Closer. The fire still burned hot in his vision. He took his gloves off and stretched them over the fire.
He could've still been back there now.
But that wasn’t entirely true. It wasn't easy for Andrew to tell if he still occupied a bluff over the armed federal encampment, as the wind howled and snow blinded his face, even in the dug-out hollow of an icy tree.
Or. He was back at the victory celebration in the captured Governor’s Mansion, warmed by the fireplaces and the Nuevo Californio mezcal.
At one point either event had taken place. But dreams had a way to alter events. Both scenarios, presented by a dying man’s vision, were changed by the faces of the dead.
In real life he'd never shared a hovel with Erik during the Battle of Christmas Day. And after the fighting, when the ceasefire had been called, Andrew never talked to Kendra. He'd never had the chance. Not at all.
Closer, Erik whispered, the fire bright in his eyes. Dead eyes. Andrew gasped at the blank holes where Erik's eyes should've been. Gouged out. The Skin-Secters had done their worst to him.
Where am I really?, Andrew wondered. He should've been behind enemy lines. His government, the enemy. But in time and memory, and especially the order of past events of things, he wasn't anywhere near the Battle of Christmas Day.
You passed out, you big lush, Kendra whispered in his ear, the bathroom floor slippery with his own vomit, Kendra's coiffed dreadlocks hanging over his face.
The signs of war didn't appear on her body. The exploding projectiles that'd ripped flesh from her face and arms and torso existed in another moment. A place where things happened for the first time. Memory. And his conscious mind rebelled against this vision’s alteration of events. She'd died that day -- and Erik…
Happy solstice, boss, Erik had said back then in that icy tree, during the longest night Andrew would ever face, as a blizzard bore down on Erik and him, and their entire reconnaissance force. Trapped, frozen, and desperate. For life. For victory.
Erik had always called Andrew "boss." The mention of the winter solstice just another reference to Celtic heritage Andrew and Erik shared, another nominal association to the pagan past they held to. Soldiers under the banner of the Baal Zavuv. Sworn enemies of the tyrannical union of American states.
Kendra's honeyed voice called Andrew back to the celebration. Out of the snow. Days later, Erik and Andrew and the rest of their zealous ilk would be striking down the 7th Army. It's symbol on the captured standards had been a bull.
How funny is that?, Kendra asked him in his vision.
Andrew Liam Clare. He was stuck on the precipice of time, on the day's longest night. And for what? But to wake up on another Christmas Day. Kendra dead, and now Erik. For just that one waking second, Andrew would see the future and know the true fear of surviving, while losing his very mortal soul.
He was frozen on the crossroads of worlds. buried under the weight of his fear. A dead father. A lover gone. A friend’s betrayal. A friend sacrificed his life for his. It didn’t matter. Andrew couldn’t emerge from the darkness.
He imagined he saw a light and moved towards it. It’s all he had on Christmas fuckin’ Day.