The Things You Keep Alive
It's a cliche almost as old as epic tales themselves: the hero will not kill the villain. Call it what you will - a moral code, nobility, "I am going to be the better man," "I will not become the same evil I fight," take your pick of excuses. No killing. However, locking your enemies in chains, condemning them to live the rest of their lives in isolation, keeping them under your careful eye forever, is completely acceptable. Apparently.
The simple action of moving a limb fills the basement with the metallic clink of chains, chains attached to iron stakes driven into the ground. Clamped tightly around my wrists, ankles, throat. So much metal binding my body... Ah, but it doesn't matter. Chains or no chains, I am to be feared. You should be afraid of me, I said, and you didn't believe me. If you had, you wouldn't be looming over me now, driving in the final nail.
I attack you tooth and nail, however I can, out of sheer petty spite. Blood appears on your skin, a flinch on your face. I enjoy your pain. Pain is my promise, my mission...why, it is my purpose. You know it. You've always known it. And yet you continue to flout your "goodness," your weakness, over me, again and again refusing to finish the job. "Oh," you say, "this time it's permanent. No one can get out of this." You're wrong. Only one confine can hold me, and its name is Hell.
"Why didn't you kill me?"
"Don't ask me that again," you snap. "I won't be goaded by a villain like you into compromising my morals." Well, alright then.
"You think these chains will hold me?" Arrogance, overconfidence, it always gets you riled up.
"I don't know what you are," you say, "but I know how strong these chains, and the magic they are imbued with, are. Not even a superhuman could break them."
I don't know who you are. That's a lie. My enemy, you know exactly what I am. You call me "villain," but I am so much more: the whispers in the dark corners of your mind. The evil that stalks the night. Your demons, your nemesis, the only thing or person that can make you scream. A call to you in the night hours, the truth behind every lie you spout. I am a razor, except, when I cut into your skin, you don't pull away. You don't learn from it not to take sharp objects in your hand. You want it, and you chase another cut.
"Then why not kill me? How are you any better if you leave me here to die on my own?" No answer from you. "Come on!" Now it is a shout. "Kill me! Kill me, or else run away. Run far, far away in fear, as you should have done before."
You cross your arms. "If running is what I should have done, why are you here? Staked and chained to a basement floor?" This time, it is my turn not to answer. My silence makes you smirk. "See? I'm not afraid of you."
"You can't escape," I say, high and sing-song. Clink, clink, clink as I raise my hands, miming the motion of a knife. "Turning, turning, the knife is turning..."
"Insane? I am much more. I am the dark, the waking, living dark! I am awake, and I am alive!" My voice crescendoes into a scream. "So why don't you kill me?"
"This is why!" You wave one of your black-gloved hands at the dank cellar. "This is your punishment. I keep you alive so you will hurt, the way you've hurt so many others."
Oh, my enemy, oh, my love. You are wrong. You don't keep me alive so you can hurt me. You keep me alive so I can hurt you. Go ahead, deny it all you want. Deny that you like the war, deny that deep down you're hoping I escape. Deny it until you're blue in the face.
You stand at the basement door, arms crossed. So stoic, in your garb, your swords, your cold eyes. The faintest of smiles finally crosses your lips. "I've won."
"Believe that if you want, my love."
You stiffen. "Do not call me that. Do not ever call me that."
Laughter, long, loud, echoey laughter.
"Stop laughing! Shut up! I don't know what you are, a madman, a demon, whatever, but I refuse to answer to you, ever again!"
You turn your back to me, walk away, unable to see my smile as I raise my hands again to wave like a kid.
Clink, clink, clink-clink-clink. "Goodbye, love."
I don't mind your coldness. Quite the contrary, I prefer it. I bare my teeth, feel my power surge against the supposedly unbreakable chains, but I'm not angry. I'm patient.
This will not last. One day, you'll wake to find me gone, the chains broken, the door wide open, your nightmare bleeding into reality. Except it won't be all a nightmare, will it? You'll groan, you'll clench your fists in frustration and anger, you'll chase me with all that you are, and I'll fight you. The same charade, dance, game, or whatever you like to call it.
But deep down, in the forbidden recesses of your mind and heart, all you will feel is relief. Relief that the charade is starting again, because, honestly, what are you without me? Can you even answer that question?
You don't keep me alive out of "nobility," or rather, what you perceive as nobility. I know the truth about you, my enemy, my love.
No matter how coldly you refuse me, do not ever call me that, in your heart, you also know the truth.
You love me.
You need me.
Haha. Hahahaha... The empty room echoes with the sound of my laughter. Rest for now, love.
We will see each other again soon.