In The Night
Sade returns to poking at the fire.
Isabelle sits down opposite her, holding herself close.
'Been a long night, hasn't it?' Sade says.
Isabelle remains quiet.
'Still, you learn to get through them. Especially in the Badlands.'The fire flickers as a stray wind passed. Sade mutters to herself.
She looks up again.
'Tomorrow... Terminus. We can pick up supplies... See what we can do about an apothecary... for you *and* Charlotte... Not wise to stay there for too long. Not now.'
'Especially not now.'
The silence holds.
'Why?' Isabelle finally says.
Sade raises an eyebrow. 'Why? How kind do you think Terminus is to the Badlands' children?'
Sade pokes the fire once more. 'Well, we can't go back to Mondas... No, make that *won't*. The Grandfather... ' She stared into the embers.
'The Grandfather is still there.' Isabelle whispers. 'He... Mondas is his.
He loves it.
He loves the people there.
They are his, and always shall be.'
'Not always...' Sade murmurs. 'There was rumour concerning... certain dark agencies ... in Mondas.'
Isabelle looks up. 'How did-?'
'I didn't. But you just told me.' Sade says. 'It _was_ a fair guess, given what the good Father had to say on the subject...'
Her smile is hollow. 'And I might ask you the same, speaking of the Ones Below...'
'I...' Isabelle's eyes are blank and cold.
'I... I haven't slept.
Not in the week.
Listen to the sound of a voice failing, breaking down, losing sense and structure.
'Tell me that you love me, the darkness says. Tell me you love me, and only me.
It tells me that, and so much more.
It's what I hear, behind my eyes.
It wants me to listen. It wants me to know.
Wants me to serve, as I served my Lord...'
Listen, until it stops.
Isabelle turns back to the fire.
She raises a hand to her face.
'No.' Sade says. 'No.
What do _you_ want?'
'I want to rest...' Isabelle whispers. 'I want a home...'
'What would you do for that?'
'I...' Isabelle stutters.
'Would you die for what you want?' Sade says again.
'If I died... I wouldn't have it.' Isabelle whispers.
'What would you die for?'
Isabelle looks up. 'Why should I die for something?'
'Because it matters.'
'More than _life?_'
'Nothing matters more than that.' Sade says. 'Nothing.'
'If nothing matters more,' Isabelle says. 'then why should I give my life up for anything else?'
Isabelle stops, then, and falls silent.
'I don't know,' she admits.
Sade's mouth twitches. 'Few do. Until it happens.'
She looks into the fire again, and grumbles as she sees it about to flicker out, as the wind slowly picks up.
'What do _you_ want?' Isabelle says then, to break the silence.
'Answers.' Sade replies.
'Everything. Nothing. But, right now, where we'll go after Terminus.'
'Where _can_ we go?' Isabelle asks.
Sade's eyebrow raises.
'As you said,' Isabelle explains. 'we are the Badlands' children. Some... more than others.'
Her eyes cast down.
'Where can we go?'
'We _can_ go anywhere...' Sade murmurs, almost to herself. '...but it's "where is left for us to go"?'
'Where do you go in hell?' Isabelle whispers. 'Only to somewhere worse...'
'Even in hell, there's a way to somewhere better.' Sade replies.
'And abandon everyone who's left behind?' Isabelle snaps. '_That's_ a hell all its own.'
'So what would you do?'
'Try to escape to somewhere else, and leave everyone else behind? Or go deeper in, and find things are getting worse?' Isabelle shakes her head. 'It's Diana's Dream, all over again.'
'Then we have to find another way.' Sade says.
'And if there isn't one?'
'Then, indeed, this is Hell on Earth... and we are all in it.'
'But _why_?' Isabelle's question is plaintive. 'Why should Hell be on Earth at all?'
'The world has moved on.' Sade's voice is flat. 'Even Hell.'
And so they have moved here.'
'The world has moved on...' Isabelle repeats. '...and it won't go back. So where can Hell go, if nowhere is left?'
Sade looks up in surprise. 'What??'
'If the world moves on...' Isabelle says. '...where can Hell go?'
'They're trapped... along with us.' Sade whispers. 'And they're looking for a way out...'
'Or... some wish to help the world move on. Because if they are the ones who drive it down, they would have it at the end...' Isabelle continues.
Sade doesn't reply to that.
The shadows in Isabelle's eyes are enough to tell her where *that* came from.
Instead, she says 'So... what do _you_ wish?'
'I wish...' Isabelle slows. 'I wish I could go home.'
I wish there was a home left.
I wish I knew where to go next...'
'Shhh...' Sade says. 'Shhh...'
Isabelle says nothing else.
There's nothing left to say.
She closes her eyes.
Sade looks to the sky.
'Well?' she challenges.
The wind starts to pick up.
Sade shakes her head.
There has to be another way.
She'd found her answer... and realised it only posed another question.
There has to be another way.
But what is it?
What can they do, when there's no way out, no way home?
Nowhere left to go?
_Is_ there nowhere left to go?
She can't accept that. The answer can't be so simple.
The wind is howling now, screaming around the campsite, its panpipe whistling shrieking into the night.
Pushing down on Sade. Pushing in.
Somewhere, there has to be an answer. Or a reason why there is no answer.
Why is this happening? Why is any of this happening?
Why has the world moved on?
Find the answer. If there isn't one, find out why.
And grant her wish. Grant Isabelle's wish.
A lost girl, young and alone, who only wanted to know where she could go, and where she could rest.
Sade knows she would die for someone else. She's always known.
The wind dies.
So be it.
Ahead lies Terminus.
Appropriate, Sade thinks darkly.
...there will be answers, and questions.
Whether they will be what she seeks, what any of them seek...
She shakes her head.
Nevertheless, every search begins somewhere.
No matter what happens.
She kicks over the fire.
No matter at all.
So shall it be.
From now until the end.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat