Requiem for an Unloved Hero
Can a Villain become a Saviour?
Requiem for an Unloved Hero:
No one knew from where the Dark Man came…or for that matter, from when the Dark Man came. A forsaken corner of space and time? Some outre dimension of woe, despair and fear? Was he even from this universe? It was doubtful that even he knew from whence he originated. But did it matter? Certainly not to him…he always was and he always would be.
The Dark Man could travel the places-between-places to go where he wanted, from world to world, where the Dark Man did what the Dark Man did best – which was feed, that is all he did, in fact, the only thing that he wanted to do was to feed. Because feeding was the only thing that gave him any real sense of joy. And what did he feed upon, you ask? Why he feeds upon you …and me, in fact, he feeds upon any self-aware life he finds in the Multiverse.
Did the Dark Man feed upon flesh, and blood, and bone? Oh, it destroyed such “wrappings” – much like a child would tear the paper from a chocolate bar. But he did not desire such mundane treats. The most delicious sweet meat to the Dark Man was love. Not just the love of its victims. Oh no! Nothing quite so ordinary sated his appetites, though it would still devour that love like a starving man. What the Dark Man really relished, what it desired the most was the love FOR its victims. That’s right, after the Dark Man ripped and tore the wrapper from the hapless prey, after he drained the love and hope from their souls, after it laughed at their misery and despair...a link was made.
A psychic link between those who loved the victim and the Dark Man. A link through which the It would feed on their love. A woman cannot remember her late sister’s smile – was it simply time? Or was it the Dark Man? A mother has forgotten the sound of her missing son’s laughter, probably the most precious, sweet sound she had ever heard – that is when the Dark Man dined well. This was the true horror of the Dark Man.
But even then there is hope, because like I said before, as far as he was concerned, he always was and always would be. That meant the Dark Man had a weakness, a chink in its armor, an Achilles heel, arrogance…see he could be killed by a mortal, destroyed forever, his evil and sadism stopped. How do you ask? Simple: the Dark Man could be slain by a person unloved by all, one who is willing to sacrifice his life to stop the Dark Man, but where do we find such a bitter and forlorn soul willing to give his life for others? Could one unloved by all be so noble?
The Bitter Man was old, old before his time. Not in the age of his body, but in the age of his soul. A forlorn, bitter soul, steeped in hatred, hatred and...rage. This was no mere anger mind you, but a deep unending rage, once red hot and dark as the blood that he had spilled. But now faded to a simmering burnt orange.
The Bitter Man wasn’t always this way. Once he had been the Young Man, foolish, naive and very much in love. Once he had a beautiful golden bride and a beautiful golden child. He loved them both dearly, he loved life, and he had hope…that had been his mistake, because hope is merely the first step on the road to misery. For both his hope and love had died. It died in screams of horror and pain. When the Evil One had come to the Young Man’s home and taken both mother and child. Taken them and made the Young Man see, made him bear witness as all that he had loved, and those that had loved him had died.
The trial had been brief, the guilt obvious. However justice had not been served, the Blind Lady in her wisdom had not taken the life of the Evil One who had destroyed the Young Man. She had merely locked the Evil One in a cage, like a bird. Robbed of his justice the rage had been born, the red-hot rage, red as blood and fire. And the rage consumed the Young Man.
Unable to seek vengeance on the deserving, the rage-filled Young Man sought to satiate his rage on the next best thing…the kin of the Evil One. First a mother, her head crushed like an egg, then a sister, left to bleed her life upon a cold floor, then others. But the rage would not stop, in a week’s time all the kin he could find, lay dead. And the former Young Man had simply disappeared. Those in power looked, but it was as if he had dropped from the face of the earth. Then the years passed into decades and finally the bird was freed from his cage. This was what the Bitter Man, still filled with rage, had waited for.
The vengeance was dark and terrible, the Evil One who had destroyed the Young Man had known that he would be sought out, and in his heart he had told himself that he wanted a vengeance of his own. However, he was not prepared for the Bitter Man nor his rage. It could only end one way…and it did…badly. After the Bitter Man finally had his vengeance, the Evil One was finally dead, and the rage dimmed to a dull burnt orange, the Bitter Man walked through the door, and into the street covered in the blood of the Evil One, it wasn’t long after that…
The trial had been brief, the guilt obvious. However justice had not been served, the Blind Lady in her wisdom had not taken the life of the Bitter Man…nor had she put him in a cage like a bird. The Blind Lady had sent him to a place, a place of dirty white soft walls, and comforting routines.
And it was here, a place of the lost and forgotten, that the Bitter Man, the man unloved by any, would one day begin to feel again…
The Young Mother felt lost, lost without her husband who had left this world behind, leaving her and their daughter, in this world of fear and pain. She had tried to carry on without him, but her heart bled, her husband’s death was still burning, blinding agony and she was adrift on a sea of grief. It wasn’t the money – oh no, she was a psychiatrist, and a cardiologist’s widow, money was never going to be an issue. It was simply the loss of her soul mate.
Only two things kept her going: her little girl with the sad smile and golden pig tails, who was also lost without her father, and her work. That would have surprised most people. Because she dealt with the worst of the worst on a daily basis – the murderers, the mad, the criminally insane. But when she challenged herself, she was able to take her grief and lock it in a box, at least for a while.
Her latest patient would definitely challenge her. Once a family man whose wife and daughter were murdered during a home invasion gone bad, after the trial that saw their murderer put behind bars, he had tracked down the murderer’s family and slaughtered them …all of them…his mother, his sister, his grandparents, even a few cousins in a killing rage. Yet he was able to disappear for decades and the case went cold. Until his family’s killer was released from prison. He tracked and murdered him – a hardened criminal – in just two days. After which, he just walked into the street and sat down…covered in his victim’s blood. Yes, the new patient would definitely be a challenge…
The Young Mother arrived at The Institute – what an odd name for an insane asylum – late. Traffic had been heavy and she did not have the same spring in her step that she once had. She spoke to her director as she briskly walked in.
“I am sorry I am late”. The Young Mother apologized.
“That’s fine doctor. Here is the file on the new patient…quite a story. He has killed more than a few people with his bare hands… and he hasn’t said a word”. Her director - a short, balding man in his late fifties - responded.
“Since they brought him in?” The Young Mother replied.
“No. He has not said a word at all. At least since they found him sitting in the street with blood all over him”.
The Young Mother opened the file. The first thing she noticed was the picture. A gaunt gray haired man whose wrinkled face looked like cracked granite.
“How old is he? This cannot be right.”
“He’s 57. Like the file says.”
“57? This man looks at least 10 years older. '' The Young Mother replied.
“Hmm…I guess he lived rough. You will be talking to the charming gentleman in room 2. Also, there will be an orderly with you. And he will be secured.”
The Young Mother began to object “I am not sure that wou-“
“I insist. Look, this guy is bad news. I am not sure you understand what we are talking about here. He killed multiple people with his BARE HANDS. He crushed one woman’s skull like an egg with just one hand…I didn’t think such a thing was even possible. And the last person he killed was a prison hardened murderer, who was twice his size. An orderly stays with you at all times and two more in the hall.”
The Bitter Man sat at the plain table, in a plain chair, in a plain room. He wore a straight jacket and a muzzle. He waited patiently – what choice did he have? The door opened and the big, bald orderly walked in. Behind came a woman, a woman in a white coat, with glasses and blonde hair tied into a braid…a golden woman…
The Young Mother looked into the face of her patient, the same face in the photo, except the eyes…in the photo, the eyes were flat and faded, in the flesh his eyes were bright, bright and disturbingly intense.
“Good morning. I am Doctor…”
“Grief”. The Bitter Man said.
“What? Excuse me? I don’t understand.” Replied the Young Mother.
“Grief. You have lost someone recently. '' Stated the Bitter Man.
The Young Mother turned toward the orderly “did you or someone else tell him –“
“No. He did not tell me. No one told me.” Said the Bitter Man.
“Then how did you know?” Asked the Young Mother.
“You radiate grief. Like heat. It pours from you. You think you have it boxed away. You do not.”
The Young Mother stared at the Bitter Man. She did not know what to say.
“And I am sorry.” Said the Bitter Man.
“It was an accident, his car sped out of control…it…” stammered the Young Mother.
“No. You misunderstand me. I’m not sorry for what has already happened.”
“Then what are you sorry for?” Said the Young Mother.
“I am sorry for what is coming.” Replied the Bitter Man. “For it will be far worse.”
The rest of the interview was silence…her patient stopped speaking no matter what questions she asked. Eventually he was led back to his room and the Young Mother was left to update her case notes.
For days after he refused to speak – he just stared at her during their brief meetings with those too intense eyes. In the following weeks the Young Mother had forgotten how her patient’s brief words had startled her…in time she would recall that…
The Golden Child sat in her room - she did that more and more since her father’s death. Something had happened to her after that terrible day. That burning grief, that horrible agony - which was still with her - she was starting to see things...differently...more like an adult? It was as if her father’s death was a catalyst for something greater...a change, a metamorphosis of sorts...she stopped and actually smiled...catalyst, metamorphosis...a month ago she did not know these words...she knew about dolls, tea parties and ponies...even father...when did he become father and not daddy?
There were other things too...not just words, at least not just words in english...she could understand the maid speaking in spanish. Completely...every word. She understood people on the television, on science channels...she knew when they were right and when they were wrong.
But those were the things that filled her with wonder...there were the other things that filled her with fear. She now saw doorways... doorways to places that apparently only she could see. She wondered if these were always there and no one else saw them? These doors did not always make sense, some were like the doors she always knew...others were floating in the air. In the very sky. But what frightened her was the things that lived there on the other side of these doors...she had only seen a few, and they were fantastical beings. So far the most outlandish was a female, she had resembled a zebra striped centaur. Beautiful yet alien.
However, it was the things that she could not see which terrified her. She could feel them. Dark, hungry things that were ‘visible’ to her as an impression of power - yet they were very real nonetheless. She could feel their hunger, their rage...and worst of all...the alien emotions that she could not explain. These were the things that kept her up at night...
The Dark Man sat upon a throne in his lair. A dark dismal place in the center of an island, a small island which floated in the sky under the light of a blue sun. This was the places-between-places, a dimension unlike our material universe. A place of wonder as well as horror that connected various other universes.
Various sounds of misery filled the air - whimpers, sobbing, screams and cries - there were victims entombed alive and displayed in various states of dismemberment and locked in horrific torture devices. Men, women and children, humans and...otherwise…
This was the Dark Man’s “art” - his masterpieces. His Gallery of Flesh. The things of beauty that made him smile. As he admired his handiwork, he suddenly felt something - a flare of energy, a premonition, he bolted upright from his throne - power? Power! Like a burst of light and...life. Newly emerging power and the Dark Man felt hunger. And the Dark Man felt lust. I want it! I must have it! And have it I shall...the Dark Men said to himself.
Then the Dark Man went to his Well of Sorrows - a place from which he could scry many places throughout the multiverse. From here the Dark Man found the source of this light and life - a child? A simple human child! A being of emerging spiritual power. He must have her! Before other powers in the multiverse discovered this child. And the more he scryed, the more he discovered. This child’s mother reeked of grief and sorrow, and what is more, she worked at a place of broken minds and broken spirits - oh, the more he watched the more he lusted!
He would take this child to this place of broken minds and spirits - there he would feast upon them all! Oh what a grand time he would have indeed!
The screaming had started about an hour past, at least he thought it was just an hour – without a clock in his cell/room it was hard to tell. The Bitter Man knew something like this would be coming, and still he wished this were just a dream. After a while the screaming stopped. So now he lay in the darkness, just waiting…
Eventually his door opened, the Bitter Man rolled over in bed to see who had opened it. Standing in the darkness of the doorway was a child…an adorable little blonde-haired girl with golden pig tails. The Bitter Man sat up, and looked at the child. The child spoke first.
You must help me. It has come. The child’s voice had a buzzing, ethereal quality. Her eyes were solid orbs of glowing blue light.
“What do you mean? What has come?” The Bitter Man replied as he stood up.
The child came to him and took his left hand. He did not try to stop her in fact he WANTED to hold her hand. The Bitter Man found that odd, he had not held someone’s hand in over 30 years. The child led him into the hall. They passed people laying in the hallway…they were not moving, the Bitter Man recognized the orderlies and nurses that had helped and watched him - barely. They had suffered great violence as if they had been ripped apart by a terrific force. The Bitter Man saw the blood and viscera that were splattered across the dirty white walls in the flickering emergency lights.
The one who feeds on love has come. I am in great danger. The little girl said.
“Who are you? How are you in danger if you are here with me?” Replied the Bitter Man.
I am not here with you. It has me. You must come quickly. The child said to him.
“Tell me where you are. I will come to help you.” The Bitter Man said with sudden conviction.
I will lead you to me. But it has me and my mother as well. You MUST hurry. The child told him, obvious concern in her “voice”.
For the first time since he had avenged himself on the Evil One, the Bitter Man moved with fire and purpose. But this time? This time it was different. It wasn't rage. It was righteousness. He would not allow this golden haired child and her mother to come to harm.
She suddenly found herself at the institute. Am I dreaming? She asked herself. This doesn't make sense. She looked around, she was in the rec room. The lights were all out except for the emergency lighting, which flickered on and off, almost like an erratic strobe light. No one was here, which made sense, because it was after lights out.
I must be dreaming. I am still in my robe. She said to herself again. “Hello?” She called out tentatively.
Suddenly she heard a noise, and turned to the sound. Crouched next to a chair she saw her daughter. Her blonde hair reflecting in the flickering light. “Baby? What are you doing here?” She asked, confused.
“Mommy!” Her daughter wailed.
“Baby, what’s the matter? Come here to me.” She said with concern in her voice.
“I can’t Mommy, he won’t let me!” Her daughter wailed in fear.
“He? Who won’t let you?” She asked as she advanced to her child.
Suddenly from the chair a massive shadow stood up. She shrieked in fear and nearly fell backwards as she saw it in the flickering light.
A massively muscled man, fully seven feet tall. He was made of blackness - pure ebony blackness, so dark that it ate the dark around him. His face was blank. Except for the mouth, he had a wide, obscenely red-lipped mouth filled with shark-like teeth. Somehow even in the dark she could see that. Like he WANTED her to see it.
“Amazing! She actually brought you here? In the flesh. Amazing!” The Dark Man said. His voice had a high-pitched shrieking pitch that set her teeth on edge. And from somewhere she heard a rumbling laugh. And that is when she saw it. A sight that made her sanity swim. For the Dark Man had a second mouth. This one was much larger and across his abdomen! With the same obscenely red lips and jagged fangs.
“Your child. She is a being of great spiritual potential. In time, who knows what she may have become? But we won't have to worry about that now...will we?” The face mouth said as the stomach continued its deep rumbling giggle.
She fell back screaming “HELP! Help us! Please God!”
“Oh, please do scream...there is no one else here...well no one living at least. They were a delicious mix of fear and despair...and of course insanity. But compared to you and her? Well, I suspect they will be but an appetizer.” The Dark Man informed her in a voice laden with hunger as he started to reach for her. “Normally I would consume her first, as to enjoy the parent’s despair. But her spiritual potential is so high - I guess I will consume you first!” The stomach mouth grinned and licked its lips as he grabbed her by the arms.
As she started screaming the lights came back on…
The Bitter Man walked hand in hand with the golden haired child through the darkened halls, they passed many more scenes of death and horror made surreal in the flickering emergency lighting walking by mangled corpses and blood splattered walls.
They turned down a final stretch of hallway and the child’s buzzing, ethereal voice seemed even more frantic, hurry! Or we will be too late! She literally pulled him along as they broke out into a near run. Finally they reached the rec room and the lights suddenly came on.
The Bitter Man looked down at his left hand in confusion - the golden haired child had disappeared, but the horror in front of him cleared all questions from his mind. Standing there was his doctor, still in her night clothes, with a look of abject terror on her face as she was held by a large jet black man-like figure.
The figure turned from her and spoke - its voice an annoying nerve rattling shriek: “Who are you? Did she summon you here too? No...I think you have been here all along. How did I miss you?” The ebon figure turned to a child crouched next to a chair - the same golden haired girl who had led him here.
The figure seemed to be made of solidified shadow, a being of ebony blackness, featureless except for a wide mouth, with obscenely exaggerated, red feminine lips and shark-like fangs. What was worse was a larger duplicate mouth spread across its gut. The Dark Man was at least seven feet in height and packed with slabs of muscle. The Bitter Man felt a stab of fear, but it passed in an instant to be replaced by a burning, righteous anger.
“No matter. I will feed upon you too.” The Dark Man declared as he dropped the Young Mother.
“No. You will not hurt this mother and her child. Not this time Evil One!” The Bitter Man charged forward, his hands balled into fist.
“Ahhh...good. Spirited are you? This will add some spice!” The Dark Man laughed from both mouths.
The Dark Man’s arms transformed into two harpoon-topped tentacles and extended forward at amazing speed impaling the Bitter Man through the right side of his chest and where his left shoulder met his collar bone. The Dark Man then reeled his prey in.
“How is that spirit now, ehh?” The face-mouth mocked the Bitter Man while the stomach-mouth laughed.
The Young Mother screamed and tried to look away as tears streamed down her face. But try as she might she could not turn her head as The Dark Man’s stomach mouth opened wide, as if to devour the Bitter Man, the Young Mother felt her mind start to snap. Then something began to change...she saw glowing light begin to grow in the Bitter Man’s eyes, faint at first but then quickly growing in intensity.
The Dark Man noticed this as well: “What is this? You are empty? Hollow! Get away from me!” He shouted. However, the Bitter Man dug his fingers like claws into the Dark Man’s chest.
The Dark Man withdrew his harpoon-arms causing nearly as much damage on the way out as when they tore their way into the Bitter Man’s flesh. The Bitter Man opened his mouth as if to scream and a deluge of blood poured from it. However, after the blood came a cascade of light matching the light in his eyes - the beams merged into one lance-like ray of energy striking the Dark Man through his face-mouth and bursting from the back of the ebon head.
The Dark Man fell to his knees and the stomach-mouth screamed a long, drawn out wail. Smaller mouths began to burst across the Dark Man’s flesh - each screamed in a different voice, a man, a woman...a child. More and more of these mouths erupted - were these the souls of his victims? The Dark Man’s ebon flesh then began to boil away into a black steam as the stomach mouth’s mournful wail continued.
Eventually the Dark Man’s wail ended as its physical form dissipated. Just a lingering “after-echo” of sound remained until that too faded into silence. However, the Bitter Man still stood blood free-flowing from his open wounds. His mouth and eyes stretched open to their maximum width. Slowly, the bright light faded from his eyes and then his knees buckled and he fell onto his back.
As he lay there dying, the Young Mother could hear the sound of air escaping his punctured lung with every labored breath that he took. She told herself that as a doctor she needed to help him. However, that was the last coherent thought she had as her mind finally shut down and she was mercifully unconscious.
That left no witnesses as her daughter - the blonde haired little girl - stood up and walked to the man dying on the ground. A child with an all too wise and knowing look on her face for one so young. She kneeled down next to him carefully trying to avoid the pool of blood beneath him. She took hold of his left hand and his eyes flickered open.
“I-i-i’m sorry...so sorry...for the things I have done…for the lives that I have unjustly taken...please forgive me…” The Bitter Man mumbled to her between labored breaths.
The child said “I forgive you. And I thank you for saving my mother and me.” She kissed him on the forehead and used her emerging abilities to ease his passing. After he took his final breath, she looked at him sadly and said: “And I am sorry I had to use you the way I did. I do not know what I am becoming. I guess I am what that monster said ‘a being of great spiritual potential’ - I do not yet know what that means. But I thank you for giving me the chance to find out”.
She set the dead man’s hand down and walked over to her mother. Kissing her on the forehead, the Young Mother’s eyes flickered open and her daughter said “Come on Mommy. I want to go home now”. And a child who was so much more than a child led her mother by the hand from a place of darkness and horror into the new dawn’s sunlight.