A spider creeps across the ceiling; give me a moment to collect my thoughts. A four-eyed terror crawls through my dreams, edging its way ever closer to my vulnerable hand, pressed against the wall. Don't look at me with that coal-black judgmental stare, gashing your nasty little jaws at me. With a small sigh I swipe my palm over the cold stone wall, marking his final resting place; another wretched member of Order Araneae. Il ragno è morto.
"He left me no choice..." I explained walking over to the wooden frame in the corner of this room I am in. Four limbs, each strapped to a coner... head slumped over to the right, eyes like glass eyes glossy and unblinking. "Listen to me Max... I don't like how you're not listening to me."
A pair of defiant eyes dares to look up at me; OH, on that face yellow and purple with bruises the effect is overwhelming. I can't stop laughing.
"Now that I have your attention Max... do I really have your attention? Ah, good... I'd like to share with you a little revelation I just had. You see, Maxwell, you... well you and your people, wouldn't want them to feel abandoned, you Maxwell Thames are a lot like this spider, sitting in its web, waiting, gashing your jaws, anticipating your next meal... heheh... just tug on the web here and there and watch your hapless prey dance like puppets!" I couldn't resist the temptation to laugh and grab his face around the jaw so that his eyes were locked onto mine. "How many people have fallen into your web Max...? What makes us different Max, what drives and motivates you Max? Blind loyalty to something you can't even see...? The blind leading the blind... but look at you now, caught in your own web. No one will come to help you... there is no cavalry just over the hill. You're alone, but that's the way you've always been isn't it? What do you think about that?"
"I think you're in love with the sound of your own voice." He said, with a voice like an adder's sting. Beethoven or Mozart could not have conceived a sweeter symphony.
And that glare, like white-hot daggers penetrating my flesh, sending ripples of excitement down my back. It was a work of art, a look as though he wanted nothing more than the power to obliterate my very existence with a single thought. I wanted to carve that image into my head.
"Haah! That was the PERFECT expression MAX! Un pezzo d'arte!" I cried with glee, jerking his head forward. "It almost reminded me of the eyes of the Inquisitors who imprisoned me, well that's before I pulled them out of their sockets anyway. Three weeks without food or water, torture, alone in a cold cell... heh, there's a certain sense of irony there, back then I was in the same position you are in right now. And yet... they just simply could not understand they would never be able to get anything out of me. Their methods were so... antiquated. Food, comfort... such things are like sand passing through your hands... ephemeral isn't it? We're a lot alike in that regard, aren't we Max?"
"We're nothing alike." Max said in a low, gravelly voice. "And we never will be."
I smiled, how very... predictable. The minds of Guardians, especially mages... like clockwork. But like any delicate, finely-tuned mechanism, move a few parts the wrong way and... "I know that. Just like I know you will never give in... but why do I persist? It's because... you're just so..." I pinched his right cheek and shook it so with enough force his entire face wobbled. "You're just so much fun to mess with, Max, that why!! Haha! You looked like a giant ragdoll just then, Max. You're not getting tired are you, Max? I wonder what you'd say after I started nailing your fingers to that frame there." I saw his expression tense for a moment, as though in anticipation and I grinned. "Haha, don't worry, Max... Master Calith told me leave that for later. But still I have plenty more to work with... starting with the Slayer."
The Guardian laughed bitterly and shook his head. "You have no idea who you're crossing. If I'm not mistaken she has already kicked your ass not once, but twice!"
It was my turn to laugh, and slammed the man's head back against the frame. In return he spat a mouthful of blood into my face. "Yes, that's the stuff! You're right though... that girl is the only one to have ever fought me face to face and walk... or away without a scratch. But this last time it wasn't her, mind you! If that assassin hadn't gotten in the way, maybe things would have turned out just a little bit... differently? I have made the Slayer into a personal project of mine. And it won't be enough to just kill her, no... there are things in this world worse than death; you of all people know this to be true. And that's assuming our little friend back there didn't do it for me! We both know the feeling, don't we Max...? Hopeless, abandoned. It's as if your entire body is about to cave in and drag you down into the deepest pits of the Abyss and there's nothing you can do to stop it; no one to take you by the hand and pull you up. And then I find myself sitting on the bank of a lake, waiting for something..."
For a moment something behind Max's eyes lit up, or maybe it was just the concussion? I drew my face closer, my eyes piercing though his, as though they could read into his very soul. "Tell me... Max... how was it? I know he looked into your mind. Tell me how it was reliving your most painful memories in perfect high definition. I... want to know what the first time is like again. It feels like... centuries."
Max's eyes narrowed at me, that same defiant look. That same look as though he has things under control, even now, with tomorrow morning an uncertainty. "There's nothing you can do to me... that has not already been done." He said, with a satisfied tone.
"As much as I want to take your word on that, Max..." I smiled, and pulled away, chuckling to myself as I grabbed a lever on the side of the frame. "I'd like see for myself, just the same."
Pulling down on the lever, the rack fell back suddenly and locked into a horizontal position with a loud crash. I walked to the door, leaving him there like that. "There are a few things I need to get... if you remember anything please do let me know. We'll have a nice talk."
With that said, I shut the door quietly behind me, letting the last thing he saw be my charming, amiable smile.