Because death isn't the end, for him.

I have long ceased to think of death as something to fear. Longer still since I have stopped to wonder about what happens after death.

The Jedi had never encouraged that kind of thought. There is no death, they preached, even as I decimated their ranks and reduced the towering spires of the Temple to rubble. No death, nothing after death: neither reward nor punishment for the decisions in our lives after we'd lived them, no hope and no promise for the thereafter.

The Sith teachings, of course, said even less, focused as they were upon the present life. Power was what mattered, in the here and now, power and fear and destruction: it was a easy creed to live by, a hedonistic approach to the galaxy that gave no thought to what was right or wrong or what we would expect beyond that.

That, I'd always thought, was why the Emperor had always feared death so much: no matter how much power he would attain in this life, he had no way of knowing what lay beyond. Not such fear for one such as me, though, who had died quite thoroughly before being reborn in a tempest hatred and despair and destruction.

And what did I think? I, who had studied both orders and embraced both sides of the Force with an equal and frightening ferocity? I didn't think; I never thought about it. I had died once already at the hand of a master I both hated and loved, was living in a hell of my own creation. But what lay beyond my final death didn't matter, or so I thought; I never actively thought about anything as trite as heaven or hell or my precious immortal soul.

I did not expect, even subconsciously, to enter any sort of heaven. That was the course for heroes and martyrs who died nobly and honorably, not for a monster whose decisions had destroyed countless innocent lives. My life, my son's life: millions of nameless others I had never met but had somehow been damned because of my very existence.

To become one with the Force, embraced in death by an order I destroyed, a master I betrayed, a mother I deserted, a wife I abandoned: I have never been such an idealist that I would expect something so mundane as death to heal scars and wounds that have festered for decades.

So perhaps some subconscious part of me expected to be admitted into hell. But neither did I expect to be greeted by horned demons or eternal flames or the bitter smell of sulfur in the air. I have long recognized that hell is something of my own creation, a prison I build for myself rather than the quaint and curious notions of hell embraced my so many others.

Hell, I'd thought, whenever I'd thought about it, was the memory of my skin being seared from my bones because of the heat, the smell of burning flesh filling my nostrils as my own scream filled the air. Hell was living through that to live an eternity within a metal shell, watching the world pass by from behind a prison of durasteel.

I was wrong. This is hell.

To linger on after death, wraith-like and insubstantial as I watch you wield this power I should never have given you. I was a fool to think that the afterlife would be anything different, would be anything beyond this: had I believed that I could escape it all, escape to some otherworldly plane and forget all I'd done?

Hell is watching helplessly as you take the place I had never meant for you to take, watching as you take the helm of the Empire. Watching as you kill yourself a little more every day, poisoning yourself with every touch of the Dark. As the little boy who had once been my son slowly and painfully dies even as you grow stronger and more powerful.

You can see me, sometimes. I know it, watching over you as I always do. You see me during those moments between sleep and wakefulness, as I hover like the ghost I am at the edge of your consciousness. You see me and you hate me, hate me for damning you to this existence just as surely as I damned myself. You were meant for better things -- not this. Never this.

And that's the worst: knowing that you hate me, as richly as I deserve your spite. Knowing as I linger in this place that is neither life nor death and watching in helpless horror as you become what I had once been, a fate you never deserved.

I could have spared you. Should have spared you.

And it hurts. Hurts to linger and to wonder, to repent and to regret. To know that I loved you and could have saved you from all this, but chose not to -- and isn't this a fitting hell for me to suffer through, then, the ultimate and appropriate punishment for my crimes and for my sins? An existence without hope, and maybe that's what hell really is: a life without hope, a fate we can't escape, a choice that can't be changed.

But this is the way things are. The way I shaped them, the way I'd planned for all this to happen, the path I chose. This is the way things are, and I can do nothing about it.

Finis. For real this time, I swear.