“You killed my dog.” Herrick surprises Corinth, who startles a bit.
“I didn’t think you were awake.”
“I wasn’t, but the pain is too great. It hunts sleep as rigorously as you do me.” He tries to smile a bit at his dark joke, but only a grimace comes out as pain mixes with that bit of happiness. “Why did you kill my dog?”
“He didn’t really give me a choice. Who was the man?”
“Just a man coming to buy some furs, stayed the night when a storm rolled in.”
“No. I don’t have friends.”
“Why is that?”
“One tried to kill me once. Its hard to really bond with someone after that. Are you ashamed of killing him?”
“The man? No.”
“No. The dog.”
“Liar. Did you at least bury him?”
“The dog or the man?”
“The dog, forget the man.”
“Yes,” he says without hesitation.
“You’ll see him soon enough.”
“He deserves a burial, some respect in death. He was a good dog.”
“I don’t doubt it. He died for you. What could be more noble?”
“Ha, you speak of nobility as though you know it!” He starts to cough and a bit of blood sprays form his mouth. “I would say you know only vengeance and hate.”
“What else is their?”
“I once knew love. It was taken from me twice, once by a friend and once more by death, who may as well be a friend. We have certainly become well acquainted.”
“Nothing was taken from you friend, for you had nothing to take.”
“Now who is lying? I loved her more than anything, more than you could know. I would move mountains, uproot forests, part seas…”
“Kill friends? And innocents?” Corinth feels Herrick’s eyes look towards him, phantom spears meant to pierce him.
“If I could have had her love, then yes. And certainly if it punished the one who took her from me.” For a moment, there is silence. Herrick speaks first.
“We were once friends, you and I. And you were once Mad…”
“Do not say her name!” With that, he raises the knife to Herrick’s throat. “It blackens across your lips.” Herrick reaches up slowly and pushes the knife away. A mournful look crosses over his face.
“What became of the man I knew as Corinth? For he would never say such things.”
“He sits before you, as real as the blood that even now pours from you.”
“No, you are not the friend we knew, and certainly not the one she came to know. The man I remember was a good man, gentle and kind. Where is that man? The man who gladly gave up his coat when the freezing rain fell on his love in a tempest, even though it guaranteed him sickness? The man who defended her honor and her life even when he was outmatched and was ensured injury or even death for her safety? The man who sculpted a locket from the purest of metals as a gift for her when she was at her worst, at great expense to himself, just to see a smile cross her lips? Where has he gone?”
“That man existed once, but he has no one left to love. His goodwill was an art, and his muse is long dead.” A comfortable silence settles in once more. This time Corinth speaks.
“Does it make you sad?”
“No, not dying. Knowing the world has already forgotten you, that you will not be missed. Your only friend is your only enemy, and the only one who knows you still exist. Look around us. Even nature itself does not stir as you pass from this world. The snow falls quietly, undisturbed. The forest, full of life, sits in silence, as though it waits for you to die as earnestly as I.”
“What you describe is not sad, but beautiful. I see serenity. What better way for the world to take in the soul of a peaceful man than in peace? I wonder what will happen when you pass? I imagine the world will greet you with discord and unrest.”
“And why is that?”
“You are a storm embodied. All rage, vengeance, and hate, mixed into a dark sea that ceaselessly churns itself. The world cannot take in your spirit while all is calm, for it would create a hellish storm unlike any other. Only storms can accept what your soul has to give.”
“I see nothing but beauty in storms. They are power and strength made real, dominating the earth as they see fit. Here, what you call serene, is nothing but ignorance and indifference.”
“Where you see indifference I see the utmost warmth. But what else could be expected? You have long viewed the world in distorted hues and false realities. I see even now that sanity has slipped from you.”
“What you call madness is nothing but happiness to me. The happiest moment of my life was the moment I knew you would die in this forest. If sanity would deny me that, why not be mad?”
“Only the mad can be as relentless as you have been. You have become obsessed with death and bring only darkness to this already dark world.’
“To kill is natural. The deer kills the grass, the bear kills the deer, man kills the bear, and man kills man. And all is right in the world.”
“Animals do not hate their brethren. They kill to survive, and would gladly change their ways were they given a choice. Only man kills because he can, or for sport.”
“They should try it. You will never know the rush, the excitement, the ecstasy of the kill. It is a wondrous feeling, unlike anything else.”
“Then the world has suffered a great loss and a terrible gain. A kind man was lost, and in his place walks an animal that lives only to kill or maim.”
“A poet, even as you lay dying. I would tell stories of you if I could, but to the world, you are long dead. And soon you shall be.” With that, he rises to his feet with the dagger in hand.
“And so shall you,” says Herrick, smiling.