He stood at the treeline. He was thinking about a trench that he had once crossed which had been dug around a town. He recalled a a chalk circle he had stepped into. He could still taste that thin stream of gasoline which he had pushed a flame along until a town had bloomed in fire.

He had set and walked away from many fires, but that fire which burned in him? That was not something he could really walk away from. He had lied to himself and told himself that he was just fertile ground for the doom that certain people wanted to inflict upon the world, but he knew that he was built for one reason only, and denying that wasn’t going to do anyone any good. Did he have a choice? Yes, he surely did, but that did not mean for him, even if he ran away, that he would not stutterstep into the future waiting for him.

Some days he would sit there and he would feel the fire rumbling inside him, and he would allow just a little to flicker into the world, and he would sense that it was a message he was sending – that somewhere else, someone might be seeing the flare he was sending up. Did being a monster mean that you weren’t allowed to be saved? That hardly seemed fair, did it?

He’d been told before that he was narrative-locked at certain points, that the finer details might change, but the big picture was going to stay pretty much the same. So he would work on those finer points and he would get as much out of them as possible, much as he had in the past.

He had played like a wandering Prometheus with tribes that were spun from the threads trailing from the unwoven and tattered fabric of Eden. Great civilizations carved themselves into the maps where the blank space outnumbered the filled. He had wreathed his days in opium smoke as emperors had risen and fallen. He had wasted days in shooting galleries as politicians had schemed and plotted. Throughout much of the time he had tried to pull the covers back over himself and go back to sleep – to pretend the waking world was the dream he was trying to make it.

Burning, forever burning – the fate of Aim; of AIM, of Ardenti In Mundo. He knew he was the bomb, his life the fusewire, the only question was, how long might he burn before it was all over?


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