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Dusk in Kalevia: Chapter 6

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #012 back issue.

“Ah, it’s been too long since someone’s called me Solas,” said the man in the shadows. “I’ve been going by Demyan lately.”

The name had come to Toivo on instinct, bubbling up from some hidden corner of his mind. He couldn’t articulate what it was about those eyes: they spoke to him across the vast reaches of forgotten lives, sending menacing flashes of danger he once knew. He tried to remember more, but the details eluded him.

No matter, he thought. I don’t care. This was the enemy the angelic station agent had warned him about. Now that Toivo knew what he was, he could almost feel his rival’s emptiness like a magnetic field opposite his own, pulling him toward his inevitable downfall. Like a deer watching a tiger slinking through the grass, he didn’t need clear memories of this beast to know that it came to kill.

He twisted in his chair as Demyan vanished behind him.

“Hey, what are you–”

Toivo was surprised by the sensation of hands on his own, tinkering with the cuffs that bound his chafed, swollen wrists. A click, and he was free. Almost afraid to look at his hands, he raised them up slowly, flexing his fingers as he waited for full feeling to return.

“Can you stand?” Demyan asked.

Toivo wasn’t sure, but he tried. Halfway out of the chair, his knees buckled. Demyan’s hands shot out and Toivo sagged against him, his weight held up by the arms of his adversary.

A chill ran down Toivo’s spine.

He’s toying with me before the end, he realized. What else could it be?

It’s not enough to crush an entire nation, he has to play his sick games with me, too?

“Stop it! Just…stop!” Toivo shook Demyan off and struggled to back away, his arms held out to ward off the taller man. He could feel his temper rising like a fevered gale. “If you’re going to kill me, just get it over with!”

Demyan’s jaw tightened. “That’s not what I–”

“Then why else would you lock me up here, you son of a bitch? You’ve won! Enough with this cat and mouse act–just shoot me already!”

“I’m not going to kill you!” Demyan burst out, unexpected frustration in his voice. He growled and averted his eyes, clearly suppressing something. “Break from our standard protocol, I know, but for now you’re more useful to me alive.”

“Whatever you want me for,” Toivo shot back, “I won’t do it. Try your worst on me–I won’t sell them out.”

“This is about more than those backwoods rebels you think you can save, Zophiel. Killing you may have been the plan until I discovered important information about the future of this conflict–something far bigger than either of our two sides.”

Demyan held out his hand, almost entreating. Toivo recoiled from it, drawing himself back into a defensive stance.

“Listen to me,” Demyan said coldly. “Something terrible is going to happen, Zophiel. But if we work together…”

Toivo clenched his hands into fists. “Are you asking me to defect?”

“In so many words.”

Toivo drew in a deep breath, a new rage swelling up inside him.

He couldn’t remember the last time he was angry. He knew sadness and disappointment well–humans depressed him with their daily failures and cruelties–but he always bore that with grace, assuming they couldn’t help themselves. Demyan, however, wasn’t human, nor was he plagued by the human ignorance that Toivo had long ago learned to bear.

As Toivo stared at Demyan, his gaze locked on the somber face of his opposite who stole the precious hope he bestowed upon humanity, any remaining misery inside him melted into fury.

This dark angel was asking him to be a double agent?

Toivo’s fist snapped out with a vigor that surprised even him. It caught Demyan in the gut with a satisfying thud, and he doubled over with a groan.

“Go to hell!”

Demyan recovered fast and rushed for him, but Toivo was ready. Toivo was a different animal now–fighting for survival.

Adrenaline erasing the pain from his lingering injuries, he dodged and wove, his combat training flooding back to him. Toivo struck Demyan a blow to his cheek, hard enough to snap his head to the side, and received a punch to his newly healed ribs in return. Toivo swore to himself that he wouldn’t go down without a fight. He thought back to the barn full of partisans, lantern-lit in the Kalevian dawn, and knew it would be the same for them. If they were to die, they hoped they would die with honor, on their own terms.

As he threw a cross, Demyan managed to capture his arm, and they grappled, abandoning words for grunts and gasps. For a moment Toivo found himself staring once more into those ancient eyes, before he was hurled back; Demyan flung himself full-force to pin him against the concrete wall. He struggled against Demyan’s weight, trying to free his wrists, hoping to land one more punch…

“Enough,” whispered Demyan, and dropped the barrier on his mind.

It was like the closing of a circuit, a current flowing between two polarities. Toivo felt a searching soul so like his own, and below it, a great darkness–a longing, sorrowful ache that compressed all of humanity’s need into a single, perfect force.

Fear.

This wasn’t the trickle of panic or the dull throb of worry that pricked at Toivo from the people around him. This was pure fear–a bottomless well down which hope vanished. Just as Toivo was drawn to human fear, longing to burn it away in his light, Demyan’s nature pulled at him, a siren call luring him into its inescapable depths.

Intense, unknown memories surged through Toivo’s brain–other lifetimes and far-off lands all mixed together, each carrying a taste or smell, a flood of supersaturated human emotion. Onion domes above Red Square, rolling plains, the smell of horses, the red glint of a glass of wine. Wartime, ruined streets, shells falling and falling like apocalyptic rain. A girl, her face familiar yet distant. A gunshot.

Toivo twisted in Demyan’s grasp. It was too much, too much. He felt compelled to watch the flutter of mental pictures, but was afraid of what he might see. Toivo’s body jerked; his temple rammed into Demyan’s jaw. With his face pressed up against Demyan’s neck, Toivo could smell the cloves and orange peel of the man’s aftershave.

He was confused for a moment; he couldn’t tell whether he wanted to pull him closer or push him away. What was happening?

“Why do we have to keep doing this?” Demyan breathed in his ear.

Toivo closed his shaking hands into fists under Demyan’s grip.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

“Think about what I said.” Demyan suddenly released him and backed away, dragging the magnetic chaos from Toivo’s body. He turned abruptly toward the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a job to do.”

The cell door slammed. Toivo slid down the wall and sat on the floor, trying to make sense of the world.

Proceed to Chapter 6, page 2–>