Today I am a villain. A hard, brutal man. I wear a cape that flows behind me as I walk. My walk is swift, purposeful. Peasants and beggars scatter before me--they know importance when they see it. A child begging in the streets, performing for coins by imitating the voices of passersby, doesn't see me. I reach out and pull him back by the scruff of his neck. With the back of my hand, I smash in his face and send him sprawling. My hand is heavy and mailed; his face will be disfigured permanently. I laugh as he begins to cry. "Stay out of my way next time, or I'll have your thumbs!" I bellow. I like to bellow. I enjoy feeling important, feared. I will pay for it with my life today.
Today, soon. The chorus begins its whispers, anticipating the moment I will rejoin them. They don't like it when I leave them. They know I shouldn't. They tease me, taunt me, beckon me. Don't worry, I'll be with you again soon--don't worry. The soles of my boots beat a steady rhythm against the cobblestones. Tap, tap, tap. A knocking at the door. The answer comes behind me. A similar beat, much softer, much quicker. Far too quiet for anyone to hear. The moment is soon, sooner.
The footsteps behind me grow closer, still silent to all ears. Then the sound of a dagger drawn, the swish of a cloak. The chorus breaks into a frenzy, gives up all pretense of calm. They cheer for my death. The moment has come.
"This is for my daughter, you inhuman bastard!" I pause briefly to allow myself to think that is funny. Irony. Then I turn my head, too slowly so that the knife still finds its mark. The cool, familiar kiss of steel runs across my throat. My guards, too late, bring my attacker down. The chorus cheers and shouts.
The blood flows fast and free, in surges. I fall to the ground and make gurgling noises as I breathe. Blood fills my lungs, blood pools on the street, blood runs through my hands as they clutch at the crimson flow. My hands twitch, running lifeless. My breathing stutters, then stops. My heart pumps the blood out of my body until it, too, ceases. And the cloying blackness of death, and the laughing, jeering voices of the dead, welcome me back with an open embrace.
* * *
In the dark, there is nothing to do but wait. Wait, and listen. Don't listen too closely--the voices may tell you things you'd rather not hear.
They're trying to break me. Always, taunting and jeering, mocking and screeching, searching for my weakness. Poor things; they don't remember I was broken long ago.
I don't like waiting. If I feared, it would be of waiting there forever. Being one of them. Sometimes, waiting, I think perhaps I am one of them and have forgotten it, that the memories themselves are phantoms, as void of form and meaning as the voices that torment me. But then I return. I always return.
The waiting ends, and I am remade.