My will to live is for the moment stronger than ever, even though I have already experienced dreadful things and died myself with them several times. Yet the more one dies, the more intensely one lives.
-- artist Max Beckmann, Berlin, 1914
When Emcee was discharged from the infirmary, he took his roses, his peach schnapps, the books and magazines, the headphones and tablet, his new sweater, and the bag containing his (bloodied, bullet hole-ridden) coat, up to his room. It was a quiet, rather solemn affair, accompanied only by Jay and one of his young drones, George.
Emcee had last seen this room just a few days ago by his own world's time, but it felt as if ages had passed. Most notably, the windows had been changed. There were still curtains, because Emcee liked curtains, but automated blinds had been installed while he was away. They were light proof, and were currently closed. After tinkering with the control panel, Jay showed him how to operate the blinds, and left them open to let in the wintry afternoon sun.
The rest of the room was how Emcee had left it. Phonograph, stacks of records, bottles of liquor, more books. The glass music box that George's colony mate, Lock, had made.
As Emcee settled in, he told Jay that he preferred to be alone for a while. He needed more time to think. To pull himself together. He knew how protective Jay was of him, but Jay obliged. George, however, could stay if he liked. And the little drone did stay, providing quiet and undemanding companionship, and a quick link to the bar whenever Emcee needed to eat or drink.
One of the first things Emcee did on his own was to take a hot bath. The last time he'd done that was when he came in injured--entering Milliways while injured seemed to be his manner as of late--and Sinric gave him a haven in his room. Now, even as he soaked, he could still feel the hot stickiness of his own blood on his skin, spilling from burning wounds that were no longer there. When he closed his eyes, he could still hear the crack
of gunfire, the harsh voices, the screams, the crying.
He sat there in the bath for a long time, tears silently falling. He then thought of Rae, Jay, Eric, and Guppy, and what they had done for him. He thought of everyone who visited him in the infirmary to wish him well. And then he cried some more.
When he finally emerged from the bath, his body may have felt some relief, but he felt no better in his soul. He poured himself a glass of the peach schnapps and lit a cigarette to relax, but found that his old habits seemed strange and forced. It troubled him, though it was probably just the exhaustion warping his mood.
But he couldn't help thinking, Who am I anymore?
He had been stripped of everything. Very nearly including his life
. How could he ever get it all back?
Over the next few days, he slept a lot, more than he needed. It was difficult to drag himself out of bed, often spending hours wrapped up in his blankets doing nothing. He sank back into drinking and smoking, and consumed all the liquor and cigarettes in his room before asking George to get a rat to fetch some more.
But was this really the old self that he wanted to find?
He once asked George what day it was, so deeply was he lost in his own idleness. George projected the bar's calendar on the wall. It was with a sinking feeling that he remembered that it was so close to the end of the year. The end of the year meant holidays. The holidays meant parties.
What were parties anymore?
And then he resumed crying. It pained him to know that he couldn't bear to enjoy himself. It wouldn't be right.
Herman, Helga, those two other refugees, the two fishermen who helped them, even the sailors on that cargo ship--they were all in danger. Trapped in time, certainly. But Emcee's heart was too heavy, his whole being wracked with guilt. The darkest part of him blamed himself for the failure of his plan. The darkest part of him knew it was better not to care. The darkest part of him told him to give up. Stay. Forget it.there are no
The darkest part of him was familiar. It was almost a comfort to sit in its shadows. But that was all that it was made of: shadows. And once he immersed himself in them, he had a clearer choice of where to turn.
There was music playing almost constantly. Music, Emcee had decided, was still important. At some point George wirelessly connected to the tablet and acted as an external speaker. Emcee found the technological gesture incredibly charming for some reason, and it lifted his spirits somewhat to have George channeling the music instead of an inanimate device.
Eventually, Emcee began to sing again.
Because one cannot dwell in shadows without also seeing light.