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Story Twelve, Emmett Epilogue

Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

Emmett: And now it’s the end, again, only it takes Em a minute to realize it’s also a beginning, which maybe happy endings should be. Are supposed to be. But the truth of the story is always more complicated. The truth of people even more so, especially when those people are also monsters.

It’s a happy ending for Emmett Delacroix, and the beginning of the end for everybody else.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

Emmett: Bertram Villars arrives to find his office broken into one morning. Nothing much is taken, and even the vandalism is minimal. One piece of vicious graffiti catches his eye, though, spray painted in blood red as it is over the law degree on his wall:

I O U
—M


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

Emmett: Cash Money’s having a good night. It’s like all his other good nights. He’s in his club surrounded by his whores and thugs and pathetic petitioners. Even better, he’s surrounded by people. People he doesn’t know but who all know him, because he’s a mean lean Cajun rapin’ machine, and he’s a cop, too, so there’s nobody in this whole world of monsters that can touch him.

Only tonight, he sees something in the crowd that makes him curse and stutter through his debauched carousing. Tonight, among all the jealous gazes that tickle him at his table, one tugs at his attention, holds him in its grip.

They’re terribly familiar, is the thing, though damned if he can place them. He’s damned anyway, though, and he has the unmistakable impression of looking into eyes he had somehow acclimated to never seeing again. None of these are what shake Ricky Mouton to his redbone soul, though.

No, it’s that once when he was a boy he made eye contact with a cottonmouth in the bayou, and that was the last time he saw eyes that shape.

Only snakes don’t have eyelids, so they can’t wink.

But this one does, and after the officer of the law blinks, the eyes are gone.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

GM: The nurses tell the sweet and handsome visitor who swings by that Mrs. Merinelli in the hospital there anymore. She’s no longer under arrest, either. She was discharged a little back. They mention the name “Malveaux.” Apparently some people get happy endings after all.

Except not really. Lena’s still half-awake in the living room, at god knows what hour in the AM, staring at some movie on the TV with glazed eyes and a half-eaten tub of ice cream. She’s already getting fat again.

She eventually slumps forward into a sugar- and depression-fueled stupor. Maybe she doesn’t register the words said by the handsome visitor, stolen into the room like a sandman into that border state between dream and waking. Maybe tomorrow will bring no further news about her missing husband and kids.

But a smile still touches the corners of the sleeping woman’s face.

Eveline Merinelli will have good dreams tonight.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

Emmett: The dogs are barking again. Phil can’t get them calm, can’t even make them whine in response to his stern commands. Something in the house is just driving them mad. Some scent, maybe. He turns his attention to the thing he found in his office at work, the anonymous gift from some student or other. He wouldn’t normally keep such a thing, but he really has no idea who sent it to him, and besides, it reminds him of better days. Much better days. He’ll keep it, he decides suddenly. Hell, maybe he’ll dig out some tackle and bait to go with his new rod.

It’s been so long since he’s gone fishing.

In the same room, perfectly still and perfectly invisible, somebody smiles.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

GM: A movie director might say a fishing boat and a dying carp on a hook is where it all began. It is where a movie director had it all begin, after the in media res opening scene. But there’s a sense of closure and everything coming full circle as a visitor walks up the now-familiar steps to 1415 Third Street.

The first time, he was a living boy, looking for affections to toy with and lusts to satisfy. Desperately fleeing the emptiness inside of him.

The second time, he was a dead man, striking a devil’s bargain to avoid a fate worse than death. Desperately fleeing the emptiness inside of him.

The third time, he’s… the others like him all say they’re dead, but the Sandman has died, really died. Whatever he now is, it feels more alive than he used to be.

But this time he doesn’t want anything from the house of nightmares. This time he’s just here to say his goodbyes, and perhaps offer thanks for this third lease on life.

The house’s matriarch is not present to receive him, though some part of her feels like it will always be here. But he isn’t really here for her, anyway.

Cécilia looks good. Really good, even in a sleeping robe and slippers, without her hair or face done up, and another man’s ring on her finger. It might just be because he can see the blonde of her hair, and the rest of her, all in color. Or maybe it’s the heartfelt smile that lights up her eyes, after he says who she is, and the feel of her skin and warm body against his as she hugs him. It’s her first, he realizes, not to Elliot, but to the real him.

He feels his new fangs lengthening in his mouth, too, at her embrace, at the sound of the heart beating in her chest, pumping hot blood through her veins. Some part of him wonders how she would taste. If the flavor of her lifeblood over his tongue would answer whether she is a monster too.

It’s probably for the best, when she pulls away.

For her. For him. He doubts that would make Maman very happy.

She’s happy for him, though. She really is.

“I hope you can find peace here, Em,” she says.

Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. It’d be nice if he did.

“You have forever,” she says simply. “And now that you’re longer burdened by your dark side… I think this second chance is just what you need. You’ve been through life and death, made mistakes, and come out the other side. I think you’ve gained wisdom from your experiences. I don’t think you’re the same man I met at a McGehee school dance. I think you’re right that you need time and distance to process everything you’ve experienced.”

She smiles.

“And there’s no rush. You have forever.”

She plants a chaste kiss upon his cheek. She wishes him luck. She wishes him well. She tells him to be careful out there. She tells him to stop by if he’s ever in town again.

Is she a monster?

Is this, as he asked another monster, inhuman indifference? Or real forgiveness, real grace?

Perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t matter.

Either way, she’s less of a monster than he is.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM

GM: Finding shelter from the dawn is tricky, that first night. Camille tells him not to crash at Chakras. He’ll have to get used to finding shelter, if he wants to survive on his own. If he can’t do that in the city he grew up, he can’t do that anywhere.

But he does. It might be inaccurate to say that a man who’s died (twice?) is good at surviving, but Emmett Delacroix always got by on his own, and the Sandman will too.

He did tonight. He will tomorrow. He will for a lot of tomorrows.

This time he isn’t chasing his own death. He caught it, like a dog with a car, but it’s not true that he had no idea what to do with it. It tasted awful and he spat it back out.

So that leaves this.

The I-10 cuts through sun-baked Texas and Southwest desert before coming to a stop in L.A. Hollywood. The Dream Factory. The movie capital of America. It seems a fitting place for the Sandman to go first, maybe followed by a detour to Vegas and San Francisco, if he doesn’t change his mind. There’s also the Big Apple. Or maybe he’ll head south into Mexico, practice his Spanish. They say Mexico is dangerous because of the Sabbat. They say the Great Plains are dangerous because of werewolves. Frankly, everywhere sounds dangerous.

But the Sandman intends to go everywhere, because Emmett Delacroix was never one to listen to warnings. He’ll either survive or he won’t.

This time, at least, he’ll have help.

Eileen’s arms fit snugly around his chest as he revs up the motorcycle, clad in a leather jacket, no helmet, and a belief in his own invincibility’s entirely justified this time, at least from road accidents. The moon shines brightly in the sky, its silvery outline promising an eternity of nights ahead.

Eternity. It’s more than he honestly knows what to do with. Emmett Delacroix was always good at the chasing, never what came after. Maybe that’s why Sami struck it rich before he did. What would he have even done with all that money? What does someone who’s felt so empty for so long do when he gets everything he’s supposed to want? What comes next?

He didn’t know then. He doesn’t know now.

But Cécilia was right about one thing.

He has time.

He’ll survive or he won’t. He’ll figure it out or he won’t.

He’s seduced the devil’s own daughter. Orchestrated a revenge to make the most jaded elders of his kind proud. Burned down a mob boss’ house and spun his giant cannibal hitman into a friend. Killed a man everyone said was untouchable by the likes of him. Twice. Spat the arrogant and the powerful in their faces, when he wasn’t vomiting into their laps. Done things everyone warned would be the death of him, and were, and bounced right back from the consequences like a kid off a trampoline. Led an army of duped souls into the devil’s hungry maw. Fed his literal dark side to a monster. Outlasted nightmares, danced with demons, woven dreams into bedazzling tapestries.

He absently spins a new dream in the palm of his hand, and listens to Eileen clap and exclaim at the pretty show.

It is a pretty show. It’s a remarkable show. Whatever else might be said of him, Emmett Delacroix’s whole existence has been a remarkable show.

He’s been a man, been a ghost, been a vampire, and been as many things as tales he’s told and dreams he’s spun.

It’s time, now, for him to be something else. Perhaps many things else. He may be a literal bloodsucker, but the cancerous emptiness gnawing at his soul is finally gone. What he decides to fill it with is his choice. An infinity of vistas and an eternity of years stretch before him like the open highway.

He grips the motorcycle’s handlebars and roars off into the night.

Pic.jpg
Emmett: And what better way could he end his story, by beginning another one?

For a moment, everything is perfect.

Then his new, perfect face wrinkles in consternation. He swears, and his profanity is swallowed by the wind.

He yells at Eileen to hold on as he guns the bike into a wild, reckless turn that would set a man who had something to lose’s teeth on edge.

He’s just realized he’s forgotten something…


Wednesday night, 16 March 2016, AM

GM: The Sandman drives back to the Quarter. He drives back to the place it all began: the pretty little condo in hell.

Technically, it was never a condo. It was an apartment. But ‘condo in hell’ sounded better than ‘apartment in hell’, and that’s what matters. How it all sounds. How it all looks. How the story and all its pretty illusions come together.

He thinks back to the question he asked Cécilia during their goodbye.

“Do vampires become ghosts?”

“I don’t think so,” she’d said, shaking her head. “You, they, go on to whatever final fate awaits you.”

“What do you think that is?”

“The Lancea et Sanctum believe Kindred go to Hell, with the possibility of resurrection and redemption upon Christ’s Second Coming for Kindred who’ve been faithful to the teachings of Longinus. Many Invictus Kindred share that belief. Many Kindred raised in Western cultures without strong religious convictions still seem to accept the belief they go to Hell. Others just don’t think about it. Many Kindred who are atheists believe they simply cease to exist. Kindred who follow non-Christian faiths all have their own explanations. Caroline tells me one of her ghouls is Jewish and believes the same thing her faith teaches: mortals and Kindred who’ve done bad things spend time in Sheol having their souls purified, but even Hitler’s will be clean by the time the Messiah comes. Kindred who’ve made serious study of the occult can believe much stranger and darker things. Maman’s told me about one theory which holds that the Strix, demonic owls made of smoke and hate, are the specters of deceased Kindred.”

“So it’s like the mortal afterlife, in that regard,” she’d answered. “The only people who know for sure are the people who are there.”

“Ah, but I asked you,” he’d said. “Just like the last time we talked about this. What do you think happens to us?"

“I believe in a merciful and all-loving God, Emmett. But I also believe our blood defines us. I believe our blood is perhaps the strongest force in existence. Kindred have inherited the blood of Caine, and with it, his sins. I believe that Kindred go to Hell as a result of the covenant they’ve made with their forefather, even if they made it involuntarily. But," she’d then emphasized, “I also believe in Christ’s grace and mercy. I believe the Kindreds’ suffering doesn’t have to last forever, and that upon the Second Coming, those whose actions were more than their blood can enjoy a final reward not determined by their blood.”

“Maman just laughs whenever we talk about that,” she’d continued with a faint grimace. “I don’t think she shares my belief in that regard. She hasn’t told me exactly what she believes happens to Kindred after they die, but… I have the feeling her answer is much, much grimmer. And she knows so much more than I do. The implications of that can be very dispiriting to think about. I want to believe that something better can await you and Caroline.” She’d paused. “But that’s what it means to have faith: to believe in something better not because you have evidence, but because you trust in God.”

So he goes to Hell. Maybe not permanently, which is a nice thought, but even she acknowledges that he goes to a place of suffering and torment. It’s a refreshingly direct answer.

The truth is, it does’t much bother him. If there is a Hell, then by any reasonable metric, Emmett Delacroix deserves to go there. He’s made his peace with that.

“But ashed licks don’t become ghosts,” he’d repeated, just to be sure.

‘Ashed.’ He’d liked that word when it came up in the car with Sami.

“Ashed licks don’t become ghosts,” Cécilia nodded. “Maman tells me that most rules have exceptions—you’re a fairly obvious one, as I hadn’t thought ghosts could become Kindred—but she was very clear with me, when I asked, that destroyed Kindred don’t become ghosts. Whatever happens to you is final… outside of God’s hands, if you believe in that.”

Well, that’s good enough for him.

The Sandman drives and drives, and the night rolls past. He drives until it’s just the right time when he arrives back at his old place, just one story up from Café Soulé and the chocolate crepes he can no longer enjoy. He exercises a little of his new glamour, and one of the apartment residents happily lets him past the locked door. He walks up to the balcony where he used to take his smokes.

Pic.jpg
He waits.

He waits.

Then he starts to smoke.

There’s no lighter.

Or cigarette.

No, the smoke is wafting from his blistering, blackening skin. His Beast screams with pain, with rage, with panic. It’s the newest incarnation of pure evil to rent a room in the dilapidated house that is his soul, and it’s just as pissed at him as the last tenant. It wants to get away. It wants anything besides this. The Sandman grips the railing and stares ahead into the rising sun. He’s glad he told Eileen what he was doing, and that he told her to go back to Chakras, or wherever else she wanted to go. She doesn’t need to get burned trying to save him from the flames crackling up his flesh, even if burning other people through his self-destructive behaviors is what he’s best at. Who says he can’t learn?

He smiles, and he feels a smoldering ligament in his jaw tear. He looks down at his hands and he sees something the color and texture of burning charcoal. His Beast is an all but physical force trying to throw him out of harm’s way, and its soul-deep terror rocks through him like a hit of the strongest, longest line of coke he ever snorted (was he trying to kill himself then too, by ODing?), but he grips the railing like a lifeline. A deathline. He grips it and he watches the sun rise over rosy dawn sky.

The truth is, there’s no happy ending for people like Emmett Delacroix. A fresh start was a nice thought. Ending his story by beginning a new one was an even nicer thought. But he’s a walking disaster who’ll always be on the run from his past, no matter how many new names and faces he hides behind.

There’s no happily ever for any of the Kindred, either, he thinks. They just have to enjoy the smaller parts of a very sad song.

That’s the real Requiem. The Swan Song. They might as well skip to the end.

He spent all his life chasing his end.

Gasper spent all his death chasing their end.

His Shadow even offered him Oblivion. Why didn’t he just take it?

Well, the truth was that Gasper pissed him off, and he wasn’t about to let that childish brat get one over on him. The surest way to get Emmett Delacroix to do something is to tell him not to do it, even if that means cutting off the nose to spite the face. This, he thinks savagely as he burns and blisters and blackens, is spiting someone else. His Beast doesn’t want him to do this. As far as he’s concerned, that makes it the right decision. He’d have been too good at being a vampire. It’s better for everyone this way.

And no coming back as a ghost, this time. Abélia’s reward was good for that.

Emmett Miloud Delacroix closes his eyes and lets the sun burn him to a crisp. For all the lies he told, and for all that could be said about his life, death, and undeath, there’s one thing people can now say for sure:

There’s one less monster in the world.

A smile touches the dead man’s face, as it ends where it began, and then he’s ash upon a morning wind.


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