And long story short, it was on a bet.
So a friend of mine (who knows I write fan fiction) after we watched The Dark Tower in theatres, challenged me to redeem the Man in Black. Mind you, he hates this character with a passion not because of the movie but because he's read the books. He knows I like to write villain-redemption stories, but this was a challenge even for me. Though I haven't read the books, only seen the movie, I actually had a good character study on the Man in Black through detailed discussions with my friend. Damn, this character is indeed one of the most evil villains I have ever come across!
So, the bet was this: If I got him to feel even a flicker of emotion that was other than hate for the Man in Black, he would buy me the entire Dark Tower series. If I couldn't, I would have to ghostwrite his memoir.
About a month later, I read to him this (on Google Docs) seven page piece and made him tear up.
I won the bet, and now a few more months later and in the middle of outlining the final act of my most popular fan fiction, I've decided to share with you all the story.
So after the reading the one-shot, let me know if you tear up too (my friend wasn't the only one, I cried a little too when writing it) or if it leaves you unaffected and you still hate the Man in Black even after reading this.
Either way, enjoy the one-shot!
THE KALEIDOSCOPE DREAM
Walter, the Man in Black, a man which even the vilest of demons feared, strode into the one room where he knew Cecilia's Shine was. He ignored the pressure of the Dark Tower, the very structure recognizing him and keen to remove him from the premises. Walter would not be deterred by the Dark Tower however, and he walked right up to the four-poster bed of a dark material. The Man in Black ripped away one of the heavy drapes surrounding the bed, but nothing prepared him for the sight of Cecilia in physical form.
She looked weaker, frailer somehow, as she laid there on the bed fashioned by the Dark Tower. He could barely tell that she was breathing, and most would assume her already dead were it not for the near tangible power of her Shine. No dead soul could possess such a brightness of light, for dead possessed nothing. His fist clenched, nails digging into the palm of his hand.
The Dark Tower kept her alive, and in return fed off her Shine like a parasite in order to maintain some level of strength from his constant siege.
A Dreamwalker kept asleep, in darkness with barely a sense of her surroundings and could only live, only truly exist, in dreams.
The Dark Tower killed her as it gave her life.
There were these moments of utter silence as these thoughts passed through his mind, and only broken when her voice spoke within it, her eyelids barely twitching.
'A pleasure to finally meet you in person, Walter.'
"Can you see me?" He asked, wondering more on the extent of her power.
'In a way, I suppose. At the very least I recognize your presence, which I find to be the most memorable aspect of what is you. Most people in all the worlds I've imagined don't even leave as much as an impression to prove that they once existed.'
"I should be flattered then?"
He heard a faint giggle in response.
'Take it how you wish, but maybe you should take it as truth and as privilege. You can leave an impression, whereas I only exist in dreams and dreams are so easily forgotten.'
Walter furrowed his brow ever so slightly as he then inquired, "So then…?"
'Yes Walter, I've known that I've been in a comatose state for many years. How many I do not know, but long enough to know that there is something out there and that I cannot enjoy it as others can. I don't know true pain, but nor do I know true happiness in turn. All I know is dreams, and so that is all I am. A fractured dream within a fractured universe.'
"A kaleidoscope." He whispered, and he sensed her agreement.
'Yes, a kaleidoscope.'
"Why bring me here then? What do you gain from having me find you here?" The Man in Black almost accused her, like she was but a waste of time. He did have this very tower to destroy after all, and she understood that. Cecilia's voice did not change, did not waver from its utter calmness as she spoke.
'I want this dream to end Walter.'
A tense moment of silence.
"You wish to die."
'You know that I did not choose how to spend my existence, there was no choice at all. So, if I could not choose my existence then I wish to choose how it will end. This kaleidoscope dream must end, and I want you to end it.'
"And why do you want me to end it?"
'Because you are the first real person I've ever known Walter. That's why I want you to end my never-ending dream. I want someone real to end my illusion.'
More silence followed, and Walter recalled their most prominent meetings. The first to come to mind was the first time he saw her.
He was standing there in an empty room. Lines that never crossed stretched from the center of the ceiling, traveled down the walls and across the floor until it slanted up at the center due to a peculiar pedestal. It was simple in design: a flared base curving inward as it went up until it flared out again at the top. Due to his height, the Man in Black saw the bowl-shaped dip in the center of the pedestal, and in the very center of that was something entirely unexpected.
It was an orb, but of a nature and power he could not discern.
The orb was of the clearest crystal he had ever seen, and flawless were it not for the multitude of fractures within it. He could tell that the surface of the orb itself was smooth, but the inner-workings of it made him question the reason for its existence.
"Strange, isn't it?"
He whirled around and he saw her standing there to his right, only a few feet from his side. She had pale blond hair that barely reached past her shoulders and was only clothed in a plain white robe, ceremonial in style. Having his attention, the young woman turned her head to look at him, a small smile on her lips and shining blue eyes.
"Hello, my name is Cecilia. What name is yours?"
The Man in Black paused momentarily before replying.
"Walter. My name is Walter."
Then the first time he experienced a true connection to her.
"What is it that you do in here anyway?" He questioned her, earning another smile from her. He always seemed to be able to do that, but it was a line of thought he never followed for very long.
"This room doesn't always have to appear this way. I can have it look any way I wish, I can be anywhere I want."
"But you never leave this room." He observed, and she nodded as she replied, "But I never leave this room, no matter where I wish to be."
An odd moment of silence passed between them before she spoke up suddenly, a gleam in her bright blue eyes.
"Walter, care to join me for a dance?"
He raised an eyebrow, and with a gesture towards the fractured orb of power the room dissolved into a ballroom. It was grand, refined in all ways and people equally grand and refined danced in elegant couples to such magnificent music. The Man in Black looked to Cecilia and noted that her attire had not changed, and for the matter neither had his, but all the other dancers simply did not acknowledge them.
Cecilia looked to Walter and held out her hand to him, again inviting him to dance.
And with little hesitation, he took her hand in his.
True to his personality he took on the role of the dominant partner, leading Cecilia around the ballroom in an elegant pattern. Through many forms and sliding pass the other couples, and to his minor surprise she kept up with him with ease. Her smile grew just a bit more, her eyes shining brighter.
For a moment, he thought he returned that smile.
Though impossibilities aside, he soon noticed with keen eyes that everything around them was off. Occasionally the dancers, the ballroom itself, and even the sound of the music would flicker and crack. It was temporary, but there all the same.
Returning his gaze to Cecilia after once such glance around, he saw for the first time that faint dimness in her eyes.
The first time he noticed that there was a lie concealing a truth.
And easily, the memory of their last encounter.
Cecilia stood before the pedestal with the fractured orb, her hands at her sides unmoving. She seemed unnaturally still, not even a twitch of a muscle to betray the stillness.
The Man in Black arrived, an aura of foreboding darkness. He too, possessing a stillness that appeared unnatural.
Neither spoke for the first moments in each other's presence. And when words were spoken to break the silence, Cecilia conveyed them in whispered tones.
"Hello again Walter."
He gave a faint nod, though unseen by her.
She turned her head slightly to the left, allowing her to see him in her peripheral vision.
"So, what have you discovered my friend?"
"What makes you assume that I have found something?"
That small smile again.
"Don't play with me like that Walter, we both know that we are two of a kind. Both having seen far too much to be fooled by simple evasion."
The Man in Black released a slow, deep sigh.
"I should congratulate you Cecilia. You've managed to hide the nature of your power very well, even from me."
This time, she gave a faint nod. "My Shine works differently than most. I have little ability outside the realm of dreams, and so I am to remain here where I am strongest."
He raised an eyebrow to this and responded, "If you possess so much power, what chains you here?"
A tension fled from her body, slackening and she was comparable to a puppet whose strings were just cut.
"The Dark Tower."
And for the first time the Man in Black was well and truly surprised, but hatred was quick to take his mind. He strode forward to her, a hand outreached to try and grasp her, to burn her. Then he was frozen just as suddenly, his hand inches away from the back of her neck. Walter could not move even a single millimeter from where he stood. His voicing of such anger however was not to be halted in place.
"The Dark Tower! You are an ally to the Tower then, and an enemy to me! Did you even know who I was was?!"
This stopped his rage, even if it was only to be proven temporary in the long run, but Cecilia had his attention and so she continued in those quiet tones.
"The Dark Tower keeps me here, yes, but I am no ally nor enemy to it."
She turned around fully, facing him and crystal-blue eyes shining with a depth of pain.
"I knew who you were the moment you entered this room. You are Walter, the Man in Black who flees across the desert as the Gunslinger follows your every step and shadow. I know who you are."
"You knew and still you trusted. I am not to be trusted, and call you a fool for doing so."
"I trusted you because you are real Walter, the same reason I still trust you."
And then the Man in Black was no longer frozen in place, and his outstretched arm fell to his side as he then asked, "What do you mean Cecilia?"
That small smile turned bittersweet.
"You are real Walter. I am not. See that orb there?" She stepped aside so he had full view of it. "It used to be whole, the inside as unmarred out the outside, but now it is broken, its power is broken…" Cecilia choked back a thick emotion at that moment, her eyes looking down now, but managed to finish.
"What used to be real is now an illusion, and just like that orb I too am an illusion."
She looked back up at him, tears sliding down her cheeks.
"You asked me once how I viewed the universe." Cecilia smiled faintly. "We never finished that conversation, but you deserve the answer." Her eyes shined that unique blue, a light and shade that natural genetics could never produce.
"I see it far differently than you, as I see it in fractures. My world is the orb, and with it fractured so is myself. To me, everything is broken in some way, whether it be obvious or not so obvious."
A thought entered his mind, and then he voiced it in question.
"Where are you?"
A more genuine smile formed on her lips.
"That should be obvious Walter."
"I'll find you."
That smile grew just a little more.
"I know. I'll be waiting."
Remembering these, he looked deeper and found something. He could not name it, he struggled to find a word for it, but found his vocabulary lacking at this moment.
'Will you help me end the dream Walter?'
Cecilia's question invaded his mind, and the Man in Black looked at her, really looked at her, and found something different as well. Something he could not name as well. Slowly, almost carefully, he sat on the dark bed next to her. Her eyelids twitched again, but he knew that they would not open and nor would they ever.
"Yes, Cecilia. I will help you end this kaleidoscope dream."
Her lips shifted faintly into what could be called a smile, as small as it was. That odd shift within him appeared again, but set it aside as he put his hand to her forehead. On a whim, as he called it, Walter moved his hand upwards and threaded his fingers into her thick hair of the palest blond.
'Tell me Walter, what lies beyond death?'
Nothing. That had always been his response to all others, but for some reason he could not tell her the same.
"You." He responded quietly. "You are there beyond death."
The Man in Black waited for her to speak, wanting to know her thoughts.
'I like that. Will I be real?'
"More real than anything else."
That small smile grew a little more.
'I like that too.'
No more was to be said from there on, and matching the silence of the Dark Tower so did the Man in Black will her to die, ending this prolonged existence by the machinations of the Dark Tower. Finally ending her kaleidoscope dream of a fractured universe. After she drew her last breath he finally found that word.
And now that friend had embraced death.