waiting embrace. He wanted me to be at peace for those last few seconds before he ripped my body apart, then he'd come in for Thage and Ava. He wanted to release me from the burden of being the keystone holding the whole fortress together. He wanted...
...to kill me. I rejected his silent whispers. I stared right back and rejected him. He seeped away slowly. He still hasn't returned. Yet.
Once he was gone, I started ripping that door apart with my bare hands. The hole got bigger and bigger until I could fit my upper torso through. I slammed the lightswitch and recoiled a bit as the light burned my eyes. It was only when I felt the shattered wood poking into my left shoulder blade that I realised my hands were full of splinters and bleeding. I leaned through again and saw Ava on the floor, a small pool of blood seeping from the back of her head.
I looked down at the dresser blocking the door. Self-preservation took over for a brief second and told me not to do what I was thinking of doing, but I told self-preservation to go fuck itself and grabbed hold of Thage's dresser, wincing as the splinters dug in deeper.
Ava had wedged it right under the doorhandle, really tightly. I couldn't even imagine her slender frame managing to fit something so big into a gap that tight. I tried shifting it from side to side to get it loose, but it didn't budge. Instead, I leaned forward further, grasped the sides firmly and lifted it off the floor, taking the handle with it. I swung it back once and tossed it to one side, where it landed with a crash but thankfully didn't break.
I somehow resisted the urge to simply walk through the door and opened it instead. I rushed over to where Ava was lying and was about to lift her up but stopped myself. I was an assassin, not a paramedic. I didn't know shit about what to do with an injured person. I generally didn't leave people alive.
"Thage! Help! I don't know what to do!"
She was by my side seconds later with a first aid kit and a towel. She held the towel to Ava's head until the blood stopped and then cleaned out the wound and applied ointment and gauze and all that shit. I just stood there, watching. I absorbed every movement. I burned what she did into my memory. I didn't want to be useless if anything like that happened again.
I helped her move Ava up to the bed and shifted her into what I was told was the best position for someone after suffering a head injury. I just took Thage's word for it. Then, we both looked up and Thage took the words right out of my mouth.
Well, actually, I was about to say "Holy fuck." but it all comes to the same really. I don't think I've ever heard her curse before.
At this point in the story, I'm gonna switch to present tense. I'm sitting on a chair beside Ava's bed and I'm not moving any time soon. Thage tried to convince me to come down for some food but I just convinced her to bring it up to me.
The walls, ceiling and much of the furniture are covered in writing. Really covered. It's like Ava took a marker and just wrote out a stream of consciousness across every available surface. I guess she figured if she kept writing her thoughts, she'd be able to remind herself who she was. I wouldn't be surprised if she collapsed from exhaustion after staying up all night just writing.
Some of this stuff is very personal. Some of it is stuff even I didn't know. But in the middle of some of the ramblings, there are streams of "TELLTHEMTELLTHEMTELLTHEM". I think she was planning on tell you guys about some of these. I'll post those excerpts tomorrow.
He's back. I can feel him staring at the back of my neck, as if trying to decide which vertebrae to snap. He's whispering again. He wants me to go outside to him. He wants me to go out and play.
He can go fuck himself.
Thage wants me to let her pluck the splinters out of my hands, so I'd better go. Admittedly, I am getting a lot of blood on my iPod.