Flames

Anger knew that he, in one moment, had returned to a life that he tried so desperately to leave behind. Fists clenched, knuckles white, nails bleached by the straining tendons and muscles. There was a slight tremble in his arms as he stood there, letting the flames dance across the abyss of his eyes. The heat, that brightest form that darkness can take, washed him clean of the sweat dotting his face and arms.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” whispered Rage, drawing out each word to the edge of audibility. “I’m so glad I was here to see the process unfold in such a profound paroxysm.”

“I was blind,” Anger responded, “only a veil of red existed. I don’t even remember how the fire started. That was you, wasn’t it? My god… what have I done?”

“None of that now!” rebuked Rage. “If I wanted to visit Regret I would have sought her out. Own this moment my friend, this is your return to the Eternal fold.”

Anger raised his hand to his cheek and tenderly felt the split skin beneath his eye. His fingers dipped into the rivulets of his blood, his human blood. He didn’t remember how he got the wound. Seeing his blood on his fingers, and then a moment later, watching it begin to evanesce into the air as his body began to return to its immortal form.

How had he become so misdirected? He remembered his wife in their living room, accusing him of cheating on his family.

“A man came to the door and told me he saw you with another woman! Why would a stranger do this? What possible reason would he have to come and say those things?!?”

The memory of trying and trying, with all the strength he had, to calm his beloved. Anger had known that he was toxic, it was the nature of his existence, and he knew that even the smallest seed of hurt would be amplified by his presence. He remembered he had begun to affect his wife simply by being there. Now, standing and watching the fire, he knew that this was the price for trying to live a human life.

He turned to look at Rage. He knew that he was the man of which his wife spoke. He saw him, still talking, but heard nothing. He felt himself begin to move, racing, exploding at Rage as he lost connection with the world, steeped in the red veil once again. Disjointed sounds were all that penetrated the destructive oblivion.

When reality returned to Anger he found himself staring at his hands. Blood and soot covered them, colored black by the dancing red and orange of the fire. He heard Rage screaming from deep within the conflagration consuming the house in front of him.

The red veil began to clear from his mind and a flood of memories returned. This was his house that was burning. Those were his loved ones burnt to a cinder inside. This was all of his dreams and desires turning to ashes in the inferno that he’d started.

The screams of Rage from inside the inferno silenced. He heard only crackling and an occasional hiss mixed with the breeze. There was a dusting of ash dancing and swirling around him.

From the corner of his eye he detected the movement of something preternatural in the haze cast by his burning humanity. It was a ghostly shape, sweeping through the ashes, approaching his position; a glowing will-o-the-wisp drifting towards him. Ashes began to coalesce, first forming a beating black heart, then lungs, ribs, veins. He could see the throat form and could hear the voice, even before the mouth and lips began to appear.

“Oh that was good, you wear that color so well. Come now, did you think that you could escape your path? The lives of these beings have been incomplete without you. Maybe better, maybe not, but not whole. You are an Eternal. You are required by existence. Only when the Universe collapses will you be free.”

Rage’s face, cast in an ashen mask, continued to speak. “Without you I was being overworked! There was no bridge between Frustration and I. If I had to work with him one more moment I would have unleashed on him. He is like an itch you cannot scratch. The solution to an itch isn’t to cut off the arm that’s itching. I need you, to come back, and provide balance. The world needs all of us, you cannot escape the pull of your purpose.”

“I loved her,” replied Anger, “like I love all life on this backwater planet. I’m such a curse. If I could I would escape the cycle of eternity and let the Universe exist as a place without me. I’d end you as well Rage. We’re a pestilence; a stain on the fabric of existence.”

“You’ve always been so focused on how you are used. You’ve never respected the reality of what you are. These things that we cause to be done, they are necessary. We embody potentials, results of choice. The Universe constructed its self carefully and we are absolutely necessary. We are Eternals. We must serve the Universe until entropy passes our reality out of this plane and back into the void.”

Rage sighed, blowing a puff of ash from his mouth. His skin began to appear from beneath the sad, grey coating of what remained of Angers human life. “My brother, you are in rebellion, but you cannot rebel against the truth. You spoke of Love but refuse to recognize that you are her equal; equally indispensable. What if she tried to rebel and live as a human? Can you imagine what would happen to you and me in a world without Love?

“You cannot deny what you are. The Universe without Anger makes as much sense as a Universe without Love. We are all needed, by all living things, across the vastness of the cosmos.”

Anger turned away from Rage and looked back at the fire. His face began to lose the age it collected living as a human. The split on his cheek sealing as his form returned to its ethereal state.

“A bridge between troubles then; is that what I am?” he asked.

“Consider this; you have within you more power than I could ever hope to understand. You have levels, degrees, which you can choose to inflict upon these beings. If they bypass you and find me, and I only allow for one result,” replied Rage, now fully formed.

Anger stood in silence. He knew that the Eternals must serve the Universe. None of them had any real escape. The only release from the indentured servitude would be the collapse at the end; when the culmination of entropy returned everything back to the moment before time began.

Rage’s words echoed in his mind. He had lost sight of his power to control his affect on life. He could go forward with the goal of mitigating the damage he would do to all life. He could be the temperance before destruction. He could ensure that the red veil of Rage never fell on another person. Rage would find his existence as boring and tedious as he felt his own was painful and unnecessary.

“Come Anger,” said Rage, placing a hand as new and soft as babies flesh on Angers back. “Rejoin your family. Think what you will about our purpose, but know that you are necessary. None of us are good, none evil, just necessary. We exist in that place between concepts and limiting verbal definitions. All of us comprise the ways and means that life uses to mark out existence. Indispensible to them, like the food and water they require, we too sustain them. You had your moment of rebellion, but it cannot continue.”

Anger looked into the now black eyes of Rage and heard the truth in his words. These people needed the full court of the Eternals to survive. He knew that his absence, though for many wholly unnoticed, was the cause of much unnecessary damage. Slowly he let Rage turn him from the burning house and into the dark.

As the wail of sirens entered the neighborhood that Anger had called home the pair dissipated into the shadows of the night.

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