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Epilogue - Part I: Sam McCoy

November 11, 2007

After Saint attempts to diablerize you, after your body falls to ash, and after you finally have a last tearful moment with Helen, you take notice of the slow-moving storm that's sweeping through the lower regions of the umbra. The roar of whatever is on-coming has a high-pitched shriek that punctuates it intermittently with a pained and unmistakable female voice.

You swim through the miasma of astral space haltingly, until you can make your way to the source of this, the eye of the storm as it were. The apparitions of the material world seem to fade from your view as though behind a film, and you can make out a thick and vaporous black mass of vines, tangles, spires, razors, and blades crawling slowly through the Videre. The thought-stuff that whirls past your projected self bites at your form, and you feel yourself becoming less and less substantial as you approach, as if the winds of this world could blow away your being.

"Lillian," you haltingly call out.

It does not respond, moving forward toward an unseen goal. You decide to descend toward the mass and find your "body" soon tangled in it. The pain is exquisite and unrelenting, and you feel a sudden and intangible connection to snippets and flashes of the agonized wherever they may be. You feel the cool barrel of a gun to the back of your head as you lie in a charnel pit under the hot sun; the ache of starvation as you grasp at a fallen grain of rice, your distended belly scraping against the dirt; the pallid reflection of your face in a glass as you suck on the revolver that's rolling over your tongue. It's a surreal sensation to say the least, and by no means a pleasant one.

Somehow, glancing down toward the center of the storm, you can see a very familiar broken and pale female figure, clawing at the earth inch by inch. Its skin is cracked and seemingly crumbling as it writhes against the ground, and it looks at you only briefly before continuing on its way.

You tear through the cloud surrounding her and feel yourself tear with it more and more as you do. Rents begin to appear in the substance of whatever you are now. Heedless of this, you burrow your way down to the center of the void until you eventually come to meet the figure on the ground face to face. Its eyes are dull and without recognition as you speak to it.

"Lillian, I have a favor to ask you."

It looks at you again and tries to move around you, uttering a lilting, strange, and seemingly backwards word as it passes - the sort of thing that conjures up vague recollections of birds made of teeth and balls of vibrating colors suspended in space.

"I'll need that in English, Lillian."

Frustrated and getting more and more enmeshed by the tangle that surrounds the two of you, you initiate telepathy with the figure before you. The surface thoughts you get are inhumane and muted, with two simple, dogged, and animalistic emotions standing in the forefront: a sense of regret and a sense of longing.

Your body feels less and less real as you get dragged alongside her, and when you realize at some point that you have come to a stop, you feel little more than a voice and a mind, crying out without much in the way of form or mass. Your astral body seems stretched out and hollow.

Looking about your material surroundings, you find Lillian has stopped in the basement of some form of industrial building. You spend a few moments trying to make out the shapes around you and you can eventually see the forms of a few bundles laid on the ground and a green canvas surplus army cot on which a human form rests. You can guess at who it is.

Although you haven't paid it much mind, and you haven't really much mind to pay to anything by now, you see that the cloud around the figure has faded down and mostly evaporated. Lillian lies down on the ground like a dejected and broken doll, looking somehow smaller and smaller every time you glance in her direction.

You talk to her telepathically.

"Lillian, about that favor... You see, I know some people who would really love to kill Bojan Petrov about right now. Really. And the way I look at it, you're going to kill me or I'm going to go run off and tell them where he is."

Lillian doesn't respond or acknowledge you. She is tired.

You try flashing images of Lúsha, of Zapphelphillip and Angel and Saint through what remains of her brain. You try flashing images of Petrov getting picked up, tortured, and diablerized at their hands. These elicit a brief twinge but otherwise bring no palpable reaction from the figure.

As the day wears on Lillian continues to lessen and fade, and you, bereft of any physical or metaphysical form, can only watch on - a mere bundle of intentions and memories held together with a few wisps of substance. She is impossible to read and has no seeming goals beyond being where she is. There's a sense of tiredness to all of her thoughts, and you register only as a vague irritation when you register at all, with your intrusions and threats quickly forgotten when you make them known. You attempt as best you can - as little as you are - to strike her at some point in frustration, hoping at last to illicit a reaction. Her head falls to one side as you do.

You slowly realize that there is nothing much left to either of you and that you are nothing but a little ball of thoughts peering in on her little ball of the same. The building, the cot, the man, and the real world somewhere beneath you have faded from view, and wherever you and Lillian are, you are very far removed from being anything that vaguely qualifies as real. Stripped of everything else, her wandering and mostly deadened thoughts take on a strange lucidity to your mind... although you can still half ponder that this might be a result of the fact that you're losing it as well.

At long last, she finally seems to say something you comprehend.

"I am tired."

The grammar even actually works for once.

You reply.

"I'm tired too, goddammit. I had a shitty day, and I think you owe me something after all this."

You pause.

"I'd like to call it quits too, you know... in a way I can understand."

Her voice sounds strange to your mind as she continues - slightly off, as if it's the voice of a girl far younger than she was when you last really heard her. She seems to mostly ignore what you just said.

"I miss him. I forget his name or my name or why what happened happened, and I don't really know who I am or who you are or even who he is now, although you all seem familiar - I wish you all didn't really, but yes... I miss him and I'm tired and it seems a good enough place here to stop."

"You'll miss him more if I let them get to him, Lillian. C'mon. I'm not fucking bluffing this time."

As you both speak, you can feel fragments of the two of you fading away. Memories that are there one second disappear the next as the bound up sum of your minds unravel. What's left of Lillian begins to babble.

"He'll be... I don't know. He was always smarter than me in the end. He'll be fine. I'm tired, yes? I want no place else but here and only... yes... I wish I knew... I wish I knew what the name of the word known to all men was. I wish so badly. I'm sorry."

You aren't happy about this, and you've been getting progressively more frustrated, even as you lessen in degree. You don't want to go out like this, fading into slow retardation like she is. You don't want to have to have time to ponder what's just gone on, as you go madder and madder. Guilt starts to bite in the back of what's left of you as you think distantly of Helen.

"Goddammit Lillian! Fuck the word known to all men! Make this stop! Let me go out when I still can know what I am! I don't want to have to wait all this out and end up a goddamn vegetable like you!"

There's a pause in this sort of twilight reality as you can feel her thinking with her child's mind and trying to think of what it is you (whatever you are) want her to do. The name Lillian falls through her mind slowly at long last, like a foreign body through water. She seems almost to shake the head she doesn't have before continuing.

"My name is Lily."

There's a sob, almost like a hiccup through her brain. She feels acutely sad about something. There's no pride or intelligence left now - all that remains is a pathetic sense of desire for some abstracted "him" whom you can only assume is Bojan, now lying alone and unaware of the metaphysical psychodrama going on as he sleeps.

"I'm so sorry..."

You start to feel numb, as though you're sinking somehow, and more and more bits of you seem unreal as you go deeper into whatever is taking you away. You thrash around a bit, fighting it, rageful at your inability to even make a good death for yourself. Lillian is fading away too, and as she goes, the last thing you can feel in her brain is a repetition of that last voiced sentiment.

You lie alone, lost and fading in a space you cannot understand.

Eventually you end.

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