Between the Fall and the Afterfall

The damn thing is mocking me, thought the figure perched on the edge of a cliff as it glared up at the Morning Star.

The sun wasn’t far behind Venus, but the sky was still dark and the night was still in charge. The figure continued to stare up at its namesake, both somber and irritated. The Morning Star reminded it of home and its father, and right now, it didn’t want to think about either. Home was gone forever and its father had disowned it. Yet, the figure couldn’t be compelled to budge from its spot. It continued to crouch there, on the peak of the cliff, its gaze hopelessly ensnared by the pencil-point of light suspended in the heavens.

“Feeling sentimental?” a voice inquired from behind the figure.

“Don’t make jokes,” the figure retorted, un-phased by the sudden appearance of this new presence. “I’m just killing time.”

“There are more constructive ways to do that,” the presence remarked.

The figure sighed. “What do you want, Gabe?”

“Just wanted to check up on you,” Gabe replied.

The figure let out a dry laugh. “Always the peacemaker, eh?”

“There are worse things to be.”

The figure glanced at Gabe sideways, then returned its gaze to the sky. “Yeah, like me.”

Now it was Gabe that sighed. “Lou, there’s no reason for this. If you just apologize to Dad, and show him you really mean it, he’ll forgive you. He forgives everyone eventually.”

“I don’t want his forgiveness,” Lou spat.

“No?” Gabe questioned. “Then why are you sitting alone out here feeling sorry for yourself?”

Lou shot him a glare. “Knock it off already, Gabe. You’re not going to be able to reconcile this.”

Another sigh escaped Gabe. “I had to at least try.”

“Yeah, I know,” Lou conceded. “Sometimes, I don’t think Dad appreciates all you do.”

“I don’t need accolades to do my job, Lou.”

Lou just stared at him. What Gabe hadn’t said hung in the air between them. Apparently, you did.

He turned his attention back to the Morning Star. Was it so wrong for him to have expected his father to appreciate him a little more?

“C’mon Gabe, you and I both know that he plays favorites. Look at ol’ St. Mike.”

Gabe gave him a pointed look. “Are you only saying that because he gave you a beating?”

Lou bristled. “Low blow, Gabe.”

“Sorry, but I have to call you out when you’re being ignorant. You earned that beating, and you know it.”

“Whatever.”

Time passed and the two were silent. Lou wondered if his companion would report his whereabouts to their father.

“I’m not going tell Dad about anything we say here, just so you know,” Gabe assured him, as if having read his mind.

“Why?”

Gabe shrugged. “It wouldn’t benefit anyone.”

“Wouldn’t it?” Lou challenged.

“Despite what you think, no one back home wants anything bad to happen to you, and Dad can’t force you to see things his way,” Gabe explained. “You should be grateful you got off so lightly, considering all the havoc you caused AND the others you dragged down with you.”

Lou winced. He really hadn’t given much thought to the other members of their family that had gotten involved in his beef with their father. He didn’t even know what had happened to any of them after they’d all been cast out.

“Do you regret it?” Gabe asked.

Lou didn’t respond. That was a loaded question. Did he regret going against their father, sacrificing his job, his reputation, his status? Did he regret being ejected from the only home he’d ever known and told never to come back? Maybe, maybe not. It had all seemed so clear when he’d made the decision to oppose his father. He’d been filled with righteous indignation, sick and tired of being a tool forced to bend to his father’s every whim and being ignored in favor of his oh-so-important prized inventions. And he hadn’t been the only member of their family to feel that way, either, so it hadn’t been difficult for Lou to whip some of the others into the same furor he’d been in, and together, they’d all tried to burn their father’s house down.

In retrospect, that may have been an overreaction.

All said and done, maybe the only thing Lou regretted was going about it in such a ham-fisted way.

Gabe turned away from Lou. “I thought as much.”

“Sorry Gabe.”

“Don’t be,” Gabe dismissed him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”

“Don’t be,” Lou echoed. “You can’t save everyone.”

“But I can try,” Gabe declared steadfastly. “Anyway, I have to go.”

“Oh? Where to?” Lou asked. He didn’t know why he was curious. Maybe he just wanted to pretend things were the way they used to be, at least for an instant.

“Have to go see a woman about the special kid she’s going to give birth to.”

Lou snorted. “So Dad’s finally bringing his most cherished project to fruition, is he?”

“Looks like it,” Gabe confirmed. “I just go where I’m told.”

“So did I, once upon a time.” But Lou had decided that that just didn’t work for him anymore, and that was one decision he certainly didn’t regret.

“See you around, Lou,” Gabe offered. “Sorry this had to happen, but it was inevitable, I guess. After all, you don’t fuck with Dad.”

And then he was gone.

For a long time, Lou just stared at the spot Gabe, his sibling and former colleague, had occupied before his departure. Then, once again, he shifted his gaze upward to his namesake.

“Maybe not,” he conceded. “But that doesn’t mean he should get to fuck around with all of us. Either way, I think it’s time I started returning the favor.”