357: Dearly Departed

I didn’t really kill Maurice.

I wouldn’t do something so monstrous.

Sure, I’ve killed people before, but they deserved it. They were animals who needed to be put down, but Maurice was Maurice.

He may have made mistakes, taken the wrong path, but he didn’t deserve to die.

I couldn’t have just taken his life.

Nope, you’re wrong, I killed him.

The wooden sword, glowing with a gentle white light, slid into his chest. His eyes widened, his mouth fell open, and his glasses slid down his nose and this time he didn’t push them back up, they fell to the floor.

You might be thinking, well, it wasn’t his actual body. Not the physical fleshy version. This was his projected inner spirit or whatever which had crossed over into Arthur’s pocket universe.

Which was true. I’d never actually tried killing someone in this space, it might not work. It could just send him rubberbanding back into his body. But that’s not what happened.

A body without a consciousness isn’t a person, it’s a bag of meat. Maurice died on the end of my sword. Maurice’s death might not have been deserved, but it was necessary.

But what is death in a world where there’s magic? I could bring him back, raise his ghost, contact him through an ouija board and get everyone on the same text chain.

No one ever dies in fantasy, right? The death of a comic book hero is just a way to boost sales. You know they’ll be back in approximately one story arc, with a new costume and possibly a beard.

Maybe. Maybe in the future there’d be a way to save Maurice. I hadn’t really thought about it. I had seen a future where Claire had seemed happy and Jenny was still mine, but there was no way to know if that was just one possible outcome of many, or a dream, or if Claire was just a huge lying bitch. Possibly all of the above.

Maurice had a power that was ridiculous, and he was still figuring out how to use it. Who knows how OP it would have got. Peter in control of that power was more than just a menace, it made him impossible to ignore.

Peter’s actions were going to affect me no matter where I went or what I tried to do, and I don’t respond well to being fucked with. If he’d left me alone, I might have let it slide. But he’d given me the one thing I’d been lacking all my life — a purpose.

My goal was now very singular and very clear. Kill Peter. I didn’t give a shit about anything else.

Even if Peter himself was someone else’s pawn, he was a pawn in my arse and if that’s how you play 4D chess, no thank you.

It was quite a liberating feeling, knowing what I wanted. I highly recommend it. Makes things much more interesting, even the banal stuff.

What’s for breakfast? Something quick, need to kill Peter.

What shirt should I put on today? This one, let’s go, Peter-killing time.

I wasn’t being naive. I realised how hard it would be. He was stronger than me, more experienced, and a much bigger bastard. I had a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome, and he had probably taken precautions.

Step one was removing Maurice. That at least would stop Peter being able to coerce others into this fight or making them see things his way. They might still stand against me, but not in the coordinated manner Peter would organise them.

When you have multiple foes, the more the better. Idiots don’t work well together, you just have to let them get in each other’s way.

It could be that my new found enthusiasm for killing Peter was my way of displacing my feelings of guilt and shame for what I’d done to Maurice. I couldn’t say. If true, it would be the most human reaction to a traumatic event I’d ever had, so… a sign of growth?

It didn’t really matter. I was set on this course, so I would either succeed or fail. What I wouldn’t do was stray off on a tangent, which was what had happened to every other attempt at applying myself.

The Maurice skewered on the end of my sword went limp and slid to the ground. There was no blood and no last words. He lay on the ground and then faded away.

I looked over at Arthur and Wesley. They had been pretty fucking useless, dominated by Maurice, even though his power shouldn’t have worked here. There were some questions I would have liked answering, but Arthur got in there first.

“What,” said Arthur, “was the point of that?”

“What do you mean?” I said, not pleased with his tone. I’d just freed him from Maurice’s tyranny, a thank you would have been nice. “I’ve taken away Peter’s greatest advantage.”

“No,” said Arthur, “you haven’t. The power that boy had resides in his body. You’ve just killed your friend for no reason.”

Nobody likes to be told they’ve fucked up. People say they want constructive criticism, that they look to learn from their mistakes, but they don’t. When has the phrase ‘teachable moment’ sounded anything other than grating?

“If I killed him, Peter won’t be able to use him.” The logic of this statement seemed to hold up.

Arthur slowly shook his head. “While it’s true his body is now an unpiloted vessel that can’t be directed by Peter, it still contains the power Peter needs. If he finds a way to take control of it, if he manages to get it sent back to him, he will be able to keep using the abilities it holds. The only difference will be the absence of your friend.”

He made it sound like having Maurice in the driving seat was a good thing, a way to curb Peter’s excesses.

I was finding it a little hard to process what Arthur was saying, probably because of the high levels of cringe I was having to deal with. I’d made the tough decision, I’d gone through with it despite how hard it had been. You’re supposed to be rewarded for taking the more difficult path. You don’t select hardcore mode to get told you’re a fucking imbecile.

“So you’re saying I should have got rid of his physical body and… what would have happened to him in here?”

“He would have been trapped,” said Arthur, “with no powers and no way to cause harm.”

“But alive?” I said quietly.

“Yes, as much as I am. We might have been able to find him another body so he could live on without his ability.”

Maurice wouldn’t have been happy, but he would have been alive. In every way the better solution to my problem. How was I supposed to cope with this level of self-sabotage?

Something had to be done, and my solution sort of provided an answer, but there had been a better, more elegant solution right in front of me. And I’d fucked it. Hard. The choke was real.

I felt sick. “I’ll just have to destroy Maurice’s body, then.” I turned to Wesley. “Can you take control of it?”

“Yes,” said Wesley, “but I won’t be able to move until you return to your body.”

“And will you be able to use Maurice’s power?”

Wesley looked to Arthur, who answered for her. “I don’t know. Perhaps. It’s more likely she will only be able to use her own abilities.”

That made sense. When Wesley took over my body, she only had access to her own powers, not mine.

“So, Peter can’t make her do anything?” I was doing my best to push on and not think about my fuckwit of an error.

“I don’t… think so,” said Arthur. “I can’t say for sure. But if he gets hold of the body…”

“Then I’ll have to destroy the body.” It wasn’t a pleasant thought. Part of the reason I’d chosen to attack Maurice in here instead of out there was the less messy nature of it. My queasiness had been my undoing, like so many times before. “I’ll have to go back and get my own body first. The only problem I can foresee is Biadet. If she’s back in action, she’ll try to take the body. We can’t let her do that.”

Wesley nodded. “I think I can keep the body safe until you get back here.”

It was a bit of a risk letting her take control of Maurice, but then it was a risk no matter what I did.

I left, relieved to be getting away from judgemental eyes. It’s hard enough feeling like you’re always screwing things up without credible witnesses lining up to give testimony beyond a reasonable doubt.

Once I was back through the archway, I was met with Maurice’s accusing gaze. He was frozen in place, looking right at me. The vines growing out of his body were already withering away.

He didn’t look dead, but he didn’t look alive, either. An empty vessel. The vines burned up and turned to ash. Did that mean Peter’s influence was gone, too? It was hard to think straight.

It was painful, knowing I’d made the wrong choice. Not that it was guaranteed the other way would have worked out, but it was clearly the better option. Clear, now.

I was on this path, though, and the route ahead was the only one available to me. Return to my body, come back here, get rid of Maurice’s body permanently. I wasn’t even sure how I was going to do it. Cremation?

“Fuck!” I screamed it over and over.

There was no sign of Biadet outside the shrine. I wasn’t surprised. She was a problem I couldn’t ignore, and one I couldn’t deal with alone. Once I re-entered my body and time restarted, Biadet would be in play. She’d be able to take Maurice’s body away, back to her true master.

Only Wesley could do something to stop that from happening. Quite the match-up.

I wasn’t feeling great as I floated back to the beach. Self-pity, remorse, anger, self-loathing and Ginger Spice — the five stages of regretting a poor decision.

Everything on the beach was just as I’d left it. The lack of vines on the islanders made me question how Maurice had been able to affect them with his ability. If they were untouchable like me, they should have been immune. Part of my confidence in Peter being involved came from that, the boost in Maurice’s ability to reach them must have come from him, but now I was second-guessing everything

No point dwelling on it. I returned to my body and life carried on, so to speak.

“Everyone stay here,” I said. “I’ve just got to go do something. Keep an eye on that thing.” I pointed at the capsule and left without giving anyone time to say anything.

It might have been worth taking Laney with me to deal with Biadet, she at least could have provided a distraction, but I wanted to get to the shrine as quickly as I could. After my last snap decision, it might have been wiser to take a moment to consider my options and make sure I wasn’t making another mistake, but time was of the essence, I decided.

You learn more from your mistakes, apparently, but it’s more likely you don’t. Let’s face it, no one likes to sit down and work out what they did wrong. And after a big fuck up, it feels like you’ve reached your quota for the day, so it’s unlikely you’ll fuck up again.

I ran through the jungle, not out of breath because I was barely breathing. Once I reached the shrine I could breathe again.

Biadet could be anywhere. I was consumed by a sense of dread that Wesley wouldn’t be able to stop her taking Maurice’s body, and then it would all have been for nothing. He had been right that I found it hard to trust people to keep up their end, even though my end was hardly ever any higher.

The shrine was ahead of me. Someone was standing in front of it. A girl. Not Biadet.

“You can’t come in,” said Richina. I had just left her on the beach, how had she got here before me?

“Why are you here, Richina?”

“The body isn’t here. We have it now.”


All around us, islanders emerged from the jungle. I was surrounded. Somewhere in the distance I heard Zulu drums, but it might have been my imagination, especially the part where I heard Michael Caine shouting, “Oi, Zulu, put down them bloody spears.” One of his finest performances.

I was thrown by her appearance, I hadn’t been expecting her of all people. “What are you going to do with his body, eat it?”

And it suddenly dawned on me that that was exactly what they would do. The godsbane made it so that when they ate the poisoned fish, they absorbed the poison and were able to use it. If they ate Maurice…

A whole island of people who could change reality. How would that even work? How can you have more than one reality? Or maybe just one of them. I’d let Maurice down, failed him. The least I  could do was keep him off the menu.

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