Terrance lay in bed, the dawn light spreading over the blanket. He rolled over onto his side, perhaps if he couldn’t see it and he pretended it was still night it would make the time pass slower. He shut his eyes and wrapped the blanket tighter around himself. These were the last moments of sanity he would have for another year. The only time he had to truly be himself. What made it worse was the awful thing that was going to occur in a few short hours. The only choice he could make while sane, but then it wasn’t really a choice, was it? He could let it go, allow himself to finally wither and die and with him would be the death of the human race, or he could cling to life for another year, full of vitality and madness. It was a great sacrifice on both of their parts.
The madness seemed to eat away at his mind a little more each year, if the war didn’t come to an end soon all would be lost anyway and all those deaths would have been meaningless. He threw the blanket off himself and sat up. He wouldn’t waste his time lying in bed. He stood and moved to the large windows, he opened the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony. He always did like the balcony, it was a riot of colours, a smaller version of his Royal Gardens far below. He watched as the sun rose over the city, people were waking with it, going about their lives, journeying to work. The Sky trains ran through the night but he could see they were full of people going to work. He felt their eyes on him, despite the privacy barrier that surrounded the palace, he knew they couldn’t see him, but yet he knew they looked at him regardless, judging him for what he was about to do. In the distance he could see the blight, a dark stain against the sky. It seemed to grow bigger every year, no matter what they did. Perhaps it would disappear when they finally defeated the enemy, or perhaps it would always be there, a stain on the world, a reminder of what had occurred.
Terrance had become the emperor due to an unlucky quirk of fate. His mother had been one of those who clung to the revenants of the old world, she didn’t allow any additions to his body. She was the last of a dying sect. The parents refused upgrades for their children, once the children reached eighteen they had the choice to make for themselves, but until then they were technologically cut off. He had to be taught things manually, spending hours studying while the other children ran around playing, they already had their implants which were upgraded each week giving them more and more knowledge while allowing their brains to adapt and process.
The blight appeared when he was fifteen years old, small at first but it grew at a rapid pace. People who lived around it started dying horrifically, wounds would appear on their flesh, appendages would explode from their bodies. No one could understand it. They moved the people away from the blighted areas and all was well, until the injuries appeared in advance of the blight. Terrance had first seen them on a news broadcast, twisted creatures that tore apart any who got in their way. He couldn’t understand why no one else saw them, why the people weren’t running.
The implants were infected, creating a blind spot that the creatures took advantage of, once the implant was infected it spread to the brain and from there the rest of the body, even newborns were infected, spreading to them while they were still in the womb. He was the only one able to see them, They worked on technology that would allow them to see the beasts, but the virus was insidious, making it seemingly impossible to develop anything that would locate or seek out the creatures. Terrance’s job was simple, he would watch through live feeds and the information would be instantaneously uploaded to the fighters. They had beat back the beasts, but their numbers always seemed to increase. He was never a fighter, but he was immune, he was the only one who could rule with surety that his actions weren’t being influenced by the blight or the creatures it spawned.
Terrance turned from the balcony and went back into his room, there he dressed, taking his time, trying to prolong the inevitable. Soon he would consume the Distillation and then the madness, fear and paranoia would return. He took a moment, breathing deeply to allow himself to simply be himself. A knock came at the door, startling him from his quiet. It was time.
“You’re country thanks you for your sacrifice. I thank you for you sacrifice.”
The child nodded, he was only five. He tried to act like he wasn’t afraid, but Terrance could see it. He had seen so many children try to hide their fear. He had solemn eyes as he stared up at Terrance. He knew the child didn’t understand what was about to happen, none of them did. He would soon though. The child was placed in the machine. He didn’t know the child’s name, didn’t want to know. He already knew far, far too many names. When it began he had insisted on knowing the child, of being aware of the cost, but he could no longer do it. The crushing guilt was getting to be too much, but it had to be done for the good of everyone. He watched as the machine started to work, the gears whirring and shifting, it wouldn’t be long. He watched as tubes snaked out and stabbed into the boy, listened to his screams which rose above the noise of the machine itself. He watched as the machine unravelled the boy, and still the boy screamed, screamed and screamed, only stopping once his mouth was gone. Terrance could see it still though, the fear and pain in the child’s eyes until finally they too were gone. When it was over all that was left was a glass full of a deep, red liquid. Everything the child was was in the glass. Terrance closed his eyes and felt a single tear roll down his face, hot and painful. It was the last moments he had to be himself, truly himself for almost a year. He picked up the glass and drank, almost immediately he felt the strength flood into his body, followed shortly by fear and pain. The pain didn’t last long, when it stopped he was lying on the ground, his muscles sore and cramping. He stood shakily to his feet, waving off attempts to help. They were his most trusted advisors, but he could trust none of them now, he swept from the room, he had a job to do, a mission, destroy the blight before it destroyed them all.