The ambush was successful.
He had won. He’d destroyed her. He’d shamed her in front of all her friends and colleagues, in the company she’d founded. He’d made his points clearly and unavoidably. He’d won. Revenge was … not sweet.
Head ringing, a sharp hissing white noise, was this tinnitus? Stomach lurching randomly, pain, nausea, silence, bubbling. Shoulders aching. His neck hurt. No idea when that started.
Through the forest of hiss, he’d appeared at home, no memory of the journey. His girlfriend (not for much longer if she finds out) maybe saying something but he was not even looking at her. Please, no eye contact. Don’t think about what you’ve just done. What kind of person am I? Would I do what I had just, no don’t think about it. Her face, it looked so … tired.
She’d not put up much of a fight. Token gesture only. It was like … Jen knew here was her nemesis, had seen him coming from afar, with his bloody great sword of revenge and frustration. She’d even pointed out another aspect of why his idea had a chance of working. Conceded the current NPCs were weak. Didn’t even try and defend her position.
What was that about? He’d been expecting a fight. There was no fight. His points had needed balancing, some push back. He didn’t mean them to stand on their own. On their own they were unpleasant, personal attacks. Fleeting glimpses of the sacrificial cow in Apocalypse Now, blow after blow, his bloody great sword of frustration and revenge and bitterness slicing in deep. He’d cut her apart. She just looked tired, looked him in the eyes, resigned to the fates, only, he’d heard that cow had been heavily drugged for the making of the film so it didn’t feel anything. Yet there he was, sword swinging, deep deep cuts, and he’s feeling drugged, and feeling the pain. He’d hurt himself. He’d sliced into his own psyche with the sword of bitterness and monomania, no way back from those swings.
He’d ripped her apart in front of her peers. He’d won. He was right. He’d got the nod from the uncles to switch from scenery to NPCs, to put his claims into practice. He’d won. This was what he’d yearned and whinged and pleaded for. Planned for. Spent the last two weeks preparing for. This tinnitus, nausea. He couldn’t … Chel’s face. He’d not warned about his request for an uncle hearing. At least he’d be moving from her team. Couldn’t face her after this.
Who was he, that he could do that to someone who’d only ever helped him? No don’t… He had a job. A good job. In her company. He’d walk in tomorrow. Everyone would stop, and watch. No friends. Wary. They’d all know of the ambush. Know what he’d done, who he was, what he was.
Tears now. Horror. Sibilance changing to yawning depths. He wanted to weep, to cry and let it all flood out, beg for forgiveness, demand it. So remorseful he was angry. How dare she leave him in this state? She should have fought back. He wanted a big debate. He wanted to thrash ideas out. He’d wanted to … hurt her, Jen, who given him this job. How had he become this person?
Is this how the 1st vampire felt after it had made the 2nd vampire? Inappropriate. The same no going back though. Or maybe how the 2nd vampire felt after convincing the 1st vampire to do the deed. Yes. That was it. Christian Slater’s last view of the sunset. He’d crossed the chasm. No going back. He’d become a different person. Someone he didn’t trust. No, it was Tom Cruise’s last view of the sunset, maybe dawn. No, must have been the sunset. Dawn wouldn’t make sense.
Girlfriend talking. Again or still? She looks a bit cross, concerned. His bag? What about his bag? “Have you been mugged? Should I call the police?” Eh? No. Bag? Where is it? Blank. Probably at the desk. Had not gone back there after the ambush. Yes, under the desk.
“Not mugged”, he tried to say. Came out as a croak. “Its ok, I’m fine”, completely failed to become audible. If he said that, he’d cry. “Its ok”. Its not ok. He wanted a hug. Didn’t deserve one. If they hugged, and then she found out what he’d done, who he’d become, that was it. Relationship. End of.
Wiping his face? She’s wiping his face. Why? A small tissue. Its wet. Tears. His tears. He just stands there, lost in roiling sibilance and self-revulsion, mind wailing, reeling back from all that he doesn’t want to, can’t think, about, can’t express any of it.
Tears streaming. Now the hug. She doesn’t ask anything more. Just leans in to him, wraps him, enfolds him in her arms.
The Ambush was Successful
(from Emus All The Way Down)
by Chris Gathercole
published: 05 July 2014
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