Breathe in. Breathe out.

Exercise in futility--it doesn't do anything when you don't have a body. Breathlessness is a sensation of the mind, a faulty memory that says yes I'm still alive, yes I'm still winded when I run that way, yes I need to stop and get some air in the lungs that I know on some level I don't even have anymore. Like the triphammer heartbeat I can feel slamming into my ribcage. That doesn't exist either, but I still press my hand above it as if to silence it's treacherous noise as I gasp at the thick air. It tastes like blood, sharp and metallic and heady-- brings back memories, some only days old.

I long to go back and pretend things are the way they have always been. I think it's because I'm a creature of habit, and two hundred years is an awful lot of habit to drop like so many discarded bones. But two hundred years is also an awful lot of time to be used and lied to, when it all comes crashing down to break you; and as I'm also a creature of vengeance I'm just going to have to pick my priorities. I hope he knows I'm coming. I hope he knows I'm going to kill him. I hope I scare him shitless.

But of course he knows and of course he's frightened: he sent them after me-- sent them after me, whom they once bowed down to and took his word from, who knows them and their strengths and weakness better than any. Of all the stupid things he could do he sent them after me, and he thought they could so much as touch me. I think one of them may have brushed by my right wing, though--it feels dirty. The thin dark feathers soft like down and sharp like winter brush each other and murmur to each other when I flicker my wings in disgust, and pull them close against my back. I hate them more and more each day, now that I know, now that I know; and they grow heavier each moment, each step I take closer; and I long to tear them off and let the silver-bright blood spill over my hands like tears of the moon and set me free. Sometimes I think I'm going mad, and that is why I feel the hatred burning behind my eyes. Why I would turn on my Father, on my Protector and Confidant and my God Almighty. Sometimes I think I'm going mad, and then I remember kneeling before the altar that one last time, and I realize that I am finally becoming sane.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Slow down. Calm down. Breathe in breathe out. Because I can feel him coming closer--I can feel his presence and power, and only the memory of seeing him so very small and helpless before me stays me from dropping to my knees before him like the loyal fool I have always been. He is not God. He is not God. He is not God.

"Aleth. . ." His voice is soft and hard as always, as cold and distant and close and warm as always. Somehow somewhere inside I want to bury my face against him like I used to do, and cry against him like I used to do, and tell him how wrong I am and how sorry I am and how I never meant it, I never never meant to want to hurt him. Only the memory that all those years it was nothing but lies keeps me from doing it. I almost avert my eyes from old habit, but won't, not this time-- not this time because I can taste his fear, and it tastes so nice like nothing else should, and my shame only spices what is already there. It frightens him that I would look God in the eye. Only the memory of feeling how weak he was in that brief moment, of feeling his meaningless existence trapped between my praying hands for that torturous moment, keeps me from casting my eyes downward and whispering some pleading prayer. From hoping he would forgive me this hunger. This hate. He is not God he is not God he is not God.

"Aleth, my son. . ." The right hand lifts up, angled faintly to the side as if to draw me in and hold me near. "I know why you have come. Why do you turn on me now, when I have done everything for you? Why do you think you can kill me--kill your God? Why do you want to? Aleth my son, speak with me, and all will be well again. . ." The gauntlet he wears looks dangerous but it is all show, to me--he cannot hurt me. He has hurt me as much as he ever can. The sound that comes from my throat as I narrow my eyes is animal, unfamiliar. But it feels right. It feels right, and the look in those black-prism eyes where wild green reflects back at me feels right, and when he takes a step back that is right, too. The knowledge that everything he ever did for me, ever told me, was to use me makes it feel right, and makes 'Aleth my son' suddenly sound more blasphemous than anything I could ever fear saying or thinking or doing.

I want to tell him what is wrong. I want to tell him why. I want to tell him I loved him, I want to ask why he lied to me, I want to tell him it would have changed nothing if I had known what he really was. I want I want I want but I can't have because damnit I never could, never never could because damnit, that's all I've ever been isn't it, a little child to be lied to, used and abused and abandoned and lied to, and that's what burns the most. That's what burns the most, and it catches in my throat so that all that escapes is that animal snarl, but I think his name might have slipped out too--not 'God' not 'Lord' not 'Father'. Amneuth. His name is Amneuth. I don't know how I know it but I know it; I think I found it when his power bent before me at the altar when I prayed for an answer. When I prayed for an answer and it was the answer I couldn't, couldn't take: that GodLordFather was none of these; he was Amneuth and Amneuth was Demon and Amneuth was Liar.

I think I might be wrong. I think I might be going crazy after all--I think I am crazy, I must be crazy because my thoughts are bleeding and running and tumbling together and I don't quite feel myself anymore. I must be crazy because all I can see now as I force myself forward is his black on black on black on black shining eyes, and all I can see is my reflection and I look like an animal with eyes like green on green on green on green madness, and hungry, and animal. That burns too--I look like an animal, and I think maybe I might feel like an animal, and the animal is hungry and Amneuth is right there, but I'm not sure he's so scared anymore and in fact I think he might be smiling. But I don't know because I can only see his eyes and I can only see the animal and I can only taste the blood in the air and the animal is hungry and it's making me do this. I want to do this and the animal is making me do this, and I think I'm starting to forget which one I am. All I really remember is God. Not God. HeisnotGodheisnotGodheisnotGod.

I know I have the knife in my hand because I know how it feels--thick twistgrip so it never fell from my fingers during the assassinations and the interrogations and the sacrifices and the bloody bloody battles, and I know it's in my hand because I see it jump to meet him and somehow my pale hand is attached to the dark dark pommel, even though I don't remember taking it out. I am going to kill him. I am going to kill him I am going to kill him and I am going to kill him like an animal and--

No. Breathe in. Breathe out. The blade stops beside his face, and he doesn't even blink.

I am not an animal. The blade slips from my fingers and falls to the ground between us--I will not kill him with his own weapon. I will not kill him like an animal. He is less than a foot from my face, and he is smiling. Maybe he thinks I have given up, maybe he thinks I have changed my mind. But I look into his eyes and I don't see God. All I see is a liar. All my life I have hated liars. All my death I have hated liars. Maybe he knows, because he knows me. And maybe he doesn't, because he does not know me. But he is smiling, and I know that smile because I smiled like that, once upon a time only a few days ago. Back when I knew God existed, instead of knowing he did not. I smiled like that to the sacrifices and the heretics. But I am not a sacrifice, and there is no God against which to commit heresy. I could be wrong. I know I am not wrong, but I am mad, so I avert my eyes as I have all my life and all my death. Because back then he was God.

"You have come to your senses, Aleth?" He sounds sure of himself, but he always has, and I am not even certain his voice is capable of hesitation. He sounds like God should sound. He will forgive me, if I bury my face against him like I used to do, and cry against him like I used to do, and tell him how wrong I am and how sorry I am and how I never meant it, I never never meant to want to hurt him. I know he will. Because I loved him. And I believed in him. He was GodLordFather and he could do no wrong. He could do no wrong.

My knees want to give way beneath me, and I stumble. His hands are there to catch me, and so they do, and I bury my face against him like I always used to do, and I clutch at his robes, and the tears well up in my eyes as they have not done in over a hundred years. "Lord. . ." My voice is hoarse, and it hurts to whisper like that because my throat has closed so tightly. But that is stupid, because I don't have a throat anymore. Because I'm not alive anymore. His arms are tight and comforting around me, and he murmurs to me that all is forgiven. It does not matter so much that I am not alive anymore. It does not matter so much that only moments ago I was a beast. Because he is GodLordFather, and I love him. He is God and I love him and he forgives me.

But God does not lie.

I go stiff in his arms and I can breathe again--breathe in. Breathe out.

Amneuth lied.

The tears go dry like they were never there--because they were never there. I feel like a child again. But an angry child. A betrayed child.

Because Amneuth is not God.

His hands move away, but that doesn't matter because I have pulled away from him now--he was lying again, he was lying again and saying that he forgave me, that God forgave me because God always, always forgives his children. And that is the worst lie. The worst lie.

Because God does not exist.

I only have to touch him to kill him. I only have to touch him once to kill him, but I don't think I will be able to. I think I know why he was smiling, now, because I can finally see his left hand come from out beneath the folds of his robes. There is something clasped in his gauntleted grasp, and it is not for show--it is ugly but so beautiful--a ragged raw stone black and mad wild green, and silver like the tears of the moon; sharp and curved as the ritual blade he gave me. I know it so well. I know it, but only for a moment because then it rips into my left eye and my world is suddenly black on black on black on black. . .or maybe it is not, and maybe I am only losing myself in his eyes again. My legs fall out beneath me but he does not catch me this time; my wings are so heavy and they weigh me down to the floor.

I cannot reach him. I try but I cannot reach him, and suddenly I do not care that he lied to me and he used me, and I do not care that he has stabbed me in the eye with my own soul. Because I love him.

Because God does not exist but it doesn't matter because he was always LordGodFather, and he will always be LordGodFather even though God does not exist. Because God cannot lie. And Amneuth is Liar. . .but Amneuth loved me. Amneuth loved me. He took me away from the bad people when I was Worthless Sick Child and called me 'Aleth My Son' and he lied but he loved me, and maybe he lied so I would love him, too.

I reach out--it hurts and my hand is heavier than the world, but I reach out--and I try so hard to find him and touch him one more time. But he laughs at me. I try to say his name--not 'God' not 'Lord' not 'Father'. Amneuth. But the word will not form, and I am choking. Choking on the tears of the moon. Blood of the moon. I am choking and my wings are too heavy, and I feel the gauntlets cup my face one more time and lift it upwards. His face swims into vision through the black and I try to say his name again, but all that comes is blood I should not be bleeding. Because I am not alive.

"Aleth." And this time I do not know how he sounded, but I think it was disgust. I do not know how he sounded because he kissed my lips softly and he took my soul in his hands again. I feel it, but I do not see it come into my eye again, and I feel it but I do not see my soul killing my soul and ending it all like it should have ended over a hundred years ago.

All I see is Amneuth.