Slipping Away to Pain and Rage

[mood music]

The heat inside him is rising, burning at every stray cell, bumping every atom into a frenzy, blurring his vision and skyrocketing his pulse. His lungs feel light and liquid-filled, as if they are ready to explode at any given moment. His steps lost meaning nearly fifty blocks back. He doesn't feel the pavement beneath him anymore. He's floating, lost in a haze as time around him warps and twists. Whispers of what has been and what could have been and what could still yet be nip at him from every direction. Ignoring their siren song, his own eyes stay fixed on the glowing lights of the Monarch Solutions building rising in the distance.

The glass and steel monolith is a gorgeous, gleaming tower in the night, the largest one in Riverport and a true marvel of engineering. Its reflective surfaces capture the light pollution of the city and the glow of the harbor and airport nearby, sucking it in and refracting a dim, comforting glow. It is much-needed healing for a city without a doctor.

He is not about to take up that role.

Riverport, Massachusetts is large, but downtown is walkable, especially this late at night. The streetlights blaze down, causing the sweat beading on his face to roll. It's the feeling of hyperventilation combined with the floating of freefall. The knowledge that nothing around him is exempt to what he knows is coming keeps the separation he feels even more poignant. But he's walked alone now for a long time, and he'll keep doing so. He survived the events of 2016. He survived the disaster that ruined his life and stole his best friend from him.

But he doesn't think he can survive himself.

Not for much longer.

He'd always been silver tongued, a gifted businessman and one hell of a speaker. But he had never been a scientist. So why did he decide to play god? Vanity. Sheer vanity. The fame it would have brought him...the MONEY...he gambled everything on time travel, and he lost it all just as quickly.

By trying to stop his own mistake, by trying to stop himself from facing the fate that awaited him, he only came to cause it himself. Fired into the terrifying future and yanked back to 1999, forced to relieve 17 years of his life in hiding from everyone he'd ever known, forced to try to sleep with the memories of what he'd seen at the end of time, Serene twisted into something bitter and harsh, like a flower in the desert.

Time would end. It would take the world with it.

He would not let humanity end with it.

He's seen the end. He knows what comes. And so he devoted himself to preparing, to building an empire, to becoming the monster he knew he must to ensure that darkness didn't wipe out every snuff of innocence and joy from the oblivious around him. He feels fragile. He feels alone.

And he knows he's dying. He's becoming the enemy. No miracle of medicine, magic, or science can stop it. He sold his soul to a machine, and his payment is to be fractured into irreparable pieces, caught up in a cycle of life and death, tormented until clarity returns of its own accord.

He's slipping away to pain and rage.

And he's not so sure he wants to stop it.

He chose to make sacrifices to fix his mistake- more than most would do, or so he tells himself. He continues to make them, and continues to push his failing body to its limit. The treatments aren't working. His breathing is labored. His immune system is shutting down. He's whithering away, never a particularly intimidating man in a physical sense to begin with. But to see him quake when trying to see him stumble to just walk down the will ruin him. It will ruin his company's thoughts of him. The press will tear him apart.

They'll claim cancer. AIDS. Worse.

But he knows the truth.

Exposure to the very particles that allow time travel, the very ones that gave him his abilities, is killing him.

And god help the next poor bastard who falls into the same trap.

So he'll burn in his rage and he'll turn his pain into power, because nobody else will guard against the inevitable. No one else is willing to make the hard decisions. So he'll be the monster. He'll be the beast.

The world- and his life- will end on his own terms.

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Paul runs on anger and chocolate. James runs on minimal sleep.

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