We here present you with a scene that has gone through several incarnations but is rather important to the series as a whole. It involves our MC, Sable and a figure that has attracted much debate, The Stranger. This scene is one draft of many of their first ‘official’ meeting
The figure remained where it was, in the half-shadow of the corner although the light from dirty windows above was shining directly onto it. Somehow the face, shaded a little by the wide brim of its hat remained completely in shadow despite being right under a window. Sable paced the room in a half circle in front of the figure, inspecting it. It wore a long dark coat made of what looked like patchworked leather panels which looked worn but somehow also new. It also wore a stiff leather hat of a similar hue with a wide brim. Again, the hat was creased and wrinkled in places but looked new. The outfit was completed by what looked like smooth leather trousers and nondescript leather boots of a worn greyish black. Again, all looked used but new. The figure appeared to be male but there was no real way to tell for the clothes were loose, giving no real hint at its gender, he just assumed it to be male for some reason he could not identify. Maybe it was the style or cut of the clothing. No matter what angle he looked at the face under the hat from, it remained in shadow, a formless dark. The figure inclined its head at the inspection.
"You've been following me." He stated simply.
The hat lifted and dropped in a nod, though no more of the face revealed itself. The dark gloved hands appeared to clench and unclench. Its poise was one of relaxed menace, it looked ready to either flee or attack.
Sable simply smiled.
I have always followed you, Sarael. The voice intruded in his mind, toneless and sexless. You are different. You study me. When others see me, their eyes slide off me and do their best to look elsewhere. Even your father will not look me in the eye.
Sable laughed for some reason he could not fathom, something to do with the strange way it had pronounced his name perhaps. "You have no eyes to look at as far as I can tell." He observed.
The figure again shifted position. It crossed its arms and leaned back on the wall. One well-made boot supporting its weight. You laugh but do you feel amused? It seemed genuinely interested despite the colourless voice. Now he thought about it, the thing lacked colour in almost everything, unless that colour was a slightly faded black.
Sable found the room's only chair and sat down on it, crossing his legs and leaning back a little. "Why would you ask me a question like that?"
It intrigues me. You intrigue me. You are different but I do not know how.
"I intrigue you." It was a statement, not a question.
Again, the hat nodded slowly. Uncrossing its arms, it removed a slim, black cigarette case from one of many pockets on its jacket. It extracted a dark cigarette and returned the case to its home. The cigarette disappeared into the shadow of the hat, going between a pair of invisible lips. Out came a regular pack of matches, just like the free ones you'd get from a hotel or restaurant. It tore off a match and struck it to life before moving the burning match to the tip of its cigarette. Sable noticed the dancing flame did nothing to illuminate the void of a face, just made the shadow darker. It tossed the spent match on the floor and inhaled, the tip of the cigarette blazing ruby red for a moment before settling down to a steady orange. The hand came up and removed cigarette from lips, a long stream of smoke puffing out from where the mouth should be. The figure sat down on a chair which Sable could have sworn was not there a second ago. It crossed long legs in a reflection of his posture. It took two more long drags on its dark cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke at Sable. Oddly the smell of the smoke did not carry the acrid and bitter scent of tobacco but something indefinable and strange. The figure pointed at Sable with its cigarette.
You have a smart mouth. It said and flicked ash from its smoke. You are supposed to be assailed by doubts and worries in my presence, but you make jokes. You should be feeling the hand of the last shadow on your shoulder, the chill and the absolute emptiness of oblivion but you appear unconcerned and quite relaxed. Although the voice was empty of emotion it sounded annoyed.
"Who says that I must feel what you describe?"
It is how it is. The figure said simply, taking another draw of the cigarette before expelling more of the strange-smelling smoke. There is neither arbiter nor maker of rules. Everyone else reacts this way, even your father does. He and his co-conspirators despise me yet forget about me the instant I leave. It pointed with cigarette again. You though. You study me.
"I do that a lot; I'm told it makes people uncomfortable."
I am the discomfort of others, so I do not experience this emotion. I experience emotions not at all in fact. It tossed the dead cigarette to the bare concrete of the floor and crushed it beneath a booted heel. Until now. Now I feel interest. How novel.
"I do that to people too I hear." Sable smirked. "Got one of those smokes going spare?" Sable didn't really want one, but he was gauging this creature's reactions.
To his delight, the figure shrugged its shoulders and passed him case and matchbook smoothly, bending forward at the waist to close the gap between them. Still nothing showed of its face. Sable took the proffered items and, in a moment of great daring, touched where he guessed glove and coat sleeve should meet. He felt a jolt of purest cold which hit him like a bolt of electricity. It zapped his hand and travelled up his arm and was gone. It was the most curious sensation he had ever felt, he really wasn’t sure whether he liked it or not. He pressed his fingers together once or twice experimentally, feeling the figure's gaze upon him as sensation returned.
That was not wise. It observed. You really are not afraid, are you?
Sable said nothing. He studied the cold metal of the cigar case. Again, it looked new but then it did not. He opened it and saw that it was, even though his new friend was smoking one, still full of dark cigarettes which looked factory made and not hand-rolled like he'd thought they would be. The Matches were from a hotel just outside of Atlanta. Odd. He extracted one of the dark cylinders and placed it between his lips. He struck a match and lit the cigarette, inhaling the smoke. It tasted like a normal cigarette despite the strange smell he'd detected earlier. He took a good lungful and savoured it. He wasn't a regular smoker, but this tasted good, it may well have been the best cigarette he had ever tasted.
The dark figure appeared to be somewhat perplexed. It is enjoyable to you? It asked, clearly a leading question.
Sable pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. He took another puff and nodded, expelling the smoke right back at the dark figure who was now leaning back again.
Who are you? There was no tone of whatever this creature might be feeling. Sable imagined it was either concern or frustration. He'd accept either so leaned back and enjoyed the smoke for a moment before answering.
"I am Sable." He stated simply. "What I really think is more important is who youare." He took a long drag and exhaled the sweet smoke.
What is the truest bane of Man? It asked cryptically.
"Death I suppose," Sable said after a moment's thought. Tossing his cigarette to the ground and grinding it out with his shoe. "Ceasing to be."
He figure made a noise which sounded like it could have been laughter. It would have been had the one laughing been dead for a very long time. It sounded more like a dusty croak of hissing noise, broken glass ground underfoot...No, try again.
Sable looked the figure straight in the eyes it lacked, trying to figure out whether it was playing with him or not. He guessed it wasn't but how could one be sure with no face to read?
"It has to be death; they'll do everything and anything to avoid it. Their whole society, philosophy and art is made to deny or make more pleasant the idea of their eventual ceasing to occupy this plane of existence."
Half right. The figure had lit another cigarette and was smoking it in what looked like a mocking fashion. It is not death which concerns them it is ceasing to be. Ultimately, they are afraid of nothing.
"That makes no sense." Sable protested.
Not afraid of nothing in the way you appear to be. It clarified. They are afraid of the absence of anything. Of dying and that, as one might say, being that. It made an enfolding gesture with its gloved hands.
"But you - I believe - and I both know that not to be true. We know Heaven exists."
Ah but they, it gestured with an open hand in a circle. They do not. Why do you think that they, unlike you, have this unending fear of darkness?
"Darkness?" Sable could still taste the tobacco in his mouth.
They look away from the shadows. They create brighter and brighter lights to exile it from their cities, to hide it away, except they cannot dismiss it entirely. Whenever they close their eyes it is all there is. Yet they do their best to deny it. To drown out its call, to hide its presence. They do not want to see what awaits them within the shadows. They don’t know what is there, but they are afraid and invent. It lowered its 'gaze'. You know about that too.
"Anything comes at me from the shadows, I kill it." Sable patted his belt, where his swords should have been.
That is you. You are not like they are. You do not flinch, shrink or hide from the shadows. You stride into the shadows and conquer them. There could almost be a hint of admiration in those empty tones. They try to pretend the shadows are not there. Their eyes pass over them, but they do not see.
"That's natural. Most of them aren't as good at killing things as I am."
Oh no, that is not it. You scratch the surface Sable, but you do not see.
Sable let a tired and somewhat sarcastic expression take residence on his face. "I assume you are going to enlighten me eventually?"
The figure adjusted its posture and appeared to lower its head, favouring Sable with a sarcastic look. You already know yet insist on playing games.
"I'm thousands of years old." Sable drawled, deciding to see how far he could push. He felt no threat from this creature, it seemed to want something from him so he was safe here as he could be anywhere. "I need to entertain myself somehow."
The figure sat there silently and said nothing. It continued to smoke its cigarette in what may well be considered a sullen manner for a few moments. It said nothing until the cigarette was finished and ground out as the last one had been. It offered Sable the case with a slight raise of its head.
Sable declined with a flick of his hand. I am older than any thing which exists save one. The black metal case vanished into a pocket. Yet I am wondering whether I am wasting my time on you. I have all the time in the world and beyond even that, incidentally, yet still the thought occurs.
Sable held his hand out for the cigarette case and frowned at the figure. This time it tossed the items over and did not lean forward. He took out a black cigarette and lit it while he waited for the figure to continue. Politely, the figure waited for him to take his first lungful and toss the cigarettes and matches back before continuing.
So, we were saying, humans hate the dark. Why is that? It is because it reminds them of emptiness and their deepest fear. That all they believe is false. That when they die there truly is nothing. That all they will have waiting for them at that final moment will be me.
"You're not Death though." Sable said through a cloud of smoke. "My father is currently fulfilling that role I hear."
I will decline to comment on that. The figure flicked ash from its cigarette.
"Don't like my father either then?" Sable opined.
I dislike all life. It complicates what used to be so plain and simple; ordered and organised. It shrugged lazily. Now let me explain; you know what was there before your Creator “made” everything?
"Nothing." Sable said. "Void, I think, was the term that showed up a lot in the books."
Correct. Beautiful and empty nothing. Pure and unblemished void. The figure appeared to sigh, or at least release an even larger cloud of smoke than before. That is what Man, most curiously, is afraid of most.
As I previously said: nothing.
"That it was all for nothing and there is no reward or justification for the unfairness and suffering." It was Sable's turn to sigh. "To most; even eternal suffering in Hell would be better than nothing at all.”
Correct. The figure had produced and lit another cigarette. They are afraid of nothing. Of becoming nothing and going to nothing, of it all being for nothing. They can never know for sure that there is anything but nothing. Regardless of their faith there is always room for me in their hearts, in the dark recesses of their minds.
"I know you now..." Sable laughed, almost dropping his cigarette. "You're him… the one they’re looking for but don’t yet realise they’re looking…" he let it hang in the air as languidly as his smoke. “Fourth of five…” he chuckled.
The figure gripped the brim of its hat and tipped it, rising smoothly with just a slight creak of leather. Then, chair and figure were just gone; no flashes of light or fuss of any kind. Sable did not see it leave but felt a change to the texture of the air; it got noticeably warmer and that odd, metallic taste was gone. The cigarette case was placed neatly at the foot of his chair; little matchbook on top of the black metal case, underneath an item that truly delighted him. Folded very carefully and looking like it had just been removed from the plastic was a long leather coat; the near twin of the mysterious creature’s yet this one was grey. Cheeky bastard! He let the jacket unfold as he lifted it up and tried it for size. He really shouldn’t have been surprised that it fit perfectly; smug yet with some give around the arms, just as he liked and need it to be. It also felt slightly warm, which puzzled him. He moved around the empty warehouse, sketching a few forms and testing his range of movement; the coat flowed with him and, though it felt slightly heavier than he thought it should, it restricted him not at all. Perfect!
Again, he should’ve been surprised but he wasn’t.
Now he needed to remember how he got here and how to get back out again. He lit another cigarette while he thought about that and savoured the flavour before dropping case and matches into a deep side pocket. Looks like I'm going back to Atlanta, though. He noted, reading the address on the matchbook.
There is more of this to come soon. I am just enjoying playing with your heads as well as making you do the thinking for yourselves..