Birch '03: Elemental

"There can be only one."

The down swing of my blade is quick, precise and fatal. Sides heaving, lungs burning, working hard to pull in aching breaths, I stand bleeding in the sand, choking on the scent of death, feeling bleak desolation.

Thin blue-gray mist, muffled weak and small, rises from the headless body. Like pleading, groping hands it reaches for me. Frantically resisting the urge to run, knowing it's a waste of time, I look around the narrow water front street. Garbage and metal debris -- casualties left from the plight of a dying inner city -- is strewn about on the ground before me. Glancing up at the deserted crowded buildings, with their large glass windows, I curse silently. All around me will be flying projectiles in the coming maelstrom. Ground zero is the parking lot in which I stand.

The mist thickens, gathering the life force of the dead and heads my way. Silently it works its macabre beauty around my feet, weaving traitorous erotic tendrils up my legs, ultimately wrapping around me in an unholy embrace. Small blue pulses of light, looking almost like ball lightning, skip out of the headless body. Nipping first at my heels, the mischievous sprites of light follow the mist, greedily consuming it, all the while dancing across my skin with gleeful abandon.

The electrical movement quickly frenzies around the dead body, lifting it with seeming arms of pure energy. For one final time my opponent and I are joined. Tendrils of a past life, merging with the undiluted strength of one living in the now, are stretched thin between us, gently caressing our bodies. It seems endless, every moment marked with tranquil apparitions of a soul belonging to another. It's a deceptive, this allegory of tenderness.

Without warning the body beside me drops to the ground with a dull thud and a savage jolt of pure energy slams into me. Violently it pushes me to my knees, forcing a loud cry of pain from my lips.

There is no time for recovery. My body can only arch in exquisite distress, unable to stop the full life force of another coursing directly into me. I am helpless, my viewpoint voyeuristic and loathsome, against the tide of memories filling me. A plethora of sensations, joy, anger, fear, sadness, all with razor fingers cling, slashing into my head.

Recoiling in pain, my mind fights it, trying to desperately disconnect from the emotions. But it is my treacherous body, craving the throes of pleasure and pain, who wins the fight, writhing in passion, consuming the compelling energy being poured into it.

Tied in with the elemental influences coming from the earth itself, the nature of the Quickening nearing its peak, is such that it whips the air around me into a furious gale. Cries of pain are torn from my throat, only to be drowned out by the rising wail of the wind. I am buffeted about, totally conscious of what is happening to me, but unable to escape.

The soul transference continues to escalate, as does the pain. And while I feel that I am being ripped apart limb by limb, I can no longer fight the siren call of pleasure coursing through me. Opening myself, I welcome it, eager to join in the dance of conception, forcing all that is not mine to assimilate within me. It leaves me breathless, craving for more.

The Quickening itself, picking up on the positive electrical charges in my body, and the dead one beside me, binds them to the negative charges in the air, causing bolts of pure white electrical current to come to life. This created lightning soon becomes more than my body can handle. Taking on a life of its own, the lightning jumps from me, searching the street, desperate to ground, striking anything it comes across. The few working lights above me in the parking lot are soon destroyed, sending a rain of sparkling brilliance to shower down. The tiny balls of fire lick a singeing trail down hair and skin that is super sensitive, leaving me gasping in over-hyper passion.

There is a sudden, inexplicable drop in atmospheric pressure and the windows in the buildings around me explode, throwing glass everywhere. I manage to force my head up in time to see a large, lethal piece of glass hurtling down toward me. For one morose second, I wonder if the deadly sheet will accomplish what so many have failed to do. The irony of that happening is not lost on me and I howl with maniacal laughter.

The Quickening's nature changes, beginning to wane, losing strength with each passing second and is soon over. The sudden silence filling my head is oppressive, almost sinister. There are still small blue currents crawling over my body as I compel myself to stand. A heavy weight pulls my right hand down, and I'm once again startled to find my sword still clenched in my hand. It has never failed to amaze me that I am able to hold on to it through this dance of death and life.

The remaining light is insufficient at best, but it is not a deterrent to what I must do. I know what I'm looking for and can clearly see the damage, as I step around the broken glass and garbage strewn everywhere. Heaving and sore, but body tingling with renewed vitality, I stand beside the headless body and sigh with something that resembles regret. I hadn't wanted to take his head. I would have never even fought him, but his actions brought it to this. I may be just a guy, as was he, but my will to live is just as strong -- most assuredly stronger -- given my advance of years.

His first mistake was in thinking I that I really was that weakling from our first encounter, so long ago, and his second was not remembering the things he found out about me later. Did he honestly think I had lived this long without knowing a thing or two? His last mistake, the deadly one, was not remembering my words. I was serious when I told him to never trust *any* of us.

I pick up the beautifully crafted sword laying neglected on the ground, and turn the pommel over in my hand. Over the years his sword has become almost as familiar to my hand, as my own sword is. By touch I can make out the frays in the simple leather wrapped hilt. The scimitar will most certainly become the most valued piece of my collection and a constant reminder of the horrific nature of my kind.

It really is a shame that things ended the way they did. I feel a glimmer of guilt and push it away easily. If Sam Calkins was still walking the planet, things may have been different. But the time of mortal friendship influencing my actions is long gone.

And frankly, putting up with Jackson's highly moralistic shit was getting to me. Who needs to be lectured all the time?

Glancing down once more at the body, I shake my head, dust off my trench coat, smile brightly for the man with the camera, whose task it is to follow me, and tuck both swords out of sight.

I slowly meander away, whistling an ancient drinking tune, in search of one warm and willing Vin Tanner and a shot of fine Kentucky bourbon.