To Settle All Accounts of the Heart
rating: +17+x

Please turn off your cell phones and pagers.

The house lights dim, the murmurs fade, and there is quiet in the theater.

Oh, so quiet. The tomb is nothing to this stillness.

The hour is late, and the moment wears its track in stone and passes, to marks the show’s beginning.

The author takes the stage: a small, scared man. The sheets of sweat-stained loose leaf clenched in his hand are useless – fragments of a speech, crossed out and blotted up. He takes his place in the oasis of light on that smooth field of black, stands at the podium.

He looks out at the rows of red faux-velvet seats, and through the gloom he glimpses the faces he cannot bear to see. He turns his face away, to look down at his worthless notes. His hands grip the sides of the podium as if it might offer some stability. The stage heaves under him, a vast, black ship on a silent, sunless sea.

A part of his heart is broken.

The author speaks.

“I’m sorry that, ah, this was kinda last minute.”

The crowd listens.

“I know I’ve been out for a while. Had some things to take care of. Things to think over. It’s been pretty rough the last few months.”

The crowd listens still.

“And, ah…yeah.” The author scratches at his beard. “I know we’d had some big plans we were working on, but… they’re not going to pan out. I can’t take any of you with me. I know we’d talked about that being a possibility, but I never really considered it seriously – I just hoped things would fall into place, like a fool.”

The crowd murmurs. The author despairs.

“I don’t want to leave you…but I can’t take you with me, and I can’t stay here. There’s nothing left here for me – it’s old and grey and hollowed out. Except for you guys. But there are chains around your wrists, and I’m the fucking fool who put them there. I signed you all away.”

The author sighs, his fingers clenching tighter on his podium as the light swims in his eyes.

“I can’t keep going like this, halfway to dreams that can’t happen. So I’m here to…” His voice buckles. “Here to set accounts in order.”

The author looks up, and his eyes meet the silent crowd.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of you who won’t get endings. I’m sorry for all of you whose middles needed more work. I’m sorry for all of you who had big plans that I never followed up on. I’m sorry for giving you away. You deserve so much more, and so much better, and I can’t give it to you.”

The moment hangs still.

“Thank you. Thank you for your time and inspiration. Thank you for being here, for being with me, through the years. Thank you for everything.”

In the seats, the crowd…

Vast, feathered Nahash, nibbling at his tail.

Hakhama-Sophia, ticking away the last remaining minutes of the multiverse on interlocked spheres of celestial bronze.

Lord Theodore Thomas Blackwood, sitting in his bowl. Jonathan Deeds I and II.

Boss and Wizard, Momoko, Hana, Nanami and Tomi.

Alai and her glorious veiled Empress.

Barcode, Ramses, Whalebone, Kramer, Hubert, Avinder, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, et al.

The old, maligned crew of revivals-turned-castaways – blind Adam with his dogs and dandelion puff hair, Francis with his television head, fat Ben with his butterflies, Epona and Connor and Jack and all the rest.

The Brothers Bailey. The Bastard Princess. Harker-who-Killed-the-Shark. Tabitha Foster. Forty. Iris Laskaris. The Whore and the Cop. The DEER. Thsassashan'aa and her hidden daughter. Ahlama and Jun. The elder Wondertainment in his toywork chair. Combin fishermen and Initiative benchwarmers, interview doctors and placeholder research staff. Men and women in Kevlar, who never had names beyond their shared jokes.

Isabel, Emma, and cock-eyed Jeremy.

A’habbat and Grace. Hevel Ab-Leshal, Qayim the Penitent, Set the Hidden. The Stars and the Giants. Wonder-Makers and Song-Weavers and Fire-Builders. Thirty-Six nameless saints.


The crowd rises.

And softly, there is a song.

Hm-mm - I want to linger,
Hm-mm —a little longer,
Hm-mm —a little longer here with you.

Hm-mm —it's such a perfect night,
Hm-mm —it doesn't seem quite right
Hm-mm —that this should be my last with you.

Hm-mm —and come September,
Hm-mm —I will remember,
Hm-mm –this perfect night I spent with you,

Hm-mm —and as the years go by,
Hm-mm —I'll think of you and cry
Hm-mm —this is goodnight and not goodbye

Hm-mm - I want to linger,
Hm-mm —a little longer,
Hm-mm —a little longer here with you.

And there is stillness.

Oh, such stillness around the fire that was life.

The crowd takes to the isles, and in single file each one comes to the stage, to put their accounts in order. To each, there are a few words spoken - a handshake, a hug, a goodbye. To some, the goodbyes are swift, painless – the author had bid them farewell long ago, or their relationship had been one only of pleasant passing. Dozens of minor acquaintances pass off into the night.

Each in turn takes their leave, and walks off stage into the darkness, and the line grows ever shorter, the world ever closer to ending. The nameless become the named, the goodbyes become more difficult. There is more memory to carry across that stage, and its tracks are heavier still.

There are more apologies – for unfinished stories, for arcs left unstarted, for those who never got their chance to shine, for venom held long past due. There is more thanksgiving, of stories well told and adventures well had.

The theater empties.

The catgirls exit right, and there are few left now.

Isabel takes the stage, beaming as widely as the day she was made.


“Bah! Pah! Pffftbblblblbllbllbft! Raspberry noises!” She punches the author in the shoulder. “No more of that mopey talk from you! I’m not going anywhere. I just change my name and my face, is all.” She smiles gap-toothed, and galaxies spin behind her eyes.

It was to be revealed, when the King had been cast down, when she had danced with the greatest Death at the end of the world, that God was a girl who wore mismatched socks.

The author smiles, and looks to her assistant.

“Emma, thanks for keeping her in one piece.”

“It’s what I’m here for.”

There’s a small time, when they talk of how they were going to save the world, and the author’s heart is lightened for a while.

“It’s time to go,” Emma says, pulling on Isabel’s hand. “We’re holding up the line.”

“Right. Okay.” She waved to the author. “Seeya later, alligator! After while, crocodile! Hold on to your tookus, sarchosuchus! Jeremy! Don’t roll in that, that’s nasty!”

And then there were three. A girl and her father, and one more.

The girl with a hat full of sky and a mind full of books gave the author a notebook with all the pages still blank.

“I had an extra,” she said.

Her father gave the author a firm handshake.

“Thank you,” he said, and that was all. He took his daughter by the hand and passed under the glowing red EXIT, into darkness.

And then there was one.

Mary-Ann said nothing as she crossed the stage, as she met the author’s wet eyes.

“You and your family were the best things I ever made,” the author said.

“Because we were part of you.”

“Yeah, you were. You most of all.”

She hugged the author, one last time. The author wept.

“I had it all planned out,” he said. “A better story for you three. A better world than this.”

“I still got my happy ending, man.”

“You would have lived.”

“I never died.”

“It still hurts.”

“I know. But we’re not gone forever.”

She let him go, and he dried his eyes.

“We’ve ended on this theme twice now,” he said.

“I fucking love hugs.” She smiled. “Take care, man,” she said, clapping him on the shoulder.

“You too.”

Mary-Ann Lewitt, a woman who carried the author’s heart, exited stage right.

And the author stood awhile in the stillness and the quiet, before the stage lights went down, and all was dark.

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