The crowd surged forward as the rail car began to slip over the edge of the lagoon into the bay. Four explosive charges popped almost simultaneously to release the airship’s boarding tube from its death grip on the caboose, and with a final inhuman scream of fury and tearing metal the foul lair sank beneath the waves taking the dying Steal Head and his final victim with it.
Through the noise and confusion Softpaw led Beck away. He was dazed, weak, stumbling and she reassured him he was safe now, that Steal Head could never hurt him again, but inside Beck knew the bastard didn’t have to. Since he’d encountered the strange storm sank the boat in which he’d escaped from England, all he’d had left of his family were their memories. The warmth of his wife’s love that surrounded him in the smoke, the trusting faces of his children smiling at him in his dreams, they were his only connection to his other life in his other England and now they had been taken from him. Now he was alone in this alien place, finally and totally alone.
This wasn’t his world, you see. The storm had transported him from his world to one that whilst looking the same on the surface was in fact very, very different indeed. In this world, this new, alien world, England had not fallen to Rasuptin, Queen Victoria still reigned over a mighty Empire and America was not preparing for a final war of survival. Yet despite all the differences for the better (and there were many) for him this world lacked three things; three small, lost things. He’d had to learn to accept their loss, not just their death, but their total loss to him. He’d had to comfort himself with occasional glimpses in his dreams or in the sweet smoke of an opium pipe, and whilst fleeting, these glimpses, these visions, proved one thing to him, one vitally important fact. No matter how bad things were here, no matter how lonely he was, he knew his family were always with him because he’s brought the final piece of them with him in his memories and nothing could alter that. Until now. Until Him.
The terrible fear of being killed by the creature, of having his head torn off and his soul eaten, had terrified him but the feeling of the creature in his mind, the vile probing of his deepest, darkest thoughts, had proved far worse. The naked fear and repulsion of death were as nothing when compared to the numb cold he now felt in his heart at having had his memories defiled in this way. To discover his children’s eyes filled with horror and accusation, or to see to the raw, limitless hatred in his wife’s face was, after all he’d lost, too much to bear.
As they reached the creaking, rotting steps to the hovel he called home, he waved Softpaw’s offers of company away. Yes she could come back later he promised. Yes he was fine, he just needed sleep he assured her. No, he really didn’t need any help from here, he insisted. He just wanted to be alone. Just him and the darkness. The darkness was still with him of course, it had never really left. Softpaw had released him from Steal Head’s mastery over it, but how could she hope to banish the seed of void that lay inside him? She may as well have tried to pluck the eyes from his face without blinding him, or pull the heart from his chest without killing him. The dark nothingness was as much him as his skin and bones and blood. It lived inside him, watching, waiting.
He opened the door, not even noticing it was unlocked, and found Meile waiting for him. She rushed to him, embraced him and looked up into his eyes through tears. Beck asked her to leave, to go back home. She cried and pleaded to stay, but he refused, ordering her to leave him alone, to get out and never come back. Broken hearted she ran out into the night.
Alone at last (was he ever anything other?), just him and his darkness. He sat in his threadbare chair and gazed into the small, flickering fire. Its warmth failed to reach him but he wasn’t interested in being warm. Everyone he loved most in the world was cold, why shouldn’t he be too. Inside the darkness squirmed and rose, slowly reaching out to spread through his veins and bones until in inhabited every part of him. Beck was tired. Tired of being alone, tired of feeling nothing but guilt, tired of always being cold and dirty and scared, tired of running and hiding, tired of trying and failing, tired of waking and sleeping, tired of everything. But most of all he was tired of the darkness. It was time to put an end to it. It was time to let the light in.
The scalpel didn’t hurt, not really, just two slow cuts and and the darkness began to flow out and the light in. Simple really. The black ran from the light, throwing itself on to the floor, pulsing out and dripping away whilst the light flooded in, bright and white and pure without even the smallest of stains. It filled him up and more until there was no room in the shell of his body for him any more and he fell into the light until he lost all sight and sound and thought and instead became of the light and vanished.
And so, with the trace of a distant smile playing across his lips Rhynold Beck, doctor, husband and father, died with only the crackling logs in his fire to bear witness to his passing.
The end of “Steal Head”
Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All Dr Beck’s Journal Entries can be read here.
2) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
3) The latest “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
4) All my “Mutations” posts can be read here.