CHAPTER 20 – III
The two Champions stared at each other with eyes both critical and compassionate. They seemed to communicate a willingness to fight, an instinct to best their Other, but also a wariness of unleashing even more trauma upon the world. Their human (humane) selves were battling for a primary spot in the light. Victor looked on with eager anticipation, willing the battle to commence, and this got Aricame thinking. “You drew Geryman here knowing Stievo was chasing him, but how did you know that I would arrive at the same time?”…The pieces were coming together for him…“Janifer received a letter detailing where to find us…you told her…you knew I would defeat her…and that I would blame my rival Champions for the attack and track them here.”…He paused, not sure he wanted the answer to his next question…“Did you know Victoria would be hurt – killed – when Janifer came for me?”
Victor’s face quivered and he dropped his glance to the floor. He could not maintain eye contact. “You were not supposed to fall in love with her,” he said. “I needed to sever your bonds to your human desires. This battle requires your undivided attention, obsession, purity. Embrace your purpose! Don’t you see how much I have sacrificed for you – for you both? All of human history has been building toward this confrontation! The winner will determine who rules the next stage of life on this planet, perhaps even beyond this planet!”
Processing this bomb of information himself, Stievo contemplated the implications. Could he really take the mantle for the next stage of human evolution? Were those truly the stakes? He then thought about Victor. Did he really have to kill his own daughter? Then he had another question that he wanted answered: “Did you know that Victoria was pregnant?” Shock! Victor’s face revealed that this was news to him. Stievo explained, “When she died, I felt the loss of a future Champion.” Turning to Aricame and seeing the shock on his face as well, he realized that Aricame had felt the loss but had confused it and conflated it with the loss of Victoria. For once Victor looked confused. For once he didn’t have all the answers. He wondered if he had been wrong about these two beings being the end of their lineages, the culmination of Earth’s greatest story. No!, he thought. He couldn’t be mistaken, could he?
*A FLASH OF LIGHT*
A reaction! The blast was so blinding that it left the world dark. Time stopped, then restarted. True power was unleashed. Aricame awoke as if from a dream with an impression of what he had done, yet not comprehending exactly how. From a living room in Manlius he had instantly murdered Janifer in Manhattan Beach, where she was held captive. She had been vaporized. In doing so he also sank much of the surrounding land into the Pacific ocean, killing tens of thousands. Disorientation and terror flooded his mind. Aricame’s world slowly came back into focus. He looked around. All that remained of Victor Strife was his shadow burned into the wall. He, too, had been vaporized. Stievo was gone, but instinctively Aricame knew his Other was still alive. He had fled with his half of Victor’s puzzle in hand. Aricame looked down at his own hands where he held his piece of the puzzle.
A realization! His previous story had just ended. A new one – the final one? – had just begun.
Know the light, yet keep to the dark
Be a pattern for the world
Each within themselves
Where the path becomes stark