There was an amazingly tall stack of cardboard boxes in Arsenios Zabat's living room. Unlike the similarly spectacular cobwebs from the ceiling or the ultimate pile of scrap paper scattered on the floor, this particular mess was a new one. Arsenios had spent the entire day meticulously packing all of his belongings in those boxes, and now, just before midnight, he was finally sure he hadn't forgotten anything1. As if to prove that point to himself, Arsenios dug his hand into one of the upper boxes, letting his fingers brush over the box's contents (a series of photographs taken years ago, a tennis trophy, fake and plastic but spray-painted gold, and a ridiculous yellow scarf which belonged to his brother, to name a few).
A small creak emanated from the door behind him. At first, Arsenios dismissed it as the wind, but then he remembered: he had closed the window.
LEAVING, ARE WE?
Arsenios spun round where he stood, so fast he felt whiplash resulting afterwards. On the door stood a tall man, decked entirely and properly in white, with long arms folded across his chest. Arsenios made a small smile at him2 and replied:
"Yes," he said, quite bluntly. Then: "Are you sure you won't come with me, Rowland?"
COME WITH YOU? Rowland took several slow paces into the living room, and Arsenios involuntarily flinched backward. There was something unusually severe with Rowland tonight - some undertone of barely contained rage - that frightened Arsenios beyond that which he was willing to admit. HOW COULD I COME WITH YOU, AFTER WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO ME?
Arsenios made a limp shrug. "I thought you'd at least consider it."
Rowland paused. He was, by then, hovering dangerously close now, but Arsenios made no effort to move away. YOU BETRAYED ME.
"I never meant to," Arsenios' tone was apologetic.
Rowland ignored his words. YOU SAID YOU'D NEVER BETRAY ME. BUT YOU DID.
"It was for the good of-"
OF MANKIND? OF THE OTHERS? Rowland shook his head, almost like a teacher looking sorely disappointed by a student who failed to multiply the number one by one3. STOP BEING SO NAIVE, ARSENIOS.
Arsenios blinked. Rowland's words stung more than he expected they would, but he was determined not to show it. "Then stop being such a cynic, yourself, and I'll consider it even!" He took a deep breath, steadying himself, before continuing. "This is just the first step, Rowland. First, we gain their trust, and then-"
AND THEN, Rowland was dissonantly serene; in fact, he stood so still he might as well be a white marble statue that happened to have a disembodied voice somewhere near it. THEY SHALL BETRAY US AGAIN, AND MISTREAT US AGAIN, LIKE THEY DID BEFORE. YOU KNOW IT AS MUCH AS I DO, ARSENIOS. THEY'LL NEVER RESPECT US.
Arsenios made no reply. Instead, he endeavoured to shake his head in his saturnine manner. When Rowland saw that there was no incoming answer, he placed a clammy hand on the younger man's shoulder and began speaking again.
YOU AND I, WE CAN SHOW THEM ALL. DON'T DO THIS - COME WITH ME.
Silence. Then -
"I'm sorry, Rowland."
1: Besides, that is, the lump of dough still stuck on the ceiling, which he was rather determined to not remember.
2: He still isn't sure how much of it was a smile and how much of it a grimace; the two expressions are awfully similar.
3: In fact, looking precisely like Arsenios' first grade teacher did when a particularly dumb student failed to multiply the number one by one.
*sighs deeply* That was honestly the best I could do to go all Pterry. I'm afraid I didn't manage to imitate more than footnotes and Death (WHO SPEAKS LIKE THIS), and maybe some ridiculous attempt at wisecracking1. Oh, well.
1: So ridiculous, in fact, that Peter Parker would probably fill my hair with webbing were he present to read them.
Glossary of La Reinaisms
Aheheh: onomatopoeia for a chuckle, esp. a mischievous one
Hurm: onomatopoeia for thinking; a standard reply when all else fails
Spam: an all-purpose word