Thursday, April 16, 2009

Child of the Storm: Redemption

Note:  This is an entry into the Friday Challenge, which can be found here.

Damien sat still while the interviewer set up his recorder at the far end of the table.  The device was a lot smaller than he had expected.

"Okay.  We're rolling.  You ready for this?"

Damien gave the man a grim smile.  "No," he said.  "The real question is, are YOU ready?"  The man frowned back at him, but Damien ignored it.  He gestured to the newspaper in the center of the table.

"What, you mean you had something to do with that?"  The cover headline scrolled across the electronic paper.  A local big-name celebrity businessman had gone nuts, shot and killed one of his partners, and claimed to have shot someone else, though the body had not been found.  The other partner had completely disappeared, and the animated video on the page showed grim-faced cops hauling boxes upon boxes of evidence out of the man's home.

He took a long, deep breath.  "If you were offered immortality, would you take it?"

The interviewer shook his head emphatically.  "Don't lie!" Damien said.  The shaking stopped.  "Of course you would.  Most anyone would.  The chance to live history instead of just reading about it?"

"Now...what if that immortality came with a price?  A price too big to pay?  Still interested?  Exactly.  Just how big is 'too big.'

"What if gaining immortality required you to torture a child to death?  Anyone interested then?  Yeah, exactly.  Only a handful of sick psychopaths would still be interested at that point."

Damien walked around the room, working himself up, launching into a rant.

"Okay, last question.  What if someone ELSE tortured the kid...created the magic potion...and GAVE it to you...WITHOUT your knowledge...?"  He was nearly screaming by the end of the question.  The interviewer stayed quiet, resting his chin on his hands.

"I was in the hospital, with this fast-moving cancer.  Docs said I had days to live, if not hours.  My...friend...came in, late at night, in the middle of the biggest storm anyone could remember.  I was so lost in pain drugs I missed most of what he said...but he put something in my IV...and the cancer burned itself away.  Three days later, they were calling me a miracle of modern medicine, though none of them could figure out what it was they had done.  I didn't know what had happened until...later.  A lot later.  

I accidentally cut off my finger...and it grew back."  The stifled laugh dragged Damien out of his reverie.

"You don't believe me."  He stood, went to the kitchen, came back.  "Fine."  He spread his left hand out on the table, brandished a cleaver, and lopped off the first two fingers.

"See?"  He held up the index finger, showing the cut end.  The finger was the same color as the skin, all the way through.  "No bones, no ligaments, nothing.  Hell, there's barely any blood, and it's the wrong color.  Don't ask me how it works, I don't know."  He held the finger against the stump, and after a minute, the finger bulged and fused together.  He reattached the second finger.  "Not even a scar."  The interviewer let go of the door handle and gingerly stepped back to the table.

"'ve been around...a while...?"

"Read up on the Arizona 'Storm of the Century,' and you'll have a pretty good idea.  Reagan was in office when I was in the hospital."  He ignored the sputtering from the far side of the table.

"That's...that's like forty years ago.  You look 30.  Maybe even 25."


"And you regret it?"

"Every damn day," he sighed.  "How do you live that life, knowing how you got there?  How do you repay that freaking debt?  I lost count of the number of suicide attempts in the first ten years or so."

He settled back into his chair, resigned.  "You just try to make amends, as best you can.  It's never enough, of course."  He tossed an envelope onto the newspaper.  "I'd like you to donate this, anonymously, to the Trevor Kline foundation.  The Kline family lost a son, years ago, and set up this foundation to help prevent it from happening again.  There's over half a million dollars in that envelope, and the child-porn ring that used to own it...won't be needing it any more."  He glared at the newspaper.  "There's just one loose end to tie up."

The rising sun came in through the window, and intruded upon his fantasy.  The interviewer disappeared, along with the recorder.  The newspaper and the envelope stayed.

Hours later, he was sitting aboard a stolen yacht, floating so far out at sea that land couldn't be seen.  He killed the engine, and let the boat rock quietly on the waves for long moments.  Finally, he walked across the deck, and kicked over a footlocker.  A bound man rolled out of it, the owner of the boat, and Damien ripped the tape off of his mouth.  Half the man's moustache came off with the tape, and he screamed.

Damien then went to the back of the boat, and threw an empty oil drum into the water.  It was attached to the boat by a chain, which clanked and clattered a bit as the barrel drifted away from the boat.  The man's eyes widened in fear when Damien drew a gun, but he turned, and fired shot after shot at the barrel until it had a decent sized hole in the side.  He threw the gun overboard.

He continued to ignore the man's screams and curses, and knelt down beside him, with a hypodermic needle in his hand.  While the man glared at him, he shoved the needle into his own arm, and filled it with blood.  The blood was the wrong color, more of an angry orange than red.  Without a word, he stuck the needle into the man's neck, and emptied it.

Finally, he spoke.  "You're a monster, Nate."  He reached out, sliced open the ropes holding the man's hands, and stepped back out of reach.  "The other two, it was just business.  They just wanted the money.  But enjoyed kidnapping kids and watching them squirm."

"That burning you feel?  I've just given you a gift.  The chemicals in my blood make me live for a really long time....a REALLY long time.  You won't get the full effect, because your body won't make'll get used up eventually.  But I figure you should get at least five years.  Maybe even ten."

The barrel went underwater, and the chain started moving off the end of the boat at a much faster speed.  Panicked, Nate now realized the chain wasn't attached to the was attached to his feet.

"I'm the monster that monsters like you should be afraid of," Damien said calmly.

The chain pulled tight, and Nate was dragged, slowly, towards the back of the boat.  He caught a handrail, hung on with all his strength.  "I've got money!" he screamed.  "I can get you anything you want!"  Damien didn't say a word.

"What do you WANT??!!" Nate screamed, as his hands gave way.  His fingernails scraped the deck as he was dragged off the back of the boat.

"Redemption," Damien said simply, to a quiet and empty ocean.

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