Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Dying of the Light

Clark (hints of Chlark) futurefic
MAJOR ANGST WARNING
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Thanks to Tobi and my daughter for both coincidentally mentioning the poem on the same night, thus compelling me to find it and read it again.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-Dylan Thomas

The darkness surrounds him, pressing in on him. But he pushes back fiercely, refusing to let it encompass him.

Once... once... what is the phrase?... once upon a time...

He'd been Superman.

He is still Superman, damn it. He won't let himself be sucked into the vortex that awaits. He will fight and battle and struggle. He will fight, because fighting is what he does.

The light at the edges of his vision flickers, fades, dies, He fights for it, clinging to it with all the strength he possesses.

No, he thinks ferociously. I won't die. I won't.

The darkness can never win. It can never take him.

He is Superman, and he will never die.

*****

"He's raving again, Doctor."

"I know, Ms. Kent." The white-coated doctor stood, looking down on the bent and wizened figure in the bed with compassion. "Every day, it's as if he's struggling against death. Fighting it. Raging against it. And... defeating it."

She reached down and stroked a hand over the thin fringe of white hair. "If only he wouldn't fight so hard..."

"He can't help fighting," the doctor said, and in his voice there was a tinge of awe. "He's Superman, after all."

She sighed, and lifted her hand away from the unresponsive figure in the bed. "He can't die," she said softly.

"No," the doctor agreed. "He can't die."

"It's just so unfair." She turned to him with a sudden burst of words. "Look at him, Doctor. Look at him! He's impossibly frail, incapable of real life, unable to do anything but lie there helplessly and rave and rant. And yet..." Her voice trembled, but she went on. "He just gets older and older. There is no release for him. No ending. Only an eternity, trapped inside a body that can never cease functioning." Her voice fell to a whisper. "And there's nothing we can do for him."

"No," he echoed, his voice soft with compassion. "Nothing at all."

She looked down at the fragile figure on the bed, and shook her head, then spoke. "Grandfather? Grandfather!"

The eyes cracked open, showing clouded irises, the faded green of winter grass. The old man on the bed looked at her blankly, as if he'd never seen her before in his lifetime.

"Chloe," he rasped out, in a voice so feeble she could barely hear him. But she knew who he was asking for. The same person he always asked for.

"She's not here right now," she answered softly, taking his gnarled hand in hers.

"Chlo," he whispered. "Want Chloe."

There was nothing she could say to console him, so she held his hand, making soft noises of comfort. In a moment, his eyes drifted shut, and he returned to his angry muttering. She released his hand, and straightened up, shaking her blonde hair back into place. She turned back to the doctor.

"I'll be back in the morning," she said.

The doctor looked at her, his head on one side, as if he'd never quite seen her before. "It's good of you to visit him every day, Ms. Kent."

She lifted her chin. "I'm all he has left. Even if he doesn't know who I am... I'm his family."

He smiled down at her approvingly. "I'm glad you feel that way."

"Of course," she said with a sigh, "he'll outlive me, too. And my children. And my children's children..."

"Try not to think about it," he suggested.

She blew out her breath in an angry sigh. "I can't help thinking about it," she responded. "It must be an endless hell for him, trapped in a body that barely sustains life, in a mind that can no longer sort through its memories, but simply drifts."

"Immortality," he agreed solemnly, "isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"No." She sighed. "Immortality is... a horror."

"I'm sorry." He reached out, almost shyly, and took her hand. "I wish there was more we could do for him."

She squeezed his fingers and offered him a tremulous smile.

"There is nothing anyone can do for him, Doctor. Don't feel guilty about it. It isn't your fault, or anyone's fault. He is what he is, and nothing can change that. But I... well, I appreciate your support."

He looked down at their linked hands, then seemed to come to a decision, and blurted out words in an awkward rush.

"Would you like to have a cup of coffee with me?"

She looked over her shoulder at the fragile form stirring restlessly on the bed, then glanced back at the handsome young doctor, and smiled.

"I would love to have a cup of coffee with you, Doctor."

*****

She's gone. She comes every day, for a few moments, but now she's gone. He doesn't mind, not really. He knows that she comes to visit him only out of a sense of duty. She has her own life, and that life doesn't really include him.

In a rare moment of clarity, he recalls that she is his great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter. She is blonde and petite, with a strangely familiar bright smile, but she isn't the woman she resembles. She's just another in the blurred, endless parade of descendants who have sat by his bedside over the decades and the centuries, strangers who have spoken to him and held his hand, doing their best to offer him comfort.

But there is no comfort to be had.

The person he longs for, the person he asks for, departed the Earth long, long since. He's alone. And he will always be alone, trapped here in an ancient wreck of a body, inside a mind that will no longer retain facts or pull up memories.

The light died out of his life long since.

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil...

The fragment of poetry flickers through his mind, and he tries to grab onto it, but it fades away. It doesn't matter, not really. It doesn't apply to him. He has no honor any longer, nor is there any work for him to do. He can barely move, after all. He's caught here in this stasis, trapped in endless twilight, at the mercy of a body that no longer does what he tells it to do.

He has no reason for his existence, no purpose, no goal. His body simply will not die, and so he has been reduced to this mere existence. Reduced to endless struggle against an end that never comes.
He wishes he could stop fighting against the darkness, and just let it take him. But somehow... he can't. The need to battle darkness, the will to fight, is coded into his DNA. It's an integral part of his soul. It is who he is, and the long years of lonely struggle haven't worn it down. The physical deterioration of his body can never change who he is, deep inside.

Another fragment of poetry flickers through his mind like the rapid flight of a frightened bird. Do not go gentle into that good night... Old age should burn and rave at close of day...

Vaguely, he understands that for him there is no close of day, and never will be. He will never go gentle into that good night. Despite all his desperate struggles against the darkness, there can be no ending. Only a story that goes on and on forever, with no plotline and no characters except him.

This is immortality.

For him... there will never be a night.

-The End-

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely incfredible, Elly. One of your finest and most touching.

It reminds us to be creful what we wish for...

Sarah

lauraforever said...

I totally loved this fic! Well done honey!

Tracey L said...

Wow, what an interesting take on immortality. Most of the time Clark's immortality is portrayed with him staying young-looking for generations or something like that. Him being trapped in a BODY that ages but refuses to die is twisted. But who doesn't love twisted? Thanks, Elly, we're all looking forward to more great stories!

chloista4ever said...

*sniff* such a beautiful work. So so heartbreaking.

DeeDee said...

Oh, man.

I don't know how you do it Elly, but each angsty story of yours is more poignant that the one that came before. This was so sad, my heart broke for poor Superman. *sniff*

Like Tracey L said, what an interesting take on the concept of mortality. I had tears in my eyes. :-(

Well done, and thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

*sniffle* That was beautiful. But so, so sad.

Writer and Cat said...

Awww--I want a sequel with a better ending! I'm such an HEA junkie.

iluvaqt said...

That was so intensely sad. You wonder why in this case the Doctor or one of his descendants didn't have mercy and inject him with greenK or shut out sunlight until his body yielded to ravage old age. It's interesting that in his moments of clarity why he doesn't let go. Why does he keep fighting on? Once he realizes there's nothing for him anymore. No Chloe and no mission. Interesting concept for his immortality. Well written Elly.

mari2anne said...

Wow, Elly. There I thought my take on 'immortality' ("I Cannot Breathe Without You") was angsty.

You are the best at this; your imagination is amazing. Brought tears to my eyes.
Mari2Anne

Alpaca said...

Oh, this broke my heart a little. *tear* Of course he could never give up, but the image of his body a wreck and his soul still fighting was beautiful.