Based upon Clive Barker's "Cabal",
And written on the occasion of the birthday of Mouse, the only other Lylesburg fan on the planet.
You've been following his steps for days, since the very beginning, quiet and slippery as any shadow tracing the soft sounds of his feet on the scared ground. Through the dark, and endless, and so often silent catacombs and tunnels of Midian, as he walked the trail of wonders. You know it well; you've walked it for centuries. You frowned to see his fear; you chuckled to see his awe.
From wall to wall and from chamber to chamber, and he never saw, and never knew. But you saw, and you knew, every gasp and every gesture, and every place where a human's feet would stumble as a human's gaze would fall on something so familiar to you, so old and comforting and sure. You've been following him for days, through your home.
Hoping – hoping beyond reason that he would come to call it his own home, also.
"Come away… you've nothing to tell."
How long has it been? You cannot recall, under the weight and the dust of so many centuries, your memories falling in shards into themselves with no sunrise and no sunset to mark passing time. How many men like him have you seen, since you were such a one, to come and walk these trails and these dark passages. That look on their faces, always.
As familiar as the tombs.
And hoping – hoping beyond all reason that he was just another one.
Your laws forbade it, and justly, centuries ago, closing Midian to his likes, giving them only the day, trying to keep the night for your people. Tried to explain, so many times, to the young and wild and newly-made, the danger they could put their people in if they dared bring in a lover, or a child, or – and of this you spoke so often, why could they not listen? – if they brought in their prey. Peloquin was punished for his transgression, but what use was there in laws, if what was done was done?
"Not for you – for us."
Could the tombs keep time in?
You followed him, the newcomer, the prey, and then the lover he brought, into your home.
The ground shakes very badly now.
You've seen how the ceiling began to collapse in certain places; there's no use, now, in trying to seal the holes. Quietly you thank your God of night for the late hour, trying not to think, trying not to think, of the light that could've been flooding your beloved trail of wonders. All around you they are preparing to leave, flee, and let not even the memory of their presence stay.
You hate them.
Yes, yes, you hate them so, for leaving. Not the humans, you know the humans after all, how could the humans help it? But how could they run and how could they forget, this place they made their home, that is your home.
And him, the place that was his home also.
"Well, do it somewhere else, Boone. Take the woman and leave."
Like a shadow, you follow him through the passages, as he runs in pursuit of his masked enemy, in the chase you know well, so well.
Only this time the chase is inside Midian, inside your tunnels and catacombs and darkness, and there is no Midian to flee to once the hunter comes too close, and no Midian to close and hide like a mother's comforting womb. No hiding place, no rest, no home.
You watch them do battle; down and afar, your eyes miss nothing through the shadowy veil. The starlight pouring from outside is enough to hurt you, and you hurt in silence, watching them. One has blood – the other draws it. You watch them fight like animals, like beasts, and what's the use in laws, what's the use in a home?
You watch the triumph from the shadows.
Still, the shadows are thick in Midian, no fire can quell them, the shadows, yours, old and familiar, with their black velvet smell. Shrouded and hidden, you watch the human fall, then turn away – away, for the Tabernacle.
The sure ground shakes, the firm trail of wonders, how many times have you walked it, how deeply do you know it in everything that is your being? How well known, all its shaded corners that, in the eternal night of Midian, never change? Twice, you stumble, stagger to the ground, against a wall. You feel the agonies of the ground echoed in your own, a body less than a shell, that knew no pain for centuries, and a heart that did not beat for longer. You see your people all around you, burning and tearing and clawing apart, too intent as to feel the pain of parting, and you wish to die, you wish you could die.
"So block your ears, it'll be over soon."
And the ground trembles, and you hear the summoning, and you move forward.
You cannot help it – though you would stop, and curse it all, them, he, It, and remain here on your trail of wonders, in the shadows, till the earth comes down and makes the shadows solid. But the summoning comes, and you come, touched and drawn in ways you have forgotten.
You walk through the ruins of your home. Home…
Ruined so quickly.
You walk between families crying to flee, and children carried on their parents' arms, and through pyres of books, shreds of clothes and of canvases. You walk through all that the fires from above would soon hungrily devour. Children, art, vision. Open tombs, and secret pathways, and hidden, dark rooms. And to each its own shadows, and you know them all. You walk, hidden in your darkness, quiet in your darkness.
Hoping – hoping against all reason, that the summoning calls you home.
At first you see nothing, then you do not believe that you see. Then their urgent cries call you forward to take your place among them, the most honored of places, in the circle surrounding your dying god. The other ten are blindfolded; you need nothing of sorts. You have seen Its face, you remember, you remember, It looked upon you, so long ago.
You take the shroud to hide It, and kneel in Its shadow.
And you see him come, and you see him enter the flames, and you know that you alone hear the words spoken to him in the voice that once spoke to you much the same. You hear the name given; your human name, you remember, is with you still. Cabal, you whisper, Who Unmade Midian, but no sound leaves your lips.
And you know, a step away from the fire, you know that he is given heat and blood and life, you hear the renewed beating of his heart, as so long ago you were given darkness and shadow and home.
"… remains below."
Then it is over.
The Rites of Baptism, ended, and you feel all the way to your bones, how the tremor dies, the godly music embedded in the ancient, falling rock. Pieces of your god's demolished body fall from out the flame, taken by your fellow adherents, their loyalty never failing. And you raise your hands without question to accept your due and duty, calling the shadows away before the burning beauty of the fire. And the precious gift, the god's own flesh and blood, slips through the shadows that are all that is you, and falls to Midian's dust.
All around you, they are fleeing.
You kneel down, in dust stained and scorched, wrapping the shroud about your Divided God's flesh in silence, as if nothing at happened, and you kneel in the dust, and don't rise.
And don't rise.
Rachel's voice reaches you somehow – from afar and very near, through a roaring that is no longer present.
"We must go."
There, in the dust.
There, in the dust.
She calls you; in an ancient name that is more than respect for a leader, or awe for a prophet, or fear of a shadow. And you raise your head; and you rise, and walk away with her, away and outside.
Midian is fire and blood and the dead and dying and those that never lived. Tombstones – old, shattered and unmade, marble that is black and no more, and what trace of your people, faded among them. The starlight is pain, and you do not run. A small group of the fighters or the desperate gathers about you and Rachel, looking perhaps for something you can no longer explain. You hear, dimly, Babette's whimpers, and Peloquin cursing loudly the god who could give Its children no better.
But you have no curses; you have no rage, as you have no hope.
You have the sight of the pyres and the ruins, and the trembling as your trail of wonders shook itself apart, and the words spto him in the fire, and the feel of a gift slipping through your grip.
The feel of a shadow.
You leave that place, with that little group, the same night, finding a place to hide from the sun before dawn. Some of them ask you, from time to time, if you are well, and you almost laugh at them but that you cannot break your silence – how can a shadow not be well? What can hurt a shadow?
But you are silent.
And you are silent through the days that follow, and silent as they struggle for sanity, for the safety and warmth of a home. And silent as the group slowly breaks up, until it is only you and Rachel and her daughter, remnants of a people, quiet and slipping under the cover of night. And you are silent when he, Cabal, when he finds you at last, silent.
What would you speak of? The ruins? The trembling? The fire? You needn't speak of it, you are there, in whatever darkness can be found, always there, and the sight of you alone, a darkness within a darkness, is enough to remind them.
Always remind them.
As well as they should remember.
And you are silent, needing nothing more, but to be that shadow, the shadow of lives, and years, and loves, and homes.
And only a shadow, true enough – but one they can never escape.
One: The quotes are all taken directly from the book.
Two: Clive Barker never actually gave Lylesburg's first name, as far as I know. The name Elijah comes from my other Lylesburg fic, "Baptism"; try as I might, I couldn't find a more fitting one.
Three: I genuinely don't know why this is in second person – I don't usually write in that format. Nothing else suited my needs in terms of identification and artistic distance.