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Come In the Night

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He’s found himself going back to the museum for the last several nights now.

The city is cold at night, too cold, and the museum seems a place of sanctuary from the biting winds as well as the dangerous figures that stalk the streets. He’s only a boy, maybe eleven years old, and he’s lost deep in the forgotten sectors of the city that have just become known as the ‘neverland’, where the police are too scared to tread, where the only form of law is the retribution brought by the various gangs. It's no place for someone of his age, but he has nowhere else to go.

So he wanders around the Museum Of Natural History, and tries to distract his wandering mind. He spends a few hours looking at the animals gathered from across the world, and tries not to think too hard about if there any still left alive after the chemical bombs landed. He walks through the hall of gems and minerals and spends too long looking at the diamonds, thinking of how they’ll never change, never wither and age, and wonders what an existence like that must be like. He climbs into the dioramas of ‘New York State Environments’ and tries to pretend that he’s wandering the verdant forests for real rather than the shell of New York that still exists, charred and decayed, landscapes the colour of obsidian glass, the skull of a country long since dead.

When his explorations are done, every day he goes back to the same place. An old lecture hall, far less grand than the sights the museum offered to its thousands of visitors in times long since past. But they’re all gone, and it’s also the only place where he can get any company. Well, company of a sort.

The old man is never pleased to see him. The bedraggled, greasy figure seems content to stay in the lecture hall on his own, sitting at his desk. When the boy tries to ask questions of him, he begs to be left alone with his books. He calls himself a historian and asks the boy to ‘give history the rest it has earned’. And the boy’s earnest replies of ‘what history?’ are usually answered with rants that border somewhere between the surreal and the obscene until he finds himself chased off again.

And so it is this night as well. The boy tries to ask questions, only to be told once again to leave history alone, that it's suffered enough. So he tries a different tack, and starts to tell the man his own history as well, about the nights in the wastes of the city, about how he ended up there, about what happened to his family.

“Take your confessions somewhere else.” says the historian finally, in a voice wracked with disgust and anguish. Then he pauses, as if considering his own words rather than the boy's. “… I’m sorry. There is nowhere else.”

He rises from his chair, almost stumbling towards the boy like he hasn’t moved properly in years and isn’t quite sure how to. “I’ll admit it. There is nowhere else. I’ll do my best. I’ll do what’s expected of me…” As he walks to the blackboard, he turns around to his audience of one with a last pleading look. “Can’t you see how much I hate you?” And the boy nods and grins widely, blue eyes shining up at the historian.

“...Then without further ado, tonight’s history. Let us begin with our location, we are on the coast of northern California...”

The boy sits there and absorbs the tale. Over the course of the night and the following day, the Historian tells him the tale of Baal, in all its lurid and enchanting detail, in speech and song and dance. He doesn’t hold back as he tells the tale of how Baal left society and formed his own pack, of the assassins sent after him, of the girl who tried to escape the city and join him and how she was treated for her efforts. And for once the boy’s mind doesn’t wander. Instead, he lets this new vision of the world wash over him, and is changed by the experience.

As the years went by, as he formed his own pack and settled in the train tunnels beneath the museum, he’d come to forget what were parts of the tale he was told, and which were his own history. Was it really important either way? Strat was happy to leave that to the historians.