James Blackshaw – Part VI
The group of people in black suits surrounded a fresh grave. Everyone who used to work with Dr. Kondraki and lived to tell the tale was present: Gears, Alto Clef, Kain Pathos Crow (for the sake of decency he agreed to be wearing a collar), Simmons, several assistants and also a young beautiful woman who had tried to pass herself off as the widow of the deceased, but during the funeral was identified as Jack Bright.
A priest was performing the rite. Afterwards the coffin was lowered and covered up with soil. It seemed highly unnatural for such a wayward troublemaker like Kondraki to lie peacefully inside a wooden box and not try doing something about it. Everybody seemed a bit confused, as if not knowing whether to mourn or breathe a sigh of relief.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.
Gradually the small gathering started to disband. Foundation members, inured to lose their colleagues and witness death, were leaving without turning back, as if they wanted to close this chapter of their lives. Dr. Clef was the only one who took his time. People were walking by, passing the stout, hunched up Training and Development Director’s silhouette. Dr. Gears stopped beside him for a moment with a questioning look, but Clef only made a "nothing for you to see here" gesture with his eyebrows.
Eventually there was only a single person left on the whole graveyard. Stepping towards the freshly-covered grave still fragrant with the questionably fresh smell of earth and cemetery dew, Clef pulled out a bottle of Heineken beer that he was hiding underneath his clothes during the whole ceremony, and opened it against the edge of the grave. Several foamy drops fell on the tombstone.
“There is your blessing”, Clef muttered, moving aside to stand in front of the gravestone. He gave it a reprimanding look.
"Well, well, Konny. You were one hell of a bastard, and everybody knows that. Of course they wouldn’t have spoken all this goody-good bullshit about you if not for the funeral regulations. As for James Blackshaw…” Clef smirked. "This was Kain's idea, although I told him you'd like Beethoven more".
He took a gulp from the bottle and fell silent for a few minutes.
“But you know what? I would never have imagined you to wind down so fast. Really. It was you who started this whole Duke mess, rode the Reptile; you tricked Able himself in swordplay. And now? You just a bag of bones, aren't you? And here we are!”
Clef stared at the name and the years of life carved on the tombstone, as if the rock could understand him. A mischievous grin flashed across the face of the “father of lies”.
“By the way, there is something I can tell you now that I've never told anybody. You can keep a secret, can't you, my dead friend?”
The cemetery answered him with quiet rustle of leaves, mixed with distant noise of passing cars, and the morning fog swayed lightly in the hollows.
“Ok. I see, you're interested. After all, you were always itching to take a picture of my face, didn’t you? It was a matter of professional honour for you, right? And what made you think I actually had a face? Did you notice, Konny, that people saw me differently? Someone even mentioned the third eye, but he was made a laughing-stock. Seriously, who would come up with something like that?..” Clef rubbed his forehead. “If you were even a little familiar with the Bible, Konny (which I doubt), you probably heard about the guy with six wings and four faces. But let me tell you, it’s just the beginning. My case is much worse”.
Clef took another swing from the bottle, brushed the beer “moustache” off his upper lip and carried on.
“Okay, let’s take a look at it from a different perspective. Here you all are, unanimously calling me a liar. I am used to not take offense, I even play along. But nothing of what I said was a lie. Was it the truth?" Clef smirked. “Lil once asked me about it. She was like: “Tell me the truth”. I laughed. My god, how I laughed, Konny. You are all so narrow-minded. You have invented such ridiculous things like truth, lies, fate, justice, egg pillows. They don’t exist, Konny. They don’t exist. Except for the egg pillows. The O5 Command sweated for such a long time over my PDA after that incident trying to recover the audio. They hired experts to recognize the motions of my lips on the video feed. I can’t know for certain, but I’m almost sure they tried. Do you know what they would have found there if they had searched properly? My laughter. Whole lotta laughs! And also a few words mentioning that whatever I said would always be true,” Clef slurred the last words, reaching for the bottle again.
"Or maybe none of that. So you all better leave me alone with this crap. You are just primitive creatures with linear fates. How can I explain to you what multiplane reality is? You can’t even understand wave–particle duality. Well, take yourself for example, Konny. If you knew what I know, you wouldn’t be lying in this coffin like a piece of lazy shit. You would have overcome death and stood right behind me!”
Clef shrugged, barely keeping from looking back.
“I am anything and everything. I am all that you can possibly imagine. God? Will do. The Devil? Fine! No, really, why are you thinking inside the box?” Clef laughed one more time. “I liked you, Konny. I liked your vision of me. And I liked being what you saw me as. I told you, all of this is just an illusion. Like your butterflies. Speaking of which. I know that you aren’t there in the coffin. I also know that you’ve locked the little ones several meters under ground without a single drop of sugar syrup. You are a magnificent bastard, Konny, you are. I know that you’re out there! You wouldn’t have lost an opportunity to attend your own funeral! All of us wish for it deep at heart – to jump out of the coffin shouting “surprise!” So c’mon! Come outside!”
Clef looked around. He peered into the trees, the tombs… the air – maybe a butterfly wing would suddenly flutter by. He waited for about a minute, with a bright smile that wouldn’t leave his face, then laughed nervously – and fell silent. He was alone. Really alone.
“Miserable bag of bones”, he muttered, taking several steps away, but looking at the grave until the last moment. Then he tucked the bottle into his coat pocket and walked away without looking back.