Dusk in Kalevia: Chapter 13
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Kuoppala’s hand steadied as he aimed his pistol at the bomb, his fear fast disappearing. Toivo knew that Kuoppala was fully capable of pulling the trigger, willing to cast his life aside for one last act of revenge.
Toivo didn’t know what would happen to him in the event of an explosion. He imagined his matter flying madly about until it gradually reconvened; still a far better outcome than the humans could expect.
“Why?” Toivo asked.
He felt the wall surrounding Kuoppala’s mind shake, the cracks widening. Kuoppala lurked there on the other side, thin as watered-down milk, grasping fruitlessly for the proper emotion. Toivo felt Demyan’s victorious shadows brush past, only to stop short in the shallow depths.
“You don’t understand.” Kuoppala’s face was a mask, calm except for a hysterical brightness in his eyes. “I’m going to fix this country.”
The wall fell. Toivo was in.
He’d thought back to it often–how, as a child, he had wondered if there was something wrong with him. He watched the others play, saw them cry or laugh or get unreasonably excited over trivial details that left him numb. It was on the Western Front that he received his epiphany when he looked down his scope, consciously blew a hole through another human being, and felt nothing but a small surge of satisfaction. He was not broken–he was strong.
Kalevia was in danger; it had become a hive teeming with dissidents and saboteurs. The Party had faltered and needed guidance. Like Uusitalo. So weak. So afraid. Take his son away and he would do anything–give Kuoppala any amount of control, set him up to be the savior of Kalevia. He would get rid of the boy; no need to create a martyr’s son. Blame it on rebel sabotage. He would purge the country clean, smelting the imperfections from the ore.
Toivo turned, his stomach in a knot. Kaija was shaking her head slowly as though an idea had coalesced within.
“It can’t be fixed,” Kaija continued, stepping forward, an easy target.
Toivo suddenly understood.
“What are you doing?” hissed Demyan, before Toivo held up a hand to silence him.
“You don’t get it, do you?” Kaija spoke as though the words came from elsewhere, and she breathed them with the air. “Life here will never be perfect.”
The bright intensity of her conviction was like a beacon in the room, throwing the shadows of fear that lurked around them into sharp relief. Toivo reached for Demyan, his fingers splaying as he felt for the darkness, the power that matched his own and clung to every human who stepped into the light.
Demyan wordlessly took his hand.
“Shut up!” Kuoppala howled.
“Life isn’t something you can control,” Kaija called. “No matter how much you try. How can you not know that when you’ve lived it?”
Toivo struggled to restrain his power as the shadows spilled in through Demyan’s palm. Their spirits crashed and fought in the space around them, both so much stronger than they were alone.
“We struggle. We survive. This terrible, ugly, beautiful life, this light that burns in the darkness. This…” Kaija opened her arms as though to encompass the world. “…is Kalevia.”
The word breached the dam of Toivo’s power, and sent him and the shadows wrapped around him shooting down through the building. In his time on Earth, this was the closest Zophiel had ever come to the bodiless freedom that he longed for; he felt Solas rejoicing beside him and throughout him.
What Kalevia was to Kaija–her home, her prison, her sorrow, her love–raced into the minds of the crowd below. Sudden memories flitted through the thoughts of every member of the elite as they listened to the Memorial speech.
For the first time in ages, they could see clearly, the truth of the past laid bare before them in a patchwork of love and loss. What had their lives been up until that point? What had Kalevia been to them and what had they been to Kalevia? A famous composer swelled with gratitude and pride; an admiral sighed with bitter regret. The Forestry Minister started to cry softly into his handkerchief.
Up on the podium, the Chairman paused for a moment, looking glassy-eyed into the floodlights.
He remembered fighting for his homeland, but when he returned as a decorated veteran, his dream of home was no more. Though battered and impoverished, Kalevia was still there, but his wife was gone forever.
Her singing voice still haunted him, and he couldn’t forget her smile as she had smoothed the unruly strands of his thinning hair into place. The hardest thing was watching Vesa grow and seeing the echoes of her lingering in the son she never knew–her red-blonde hair, her stubborn optimism. He had thrown himself into his work to try to forget, but he knew he never would. He had only managed to lose sight of all the important things in his life. Compassion. Forgiveness.
Kuoppala screamed, his eyes bulging as he was dragged on the unfamiliar tide. Toivo was yanked back into the tower to experience Kuoppala’s confusion and madness as emotion poured in, seemingly from the abominations in front of him. For the first time in his life, Kuoppala felt the weight of the world he lived in.
Was this how they all lived, so afraid, yet…? He hadn’t understood. The young rebel shielding Vesa–the look in her eyes. All of them, all of Kalevia…
He didn’t know how they lived with such pain.
As Kuoppala spun and ran to the window, Toivo felt him burn with a painfully human regret. It was the last clear emotion before Kuoppala hurled himself through the glass.
Kaija sagged to the floor almost immediately, Vesa’s unconscious body dragging them both down. Toivo moved to rouse them, but Demyan pulled him back.
“That was a bit too much for them,” he said, letting go of Toivo’s hand. “Let them be. They’ll sleep it off and forget.”
Toivo shuddered as he looked at the shards of glass clinging to the edges of the window frame. “Is it over?”
“Wait.” Before Toivo realized what he meant, Demyan had already stepped toward the automatic lamp that awaited the sunset, and deftly plucked a short coil of wire from the explosive device. He regarded the severed terminal for a moment before tossing it aside with a snort. Gently, he eased the brown pack of chemical putty out from under the lamp and set it on the floor; only then did he look back at Toivo.
“Now it’s over.”
That was the moment. Toivo could feel it leaving them–the tension that bound them to this place diffusing like mist in the sun. Demyan stood, his eyes closed, and Toivo watched him sigh, echoing the shudder that ran through Toivo’s body at the advent of complete freedom.
“What now?” Toivo whispered, reaching toward Demyan. The call of the darkness remained even as he felt his other ties fade. Zophiel curled his hand around the back of Solas’ neck.
The lamp turned on. Dusk had fallen.
Proceed to Chapter 13, page 2–>