Author's Note: Wow, it's been almost two years since I finished this story! Time flies, eh? Anyway, I've the idea for another short drabble in the TSYSK universe for a while, and here it is. It's just more reflective than anything. Hope you all enjoy anyway. Cheers!
The First Son
They say time heals all wounds, but he often felt as though time was injuring him instead. He had been alive for so long that every moment his life extended, it felt as though an invisible wound inside him was stretching, growing larger and deeper until he had a gaping hole in his chest.
He stood on the roof, surveying the scene before him. Buildings rose high all around, great menacing structures that, despite everything, had a strangely fascinating grace. Skyscrapers, they called them, and indeed from below they had looked as though they could touch the sky. But up high, he could see that they stopped short, so far below, and he knew he could reach higher than that. He could see people, masses upon masses, tiny and insignificant beneath him. Cars raced in the streets. The noises were faint, so high up, but he could feel them. He could feel their life, and a great sense of bitterness filled him, not for the first time.
This should have been mine.
He remembered the first time he had laid eyes upon his youngest brother. He had been on Earth for years, attending to his father's business. It had been a somewhat humiliating moment for him when Satan introduced Joshua. He knew it was because he had been a failure of a son, and he despised it. He hated that Satan did not trust him with his work. He hated that he had tried and tried again – six times, in fact – to find a replacement for him. He, the oldest, had been an experiment, and a failed one at that.
Josh was the success.
By the time Satan deemed that Josh was ready to come to Earth and 'learn the trade' he was nearing eight years old. Marcus, who had somehow expected another puppet like Kane or Iblees, had been unnerved upon their meeting.
The eight-year-old boy seemed, on the surface, perfectly normal. He was dark-haired, and as he looked up at his older brother, his eyes changed from blue to black easily. Marcus had leaned down to introduce himself.
"Do you know who I am, Joshua?"
"Please, call me Josh," said the little boy, smiling brightly. Marcus blinked at him. He had not expected him to sound so… warm. He sounded delighted to meet him. He sounded young and innocent and everything the devil's son should not be. And yet…
"All right, Josh."
"It's very nice to meet you, Marcus," continued Josh, holding out his hand. "Is that what they do here? Shake hands?"
Marcus did not take his brother's hand. "These are formalities. We don't need to abide by them."
Josh's hand dropped to his side. His face betrayed no change of expression.
"Father has taught me a lot," said Josh, as Marcus began to walk. He struggled to keep up alongside, his eight-year-old form small and clumsy compared to Marcus' youthful body. "I'm ready to start working straight off, if you need me to."
Marcus laughed. Only Jinn had been eager to start working with him, and Jinn had soon proven to be an utter failure. "I'm sure you are."
"No, really," insisted Josh. "Test me!"
Marcus raised his eyebrows. "Very well."
He projected his thoughts into his brother's mind, his eyes narrowing as he focused. Satan's creations were harder to reach into than humans, but he had always controlled his other brothers with relative ease.
However, Josh was different. The moment he sensed Marcus' mental attack, his eyes flashed red, and Marcus took a sudden step backwards.
He could feel a block. Nothing. He couldn't reach into the eight-year-old's mind.
"How about now, Marcus?" asked Josh quietly. His irises were still tinged red. "Do you think I'm ready?" and then Marcus felt a sudden chill in his spine as the barrier in Josh's mind began to push, harder and harder – into his own.
Josh was breaking into his thoughts.
"Am I doing it right?" he asked, and there was something cold in his young, high voice. He pushed further and Marcus gasped, clutching his head. And then Josh's voice was no longer spoken aloud, but instead ringing within his own brain. And it was not an eight-year-old's voice. It was an ancient and terrible voice, smooth and harsh. Is this better, big brother?
"Yes!" Marcus choked out, his hands pressed to either side of his head. "Yes! Josh – stop it!"
The voice immediately vanished from his head. When he looked up again, Josh seemed perfectly at ease. In fact, he was beaming.
"See?" he said, raising his eyebrows. "Strong, aren't I?"
Marcus could feel his heart, the one Satan had once regretted giving him, beating hard within his chest. He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair.
"Yeah," he said shortly. "Come on. Let's go."
Marcus sat on the rooftop, his eyes on the sky above him, and thought back. If only he'd known, back then, what he knew now. He looked down at the people on the street beneath him, and he knew that if he reached deep enough into their minds he would find the remnants of his brother and the half-angel he loved within them. The thought gave him a pang. He had owned this world, once. It should have been him, influencing these mortals, and now he was left here… wandering the earth. Lost. Purposeless.
He raised a hand to his chest and felt his heart, beating steadily. Satan had been disappointed in him because he had been too human. And yet, the humans down there – their beats were numbered. His were infinite. Why couldn't that have been enough to convince his father?
They had travelled back in time and west in space. Josh had been unimpressed with Marcus' transportation skills, but that was to be expected. After all, he'd just made the journey from hell. Marcus could see the bruises on the back of his neck that showed the marks of his father's teaching, and felt a surge of pity towards the little boy.
Immediately, revulsion filled him. Pity. He should not be feeling pity. Sons of Satan do not feel pity, he roared at himself.
Josh looked up at him as they walked along an open moor. It was cold and windy, but neither of them felt the chill. Josh gazed around him, observing the trees and grass growing sporadically here and there. His eyes were as silver as the moon shining above them.
Somewhere beyond, a wolf howled.
Marcus hated the sound of howling wolves. They, amongst other animals, like donkeys and cats, could see him even when he was invisible to humans. How many times had he been startled by a wolf, staring directly at him, its eyes glowing with the knowledge humans didn't have?
Josh glanced sideways at him, and there was a knowing look in his eyes.
"All right," said Marcus softly. He pointed towards a glow in the distance. "Do you see that? That's a fire. It indicates human life – probably a passing tribe or family that set up camp. We'll use them for your first practice."
Josh looked thoughtful as they walked nearer. They could make out the shape of primitive tents now. If Marcus strained his mind, he could hear the thoughts of busy housewives and contented men. He could sense several children as well.
"So, what?" asked Josh, his eyes narrowed to shining slits as he stared at the people. "You want me to spread evil there?"
He said it casually, with no hint of either joy or nervousness. Marcus found it strangely reminiscent of the way Kane operated. He wasn't quite sure where Josh was, in the scheme of emotion. Was he, like Marcus, a victim of feeling, or was he a robot? He certainly seemed more aware than Kane, but there was a certain underlying ice beneath it that made Marcus uneasy.
"Yes," he said, returning his attention to the matter at hand. "Usually, the easiest thing to do is to look for the individual flaws within each person – or what would bring out the biggest flaws. Can you sense, for example, a man with a great deal of pride?"
Josh nodded. "Oh, you mean the man thinking about screwing his wife, but wishing his kids weren't there?"
Marcus hesitated. He would have to concentrate to see further into the man's mind, but he assumed Josh was correct. "Yes."
"He just ordered his kids to go straight to the other hut."
"This is your chance," said Marcus quickly. "Your mere presence should make the kids rebel against his orders. This will in turn make him far worse-tempered. Tempers bring out the worst qualities in everyone. As a man of considerable power, you can see how his bad mood would reflect on the rest of the people around him, can't you?"
"That's it?" said Josh, looking at him, and there was a sudden coldness in his silver eyes. "That's all we're supposed to do? That's all you'd do?"
Marcus frowned at him. "I'm just trying to teach you, Joshua."
"It's Josh. And I don't think that's a good idea."
"Really?" said Marcus coolly.
"Why only go for bad-tempered, when you can have a whole range of suffering?" asked Josh, the coldness in his voice evaporating as he smiled at Marcus. "I mean… what we could do is convince the children to leave the hut…"
"Isn't that what the father wants?" asked Marcus, and then he saw, to his surprise, small children crawling out of the hut he had sensed the man with the heavy pride in. Josh worked fast.
"Yes, but they can wander off," said Josh cheerfully. "Can't they?"
"What purpose would that serve?" demanded Marcus.
"Well," said Josh thoughtfully, as another wolf howled. "Rather dangerous for a child to be out on the moor alone, isn't it? Dangerous animals all about. Wolves."
"The wolves are nowhere near," said Marcus slowly. He felt completely unnerved by Josh's secretive little plots. This wasn't what they were supposed to do. They were supposed to spread evil, not target specific events. "That's—"
"The wolves will go wherever we want them to, don't they?" asked Josh calmly. And sure enough, a wolf howled again, this time much closer. Marcus flinched, and hated himself for his human weakness. His father was right. He was pitiful.
"What?" asked Josh, his eyes on Marcus now. "Don't you like wolves?"
"They… I find them unpleasant," said Marcus hoarsely. Now lots of wolves were howling. Josh's head whipped back towards the fire in the distance as a child's scream rose above the howls.
"And now," said Josh, smiling slowly, "death."
Marcus felt it, too, and he felt a strange unhappiness fill him. It was not the death that bothered him, but the interference. This was wrong. This was not how they were meant to work. They weren't supposed to kill children, even indirectly. They were simply supposed to work on bringing out the worst in people.
The children were still screaming. Yelps and growls were carried by the wind to where he and Josh stood, and he smelled the blood in the air. Finally, the screams died away to gurgles.
"Interestingly," said Josh, his eyes on the fire, "this will generally make the father much worse-tempered, wouldn't it?"
Marcus shook his head. "It's not worth it."
"Not worth it?" Josh laughed suddenly. "Can't you see?"
Josh's eyes grew bright. "The future! These people will never forget the night the wolves took their children! The proud man will blame the village guardian for allowing the children to wander off, and he'll be killed as a punishment, and then his family will murder the proud man's wife in response, and it will simply tear all these people over there apart. There will be so much more suffering and misery, and that's what we want, isn't it?" he looked at Marcus, and he seemed genuinely puzzled. "Isn't that what makes you happy?"
"Happy," said Marcus, unable to believe his ears. Josh was more powerful than he would ever be. "Happy, yeah…"
Josh smiled, and his face grew cold for a moment as he stared behind Marcus. His brother whipped around, and his human heart gave a jolt as a white wolf neared them, clutching the severed arm of a small child between its jaws. Blood dripped freely as it stared at them both.
I see you, Marcus could hear it thinking, and the idea made him shiver. I see you, sons of Satan, I see right through you, and I know what you've done…
Josh reached out and patted the wolf, much to his brother's disgust. He backed away.
"Good doggie," whispered Josh. Then he looked over at Marcus, and there was a gleam of knowing in his eyes. Marcus, caught up in his own discomfort, did not see it.
Now he stood on the very edge of the roof, deep in thought. How many centuries ago had that been? How long afterwards had it been until Josh had finally grown tired of patronizing him, and took over outright? How long until he had trapped him in a wolf's body for centuries?
He looked down again, at the busy street beneath him. Compared to all these humans, he was infinitely powerful. Immortal. Magical.
But worthless. He was an evil creature who was too human to revel in his own cruelty. A devil stripped of his trident. Not quite human, not quite devil, not quite wolf.
Marcus took a deep breath, his eyes on the streets, so far down. Skyscrapers. He did not deserve to go near the skies… his path was down, not up.
And he stepped off the edge of the building.
The air whipped past him as he fell. It was exhilarating, heart-pounding.
For a moment, he was almost sure there was a possibility that he would die.
But just when he was about to fall in the midst of busy humans who could not see him, just when he was about to test the limits of his own existence, the wind seemed to catch against his chest. His descent slowed. Air carried him safely down the last few feet, and he landed upright, his head spinning around. A low laugh echoed in his ear.
So now you want to die? The voice was familiar and amused. Oh, no, I don't think I'll be able to let that happen…
There were so many worthless humans walking around him, he could not quite catch a glimpse, although his eyes scanned the crowd – looking for him, looking for her…
There! Between two women, turning the corner, he saw, as invisible to the people as he was to them, a white wolf's tail vanish into thin air.
Marcus Romanian stood, in the middle of a crowded city, and the weight of his immortality settled upon his shoulders as he understood that, as long as he existed, his past would never stop haunting him.