Chapter: Aftermath

Entry: Oct 19, 2007

Time passed and Kyle slipped in and out of consciousness. His mind reeled with feverish daydreams and held him at the brink of death for hours or days. Eventually he felt something cold and moist nudge his right hand, which he was too weak to withdraw. His eyes opened to razor-thin crescents, and feasted upon Rue as Adriana saw the creature.

After all that happened, he should have been repulsed. Instead, relief washed through him. Though a river of agony throbbed over his punished body, the pain had lessened and his heart surged with new strength. He would live, and Rue no longer sought his utter obliteration.

It was an uneasy peace, to Kyle; Rue though, was content. Loki had used him—continued still—to unleash armageddon. Memories restored and his love again stolen by fate, Rue vowed to escape his eternal torment. He pressed his nose into Kyle's hand again, looking then to the boy's face, seeking not forgiveness, but something more satisfying.

To his credit, Kyle didn't question Rue's transformation. Kyle knew he suffered the same illusion that confounded Adriana for decades, luring her to believe she harbored a mere pet while the town succumbed to Rue's every manipulative whim. He should have been angry, furious that Rue expected understanding, considering the hellish cycle he imposed on Tammond Dale; all the men, women, and children that had died for his mission. Kyle—nearly joining those slaughtered in Rue's single-minded pursuit of revenge—should have reached out and wrung the rabbit's neck. But he could hardly begrudge Rue's desire to reclaim some tiny shred of his fractured past: Rue's lust to feel whole.

For those eyes did not seek amnesty. The pleading look yearned for what lie beyond Rue's grasp for time immemorial. Kill me, Rue's eyes implored.

Kill me!

"How?" whispered Kyle, voice cracking with effort.

A shift. You know.

It was a language composed of glances and hesitation, but the pace of life was slow to the injured, so Kyle understood. He was too tired to be oblivious; Rue was right: he did know. I'm such an idiot. He knew, alright. Only a sociopath would immediately consider what Kyle finally realized. It was obvious. It was simple. It was—to Kyle's relatively innocent sensibilities—barbaric. Rue wanted death, and Kyle could deliver.

Kyle sighed and cupped his hand over Rue's silky fur, petting what he knew to be a desiccate animus of dusty bones. If that knowledge disturbed him, he hid it well. His eyes drifted closed and the boy ceased to truly think, fading into a trance-like torpor.

Thank you, echoed through his mind.

Then he concentrated. In reality, Kyle was unsure he was capable; it was easy to kill, much harder to destroy. Through his mind's eye, he saw Rue's fur, felt the rabbit flick his whiskers in the still air. Deeper! The cells of Rue's body, dead but radiating unholy might. More! Mitochondria, flickering with energy within a cell, tiny organelles churning. Further! A folded and twisted snarl of DNA, the map of Rue's being.

Enough!

Sweat poured down Kyle's face as he struggled to maintain that final image, the individual atoms comprising Rue's very soul. But he needed more. The galaxy... He'd often gazed at the Milky Way as a child, beguiled by the faint hue of white against an otherwise tarry night. In all that nebulous and anonymous mist were innumerable stars, each a searing furnace capable of rending matter to atomic dust.

And it was done. The teeming galaxy boasted a tally of stars impossible to comprehend, far more ravenous incinerators than Rue's meager carcass could fuel. "Rest in Peace," said Kyle through scarred and blistered lips. And then he knew no more.


Kyle's rest was short, driven by need more than desire, imposed by his wracked body despite the situation. If Rue was gone, dead and spread across the universe, so too were his illusions and strange command over time. Tammond Dale would march on, and Kyle wanted to be somewhere safer than a house that had just been shaken to its foundations.

And then there was Adriana. Kyle labored to raise himself to a sitting position, gritting his teeth to suppress a multitude of hoarse screams. His right leg was shattered below the knee, and his own clothes chafed against his charbroiled skin like sandpaper soaked in kerosene.

Luckily, he didn't need to move far. Adriana had nearly collapsed atop him when she died, only veering to the left because that leg buckled first. He stared at her and railed against Loki and his scheming. It just isn't fair! Maybe the foolishness of youth, but Kyle had felt a kindred spirit in that girl he met on Craig's Hill. As his memories returned, no longer held at bay by Rue's machinations, the more cheated he felt. They both deserved better.

No. Kyle had been there, watched her plummet into a heap of jagged detritus, powerless to interfere. But this was not his dream, and this was not 1887. He couldn't help then, locked away witnessing the past; the present was another matter. He had power others lacked. He could right at least one wrong Rue unwittingly caused. Sal need not know. Besides, Sal wasn't warning. She just didn't believe it possible. Try.

One last time for ages to come, Kyle fell into himself and redefined the world. Somewhere in the infinite cosmos, Adriana yet lived. He could replace her corpse with a copy from a demesne exactly like his, only she'd survived the encounter and remained vital, beautiful, and his. It made him feel terrible, like a grave-robber, but the alternative was unbearable grief 'till the end of his days. Nothing could be worse than that.

But stealing an entire living being, resembled nothing like rendering one to dust. The strain of the mighty feat consumed him, and consciousness fled, dogged closely by his sanity.

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