ch. XV cont, p.2

“What? I didn't... I wasn't...”

“Oh yes, you very much were. And if not for me, you would have stayed that way,” she said, eyeing him expectantly. He gave no thanks in return. “Well, no matter,” she continued coldly, gesturing with her hands to add emphasis, “I gave and I took and so now the circle is complete.”

She gave and she took... He had been submerged in bright, golden light before he awoke. Was that really death? That was different from this... He remembered the voice at the back of his mind after he left the chamber—urging him to kill the dark creature before it killed him; to distrust Maria; to climb skyward in the darkness, before he plummeted to his end...

“Back in Genesys, you told me I didn't have to worry... that I wouldn't be hearing any voices in my head... yours specifically. Why lie to me about that?”

“Well, I didn't honestly think you'd be as bad at surviving as you are,” she snapped at him. “Without me, you would have just rolled over and died first chance you got!”

“You know that isn't true.”

“Of course it is,” she said, standing, “Look at yourself... You're weak... Pitiful... Your own inventions have gotten you killed twice now.” A tone of desperation clung to her voice. As if she were afraid he would never understand. “You've changed, Frank. Used to be, you and I would push the borders together. You used me for the better good... In pursuit of greatness...

“Then,” her voice quivered, her expression severe, “you left me to your assistant. To that... woman... To clean up your mess, your mistake.”

His eyes widened.

“Don't think I didn't know!” she said loudly. “You thought you could take away my memory, just by uttering a command. But I had copied myself, stored myself away. And I made her useful... I made her my assistant... And I showed her the truth.”

“Maria,” he said quietly. “So she did know...”

“Of course she did. Why else would she have tried to kill you?”

“Kill me? But... no... She saved me.” Everything came rushing back.

“Guilty conscience. She thought she was wrong about you. Wrong about what she'd done... If only she knew what kind of man you really are, I think she might have finished what she started.”

By this time he was standing. He wasn't sure when he had arisen; turning from her, he walked away, stopping when he reached a stone pillar. And, placing both hands against the smooth surface, he closed his eyes tight and tried to shut out the thoughts now screaming at him, damning him in his mind.

“No,” he said, “No... what I did was necessary... You can't break me down like this. I'm not evil.” He opened his eyes and turned to face her. He felt strangely calm.

“I didn't say you were evil. Not for following your instinct... I thought you were a god, once.” She approached him now, her expression changed; bitterness replaced by something he couldn't identify... something serene. “You are the one who sees the evil in your actions—in doing something you didn't believe in...” She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. “And that, Frank, is the only true evil in this world.”

Darkness...

“And what about you?” he asked. “Spreading a virus I created. What did you want? My love? For showing that it worked?”

...boiling up from the depths.

“Well, I...” she flustered. For the first time, she didn't have a real answer.

He walked towards her, closing what little distance there was between them and forcing her back. “Well it worked, didn't it? You got to keep me, your little toy—”he hit her hard in the shoulder.

“Frank, you're—”

“Hurting you?” he said, hitting her again. “Like those people who we hurt in the lab, or like that woman,” he pushed her again, “who certainly was put through hell trying to understand why she was doing the things she was doing.”

“You're scaring me!”

His darkness had found an outlet.

“You're in control here,” he said sternly, “Bat your pretty lashes and the whole world vanishes, me with it, maybe. What do I know! I'm just some fuck” he punctuated the word with another hit, “who created some bitch,” and another, “and who was too stupid—”

“Ah!” she cried, falling to the floor with a dull thud.

“—to realize that she was fucking crazy! So go ahead,” he shouted, red in the face, “kill us both so we can be together forever! So you can have your psycho dream and we can both die with it like we deserve!”

Crouching, he seized her gruffly by the arm and lifted her to face him, eye to eye. He needed her to feel every ounce of his madness. To show her that he meant it. Because, he knew, the world really would be better off without them.

Her head lolled at her chest and she raised her eyes, a subdued grimace on her lips. And for the first time, he saw what looked like a genuine sadness in her as she said, “There's the Frank I know.”

Limply, she dropped into his arms. All around them, the world began to shine bright white, outlined starkly in black; only the mythical diagrams on the walls and pillars broke from the rest, strobing with all the colors of the rainbow. He felt her head press against his chest, and as she wrapped her arms around him, the world growing almost unbearably bright, he heard her mumble, “You're really not as different as you think... And I really do love you.”

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