Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reflections on Difficult Questions

Can I just tell you how much I love my boyfriend? The guy who knows about my bloodline, who knows that my people are actually kin with the Worms of the Earth - and who has at least some idea of what that means - and who hasn't so much as remarked on it? It's not that he doesn't realize, or hasn't thought about it. I asked him. It's just that he doesn't care.

I'm keeping this one.

Anyway, onto the other stuff. I just told him about this, and he said I should write about it, so here I am. This is Claire, by the way, in case you missed that somehow.

So, let's see... what do you need to know? Well, I've been working for an optometrist under the auspices of my boyfriend's Elders. It's a decent job, with regular hours - that's nice. But since he's been learning to become a Watcher, I usually get home before he does. And today when I came home, I found that we had a visitor. Want to guess who it was?

When my boyfriend wrote about her, he called her Anne. She's the last survivor of the group that brought the death-blight - the Corpsewalker - to our world. She was the one who got suspicious, the one my boyfriend sent to Father Peter to get help.

That was odd, by the way. I'd never suspected Father Peter of anything. The idea that he might have suspected me was a little unnerving, except... well, he never did anything, you know? But Anne went to him for help, and he tried to help her. He didn't laugh at her, or send her off to counseling. So he knows something.

Anyway, there was Anne, sitting in front of our apartment. This, I was not expecting. But, okay, I can't just ignore her. So I said, "Hi. Anne, was it? From Our Church?"

She nodded. "I wanted to ask you some questions," she said. She didn't say it loudly, and she didn't look scared or aggressive or anything like that. She just looked sort of determined.

"I probably can't answer you," I told her, "but come inside anyway."

I unlocked the door and we went inside. And she looked around, like she'd expected something less normal. She wasn't as tall as I am, and she had a round face and a kind of round, muscular build. Tomboyish, I guess you'd call it. I locked the door behind us and said, "What did you want to know?"

She looked at me, and cocked her head slightly to one side. "Was Father Peter right?" she asked. "Were you the ones who... helped us?"

There was a moment there, when I could have told her that I didn't know she was talking about. But when I thought about it, it was already too late for that. Instead, I said: "I can't answer that... and you could get into an awful lot of trouble by asking it." I was thinking about the Whisperers. As far as I knew, they were still off-duty, but if they weren't... or if the Watchers happened to be watching us...

"What kind of trouble?" she asked.

I hesitated.

She started to say something else, then stopped. Finally she said, "Look, I don't know what happened. I don't know how it happened. But something horrible was going on, and I was right in the middle of it, and nobody - not even Father Peter - will tell me anything about it. They keep saying it's too dangerous... like not knowing is any better."

And I thought, Oh. Unwilling sympathy, I think that's what I want to call it. I said, "All right." In my head, I was running over the oaths I'd sworn to my boyfriend's cult. How much could I tell her without killing us both?

"Father Peter said you two might be able to help," she continued. "He said he wasn't sure it was a good idea, but he was going to tell you about... things." She hesitated, then asked: "Are you friends of his?"

I held up a hand to stop her. "Come on," I said, and led her into the kitchen. I got out a couple of glasses and poured us each some wine. I took a sip; she gulped down about half of hers. I poured some more before I spoke.

"Okay, so. Yes, we're friends with Father Peter... but not when it comes to this. Okay? You asked about what could happen. Well... death could happen. Madness could happen. Maybe something worse. And he was risking that by talking to my boyfriend about... that. You understand?"

She nodded.

"Your friends... they stumbled onto something secret. You were right about how dangerous it was. But it's over." I hesitated, not sure how to say what I wanted to say next. What I wanted was to tell her to run away and never look back, to get out into the normal world and stay there. "You have a choice," I told her instead. "You can walk away now, and just accept that you're never going to understand exactly what happened. Or you can try to learn more, but to do that you're going to have to choose a side."

She stiffened. "I don't know enough to choose a side."

"Yeah," I said, and sighed. "And the only way to learn more about them is to swear allegiance to one of them. That's why everyone keeps telling you that questions are dangerous. The wrong question to the wrong person could get you both killed. Or worse, like I said."

"So the only way I can learn enough to make an informed choice, is if I've already made a choice? That's..." She let the thought trail off.

"That," I finished for her, "is about the size of it."

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