“Oh, come in, Doctor, do.”
It was warm for October, that traditional descent from the blazes of summer to the storms of winter’s chill. He had seen the leaves, crimson and red upon the trees, moving gently in the motion of the wind, as if swaying to a distant tune only they could hear, happy that the cold had not come, to steal them from their homes.
He apologized, and made his way inside. Already there was that feeling of anxiety and frustration welling up within him, that warm sensation of guiltfor a crime he had not yet committed, an act he had not yet chosen to perpetrate. It was there everyday now, and fighting it was no use, hiding from it was futile; it saw every ruse, every trick, every obstacle, every wall – it was everywhere, and there was no escape from the grim knowledge that, sooner or later, you will die.
“Well, as you know –“
The guilt increased. It was heavy on his shoulders, a weight beneath which he was forced to bow, a pious devotee before pagan gods.
“Doctor, are you quite all right?”
He had gone pale, he knew. He knew it because he could feel the blood drain out of him, feel it run from that pervading entity that had clogged his brain, his spine, his feet and arms and legs and hands, felt it flee, escape, as thick as a pack of frightened rats on a burning ship.
“Midge, call an ambulance, now!”
He did not want to do this.
He stood. The world spun around him; he was dizzy. But it was a beautiful kind of dizzy, a wonderful kind of sensation; beneath the numbness of his head, a new certainty was forming, a solid well of resolve that did not bow, that stood defiant before that overwhelming numbness that had claimed every inch of his bleeding soul – a monarch before a false usurper – and spoke to him, in words that hung heavy and loud upon the violet air: This must be done. Now do it.
“Him? But I saw him just yesterday –“
He could see the world in a whole new way, through eyes that did not hide from him the truth, that did not obscure the thin film of filth that clung to every human he could see, that cloying, echoing stench of the spirit made to rot and burn till it was no longer recognizable, no longer visible. He was standing in the middle of a diseased crowd, though they did not know they were diseased, looking at their ugly, leering, monstrously deformed faces, though they did not know they had changed, did not know that the person in the mirror was no longer real, could not possibly be real. They were abominations of flesh and blood and bone, little less than vermin, and they must be cleansed.
What was death before purification?
“Oh my god, he’s a –“
Dreamily, slowly, hardly aware of what he was doing, he began to take off his clothes, one by one, heeding only the certainty that was no longer newborn but fully-grown, a titan in a sea of monsters, an emperor in a crowd of kings. He knew, with more certainty than he had ever felt - though he did not know how he had come to this conclusion – that he was doing the right thing, the only possible thing. Otherwise why was he doing it?
They could see it now, he realized with a grim, glorious satisfaction, could see the web of wires and metal criss-crossed over his half-naked form, the thing, blood-red canister at the very bottom, the tiny, puny, insignificant button that he cradled in his hands, knowing full well that it is the small things that make up the big picture.
He pushed the button.