No spoilers, set anytime. Legato POV. For Amaliel.
I wake up again to the same tune of hitched belief and hunger.
It's the same way every time. Every morning has blurred into every other morning. Every day into a haze of desert sun. The pains in the arm gifted to me are what drag me back from dreams that might be of nothingness or simply better remembered that way.
I wake every morning to hurt anew and so I remember that I am alive.
Once the ache in my left arm--the blessing that is all the curse I would ever need and moreso--is defined to be routine and not the need to claw the flesh off from the root, then comes its twin to smother me. My stomach churns. The back of my throat simmers in the coating of bile attempting to beat its way up by force. After realizing that habit will be this way come waking and always and ever, my body has responded admirably in rallying preemptives. I cannot recall if I went to sleep with food still in my stomach or without. When I run my tongue across the landscape of my teeth the taste of custard clings to the insides of the gums. With.
But not for long.
I sit up too fast. I always do. My body taunts me back by increasing the dizziness that has lurked in corners like a beaten puppy to a deafening level. I sit up too fast and then I fold over into my own lap.
It is only a hundred feet or so to the end of the hall where the renters go to make themselves presentable enough to believe they are worth something again. It is a hundred feet and it feels like a thousand. I do not ask Midvalley for help, who knows as well as my own flesh and my borrowed that this is routine. He watches me pull myself along the wall out of the corner of his eye and his mind blazes with the blame for this being my fault, my choice after every meal, my decision every morn. I can taste his disapproval as sharply as I can the liquids of my stomach now. It is just as sweet.
When I reach the bathroom, I lock it.
Right now it is more my head spinning than a well-trained stomach seeking to perform one of its most loved tricks. For that, I have the time to kneel and must. It takes a breath with head down before I can recover, call up the strength to tilt up the lid and brace my arms, spine shivering as my organs twist. Only dry heaves. They leave me with the feeling of lumps in my throat all up the length, lodged there with no force to take a direction and thereby staying put.
This room is filthy. It is barely a step away from being an outhouse and I wonder exactly how long it will take to clean the stickiness of others' urine from my legs and feet. If I am lucky, it will be only that.
The nausea comes again and I let it, trying not to compare the feeling of objects moving up my esophagus to the images of breakfast down. That halts it and then dwelling on that sensation of parallels must be deliberately made to coax it back to me. I am a little too long in this to use fingers anymore.
The first real spasms arrive. They knew they had plenty of time to reach their welcome and so took the scenic route. I judge the contents of what my stomach has expelled with a jaded eye that dissolves around the edges from the false tears shed during purges. I do not look out of a child's curiosity, but to estimate how much more will come. And I do not cry any longer. I may curl helpless under the severity of my weakness when I am wracked like this but that which pours down my face is only to wash it and not out of sorrow. Misery is a constant and needs no sign of it made. It is only my body, only the prison and oubliette and bars maniacal to keep me in this world and it is only my body which feigns to weep. Acid is scouring the tissues in my mouth and I spit, do so again, saliva welling forth as is the physical reaction to wash the sin clean. I spit it out to keep from swallowing it. Forcing what still traps itself in my throat down again will only prolong this.
There, with my hands wrapped around the porcelain that reeks of other people's private sins and excrements, I think about Him.
Not -Him-, not My Lord Knives, but His other.
I don't understand Him. I don't know if I ever will, this man who wants to save everything in this world and make it better, give out bandaids every time a person has a scrape on their knee.
This man who wants to save us all. Vash. The Stampede.
I loathe Him.
It is easy to say that life is worth something when one is not shackled by the facts of it. The healthy man sees only the sky. Reality is the dirt below. Reality is this room and the arguing couple in the second room from here on the left, how he hits her and how she cheats on him and how they hate one another but hate themselves more and will do it all again tomorrow. It is mornings spent the same way for so long that calendars are meaningless for these seasons of hell. How can He want for humanity to continue upon this wretched planet? Does He not know that life is one of the cruelest punishments to inflict?
Does He care?
He with the superiority granted to Him by virtue of birth and yet with an arrogance far greater than My Lord Knives to dictate to us how long we must suffer in the name of Peace. Can He truly be so foolish? How wretched we all must seem, we little creatures who scurry about beneath Him and that He tends out of pity. How pathetic. He can walk away and leave after ordering us to survive. So bright and merciless and dispensing trite optimism to think that will solve it all. Empty calories.
The inner curve of the bowl was last washed with a good dose of bleach, and the reek of it mixed with last night's excessive drinker causes my throat to clamp again, as if it could keep that air from reaching my lungs. A futile gesture on all parts. Alcohol does not last and brings as much distress as forgetting bliss. There is more filth upon the porcelain than ever a sea of scrubbing could get clean. And my body will fail at self-suffocation even if it could. He will not allow me to end my time here. Not just yet.
Soon. Please. I rest my cheek against the cool cruelty of my borrowed hand, which in turn is lain upon the seat. It deserves it and this cheap motel of dirt which has Midvalley trying attempts at music down the hall and flocks of miners downstairs and a six-year-old in the kitchen with mother. My skin is feverish. It always is or feels that way during these times. I ignore my voice which has whispered those two words aloud in a disgustingly crippled-whimper croon. I will be done with My Lord Knives says I will be done. Not a moment before.
I know, as I know from all the mornings past which have bled together by now to form the damningly endless present, that I have at least a half an hour from the first of it before the real need to eat would strike. Purge, rest weakened. Feast.
Fill me. I am empty. Let me feed.
And not on the addiction of the Stampede's sugar-drivel either.
That is not what I am hungry for. Fill me. Until then, I will feast on the steak-rich words of My Lord Knives, who knows that all existence is agony and will speed us on our way. I could savor the juices for hours of each of His words filleted. He will not let me leave this. Not yet. He withholds his final gift from the one He has chosen to bear because the Stampede could not. Vash wanted to play a Saint. And now we all suffer.
Soon. Soon. I whisper this to the echoing hollow of the basin as I rock my head to stare in the depths of the yellow-bled water, neck weak and body half-draped upon this shame. Soon my usefulness will be over and I must be patient until then, until My Lord Knives bestows his mercy directly or grants me permissions to fling my life's breath to the void. He will be done with me soon. Then I will be allowed to die at last.
By the draining of the nausea into exhaustion can I count the minutes by. I want to dip my head into the swill of the murky water and drown myself into a choking finale but not yet. Instead I let it rest, finally able to back away a few inches to have the room to set my temples to my knees.
It has been half an hour.
I am already hungry again.