Richard was furious. Alan had lied to him. The next time he saw Alan, he knew he’d kill him. Wait. Richard stopped and analyzed that last thought. It wasn’t his. IT was roaming more freely now, pulling against ITs weakening chains and trying to assert control. Richard’s momentary lapse into anger gave IT just what IT needed to rear ITs ugly head and plant the murderous thought.
Richard was angry, true, but he didn’t want to kill his friend. Alan had been the only one to believe him. The only one who really understood what was going on in Richard’s head. To kill Alan would be to lose himself to IT. To give himself over to the pure animal rage that fueled ITs bloodlust.
No, Richard didn’t want to kill Alan, but he certainly was upset with him.
Richard cleared the office as quickly as he could. It was easy. There were three guards in the room, one watching security feeds, the other two playing cards in the back. Richard walked in the room and reached out into their minds. It was easy enough, no one’s thoughts were very guarded. He placed a thought in the back of their minds, small, like a seed.
Then he pushed on the rest of their minds, making the seeded thought grow until it became their own. Suddenly, all three needed to use the bathroom. It was the sudden, urgent need that comes after eating too many chili dogs or drinking too much during a football game. The three guards forgot themselves, given over to pure biological necessity, and fought their way out of the room.
Richard smiled and locked the door behind them. He had the office to himself. Free to search the computer for mention of Cari’s name and location. He sat down at the computer and hit the space bar a few times to wake it up. Then he started his search, the old-fashioned way.
Alan wasn’t sure what he’d say when Richard finally made his way to the solitary confinement wing. Yes, he lied to his friend. He’d never lied to anyone before, and hoped he’d never have to again. It was pathetic how easily the lie had come, and even though it had been the ‘right’ thing to do, it still troubled Alan deeply.
He’d lied. A very unrighteous act. All to trick Richard into the trap he’d set. It was a very pragmatic approach, and that’s the fact that bothered Alan the most. He’d spent his life living up to a deontological standard only to fall back to a pragmatic view when he was put to the test. Although he might be able to save lives – maybe even Richard’s – he’d be doing so at the sacrifice of his own morality.
Alan’s desperate prayers turned from requests for safety and guidance to pleas for forgiveness. He wanted very much to be a good man, but for once had failed to do the right thing when he needed to.
Alan almost started to cry when he felt a sudden calm pass through his soul. Almost as if God had reached out to hug him. He knew everything would be alright, but he also knew the one who really needed to forgive this particular sin was Richard.
Alan only hoped that Richard would be able to forgive his lie. Suddenly, Alan knew how he’d start the conversation, with an apology. It would set the tone in the appropriate direction and might just get Richard to back down.
Alan smiled, finally prepared for what was to come.
Solitary confinement. Wing E. Cell 22. Found her. Richard grinned wide as he clicked the monitor off and rose from his seat. He’d found Cari. Finally. IT danced in the back of his head, too, excited for the coming reunion with ITs master.
Richard almost started dancing, too, before realizing that the excitement he felt was not his own. Even here, standing in the prison office Richard could feel his feeble grasp failing. The line between ITs darkness and his fading light was all but gone. Richard knew what had to be done, but wasn’t sure he’d have the strength to go through with it.
IT had to die. But he had to make sure ITs master died, too. If she was more evil than IT then she had no place on this earth. Neither did he. It was time he ended it for all three of them. The bastard triad, brought together by odd coincidence and forces he didn’t understand.
Richard went over to the weapon’s locker in the back of the room and removed a single handgun. He checked to make sure it was loaded, then placed it in his waistband at the small of his back. He rechecked his mental map and started walking in a straight line through the prison towards the solitary confinement wing. Taking the hallways, it was a 15-minute trek up and down stairs and through various security checkpoints. Richard made the trip in 2 minutes without coming across another soul.
Perfect for him, because time was short for what had to be done.
As he entered the wing, though, he saw the last thing he ever expected. There was Alan, sitting alone at the end of the hall.
Alan saw Richard appear from within the door at the other end of the wing. He stood out of respect and nodded in deference to his old friend.
“What are you doing here, Alan? I told you to stay out of my way. I need to do this, but I don’t expect you to understand why.”
“I understand, which is why I say you don’t have to do it. I won’t let you. But before we get in to that, I owe you an apology. I lied to you, and I’m sorry. Cari was here the whole time, but I needed to buy a few hours to get here myself. We can’t all travel as fast as you can.”
“No, you don’t really get it. Believe me. She’s even worse than the thing I’ve become. IT … fears her in a way that feels more unnatural than anything I can imagine.”
“Rick, from what we can tell, she’s never killed anyone the way John, or now you, has. Yeah, she was there, but it was always John with the knife. John the one who mutilated the bodies. It was always John.”
“John’s a part of me now, so believe me when I say I know exactly what he has or hasn’t done. Yes, he was the one with the knife, but she was the one who told him what to do. Told him how to do it. Talked him into doing it.”
As he admitted to John’s sins, Richard felt a small part of his mind begin to die. He started confusing John’s memories with his own. Started remembering John’s life as his own. He tried to cling to memories of his wife, but they were flooded with images of John methodically dissecting her alive.
“Alan I … can’t …”
Richard was beginning to lose himself. He looked at Alan and, for a minute, didn’t recognize the man he was talking to. He started at the cop and thought of a thousand curses for the officer. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the confusion vanished. Richard once again realized where he was and why he was there.
Cari was in the next room. He had come to kill her and then kill himself. To end this ordeal. All that stood in his way was Alan. Alan the righteous police officer. The only other man who knew what Richard was doing and why. The only man who was courageous enough to stand in his way.
“Alan, I don’t have much time.”
“Until what, Rick? From where I’m standing you have all the time in the world, and we can beat this thing together. But you have to give up. You have to stop. Forget about Cari and turn yourself in. I’ll help you get the help you need.”
“No one can help me, Alan. You don’t understand. IT’s winning. I can feel IT getting stronger, and I’m not strong enough to fend if off for much longer. Once IT takes over, there’s nothing anyone will be able to do.
“I’m already starting to forget things. John’s life seems as familiar in my memories as my own. I can’t make heads or tails of anything and it’s frightening. Once I lose that, once John and I … do you understand what I’m saying? Whether I do this now or whether IT takes over and does it later, it has to be done. I’ll stop for you, but IT won’t.”
“I won’t let you kill her Rick. You have to do the right thing here.”
The waning shreds of Richard’s conscience understood exactly what Alan meant, but they had so little control over his body that he couldn’t affirm the statement. What was left clung dearly to the remaining scraps of steadily darkening fibers, dreading the depth of the encroaching darkness.
IT began to flex ITs muscles, free now of the bonds that Richard had forced upon IT. Alan looked with horror as he saw darkness overtake Richard’s eyes. His friend was gone and the monster Rick had been warning him about had taken his place.
Alan lost his footing and took a step back. IT noticed the movement and looked with a cocked head at Alan. IT was still taking stock of ITs surroundings. IT was in a prison, that much was certain, but IT didn’t know why or where exactly inside the prison. A few fragmented parts of Richard’s rapidly fading mind held the key to that information. IT also had no idea who the man was IT was staring at. Not that IT cared, though. He was merely another plaything in a world ripe for the taking.
Richard writhed in agony as he lost control of his faculties and higher thoughts. He was aware of what was going on. Aware of the fact that IT now had control. He knew that IT planned to kill Alan. That IT still planned to kill Cari. That IT planned to destroy everything IT could get ITs hands on. Still, he knew that IT had not yet sensed the Records, so IT was limited.
Richard looked longingly at his friend, wanting some measure of his friend’s resolve. Some of his absolute moral compass.
That was it! Unlike the man he’d taken at the ATM, Alan was utterly clean. His conscience was pure, and his sense of morality so absolutely tuned that he might keep Richard from falling into the void.
Still, to take Alan would mean killing his friend. Instead, Richard willed IT forward, towards Alan. Instead of consuming Alan, he waited for an opening. He waited for that flash of empathy from Alan that would make him receptive. Just then, as the final threads of Richard faded from ITs eyes, he saw it. Alan opened his mouth to talk and raised his hands towards his friend.
Richard lept forward, not consuming Alan, but forcing himself through Alan’s tentative empathetic connection, binding himself with Alan’s pure psyche and wrestling himself once more from the edge of oblivion.
Alan was vaguely aware of what happened. One second, he’d seen Richard fade and become the dark creature they both knew existed just below the surface. The next, Richard was gone. Completely gone.
Alan felt something tickling the back of his mind and turned his thoughts inward. For a moment, he thought he heard Richard cry out, then he saw the consuming darkness that, moments ago, he’d seen in his friend’s eyes.
Richard was gone, consumed by the darkness. Yet the darkness was now kept at bay by the purity of Alan’s conscience. Alan had not killed. He had not sullied the pure sheet that was his soul. There was a clear line delineating Alan from IT. A line so strong and bold that Alan didn’t need to conjure bonds for IT. IT was powerless to cross and steal control from Alan.
Still, Alan felt a oneness with IT. Their natures so opposite that they had become one. So distinct they were indistinguishable. Alan and IT had been one and the same all along, two sides of the same coin. One so devout in his following of a strict moral code that no action was above reproach. The other so devious in ITs rejection of all sense of morality that no action was barred for any reason.
The polarization in Alan’s mind was so loud that it screamed in silence, reverberating in his head and driving him in a flash from unshakable sanity through the void of madness.
Just as sudden as it had started, it was finished. Alan and IT had reconciled and taken up their permanent positions at opposite ends of his mind. The ultimate evil held in balance with an ultimate sense of good. No battle had transpired, the two halves merely cancelled one another out.
Utter righteousness perched on the balcony of wickedness. Night and day existing simultaneously. Good and evil dining together at the table of indifference.
The man that had been Alan understood what had happened. At the same time, it was all a mystery. Still, he was now graced with the absolute power of both good and evil, and inherited Richard’s knowledge of the Records at the same time. He stood poised between good and evil, between time and oblivion, between creation and destruction – as such, his bond with the Records was absolute. It was as if they were his own memories, but they were dwarfed in comparison with the knowledge of everything that he now possessed.
If he ventured such an assertion, Alan would guess he had glimpsed the face of God and survived. He was more than the man he had been, having claimed a certain level of control over his own being that escaped even the most enlightened of man.
There were no more questions. There were no more answers. Alan knew every deed that he had done and saw every choice he would be granted in the future. Still, there was one decision to which he did not know the outcome.
Alan walked to cell 22 and banged on the door. The FBI agents opened the door and he dismissed them just as quickly. Then he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
Cari stared with fear at the shadow-clad man who’d just entered the room and pulled at her chains.
“Tell me, have you made your choice yet?” Alan asked a very frightened woman as he took a seat on the bed.
Father Albert Roberts had finished preparing his Sunday sermon, a whole two days early. Considering he worked every Sunday, he never really got a weekend off. So he always tried to finish his sermon preparations a bit early in order to hit the road and go fishing. Yes, a preacher who enjoys fishing. It might not be very common, but it was the pastime Albert enjoyed most.
He put his ‘work clothes’ away and changed into his ‘off duty’ wear for his early Friday-Saturday weekend. His favorite lake was only a few hours away, and he was quick to pack his fishing gear into the truck so he could hit the road. The sooner he made it to the lake, the sooner he’d be able to kick back in his raft and enjoy the sunshine.
Albert passed a few students on his way out and they wished him a pleasant trip. In reality, they had been coming to ask him a question but had seen the fishing pole under his arm and thought better of it. There were stories passed around from student to student about the old man’s anger when he was late to a fishing trip. Even though the stories were entirely fictional, all of the students believed them and thought it wise to avoid the off-duty minister while on his way to the lake.
After all, he spent all week in the church. He deserved a few days off, the only reason he allowed the unbecoming rumors to persist among the students.
Albert threw the last of his gear into the back of the truck, started it up, and pulled out onto the road. When he was a younger man, he’d enjoyed camping with friends, family, and other followers. This late in life, though, he enjoyed the solitude and quiet of his thoughts in the woods. The time alone was refreshing. Just him, God, and the fish on which he preyed.
The sad fact was that Albert hadn’t actually caught a fish in years. He’d come to the same lake to go fishing because it was quiet and he rarely ran into another fisherman. This was probably because the lake was land-locked and hadn’t ever been stocked with trout. Come to think of it, he’d never caught a fish in this particular lake. He’d never even seen a fish jump! For all he knew, he’d been fishing in a fish-free lake for the past 20 years.
All the same, Albert understood that fishing had absolutely nothing to do with catching fish. Fishing was merely the excuse he used to get outside and go camping. He’d bait the hook, cast the line, prop it in the raft, then take a long nap in the boat, rocked to sleep by the gentle rise and fall of the low waves on the surface of the lake.
Albert pulled off the highway and on to the long dirt road that marked the beginning of his ascent into the hills. Ten miles of rough dirt and gravel road led to a small turnaround next to a creek. Though he wasn’t really supposed to park here, he knew no one ever checked this far off the road. He slung his pack over his shoulders and grabbed his pole and tackle box.
The lake itself was four miles farther into the woods. Just up the hill a little ways, above an old burn area on the mountain. The air was crisp and clear; Albert enjoyed hiking in this weather. Just warm enough to justify walking around without a coat but cool enough that you didn’t have to worry about sweating up a storm while you hiked through the woods. It was tough enough to climb the mountain at his age. Albert was happy to not need to worry about heat exhaustion at the same time.
It was just the beginning of fall. The first leaves hadn’t yet begun to change, and all of the berries were ripe on the side of the trail. Albert caught sight of several small animals making their way through the woods, many collecting nuts to store for the winter.
After a couple of miles he took off his pack to sit and rest for a spell. While he ate the half tuna sandwich he’d made for just the occasion he took the time to lie back and watch a few birds fight over the last of the salmon berries on one of the higher plants. It was refreshing to watch God’s creatures enjoying creation.
While he lay there staring up at the sky reveling in the beauty of creation, Father Roberts drifted off to sleep. It was cool enough to keep him refreshed, but warm enough to be comfortable lying in the moss with a full stomach. It wasn’t long before his sleepy eyes dropped and Albert began to snore heavily.
Albert didn’t realize he was asleep, though. In his mind he was still watching the birds, amused by the way they flew, dipped, and soared overhead. In his dream, Albert sat for only a few minutes before putting his pack back on and finishing the hike to the lake. He set up his tent and then inflated his raft and made for the water.
Albert expertly baited his hook and cast as far as he could. Then he sat back in his tiny raft and cracked open a beer. One of the few indulgences he allowed himself on these trips. His one and only dirty little secret. The cool hoppy brew calmed his nerves and made the slowly bobbing boat all that more relaxing. He leaned back and closed his eyes.
“Yeah, this is the life,” he said loudly to no one.
“I agree, this is the most at peace I’ve ever been.”
Albert shot straight up in his little wooden boat. Wait a second, a wooden boat? His raft was gone and Albert was now on a much larger lake in a much larger boat. Sitting across the boat from him sat Alan, nursing his own beer.
“Drink up, Father. You deserve the rest.”
Albert looked rapidly around him, trying to figure out where he was and where his things had gone. He was sitting in a strange boat, but all his fishing gear had vanished. His blue jeans and flannel shirt had been replaced by his priestly uniform, collar and all. The only remnant of his sunny day on the small lake was the cold beer in his hand.
“Alan, I … how?”
“Don’t try to figure it out, you’ll just give yourself a headache. I brought you here to thank you, really. You helped me discover a great deal and you’re probably the only reason I managed to stop Rick all that time ago.”
“You mean you did stop him? I never heard what happened. The police said you disappeared during the operation. No one knew what happened to you, your friend, or the woman you’d arrested. Tell me, what went on?”
“Trust me, Father, you don’t want to know the details. But I’ll try to give you a summary. The woman. Well, she was here on borrowed time. Years ago, I gave her a choice. I let her pick which life she wanted to live. Unfortunately for her, she refused to make a decision. She tried to kill me instead and walked the earth for half a century without a life.”
“Without a life, I don’t get your meaning.”
“Father, she was never born. She entered the world in between lives. A soul without a purpose. A journey without a destination. Time didn’t pass for her, and she put off the inevitable decision for far too long than she should have. When I met her in the prison, though, I called her on it and she finally made her choice.”
“And what did she choose?”
“That’s something I can’t tell you, Father. What I can tell you is that she’ll be very happy and will live a long, fulfilling life.”
“OK, but what about your friend.”
“He’ll be with me always. In the end, we were really just two sides of the same coin. And realizing that helped answer a question you and I asked years ago.”
“Our debate between pragmatism and deontology. The moral dichotomy that exists in the theology of the church and in the hearts and minds of all men. Well, my friend helped me realize the error in our logic. Moral decisions aren’t an either-or. They’re a balance of both.
“Being righteous in the decision today is just as vital as being righteous through the outcome of your decisions. We were wrong to assume it was one paradigm over the other. In reality, it’s both. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have a righteous act if there’s no righteous outcome and vice-versa.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I didn’t think you would, but I wanted to explain it to you anyway. Think of it this way. ‘Good’ means nothing without ‘Bad’ to compare it to. ‘Right’ is worthless without ‘Wrong’ in equal juxtaposition. Deontology is baseless without pragmatism.
“In the end, it all comes down to intent. Whether the end justifies the means or the other way around depends entirely on your intent. If your intention is always to act on the part of righteousness, any action and outcome is justified. But if you doubt your decision, for even a second, you call your own righteous intent into question. Your action, however ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ loses its justification and the outcome, however beneficial, becomes wicked by default.”
Albert stared at his friend, understanding his meaning on a certain level but wanting to argue with it at the same time. “So you’re suggesting that any action is just so long as you intend it to be righteous?”
“So long as the intention is sincere, yes. If you met Hitler in an alley before he became Hitler, killing him would be justified so long as you accept the righteousness of the outcome. But if for even a moment you question that act of killing, you call into question to righteousness of the outcome. Doubt is the vital factor our previous arguments were missing.”
“What brought you to this conclusion, Alan? I understand your argument, and part of me wants to agree. But what was your thought process?”
“There was a contradiction between the two arguments. I had assumed them to be so opposite one another as to be incompatible. The day Richard died, though, I realized that they were so polarized they were the same thing. It was a circular dichotomy. Like in politics when a philosophy can be pushed so far to the left that it finds itself on the right. Morality is very much the same.
“Pragmatism, taken to the extreme, yields the same actions and outcomes as deontology. Therefore they’re so different from one another that they become the same.”
“The day Richard died … so you killed him?”
“Not really. He killed me. And he became me. He was struggling against the darkness that was consuming him, so he clung to the righteousness to which I devoted my life. The utter differences between our two natures merged like yin and yang. Separate, but equal and balanced. Together, we attained a new understanding of what it means to be good and what it means to be evil.
“Truly, no one can be one without being the other. Richard was evil because he killed to keep himself from becoming a mindless, soulless killer. He was good because he did everything in his power to protect the whole of society from the monster he had become.
“I was good because I refused to kill in order to protect a potential outcome that may or may not come to pass. I was evil because, by refusing to kill, I was willingly condemning the world to an eternity of darkness and suffering.
“Good cannot exist in the absence of evil. Evil cannot exist in isolation from good. We need both to survive, and morality must encompass both to be relevant and have a place in our world.”
Albert stared in shock at his friend. On a deep, gut-wrenching level he both understood what Alan was saying and agreed with it. At the same time, he found himself utterly disgusted by the argument. Suddenly, he realized what Alan was saying. He also realized that there were only two places Alan could have gained such knowledge.
“Who … who are you?”
Alan smirked and dismissed the question with a glance. Before he could open his mouth, Albert raised his hand and stopped him.
“No. I know you’re not Alan. Not anymore. So who are you?”
Alan looked at the old minister for a very long time before answering. As if measuring his words, he spoke very slowly and with a low voice.
“I think you know exactly who I am, Father. You always have, and you’ve been teaching others about me for most of your life. Just know who I once was and where I came from. Know also that, while most may regard me as evil, that I am not. As I said, and I know you agree, evil cannot exist unless in concert with good. Let that knowledge comfort you, and may it be a warning about every good deed you witness in your remaining years.”
Then Alan was gone. Albert sat in the boat and thought hard about what the man that looked like his friend had just said. Evil cannot exist unless in concert with good. Was it really true?
Out of habit, Albert leaned forward to grab the oar so he could row back to shore. Doing so, he lost his balance and rolled from where he’d been sleeping onto the trail.
The sun was high in the sky, so Albert checked his watch for the time. Then he put his watch to his ear to see if it was still ticking. Sure enough, his watch was still counting the seconds away. The odd thing was, it said it was 2pm on Tuesday. He’d left the church at 10am on Friday. There was no way he’d slept for a whole week on the side of the trail.
He left his bag on the ground and jogged back to the truck. Firing the ignition, he pounded down the road back to the freeway, ignoring the rattling he felt in his fillings. There wasn’t much traffic, so Albert made good time back to the church. By the time he had parked and made it in the building it was just after 4.
He hurried down the aisle and made straight for his office, not noticing the woman sitting praying in the sanctuary. When he reached his office, Albert slowed his pace. He heard voices inside and peeked slowly around the corner.
Sitting in the office was a teenage boy and a middle-aged minister. Albert almost spoke out at the man for using his office when he suddenly recognized both individuals. They were in the middle of a discussion about morality, and the man was teaching the teen about deontology.
Albert stood in awe at the impossibility of the situation. Then the men, the room, and the hallway he was in faded from view. Albert found himself standing on the trail once again, next to his discarded pack. It was impossible, but he was here again. Had he dozed off? No, because this time he was standing upright.
“I know it’s a bit disorienting, but I wanted to remind you where this all began.”
Albert spun at the voice and saw Alan – the man who looked like Alan – standing on the trail behind him.
“And now I want to give you a choice. You see, you died here, yesterday. The long hike wore out your heart and you died in your sleep during your nap.”
“OK, so what’s this choice your offering.”
“You helped me. You saved me, really. I want to repay the favor. Just like I repaid Pandora by granting her the choice of a new life. Granted, she took too long to make her decision, but I doubt you’ll do the same.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Yes you do, Father. Here’s your choice. I can leave you here and you can die. You’ll make it to heaven for sure, I have no doubts about that and neither should you. Or I can grant you a new life. Give you a second chance to save lives and make a difference in the world.”
Albert stood and stared at the man, realizing for the first time exactly who he was. And realizing also what he was offering.
“There’s nothing hidden in this deal. I’m not asking for anything in return, and there are no strings attached, no hidden agenda. You helped me realize the true nature of all things and this is the one thing I have the power to offer you in the way of thanks.”
Albert looked at his hands and thought back on the life he’d had. It had been a productive one for sure. He’d spent years rebuilding his church, volunteering in the community, and helping to mentor one of the brightest young men he’d ever come across.
Alan. Albert’s heart ached knowing the agony Alan had gone through in the end. Knowing what had happened and how Alan was no longer Alan. Then Albert had an idea.
“What about Alan? I know you’re no longer him, but what happened to him?”
“He’ll always be with me, that much I can promise you.”
“I don’t want anything for me, but if you could give Alan his life back. Maybe some kind of trade, me for him. That’s something I would appreciate very much.”
Alan looked at the ground for a moment, then snapped his head back up and looked at Albert for the longest time before responding, “done!”
Alan didn’t know why he was suddenly standing in the forest. The last thing he remembered was talking to Rick in solitary confinement. He looked around at his feet and then saw Father Roberts standing father up the trail.
“Father, how …?”
“You wouldn’t begin to understand, my friend. And trust me, you wouldn’t want to.” Roberts tossed the truck keys to Alan.
“Now go back to your life. Go home and make up with your wife. You solved the case, and you saved everyone you could. You did real good for the world, and you did me a very great personal favor.”
Alan took a step towards his old friend, but Albert was suddenly gone. He vanished as if he hadn’t even been there in the first place.
Alan realized he was standing next to a discarded backpack, one that looked eerily like the one he’d given Father Roberts for his birthday several years ago. He opened the top of the pack and found it empty, save a Bible.
Alan opened the old book and looked at the hand-scrawled notes throughout. This wasn’t the Bible that Father Roberts had preached from on Sundays. He hadn’t ever seen it in the minister’s office, either. No, this had the look of a family heirloom. Aged pages, a worn cover. More than one kind of handwriting hidden in the notes.
Alan flipped to the front of the book and found a note written in the margin.
“To Alan; Always remember that good and evil are intertwined. They exist in concert together and strengthen one another. Remember also that your actions are always justified if your heart is in the right place. Never doubt your intuition and always act without regret or hesitation. In this way, whatever you do will find you on the path of righteousness. Always, Father Albert Roberts.”
The note looked to be old, impossibly old, written with a pen so faded it looked to predate the printed words on the page. Still, Alan knew the note was deeply personal and he would never forget his friend’s kind, encouraging words.
Albert watched from the comfort of another time as Alan read his note. He meant it, truly. Every word. Still he knew there were those in this world who would doubt his sincerity. He thought about how close he’d come to the edge of oblivion. The chaos he’d almost loosed upon the world by offering one confused woman the gift on an eternity.
“Never again,” he promised himself. Then the being known by many as the devil, the enemy, the trickster, walked on to live another life and learn another story.