Blood of Eden
For the first few weeks or so after they had discarded the child, he feared.
It was a nebulous, ill-defined sort of fear, yet one that dogged him constantly: the terror of that which is unknown that lies at the heart of all human dreads, worse by far than any lurid tale of monsters and demons. It was the sort of fear that would impel him to look over his shoulder, trepidantly, at some distant sound in the laboratory late at night when he worked alone; the sort of fear that kept him lying awake for hours upon end, eyes wide open and fixed upon the dark ceiling in between bouts of scanning the dimly lit room.
Somehow the child had grown to assume immense proportions in his mind once it was out of his grasp. It had become something both more and less than human at the same time, a monstrous incubus-baby reaching through nightmares and memories to suck away his life's breath. Some distant part of him envisioned awakening in the night to find the steely grip of tiny hands at his throat, the murderous gaze of sulfur-yellow eyes burning into his own. He had created not a saviour but a dark messiah, and with the dreadful powers he in his foolishness had granted it, it would seek revenge-- to punish him for aspiring to usurp God.
He slept rarely, for the augmentations to his body had made it possible for him to dispense, on most nights, with the useless, irritating trouble of sleep. But though he would delay it as long as he could, the days would always come when, having worked himself to the point of near-collapse, he would stagger into bed and surrender to the hateful nonsense of dreams.
On some nights he would awaken, skin slick with sweat, heart pounding and muscles twitching. And when that happened, on the nights when she was there, he would turn to the body at his side and embrace her, stroking his fingers through reams of black hair tinged ever so faintly with indigo, and loathe every fiber of his self for that weakness.
And as he fell asleep in her embrace, he could never escape the impression that she knew about the vague nightmares that plagued his days and nights alike-- she knew, that whore, that hateful woman, and he was certain that she would smirk as he drifted off to sleep, laughing at his weakness and pondering just how this might be used against him.
Yet he could never bring himself to confront her: it was he, after all, who had sought her touch to begin with.
After a while, the nightmares became less frequent, and the thoughts of Ramses faded into the shadows of his mind. They had the true Contact now, after all, and it was proving its powers every day beyond any semblance of doubt. It was in his best interest now to focus the entirety of his energy upon the matter at hand.
Surely, he told himself often, the chances of the child having survived were so minute as to be dismissible; trapped at the bottom of the garbage pit, it would most certainly have starved and died there. Even its extraordinary abilities would have been of no avail to it, weakened as it was. Most likely it had merely been swept up with all the other garbage, swallowed up into the dark machineries of Solaris.
The idea that it might have survived twisted at something in his heart, and somehow, that wrenching pull was worse by far than any thoughts of an undignified end amidst waste and filth and stench.
In time, he was able to stop thinking about it, at least in waking hours-- not because he wanted to, but because he had no other choice.
He hadn't really meant to do it. Not really.
He hadn't thought it would turn out like this. Hadn't thought it would be this way.
He hadn't expected the sickeningly-sweet smell, the scent of burnt flesh.
Hadn't expected the blood, so thick, so dark. Or that there would be so much of it. Or the way it would smell, splattered across walls and ground, mixed with strange dark masses he could not and did not want to identifty.
The boy called Ramses pushed his head against his knees and trembled. Nausea surged in his stomach, and his mouth tasted sour, like vomit. The blood was all over his fingers, and it was sticky, like spilled fruit juice. He hadn't expected that either.
This was death, then. This was killing. He had never been quite sure what the thing called death would look like. But he hadn't thought it would happen the way it did-- with the light flickering slowly away in the wide-open eyes and disappearing forever and leaving those shocked blue-grey orbs behind as empty as glass beads.
He hadn't meant for all of that to happen. Just... it just...
It had been like pushing-- like something inside him being pounded and pushed harder and harder until it broke. He had felt that break inside him, deep in his chest, and then--
He couldn't stand to breathe, but he had to. There was no other choice (why did the sensation of something old happening all over again flood his mind, right then?), even though every lungful of air, with the horrible sweet burned smell and the scent of the blood everywhere, made him feel sicker and sicker.
There had been that snap-- and then, all of a sudden, in that second, everything was quiet and still inside him, and then, there had been the rage. Like fire and lightning in his blood, making him feel more utterly alive and powerful than he could ever remember at any point in his short existence, it had filled him up and become him: that terrible, marvelous, ecstatic and all-devouring rage.
The scent of blood rose, hot and forceful, into his nostrils, and finally it became too much for him to stand: uncurling, he fell into a half-crouch supported by one arm and heaved violently, coughing and spitting. Finally, feeling somewhat relieved, he sat upright as much as he could manage. There was blood on his shirt, too, large red-black spatters of it. Was death always this messy?
The expression on the boy's face turning to shock, and then to terror, as he had felt the power rise inside him-- the eyes wide-open and the mouth trapped around the contours of a word that never formed as he had leashed the bolt of Ether from his hands, not fully sure in that instant where that wondrous surfeit of power had sprung from but not at all caring--
Tentatively, driven by a sudden stroke of fear he could not ignore, he turned his head and cast a glimpse at the body beside him, or what remained of it. The eyes were still open, glassy, the mouth fixed in that unformed yell of surprise. He extended a hand, prodded at its outstretched arm: it was responseless, that lump of flesh. Slowly, he let out the breath imprisoned in his lungs. It surprised him somewhat that the blood was still warm.
The blinding flash had seared his eyes and yet he could not stop watching: he felt like laughing and screaming at once as the fiery-hot, blissful fury had propelled his body forward, almost against his will, and yet at once he had felt in perfect control of himself. And then, as that terrible blue-hot fire struck its target, the light became too bright for him to make any sense of the image before his eyes. He had felt something warm spatter against him, his face, his chest: he had not realized, then, what it was. He had not realized either what the sudden scent assailing his nostrils had been.
His gaze traveled lower: what had once been the other boy's chest was something like a giant yawning gash now, a carved-out hole. For some reason he could not quite understand, this made him feel gripped with nausea again, though he had already purged himself of everything in his stomach. He decided he did not want to look at it any more.
Slowly, muscles feeling weak and spent, he impelled himself to stand, and somehow found himself on his feet a few seconds later.
He had known... that power, of course. Known it was there, ever since the time he had fallen one day and the scrape on his leg hurt too much for him to bear, and his body had started to feel terribly warm all of a sudden, and somehow, without really knowing how he understood this, he had sent all of that warmth into the burning pain in his leg where his skin had been scraped raw and bloody red. He had been quite astonished when the pain had melted away in the warmth, and more astonished still when the skin had re-formed itself across the wound and knit itself back together before his eyes.
Even when he had learned the name of that power, learned what it was, he hadn't thought-- hadn't ever thought-- that it could do such things as this. Perhaps some little part of his mind had understood that dreadful potential the raw power held; perhaps he had kept himself from thinking about it on purpose.
He began to feel dizzy, and shut his eyes tightly. He groped for a wall in the self-induced darkness, leaned against it: the smell of blood was so pervasive, now, that it only lingered on the edge of his awareness.
After a while, opening his eyes, he knelt and reached with trembling hand for the small white card that lay face-down a few steps away.
There was a bit of blood stuck to the edges, too sticky to rub away. Clasping it gingerly between thumb and forefinger, he turned it over, studied the photograph with intent, reading the name underneath.
Kahran Bekka. He whispered the name, working his mouth around the sounds it made.
He held it tightly, the edges digging into his skin. It would get him out of here. It would take him away from this place. Kahran Bekka. He tried to imagine people calling him by that name. It felt strange and not quite right.
Feeling a little stronger now, he got to his feet, carefully stepping over a splatter of blood mixed with bits of something else. He had to find a place where he could wash off all this blood, somehow. Other people would come here soon, come here looking, trying to find out what happened. Soldiers were always a long time in coming when such an incident happened in the slave levels. They didn't come at all if anything happened to third-class citizens; they came slowly if the victim was second-class.
Slowly, he slid the white card into his pocket.
Maybe now... He would take Ramses back. Maybe now He would love him. If he did everything possible, if he proved that he was above the others, maybe... just maybe... he could have that power which had been promised him...
If he could prove his superiority... He would have to give what He had promised Ramses.