I stare listlessly into the flames.
It mesmerises me, the flickering dance of orange as it plays across the edges of my vision. When I gaze into its heated depths I no longer see myself, I no longer see the hints at the edge of my vision at what I had hoped to become, what I had wanted to become ... what I will never become. He disappears in a thin wisp of dashed hope and thwarted dreams, a sliver of a person who might have survived, if so many things had been different. A mother not lost. A brother known. A father less hated and loved.
In his place stands the person that I am. A person who is strong, confident, self-assured. A powerful individual who knows what he wants, and knows how to get it. He is a person I have learnt to embrace, a person who had been my destiny and my future.
But sometimes, in the eerie pre-dawn silence, in that oppressive penumbra between night and day, dark and light, I wish that things were different. I wish a million things now, sitting in silence before the dancing flames, lapping and crackling in delicious warmth before me.
I wish for a mother, long dead, who embraces me as mothers do, regardless of talent or skill at arms or intelligence of thought.
I wish for a brother, long dead, who turns to me in complete trust, secure in the knowledge that I will protect him with the best that's in me.
I wish for a father, long dead, long hated, to love me as I knew I should be loved, as I needed and craved to be loved.
There are still many things I wish for.
Wishing, my father said, was for fools and dreamers, a weakness not to be tolerated by our proud lineage. Luthors are neither, he barked, because we were destined to rule the world in greatness.
So dreamers dream and fools wish. I may be both, but right now, I don't care.
There are times when I think I cannot go on, not again, not ever. And every time when I think I come to the end of my journey, it begins anew. There is always a reason to go on.
The dawning of a new day and the whispers that glides over muted colours and clouds as insubstantial as air, whispers of new hopes, new dreams yet to be fulfilled. A sliver of good that breaks out of me unexpectedly or the strength to smile with guile that taunts me to begin again, to begin afresh. Begin the never ending cycle of regeneration and death of the soul within me.
The soul that withers and dies from neglect in the basest attempts to fortify it against harm and breach. A siege with no beginning and no end, a siege at times without hope, with only loneliness and crushing despair for camaraderie.
But the cruelest reality of life is that there is always hope. I will always go on, as I have gone on ... but I will be alone in doing so.
The story of my life, of my soul, is that it just is; I go on as I exist. Nothing and emptiness packed into the place where Alexander Joseph Luthor should have been but where Lex Luthor stands now, lonely, ruthless and cold.
I am everything that my father would be proud of.
"Give me a break." I whip around at the voice, twist my neck in discomfort, but there's nothing there. I look around the room in the eerie quiet, but there's nothing. Silence. And so I sink back down again into the comfortable confines of the expensive leather of my chair.
"Hey, I'm right here you know." I launch myself out of the comfortable warmth, scotch spilling unheeded onto carpet.
"Who's there?" The voice mimicked. "Give me a break Lex. I'm going to give you just a tiny amount of credit here and give you one guess. Please, dear God, don't get it wrong." She chuckles insanely. "I'd kill myself again if you do."
"Chloe?" I whisper, my brain refusing to process the obvious and cold logic of my conclusion. In all my life I had never known a voice as distinct and familiar as hers. Except for maybe one other.
"Well, d'uh. Finally." A breathy silence, and suddenly my skin is tingling with Goosebumps racing up and down the length of my spine. "Took you long enough."
"What are you -"
"Doing here?" She finished off for me, and I can almost imagine her vivacious excitement, her eyes alight with a fire and passion that only she had been capable of. Because she was Chloe, brilliant and insane and encapsulating everything that I understood about life as it was meant to be lived. Chloe in all her sunlight and glory, the brightness to my dark, the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel in my soul. Shining eyes, playful smile, passionate warmth.
The Chloe who had died, long, long ago.
I blink furiously, disbelieving the persistent tears that well in my eyes. Did I really need to cry, after all these years?
"Boy, looking like you've seen a ghost there. Oops." She chuckles, and the laugh is all wrong. Disjointed and out of place in the brightness of my memory. "I guess you have."
Her laugh is too bright, too harsh in the darkness surrounding me. She isn't here, I silently scream over and over. It is a scream without voice. An action without soul.
A chill wind blows against my ear and I recoil instinctively. Luthors don't cower, but right now I am coming close. "Is this what you've been up to while I've been gone?" She whispers to me in a sing-song voice, the girlish pitch almost too high for me to bear. "Drinking alone, in the dark, with no one for company? Colour me pleasantly not surprised Lex."
I move my mouth, wanting to speak. To shatter my crystal silence and hopefully my delusion.
I swallow but nothing comes out of a parched throat, paralysed by the pin prick of mad satiation of hope that courses through me. Chloe cannot be here, and yet I crave her presence, the way I've been craving it for the past twenty years.
"If I didn't know you were completely heartless, I would say you do a good impression of a person who actually gives a shit." I open my mouth to speak again, but her taunting, lilting voice continues. "Of course, you were always a great actor. You probably could have won an Oscar or two. But you had other things on your mind, didn't you?" Her voice drops languorously, just like it always did when she got aroused. "You remember that night we made love under the starry night sky, and you said you loved me? Did you really mean that Lex, or was that just an act too?" I screw my eyes shut. I want to whimper and scream like a child, but I pull myself back just in time. "I've seen you act so many different parts. The President. The Friend. The Liar. Tell me, which one's the real Lex?"
I grit my teeth, covering my ears weakly. "You're not real. Go away. You're not real."
She laughs derisively, a blasphemous twist of all that had been light and happiness in Chloe. A dark vortex of sound smothering the air out of me in its haunting familiarity. "You wish. You see, there's this thing I have to talk to you about. It kind of involves you being a complete bastard to anyone and everyone standing in your way to the top. I'm not trying to be excessively cheesy here but really, couldn't you have thought of another reason to be the way you are? I mean there's just so many things to choose from - revenge fetishist, psychotic murderer - you name it."
Her voice is soft, melodious, a dull ache burgeoning into a pounding drum in my mind, an insane bubble that rises in the air before me. "Instead it's just power." She says sarcastically. "It's always been about power for you, hasn't it?
"No." I whisper desperately, knowing what is coming.
She is relentless. She had always been stubborn that way. "Sail on that river in Egypt all you want, but I know the truth. You could have been great person, Lex. Instead you're ... you. A son that only Lionel Luthor could be proud of. Surprise. He's proud of you. He told me so himself."
"What do you want from me?" I screech. I'm screeching and out of control but I don't care.
She laughs, a strange bubbling sound that's more like the laugh that I dream about, still, after all these years. "Silly, I don't want anything. I just dropped by for a chat. It kind of gets lonely here sometimes ... without you." She adds a little wistfully.
"Chloe I love -"
"You don't love anything now Lex. You wish you do, but you don't." I blanch as her voice softens and cuts me like shards of broken glass, a weapon she wields that tears my skin and rips it apart for me to see the emptiness yawning inside. A gaping chasm with nothing to fill. "That's the thing about you that you don't get, Lex." A slight pause as the licking flames in front of me dies a little. "You're not a man, you're a shadow. The shadow of your father."
"Chloe, please -"
"No can do Luthor. Gotta run. Daylight's streaking and frankly, the sun no longer does anything for my complexion. It must be the whole being dead thing. I'll be watching you."
Sunlight streams in through the thin slit between the curtains of the room. I rise, reaching out blindly to grasp her, to grasp any sliver or tendril of her presence that she left behind.
But she is not there. Not any more. Leaving me empty and desolate, like my life without her.
I sob brokenly. A broken sob filled with the realisation that I was broken long ago, never realising that my chance for redemption had passed me by like starlight in shadow when Chloe had died.
I know she has really gone when the air feels warm again, the heat of the new day searing my almost frozen skin. I quickly grab a pitcher of water and hold it against my head, willing it to cool the tempest that now storms within me.
But nothing cools me better than the chill in my own heart. The flaming burst of emotion dies within me even as I strive to control it. And like the dying embers of the flames in the fireplace before me, it crackles, weakens, and dies.
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