The Pursuit: A Conversation

I can hear the cacophony of the dogs in the distance, violently objecting to the chase, turn by turn as the quickening, eager feet stamp down their prey and a percussion accompaniment of gates and shutters slam against the possibility of involvement.

It is raining as he stumbles through the door, bent double and coughing from the cold air that stings his lungs as he gasps for breath. His hair clings in sodden ropes around his stricken face and his eyes dart around in terrified anticipation of discovery. He presses himself tightly up against the wall. His palms spread wide against the alabaster plaster, his head back, and eyes squeezed shut he wills himself into the shadows. His sinewy neck is exposed and the blood pulsing thunder through his veins betrays the terror in his heart.
As danger passes his shoulders begin to fall and he relaxes, but when he opens his eyes he catches sight of me standing behind the bar, glass and suds and rag in hand. He tenses and starts for the door, but then, with dawning recognition, a smile of warm relief washes over his face. A chuckle escapes him as he smoothes back his hair and shakes the rain from his fingers.

“It was close. I think I need a drink. Raise a glass with me Luka.” he says.
I look away and hang my head, not wanting to meet his gaze. Pain and ire choke me and a brief half-strangled sob surfaces. I step to the side to pass around him, desperate for the door. He spins me back to face him.
“Why do YOU scorn me? Are we not brothers?”
“You aren’t the one I used to know.” I whisper
“How long has it been Luka?”
“Oh, but you have been gone a while now.” I say, managing to look at him for the first time since he recognized me.
“But I have been here all along brother.”
Grief overwhelms me as I realize that he feels no remorse at all and looks not for deliverance but only for safety from the hand of man that almost has its rightful grip around him.
“There is no kinship here, Hunter.” I spit, “Once I reached out for you but as I clutched for that once steady, generous, hand of my brother you wretched and heaved and paled with sickness. You struggled and cursed and railed against me and then quiet and calm and vacant you slipped like cold sand, through my fingers. I shouted after you but you glared with flashing flinted eyes razoring through me like the thin cruel steel of the blade in your hand.”
“You are mistaken, Luka. Never you! It was never about you.” He shakes his head in clear confusion.
“I waited there a while, in hope, but you were gone.” I say. Then in desperation for some hint of the former friend ” Didn’t you hear them screaming?” I wail.
He looks at me steady and calm, “Of course Luka, but they were not real! At that first blow a passion scorched my breast like a dancing, growing flame and I was EVERYTHING, god and spirit and man. I struck an awesome power and wielded our justice with a swift and shining sword. Hot sweet vermillion spilled to smile my victory upon Me!”
“Stop! You tear my soul. Wretched spirit rendered wholly powerless by power itself?! Would that your passion have blazed for glorious righteousness and stayed your hand. So would God and man have smiled for that triumph.”
“You take it all too hard, brother. Let this go. Was this not War?”
“War? You took it all from them and them from all. Everything here is lost.”
He laughs. ” Oh not so! Look around you. We have our place, we have our land. We are clean. I’ll not cry for them.”
I search his eyes. Is there any gleam at all of the humanity that once dwelled there in a kind and honest face? No. None.
” Speak Luka. What of you and I?” he says.
“Lost too brother.” I reply.

I turn and walk across the threshold. The sun has started to warm the streets and steam is rising in wisps from the glistening stone. Shutters begin to open again and as I step into the light, I see the soldiers gathering at the corner to return without their quarry. I look back and see him watching me from the shadows. Fear has returned to his face and he shakes his head slowly, pleading with his cold eyes for me not to betray him.

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