The End

by volta arovet

A Companion to Fox Hunt

Stone stared pensively at the light reflecting off of the green-tinted glass. He wondered how much time was left. He wondered what he was going to become when that time was up--he corrected himself: he wondered what he was already becoming. Most of all, he wondered if he ever really existed.

Shivering, he upended the glass bottle and drank the rest of the beer. He felt a slight buzz from the alcohol. It was a surprising but welcome effect. He hoped that the alcohol would change its effect from "buzz" to "numb" some time in the near future. Maybe, if he were numb enough, he wouldn't feel what was happening to him. Maybe, if he became drunk enough, he would forget what he had discovered in the morning.

Stone had woken up with a steady pulse. At first he had been amazed, checking and rechecking it every fifteen seconds. He was alive; he was alive and he could feel, really feel again. He couldn't stop laughing. This wasn't like when his tattoos had faded away. That had been gradual, taking over a week to fully disappear. His reanimation had been dramatic; last night: dead; this morning: alive. He wanted to run to Rosalyn, to tell her how much she meant to him, and to share this wonderful gift with her.

That was when Stone stopped laughing. The fact that he was alive was proof that the "change," as he called it, was almost complete. That meant that soon, perhaps already, there would be no more Rosalyn Stone. And soon after that, there would be no more Ezekiel Stone. And then...

Stone tangled with internal questions all afternoon, and by evening he had come to a certain conclusion: he needed to get drunk. Very, very drunk. And now, for the first time since he had died, he was able to get drunk.

Thusly, he had arrived in the bar. He set the empty green glass bottle down on the counter and motioned for the bartender to bring him another. A familiar voice from the other end of the bar said, "I'll have another as well."

Stone slid down a couple of stools to sit next to the Devil, who was staring sulkily into his drink. Stone wasn't sure what the drink was, but he was certain that the Devil knew vices better than any other creature. "I didn't hear you 'pfft' in here," Stone said conversationally, snapping his fingers as he imitated the sound of the Devil's usual teleportation.

The Devil sniffed his drink unhappily. "That's because I didn't 'pfft,' as you so aptly put it. I walked in here like any other person." He downed the shot of whatever it was he was drinking and motioned for the bartender to bring over yet another. "Any other normal, mortal person."

"It hit you too, huh." Stone took a long pull on his beer.

"You could say that," the Devil groused. "Last night I 'pfft'ed into this world, as you would say it, and this morning I found that, no matter what I tried, I couldn't go back."

Stone smirked. "So that's two homes you can't go back to."

"I wouldn't go back to being a servant in heaven if they asked me," the Devil snapped. "Besides, what are you so happy about? Soon, you won't even remember your beloved Rosalyn."

Stone pointed the mouth of the bottle at the Devil and said, "That is why I'm currently in the process of getting drunk." He took another long pull of the beer. "Besides, you're not fooling anyone with your talk about not wanting to go back to heaven. It's written all over your face every time I mention that you were kicked out. I mean, look at you. You're not even taking pleasure in my misery."

"I'm not taking pleasure in your misery, Mr. Stone, because you've gotten your 'Get Out of Hell Free' card. The person you're becoming has probably never killed anyone. That means that you're out of my clutches."

"The same can probably be said for the person you're becoming," Stone was compelled to point out.

The Devil snorted. "Oh, don't remind me. This other-me is so, so nice." He said the word 'nice' as if it were some particularly repulsive insect or disease. "It's revolting."

Stone chuckled. "Looks like you get your 'Get Out of Hell Free' card too."

The Devil's voice was cold as death when he said, "I don't want to go back to heaven if I don't remember my past. I don't want to be there as a mere human."

"I don't want to forget Ros. Even if it means having to remember all those years spent in hell, I don't want to lose her." Stone matched the Devil's serious tone.

The Devil held up his hand to silence Stone. Something strange was altering the air, like a single, high pitched note that was more felt than heard. "Did you feel that? It's happening. It's the end."

"We failed," Stone sighed.

"Yes," the Devil agreed. He held up his drink in an inviting manner. "To our world, Mr. Stone. Few truly appreciated it, fewer will remember it, but it was ours."

Stone tapped his bottle against the Devil's glass. "To our world." As the soft tinkling of glass echoed, a bright white light consumed the world, which disappeared like a whiff of sulfur in the air.

As the soft tinkling of glass echoed, John started to laugh. "This may sound silly, but I don't remember what we're toasting to."

Peter opened his mouth, then shut it again, frowning in consternation. "You know what? Neither do I."

John sighed. "It was fun while it lasted."

Peter nodded in agreement. "At least we had the opportunity to do this for a short time."

"Do you have any other projects lined up?"

Peter shook his head. "This was my pet project. I don't know what else could compare."

"I understand," John said softly. He lifted his glass invitingly. "To Brimstone."

Peter tapped his bottle against John's glass.

"To Brimstone."