The student struck, without hesitation, spilling the senator’s blood.  Before the senator felt the pain, before he could make even the slightest noise, he was made equal to us all in death as the sharp synthetic blade was stabbed downward, through his cerebellum and windpipe.  Just as quickly, the long knife was withdrawn and swept clean centrifugally, leaving a dark, red arc on the floor as the senator’s body was eased to the floor by the back of his green robe.

Silently, the master dropped from the rafters where he had perched, invisible as malice itself, watching his favorite pupil earn the right to be named. Now, he stood looking at the boy who had just recently seen his twelfth summer, watching him stare down at his mark passionlessly despite the apparent thought that played in his face.

“How long until the guard?” asked the boy.

“Not until dawn.”

The boy sheathed his knife and turned the corpse onto its back.  Though the master was concerned, he did not show it.  What was this hesitation in escape?

“What do you feel?” asked the master.

“Curious,” said the boy, cocking his head and sitting on the chest of his victim so as to stare into his lifeless eyes.

Eyes that had seen the rise of mankind, beyond the solar system.  Eyes that had looked into a daughter’s face and had been made, then, beautiful in a foreboding way.  Eyes that had watched hookers strip in seedy motel rooms for him and that had, sometimes in the same night, been drawn to his own wife’s beauty and grace.  Irises that constricted in sunlight, pupils that opened in moonlight, retinas that read the light that brought information and policies to a powerful mind: all made functionless as a red pool congealed into brown.

The boy knew all these things.  A perfect killer knows his mark as intimately as a great lover knows the anatomy of romance.  He watched the reflections in those cold, lifeless vessels as, through the skylight, the countless darting craft fled hither and thither through the pitch black of night above them, like particles may scatter in water when a stone is dropped.  He looked for the greatness of the man, the steel that had brought him through the muck and infamy of political life.  He looked for the love of a father and the cruelty of a husband: for the strength of an icon and the weakness of humanity.

They told him that there was no soul: but if there wasn’t, then why would men and women bother?  Why be great if it doesn’t last?  He held defiantly to his mind’s little rebellion, in his belief in the atman.  He knew that it was in those gates, still trapped, waiting to go on to a new state.  This could not be the answer, the final, senseless resolution to all the equation.  He did not want to believe such a thing.

But, what, then, is the sum of a man’s life?  The most noble will perish and their eyes will dilate, finally, in submission just as the despot’s will.  Like a cobra in high wheat fields, death slides inexorably toward its only food, life, from the moment we are laid as infants, crying, into the middle of its domain.  Here, there was no evidence, not even a clue as to the soul and, in his pragmatic mind, no evidence equaled no knowledge, equaled no belief.

The light of his belief faded over hours, as he stared into the light-danced mirrors of un-perception below him and his posture faded with it as he hunched into surrender to his own logic, oh, so slowly.  He realized that he, too, would be as this man.  All his skills would die and deadly hand would wither.  No more would he feel the familiar, comforting burden of duty and the approval of his teacher.  Even as he stared into the nothing of dead eyes, the nothing stared back and swallowed him.

Dawn was coming.

“What do you see?” asked his master.

“Nothing,” replied the boy, “An ocean of void.”

The boy was thereafter named Voidgazer, for the wisdom that brought him to maturity was gleaned from the void itself, his master surmised.

Master and student disappeared into the night, snakes in tall grass...




Story by Tom Callahan
Copyright 2001 Voidgazer Ltd.
Graphic by Tony Phillips
Copyright 2004 Xtaticmusic/Voidgazer Ltd.

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