THE PAGAN IN THE DARKNESS

by John Dodd

They knew about me.

I don't know how they knew, but they knew.

In Psyche 101 back in Meny, I once asked the tutor the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath, she replied that a sociopath had no feelings in general for things, and thus, their general sense of morality is lessened, as what society feels important holds no reason for them. A psychopath knows what they are doing, can feel guilt or remorse for what they are doing, but cannot stop doing it, it is something they are incapable of stopping, because for them, it is the only thing that they can find pleasure in.

Being a facitious student, I suggested that surely a sociopath then is surely one step down the ladder from a psychopath, what if they find something that makes them feel, surely they will pursue that to the exclusion of all else, thus becoming psychotic in nature. My Tutor smiled at me and shook her head, as a kindly parent might towards a wilful child.

Sure enough, true to form for the fate that life holds me, I am a sociopath, nothing holds any feeling for me. But even in this, I am different, I have a code of honour, taught to me by my father, from the day I first learned to listen, of iron bound laws that a man cannot break. It is this code that keeps me from straying into the realms of the average garden variety sociopath. I know what is wrong in the world, the fact that the ethics of it move me not at all is irrelevant, I inherently know what is wrong, and I will not break my code. My parents found out about me at an early age, after I dissected the cat at age five and then came in to them and asked if I could have some blood to try and keep the poor beast alive while I tried to sew it back together. My father took me to the best psychoanalysts, went to all the best doctors, and spent millions training me to hide my disability. My mother gave me more love than I deserved, they tried to get me interested in other things. I tried religion, found none that I could believe in, and settled for being paganistic in nature, believing only in my own abilities and the nature of the world around me. When my parents died, I found that I could shed no tear for all they had given me, and the fact of that puzzled me, I became curious about the nature of what I was, and strove to prove all those analysts wrong.

And so, after graduation from Meny, I went to the Kick Murder teams, and became the best there was, I worked with every race under the sun, saw every atrocity and watched it with cool detachment, Stalked and killed for pay, and never lost a moments sleep, killed innocents, killed the guilty, killed more innocents, killed and killed and killed and never looked back.

I would say that I despaired of it, but I didn't, even that was lost to me.

A killing machine without conscience, remorse, fear or other complications to slow or impair their performance. SLA's finest creation.

I fought in the war in downtown sector 12, I saw the abominations of that world that could have been, and none of it moved me beyond curiosity. But then something happened. In the ruins of Sector 12, as I returned to the crib to await my payment, I saw a young girl sitting by herself in the rubble, a small wisp of steam rising from the ground next to her. I made my way through the rubble, the cold air stinging at my ungloved hands. As I reached her, I saw that the steam was coming from a freshly killed corpse, one of the shivers that had fallen to the corruption, someone had ripped the shiver into a bloody, shredded mess, and had taken time to make him suffer. They had also done it quickly and cleanly, the body heat was still sufficient to make steam rise from the spilled entrails.

As I approached, she looked up at me and for the first time in my life, my heart stopped, what I saw was something that I never thought I would see. This girl had eyes like mine, in them was the confusion of what she had done, and why it was not upsetting her. Not trusting the words I might say, I extended one hand to her and beckoned once. She rose, dropping the knife in the remains of the corpse, and walked slowly towards me.

Our hands met, our eyes had not left each other for a single second, I felt, I felt……..

I felt.

I looked deep into her eyes, saw that somewhere deep within her she knew what I am, just as I knew what she was, and together, we were the separate halves of the same creature, each one of us was what the other was missing.

I carried her from that hell, her frail body easily being held in one of my arms, she hugged me as a child might hug their parent when they've had a nightmare. At my home, I showed her the hovel I lived in, not speaking, merely pointing. She did not speak, she nodded and spoke with her hands, a language that could never be spoken, meanings that transcended word and noise. I handed in my badge and settled down to a quiet life, enjoying the feeling that I had, even though I did not know what it was. I tried looking it up, but all of the books that I found had no descriptions of the differences, they described fire in the stomach, "cold" rage, the "heat" of passion, "you just know". All popular buzz words, none of them making any sense to me. The girl and I remained together for many months, still not speaking, it was not that I could not speak, it was just that with her, I did not need to. I took a quiet job in an uptown store, and there I worked hard for my keep, savouring my one feeling, knowing that I could at last be normal. She listened to music all the time, she would dance to some of it, she always liked soft instrumentals, and when we played them, she would dance for me, and still I would not know what my feeling was, it just was.

After six months, still having not spoken to the girl, I went to the grave of my parents, and stayed there for five hours explaining to them that all their prayers had been answered. The world finally made sense to me, and that wherever they were, they could rest, knowing that they had done well, that they had not failed.

I returned to my house with a sense of completeness about me. I had brought flowers and chocolates from the store for the girl, I had finally come to terms with what was in my head, and could finally make words for her. My parents had often told me of how they had spoken to each other when they first met each other, and I had the right words in my heart as I bounded up the steps. The door was open, and a faint scent of my own aftershave drifted out of the door. I remember the smile upon my face as I walked through the door, quiet music filtered through from the back of the room. The house was a mess, and faintly, under the scent of the aftershave was another scent, one I knew all too well.

The flowers hit the floor just after the chocolates as I ran to the bedroom. She was laid there on the bed, blood soaking through to the covers, a knife protruding from her stomach. I moved to her and cradled her head in my arms, feeling the warmth slowly seep out of her, still my feeling remained. As she died, she reached up to my head, tracing the scar across the back of my head running down to my torso, pulling me down to her. Softly, like the rustle of dry leaves in autumn, she breathed her last breath, and with it, her first word to me.

"Nathaniel."

My own breath caught as I heard my own name, I had never told her, never shown her anything with it, and never left anything around with it on, and in that instant, all the words that I had planned fled me, replaced with a single name.

"Leah."

I saw her smile softly and nod once, then she went limp in my arms, and with her, my feeling died. I remained there for a day, making quiet noises that made no sense, animal noises from a time before man could speak. I searched my whole body for my feeling, but it was gone, just as surely as she was.

Eventually, I rose from the bed, laying her down upon the bed that we had never shared, I took the flowers that she had never seen and lay them in her hands, then the chocolates that she would never enjoy, and placed them by the bed. I went to the attic, and took the box from there, I took it to the kitchen and laid out the weapons and armour that I had forsaken those many months ago, knowing that my life was over, that all that remained was to make things right again.

I travelled back to the crib and began the search for the person who owned the knife, the search was short, and surprisingly, led back to head office. Someone within the kick murder department had ordered the hit, knowing that it would bring me back to the fold, where they could make use of me as they needed to.

I took the knife and travelled to the office of the man who had taken my feeling. I made my preparations and then opened the door. He met me with a plastic smile and a soft, clammy handshake, and gestured for me to sit while he told me how glad he was that I had chosen to come out of retirement. Out of curiosity, I sat and listened to him, apparently, they needed me to go off world and take care of some unfinished business. I looked over the details of what they needed me to do and nodded and made all the right noises. He stood and offered his hand to me with an empty wish of luck and hope for my swift return.

In a blur too fast for his eyes to follow, I took the knife from my hip sheath and placed it in his hand. He looked from me to the knife and fell to his knees begging for mercy. I looked down at him and raised an eyebrow, I explained to him that I was a sociopath, that nothing made me feel anything, it didn't matter to me what he had done, for it would make no difference to me in the slightest. I gestured at his drinks cabinet and suggested that he pour me a drink, and of course, one for himself.

As we sat, the lights flickered and died, the street lights went out, and all around was the sounds of chaos as the staff within the building all began to panic. I looked out of the window at the rain outside and tried again for my feeling, it was not there. The man opposite me cursed and muttered a remark about a power cut. He left the room to find out if something could be done about it.

I sat quietly in the office savouring the drink that had been poured for me. Something could be done about the power, all you had to do was turn off the EMP generator that I had left in the basement. Of course, when you turn that off, you set off the series of shaped charges in the building and surrounding area, reducing all of this building and everything within a hundred metres to rubble.

The man re-entered the office and smiled his plastic smile, taking up his drink, apparently, someone had planted a sabotage device in the basement, probably a streetgang up to no good, maintenance was currently taking care of it.

As he sat and took up his drink again, a low rumble reverbrated through the building, then another rumble, and finally, the building started to fall. I wait now as the ground rushes up towards me, The Pagan in the Darkness.