Chapter 22: To Watch
The trailer Peter and Lucas stood in was clearly designed to be the bare minimum. Peter saw several peeling floor tiles, and two of the visible windows were cracked. Outside of those windows, a thick sheet of snow blanketed the ground outside so throughly that Peter was unable to tell what was street and what would've been dirt or grass. It disturbed him for a moment, because despite the apparent freezing temperature, he felt perfectly comfortable. He didn't get so much as a chill.
Turning his gaze outside, there was an old pick up truck that was buried in snow up to its windows. Even so, Peter spied a fair amount of rust on the vehicle, and wouldn't have trusted it to run even on a warm summer day. He turned his gaze once more to the large man in the recliner and saw he wore several layers of clothing and a thick pair of wool gloves. Additionally, there was an empty bottle of whiskey on a fold-up TV tray next to the man.
It didn't paint a pleasant picture. Peter turned his gaze back to the child Lucas and saw that he was clad in nothing but the thinnest rags, and he was shivering in the corner, holding himself and crying.
Peter craned his neck to look at Lucas as he'd known the man, and saw only a pained expression on the man's face. So instead, Peter focused on the scene before him. For a long moment, nothing changed. The man snored in the recliner and the boy sat shivering. Peter did notice how painfully frail the child was. The boy was definitely malnourished and in pain. Everything in Peter, even knowing it was merely a memory, wanted to heal the child and rescue him, but he could do nothing but watch.
So he watched on.
After another few seconds, the broken boy slowly stood up, his gaze focused entirely on the man in the chair. He took two cautious steps and that's when Peter heard a strange clinking sound. He looked closer and saw that iron chains had been fastened around the child's ankles. Rage filled him and he jerked involuntarily to free the child before his logic caught up.
I can't change this, he told himself, thinking it through. I can't stop this.
So he watched on.
The man's snoring stopped for a moment and the boy froze, half-crouched, so as to avoid making anymore noise. After a long second, the man turned slightly and the snoring resumed. The child dared to take another step and once again the chains clinked.
Once again, the snoring stopped. However, this time the man didn't resume his slumber. He slowly sat up and his glossy eyes slowly focused on the child, who had progressed maybe four feet from the corner. Peter saw a red-hot rage fill the man's drunken face as he realized the child had moved, and he kicked, getting out of the chair on his second attempt.
"You little bastard," he hissed in a drunken slur. "Told yah to stay put, didn't I?"
The boy did not protest, an instead collapsed on the spot, throwing his arms up over his face and curling up to defend himself as best he could. The man started towards him, but was stopped as he reached the child by a slender woman who seemed to be in her late thirties. Her hair was messy there were tear-tracks running down her face that were black from the now ruined mascara she'd applied.
However, the most noticeable thing was the large purple bruise that encircled her left eye. The wound was swollen and a small line of blood ran from it. The woman didn't speak but instead, kissed the man deeply, pulling him towards the door she'd emerged from. The man, still rather drunk, didn't resist, and followed her into the bedroom.
The moment the door closed, the small child got up and moved to the counter, grabbing a brown apple that was overly ripe, and eating it eagerly. All the while Peter could clearly hear the moans of pleasure from the man while the woman grunted or cried out in pain. He felt sick and would've thrown up if his stomach had anything in it. As it was, he merely gagged before shaking his head slightly to clear the unpleasant sensation.
"My mother," said Lucas, softly, without further explanation.
Peter nodded in understanding. He felt a connection to Lucas in that moment that he didn't want to admit to, but he understood exactly how it felt when your mother was the only protection you had in the world. Sure, his upbringing hadn't been as violent or abusive as Lucas' but he'd been abandoned by Jack and treated by most as an outcast. It was one of the reasons Miranda had been so central to his childhood. They might both be freaks, but at least they had each other.
The scene flashed and Peter saw the boy from before had grown into a scraggly youth. He was tied up again; only, this time his wrists and ankles were tied to some sort of alter, and the father had a long, crooked knife Peter recognized as Lucas' sacrificial blade. Peter looked around and to his horror saw that Lucas' mother was also restrained, maybe three feet from her son.
Her chest was carved open, and she was gasping horribly, pulling against her restraints. Peter could see her lungs trying to pull in air, but she was clearly not able to do so properly. He reached out desperately, words of a prayer of healing on his lips as his hand passed through her and he scolded himself softly. It was a memory, and he could do nothing for her, however much he may want to.
"This was where…" Lucas began, but did not finish his thought.
The father moved towards him long knife upraised and there was an unpleasant crack as the teenage boy's foot broke, allowing him to slip free from the bindings and he kneed his father in the gut, quickly grasping the knife and cutting himself free. His father hissed angrily and Peter saw a change in Lucas. Something behind the boy's eyes went dark and he drove the knife into his father's stomach, drenching himself in the man's blood. Peter could hear the teenager sobbing softly
He withdrew the knife and stabbed him again, and again, and again. Slowly the sobbing was replaced with a manic, insane laughter until it was nothing less than cackling. Only after his father was reduced to a mere paste did Lucas turn to his mother and Peter saw the teenager preparing the ritual to bring back the dead.
However, there was something more to it this time. There was a being not entirely unlike a human that stood beside Lucas, guiding his hands. The being was naked, and bore no defining characteristics, but its skin was blue and veins stood out clearly across it's entire body. However, it was the face that disturbed Peter all the more. It was not actually a face at all, rather it was a single circular eye, blue as the day sky and lidless, unblinking.
"Your god?" asked Peter, already knowing the answer.
"The god of the bottomless pit," began Lucas. "Moloch the devourer."
Lucas shivered and clutched his upper arms.
"I forgot what it was like before I was his servant. I do not think I wanted to remember."
"So why are we seeing this?" Peter asked, softly.
"I thought this was your doing."
"I don't know. I don't really control my power, because I'm not really the one wielding it."
"Is it… cold? When you do it?" Lucas asked.
This was such an unexpected question, that Peter was slightly taken aback.
"I mean… no. It's life," said Peter, having no other word for it.
"Life? I like the sound of that… of life."
Peter turned and examined Lucas the man for the first time since the flash had started. Lucas looked somewhat like Peter remembered him, but there was a difference. Oh sure, he bore the same suit and hair. His face was only a touch unshaven and his eyes were the same hazel color they'd always been, but there was a weariness and above all else, pain in them.
Peter reached out and as his fingertips touch Lucas' shoulder the older man flinched as if Peter had burned him.
"I've… I've been doing terrible things, haven't I?"
Peter almost wanted to lie to him. However, he couldn't forget the graveyard full of undead, and nodded solidly.
"I don't know why I can think clearly right now… It's like I've been drugged all my life and I'm sober for the first time. Peter… can you kill me?"
Peter stared at him, and felt a strange surge of emotion flood through him.
"You want me to kill you?"
"Right now, yes. I can't explain it, but it's like I've been riding a comet through space for my entire life and this is first time I've been able to stop and think. When this ends… when it's over, I don't know that I'll be able to think clearly anymore. I don't know that I'll be me. But if I die… I think I'll finally be free. I want to know the God you serve. I want to feel the life you have in you, Peter. I can't explain it better than that. That thing has been in me longer than I can even recall. Right here, right now, I want to be rid of it. I want to be free. I want to be healed. Can you do that? Please?"
Peter looked at Lucas and saw him as more of a man than he'd ever been. He saw the pain and desperation in the man's eyes and more than anything else, he could feel the sincerity of the man's words. He took a long breath, and nodded.
"I will. After all, I'm a healer."
"Promise me? Please? I don't know what will happen when we go back, but whatever it is this is more clear to me than anything has ever been. Please heal me."
"I promise," Peter whispered, and in a flash their surroundings vanished and Peter feel the stone beneath his feet, felt the cold night air of the graveyard and could feel a wound in his chest.
He looked down and saw hole in his shirt and jacket from the stab, but adrenaline still flooded his system and he had only a split-second to act. He looked up and saw Lucas standing there, confusion and fury in his eyes, and yet Peter could see beyond that. In a moment of understand more complete than Peter could ever have known himself, he reached up and touched Lucas' temple, whispering out to God, and to what bit of humanity may still exist within the man.
There was a bright flash, and Lucas collapsed, the life gone from his eyes, and a gentle smile on his face.
Exhausted, and too tired to fight on anymore, Peter let his eyes close and drifted off into dreamless sleep.
The next thing he could hear was the sounds of Maria and Miranda talking softly while tea cups clinked and a television played some courtroom show he didn't know. He was very comfortable, and yet… strangely empty. He also hurt…
It had been a long time since he'd really hurt. Oh sure, he had quick pains, but his healing had always taken care of that. This was more like an ache or a wound that had aged. His chest hurt… Somehow, the pain actually felt good: almost comforting. It felt human, more human than he'd felt in a very long time.
When he opened his eyes again, he recognized the ceiling of his mother's living room. It was spring, at least judging by the open windows and flowers blooming outside the window. He looked around and slowly sat up, feeling the couch beneath him shift a little.
It was then he noticed the bandages around his chest and remembered Lucas' knife striking him. In that second he understood, or perhaps he had known from the moment he'd healed Lucas. He could no longer heal, at least not in a way that defied all logic and science. Just to be sure, he placed his hand on the wound, and whispered a quick prayer.
While he still felt his connection to God, the wound did not instantly heal and knit the skin back together. Oh sure, he could feel his body slowly doing so, but his ability seemed to have left him. However, it didn't make him sad. On the contrary, he felt at peace, as if he'd been fighting a war and was finally allowed to go home. He could feel the stream of appreciation from his heavenly father that could only be put into two simple words:
He got to his feet slowly and moved towards the kitchen, smiling as Miranda quickly hugged him hard enough that he could've sworn his ribs would crack, and Maria cried softy, dabbing at her eyes.
Over the course of the next few years, things went back to what most others would call "normal." They resumed their schooling and Peter and Miranda kept up with their church, volunteering as often as they could within their other duties. They made sure to dedicate one day of their week completely to God and one night of the week completely to one another and had a perfectly boring life throughout college, and it was wonderful.