Verse XXI: The End of Innocence

Tidus is already spread eagle on a steel table, naked and shackled, when Tyson ushers them in.

“They’ve started recording,” some random goon whispers, choking on what seems to be a mix of glee and lurid expectation.

“This is not what we agreed to!” Tidus shrieks. “I promise you that my people will cut you in the fucking face! You have no fucking clue who you are dealing with!”

The goon seems to have shadowed the awestruck trio deeper into the convincing bondage dungeon. “You can’t get any closer!” he breathes, grabbing Tyson by the shoulder. “You’ll get in the shot.” Half drunk or stoned, he pushes the other man’s palm down to an impressive erection.

“And that’s the sort of attitude that gets little kittens into messes like this,” purrs the lone male aggressor, leaning in towards the boy to push the endearing words closer to his ears. It is interesting to note that his face alone is bare whereas the spectators huddled in shadows wear various forms of masquerade across the front of their skull. At least a dozen other souls occupy the room. “Never mind the debt you have incurred. I will kill you tonight so that pretty little mouth of yours never opens again.”

“Somebody help me,” Tidus sobs, head lolling around to regard the audience. “He’s really going to kill me.” His eyes dart towards the camera in sudden inspiration. “There are people in the room with us!”

“He is…. pretty convincing,” Devon marvels.

Johnny is feeling strange. He leans towards Tyson. “Is this really in the script?” The fellow denizens of Solinis’s whacky doomsday cult never cease to amaze Johnny in the scope and girth of their talents—-telepathy, turning hard drugs into salt and water at will, thespian finesse—-and Tidus excels at everything he does…. Empathy still surprises the black-haired young man sometimes.

The sound of skin struck hard against skin echoes loud through the room. Tidus cries out from the strike.

Devon is quick to put his hand over Johnny’s mouth and stifle the vocal recoil, does not take the time to congratulate himself on his impressive reflex. “It gets rough before we act!” he hisses. “He’s got to make a cut with the knife first.” That’s the cue. He cannot afford to fuck this up and have to go through the same thing over again at a later date.

Tyson raises a single finger at Devon and then slinks halfway across the room to consult someone behind the camera man.

Never good enough for you. Maybe we should leave it alone. Forget all about it.

The murderer turns his head and looks into Devon’s eyes. “You wanted to see this, didn’t you?”

…Timeless deja vu overtakes Devon, a profound sense of being somewhere else, of looking into this room via long tunnel. He is onstage in the role of a lifetime and has forgotten his lines. “You… are not Solinis….?”

Its true, isn’t it? Although something approximate to sadness does come on to Devon, it feels more like a head cold when he tries to remember it at later dates. When and why did emotions grow to be physical? Before the curtain falls he sees himself look downwards and to the west. “I used to play that game as a child,” he murmurs, and then he is crying, but he is only crying for himself. “Everyone else played it too. I assumed that they stopped and lost interest at the same time as me.” He shakes his head, looks back up at the killer. He is only in a partial daze when he says, asking the killer in particular, “What does it mean?” He knows on some level that he is wasting precious time, that he paused a time sensitive mission to ask a demon what happened to the imaginary friend he had growing up.

A devil, but not Lucifer. This one is a falling star, another angel bored with paradise and happiness. He glints white teeth in the crimson light, and the ornate knife is unsheathed before Devon can remember that he was supposed to activate the S666; in fact, the dying angel gives him another microsecond to stop him, but the pair of them simply cannot convince one another that God really loves either one of them, let alone Tidus. By the time that Devon registers that Tyson is yelling now as well, has been shouting for a few seconds, Tidus is impaled clean through his heart. Dead.


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