Leonard Shelby found himself talking to a young man in an empty motel room. Dust lined the walls and furniture, highlighted by the brief strokes of light as cars passed by the folded blinds. He blinked taking in the darkened state of the room (the unlit lights and lamps) and almost instinctively looked down to his hand. In his right hand he found a pen and in his own desperate handwriting only a single word "run".
He looked back up to the boy across from him. He looked very young, maybe fifteen or sixteen at most. The boy was sitting calmly; one leg crossed in front over the other, in a black suit that befit one attending a funeral. Perhaps his most catching features though were his eyes, a cold patient dark blue that held him in place. Leonard Shelby's eyes glanced down again to that desperate black ink: run.
"What are you doing here?" Leonard Shelby asked the boy.
The boy continued to watch him with those dark eyes; he then leaned forward and said in a calm voice, "The contract is complete. Your revenge is done master; John G. who raped and murdered your wife is now dead. I've come to collect your soul."
He laughed. He couldn't help it. But even as he did so he noticed that the boy had not moved from his position, his expression had not changed, but rather he remained the same simply staring out of those knife-sharp eyes.
After laughing for a few moments his smile disappeared and said, "Listen, kid, I don't know what…"
"Take off your shirt and look in the mirror." The boy said a small amount of exasperation leaking into his tone.
"You remember the bathroom? The two men and your wife beneath the shower curtain? Take off your shirt and look in the mirror."
And he did, he did remember the bathroom. There was a curious sinking sensation in his stomach, as if he had been cut adrift, and slowly but surely he made his way to the mirror and removed his shirt.
'John G. raped and killed my wife'
The message was written boldly across his chest in a more professional black ink. Surrounded by this other words, messages, all written in jet black some in his own hand some better thought out. John G.'s rather vague physical appearance, who to trust, what not to do…
'Don't answer the telephone.'
'Don't open the mail.'
And finally he turned to see written sideways down one bicep, 'The demon is serious' and beneath that a tattoo, the only one in color, of a pale blue star with too many points to count contained in a delicate circle.
"That one is mine."
And then the boy was there standing beside him, pointing to the tattoo, "It is the seal, the thing that ties us together in this world. Though, I suppose for you, the rest are just as powerful, just as dictating. A rather pitiful existence, a life dictated by half-forgotten phrases written on your skin, but then would I be here if it wasn't pitiful?"
Leonard Shelby backed away from the mirror, "Listen kid, I don't know what you're…"
The boy opened his palm to reveal a small blue flame that danced, as it breathed in oxygen it grew slightly but never grew out of control, rather it remained a dancing flower the exact shade of the boy's eyes. He smiled at the flame fondly before turning his attention back to Leonard Shelby.
"You suffer from anterograde amnesia; you have almost no short-term memory due to an attack by two men, one of them being the John G. you seek. Your wife died and left with nowhere else to turn you eventually came to me, a demon, for a vengeance you felt that you could not complete on your own." The boy closed his hand with finality snuffing out that bright blue flame, his smile dying with it.
He then reached into the inside pocket of his jacket with slow deliberation, that look of patience returning to his face, as if he was waiting only waiting and observing with no stake in the moment at all.
Leonard was stepping backward, hearing his own words repeated back at him; as he did so he scanned the tattoos on his body thinking of the single word, run, and the message written across his arm 'The demon is serious'. That didn't even sound like him, looking at it again it wasn't even his handwriting, but someone else's a delicate cursive that spoke of years of dedication to an art no one took seriously anymore.
"You're joking, how am I supposed to believe some kid who comes out of the blue with no proof…" He trailed off as he realized what the boy had pulled out of his jacket, a pile of photographs, as if on cue the lights began to turn on by themselves until the room seemed to be filled with a midday sun.
"These are just a sampling; there are more in the dressers." The boy said tossing the photographs onto the table. Each the Polaroid photograph depicted a man with brown hair and brown eyes, written beneath in that familiar cursive writing on each were the words John G. and a date.
The boy then snapped his fingers, the dressers opened of their own accord, and out of them poured thousands of Polaroid photographs. Each a separate John G. with brown hair and brown eyes. Each one staring with glazed eyes into the camera as if they were fish hauled out for the catch.
"What is this?" He asked in a shaking voice.
"John G., every John G. who matched your description, your revenge is finished. There are no John G.'s left."
And somehow he knew that the boy (thing it couldn't be human) meant every word. They were all gone, every single John G., hunted down and dead so that there were no more. No more John G.'s to find. It was the end.
The boy stepped forward this time with a slight smile, "It's time, Leonard Shelby. Close your eyes."
He was staring at himself in the mirror. Leonard Shelby had just woken up, dazed and confused finding himself in a cluttered motel room, and on his arm an arrow pointing upwards with instruction. So there he was, in front of the mirror, carefully reading the messages he had sent himself.
'John G. raped and killed my wife.'
He traced the lettering, feeling the shock as that single last memory came to him. His wife, under the shower curtain, suffocating as he reeled on the ground his head exploding and…
They called it anterograde amnesia, it was amnesia but with recent memories, he no longer possessed the ability to store recent memories anything within a half-hour or so was gone. Wiped away as if it had never happened. The accident had left him only with that moment, that single moment on the bathroom floor watching as she died.
It had left him only a name and a vague description, brown eyes and brown hair. And since then, through instructions printed on his skin, Polaroid photographs, and notes written hastily on scraps of paper.
So he stared at himself and felt that sense of loss as he attempted to find what to do. Notes everywhere, but notes were just notes, notes weren't…
It had begun to dawn on him, in those first few seconds, that perhaps he would never truly catch John G. Not without help, and if he did how on earth would he know? A photograph? Would he write on a photograph to himself and that would be the end?
'John G. raped and killed my wife.'
No, he would find him. He would put an end to this, avenge the death of his wife, achieve revenge for his own accident. All he needed was a system, the notes, the tattoos, small little mechanical things that would lead his investigation and he'd find him, one day he'd find that son of a bitch.
True desperation leads to truly improbable events.
Leonard Shelby looked in the mirror but did not see himself. Rather he saw a child, twelve or thirteen at best, standing in front of him with one eye a deep sapphire and the other a strange opaque lilac with a star inscribed within it. He stood unsmiling before Leonard and then within a blink he was gone.
Leonard stepped back from the mirror rubbing his eyes and then looking to find clothes so that he could leave the motel, find wherever it was that he ate in the mornings and begin the search only to forget and begin the search again. Hallucinations were the last thing he needed.
He found himself sitting down upon his bed staring dully at thousands of photographs littered across the floor. Leonard Shelby was used to this feeling (or his body was, his mind never seemed to grasp the concept) but even so the intensity with which he stared at the photographs frightened him.
He looked up to see a young boy with sharp blue eyes staring at him as if in expectation. He was only fifteen maybe sixteen, and he wore black formal attire, opposing Leonard Shelbey's casual wear drastically. He looked as if he had walked out of another world.
"Who are you?" Leonard Shelbey asked the boy in an almost frightened tone.
"Forty minutes." The boy said as if tasting the words, "No, not long at all. It always catches me off guard. A mayfly lives a day and thinks it eternity, so you live in a single moment, live and die all within that time as your memory is reborn inside your stagnant body. It's very fascinating." The boy said.
The man looked back down to the photographs on the floor, "Listen, I don't know who you are but…"
He was interrupted abruptly by the boy, "The demon whose seal has been drawn on your arm, and who has just completed your revenge. Of course, I'm beginning to realize that in playing out my role I only create a cycle. The same dialogue, the same facial expressions, you never really believe me. But then, I play this game with everyone you just make it more blatantly obvious." He paused then and looked musingly down at the photographs.
"The truth is, Leonard Shelbey, that I don't really want your soul. I think that I just wanted to see what you'd do once you'd seen all the photographs, and then what you'd do when in another lifetime you encountered the same dilemma."
"What are you talking about?" Leonard Shelby asked.
The boy continued in spite of the man as if he was not really there, no more real than the photographs scattered on the floor to the boy he was nothing; only a piece of setting that acted and reacted in a particular way that was either amusing or not. His eyes looked like two cobalt stars, burning so brightly, so very beautifully in the dim room. Leonard had never seen anything so purely inhuman before.
"So I think I'll indulge you, we'll play this game. Me, the demon, you the unwilling horrified human. And we'll continue to play and reply until you starve and I take your soul from you at the last possible moment. I want to see if the same play can truly be performed twice."
He was inside the mirror. He didn't know how he knew this; it was simply a disarming fact of his life. He looked down to see that the floor was a great chess board, black and white squares scattered here and there. Also on the floor in front of him was a pair of black dress shoes.
He looked up to see a young boy, possibly twelve or thirteen, staring at him with an amused look of compassion. Though Leonard Shelbey wasn't quite sure how those two expressions managed to mix together on his features. Dressed entirely in black the boy stared at him with a single sapphire eye (the other hidden behind an eye patch.)
"You have a great desire for revenge," The boy commented lightly almost softly, "It burns through you, such a strong flame, and each passing moment it kindles brighter through sheer fear that it may be extinguished."
"Who are you?" Leonard Shelbey asked in a horrified whisper.
The boy did not step forward or make any movement toward Leonard but rather stood proudly and said, "I am a demon, Mr. Shelbey, and I have answered your summons wondering if you truly are interested in a business venture."
"A business…" Leonard trailed off seeing only the surreal world he had found himself in wondering if he had finally gone mad.
"I am an entrepreneur among my kind." The boy said with a wry smile, "I have found myself bored of simply looking for something to ease the hunger. Life is suffering, if we do not suffer we cannot grow, to stand still in our emptiness is to stagnate and die. Or so I believe at any rate."
He then approached Leonard with that soft (and yet cruel beneath the softness) smile on his childish features. Lifting up Leonard's face with a single gloved hand he said, "I can offer you revenge, Leonard Shelbey but the price is not one you may be willing to pay."
"Revenge? You can do that?"
"Yes, I can. But for a price."
(Behind the boy he swore that he could see the pieces on the chess board moving, moving slowly but surely into check.)
"Nothing less than your soul."
Sitting in a restaurant, a flickering light-bulb above him, he slowly let his eyes drift over his surroundings. The place looked almost empty, even the waitresses seemed to have disappeared only two others remained in the restaurant. A young boy with a curious gray color for hair and sharp blue eyes, possibly fifteen or sixteen if Leonard had to take a stab in the dark, and a man whose age Leonard couldn't quite guess. The man was one of those who looked young and yet his amber (red?) eyes seemed far too old for his features, he could have been anywhere from mid-twenties to mid-thirties for all Leonard could tell. Both were dressed in formal black attire and seemed fixated upon Leonard.
"I'm sorry," Leonard began to explain as he watched them stare at him, not in confusion but rather in blatant curiosity as if he was sitting under a microscope, "But I have this condition called…"
He was promptly cut off by the man whose curiosity seemed to dim slightly into abject boredom, "And you say he does this often? Well, young master, if you don't mind my saying it, it seems that you've found the most boring play ever written."
The boy glanced sideways at his companion with a small smile, "You simply lack imagination Sebastian, you're too in love with Shakespeare to experiment with anything new."
Leonard blinked, "Do I… Have we already met then?"
"Forgive me, where are my manners?" The boy said, or perhaps given his adult expressions the young man, he raised a hand to himself, "My name is Ciel Phantomhive and this is my friend and associate Sebastian Michaelis."
"Friend?" The man named Sebastian asked with a delicate raising of the eyebrows.
"I find myself at a lack of terms sometimes, my dear friend." The young man said with a strange look in those blue eyes (compassion and yet beneath that compassion a cold amusement). The young man then turned to look at him his glance becoming slightly colder once again, "Mr. Shelbey, I have offered my assistance in the investigation of the location of John G. with brown hair and brown eyes of slightly taller than average height and a medium build and we were discussing strategies of how to find this man."
"Oh." Was all Leonard Shelby managed to say.
"Quite eloquent this one, wherever did you find him?" Sebastian drawled tapping his fingers with slight impatience upon the table.
"He came to me, just as I came to you, and Alois came to Claude. He probably sensed that you would not be quite so appreciative of his redeeming qualities." The boy said with a sigh, "We can't all be the young prince of Denmark."
"His soul is stagnant, he is trapped in a single moment, he will never complete his revenge because he will never remember it. There's no point, he is worth nothing." The man smiled then, "But then, I suppose that you and I have never quite seen eye to eye; even after all this time."
The boy smiled thoughtfully and then replied, "He reminds me of myself, back in the days when my memories were toyed with by higher powers. I wondered if you would see it as well. I wanted to see if you were interested, had I known you were already in contract I might not have bothered."
A sidelong glance at his companion, "Yes well, the girl is interesting but true art takes time and patience, this is certainly an admirable distraction but little more than that. Speaking of which I should be heading back to her, she may begin to notice that I'm not actually in her house."
The man looked distractedly toward the window where outside the landscape seemed to be made only of dust and a few sparse bushes. He tapped his fingers against the table and seemed almost about to leave when the boy spoke again.
"A stagnant soul, forever trapped by his memories in that endless pit, the moment he begins to climb he falls. A truly existential existence, and yet, he has not even the capabilities of nihilism. I find him very interesting. So then, the question is Sebastian, is if you want his soul or not."
At this the older man looked somewhat stunned looking as if he wished to say something but could not think of a single word. Leonard watched as some significant look, some message, was passed silently from those blue eyes to the red and then it was gone and the boy looked away once again.
Ciel said softly in response to that silent question, "No. Not this one, not for me, not quite yet. To me it would only taste like dust, anyway. I thought you might be intrigued and that perhaps it would bring back older, fonder, memories."
(And to Leonard it was as if they were in some other world, standing upon a cliff in a field filled with blue roses, the flowers winding themselves around both of their ankles and yet they still had stars in their eyes.)
"Why not, young master?" The man named Sebastian asked.
"It isn't time."
He was playing chess with a young boy in an apartment covered in Polaroid photographs. His eyes drifted from the board to the pictures, each one of a man with brown hair and brown eyes staring up with glazed expressions at the camera, they were all dead. Written carefully in cursive script on each was the name John G. along with a date and time.
Unconsciously his mind flashed back to that last clear memory in the bathroom, his wife under the shower curtain suffocating, and him on the floor bleeding. John G. yes he remembered John G. and as he did so he felt a pit grow in his stomach as he took in all the photographs.
"Your move." Said the boy. Leonard's attention whipped back to the boy whom he had almost forgotten about.
The boy looked strange but Leonard couldn't quite place why. Maybe it was his eyes, those dark blue eyes that seemed to burn and pierce all at once from pale angelic features. Yes, that was it, it was his eyes, his strange bright eyes.
"Who are you?" He asked.
The boy looked up with a small sigh still watching the pieces almost in annoyance, "Death, Destroyer of Worlds. My friends however, call me Ciel. And you Mr. Shelbey, what do you call yourself?"
"No I mean, what are you doing here?" Leonard reiterated.
"Waiting." The young man said the irritation slightly more evident, "Are we going to play Mr. Shelbey or are you going to sit there like a dejected puppy?
Leonard looked down at the board and moved a pawn forward not thinking of where it was going. He blinked and then asked, "Waiting for what?"
"I'm not sure, something interesting I hope." The young man said and then sighed at Leonard Shelbey's confused expression, "I'm waiting to see how much you can take, how many times we can play this scene, perhaps we'll simply sit here until you die. But this is a longer game than I expected so I thought chess might distract us for a while."
"… I don't know what you're…"
"They never do. But then, that is why I play chess." He smiled then and moved the knight forward, and said in words that reeked of finality, "Check."
Leonard looked down and saw that his king was somehow indeed in check, left there from a game he didn't remember playing, moves long forgotten and seemingly insignificant. He found that he had already damned himself before the game had ever really started.
It was a metaphor. Leonard's eyes drifted to the floor, ah the photographs. All the moves, already played, a life already lived. Leonard usually didn't think so philosophically but it was hard not to when the little bastard all but set it up for you. And there he sat, grinning ear to ear, that mischievous inhuman smile.
"What the hell is this?" Leonard asked and the boy's eyes also drifted to the floor and then back up still with that hellish grin.
"Your moves, Leonard Shelbey. A bit rash, if I might comment, but all yours." The boy said his smile disappearing as he looked up at the man as if in expectation.
"Those men, in the photos, they're all dead." Leonard stated, "I couldn't have done that."
The boy held open his hands as if something was held within them, some essence of himself, "I am but your pawn Mr. Shelbey. I am the gun in your hand, I do not pull the trigger by myself. In the vernacular: guns don't kill people; people do."
And then he understood why the boy was there, in his room, waiting and watching as he said. "You…"
"It is in my nature and it was in your wish. It was mutually beneficial, symbiotic."
Leonard's eyes desperately scanned the photographs, "Which one?" He asked, "Which one?!" He screamed.
(And they were everywhere; almost the same face, the same features, and he felt that even to him he couldn't tell the difference because there were just so damn many of them.)
"The John G. who raped and killed your wife died years ago. You've already killed him. By the time you came to me there was nothing left but a revenge without a source. It didn't matter to you who died so long as his name was John G."
"No, you're lying, you're…"
"You'd never be able to tell the difference. What I'm saying could be true it could not be true, you'll never know, and therefore it might as well not be true because surely a great many of them are not the John G. you seek." The boy smiled a lazy amused smile that seemed to erode whatever stitching held together Leonard's soul.
"That's not… No one thinks like that." Leonard said anger now coloring his tone, "I didn't ask for this, whatever the hell this even is! I refuse to be blamed for something that isn't mine!"
The boy's smile stayed in place, he began to toy with one of the pawns on the board, "Really? It has been a long time since I've been human then, or perhaps you and I are merely different because I have always acknowledged which moves are mine."
Leonard looked at the photos in desperation and began to ask questions, "You killed them. You killed every single person in these photographs?"
"Yes." The boy said without hesitation.
"How long did it take?"
"A few weeks, it turns out there are more John G.'s than I initially expected." The boy said looking at the photos, "Not to mention having to develop the film, restock the camera, it was rather exhausting."
"You're lying." Leonard said, "It couldn't have possibly taken you so little time…"
The boy's eyes began to fade into another color, at first violet and then red. He stared at Leonard out of eyes which seemed to glow, one stark and clear the other opaque with a star engraved upon its surface.
"I have different standards than you." The boy said grimly his smile gone, "After all, what kind of a butler would I be if I couldn't perform the simplest task?"
(Distantly Leonard suspected that there was supposed to be some kind of pun in there, some horrible pun that should have made him feel something, but all he could see were the photographs.)
"They're all named John G.?"
"Every single one." The boy said and looked down, "I suppose I should find a newspaper article next time you forget, I'm sure it's much more eloquent at explaining this massacre than I am. I wonder if they've put two and two together yet."
"What?" The boy asked distantly still musing over the idea of fetching a paper.
"When did this happen?"
"I finished yesterday." The boy said, "Yes, I should think that the newspapers have caught up with the trail by now. Who knows, they may even come here in time. Wouldn't that be interesting?"
All the while the boy toyed with the chess pieces, rolling them between his fingers like old familiar puppets. And Leonard Shelby couldn't help but shudder. Taking a pen from the table he searched for empty space on his skin, anywhere to write a message, a desperate thought that might save his future self.
Instead his eyes fell on a smudged message, written in that same pen, a simple clear statement.
Leonard Shelbey couldn't help but wonder why he was at a bus stop with a boy. At first he wasn't sure he was with the kid, he looked only about fifteen or sixteen, but then the boy looked so terribly at ease even glancing at Leonard every once in a while and no one else appeared to be present. It was early in the morning and across the desert Leonard saw the red eye of the sun peak above the horizon slowly but surely washing the sky in various shades of red.
Finally the boy spoke, "I'll do my best to finish quickly but you've handed me a rather daunting task. Don't expect me for a few days at least."
Leonard looked at the boy sharply and wondered if he knew or not. Leonard opened his mouth to explain a puzzled expression on his face but the boy cut him off before he could speak.
"Let's just say we're business acquaintances." The boy's eyes a dark and deep blue stiffened as if in exasperation but then the emotion was gone and Leonard was left staring into space.
"Where are you going?" He asked instead since it didn't seem as if the boy was going to give him any more information.
Here the boy appeared to almost smile, his lips twitching slightly as if the very action was unfamiliar at best and said, "To finish your revenge."
"When we first spoke you seemed a little doubtful of your own capabilities. I'm helping to remedy that." The smile grew, a feral grin, and Leonard could swear the boy had jagged teeth.
Leonard Shelby felt something desperate clawing out from inside him. The boy looked… inhuman, that was the word. Too old for his features, his eyes two stolen pieces of the night sky that seemed to stare down at him with an indifference that belonged only to those who were already gods. He knew then that this boy cared nothing for him, didn't even bother to pretend, but rather addressed him with an alarming inhuman frankness.
And in that moment Leonard Shelbey knew, somehow knew without memories or thought, that he had done something terrible. He had crossed a line, an invisible line he no longer remembered, and summoned this thing, this trickster with a human face like a mask, and would watch as the terrible thing he had done grew and grew and grew until he could no longer control it.
Pity, he could no longer recall quite what it was.
The police did come. Leonard Shelbey did not remember being told that they would, nor did he remember why exactly they would come in the first place. He only knew that he was tired, hungry, and that when he looked in the mirror he saw a terrified skeletal man who looked as if he was almost begging to die.
They knocked down the door and pointed their guns at him shouting words he couldn't quite catch. His rights he thought, or maybe something else.
And then there was the boy, the boy who seemed to be wearing a face that didn't suit him. A little too old and a little too young all at once, like a mask, and grinning at him with flashing teeth. The policemen didn't seem to notice the boy at all when they handcuffed him, didn't even look in his direction, as if he wasn't even there at all. As if the boy didn't really exist.
On the floor there were thousands of photographs, piled one on top of the other, each one depicting a dead man. The boy picked one of these up and studied it idly as they dragged Leonard Shelbey away despite his desperate pleas that he had done nothing couldn't even remember having done anything, was sick, was…
The door shut and the boy remained inside staring at that photograph with a fond smile.
Author's Note: I suppose technically this is a crossover with Christopher Nolan's film Memento so this will be mentioned. Anyway, thank you for reading reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own Black Butler or Memento