Summary: John Gilbert finally comes to terms with the price he’s paid for cheating death so many times before.
Spoilers: 2.21 The Sun Also Rises
Author’s Note: Thanks to ever_neutral for her encouragement and advice. I finally posted, girl. Aren't you proud? And maybe there'll be more...
Beholds it but through darkened glasses
I have died countless times: some were memorable, others mundane and quickly forgotten. Yet no matter the variation in morbid method, the disorientation of returning to life is always the same. The quickening, my brother called it with a wry grin, an infinitesimal moment when you span the yawning chasm of existence and the lack, when the world is shrouded fog and icy air and wrong, horribly wrong.
(You are horribly wrong. Your last heartbeat echoes hollow, a storm in a steel drum, and the world inverts to the negative image of once familiar sights. Red gone green and blue gone yellow, up gone down and near gone far. You stand apart, spying the waking world through a death vision. Your eyes are the Reaper's: all life is measured, weighed, and cut in the number of breaths till the final gasp. You watch the living force evaporate with every exhale—one breath closer to death, they are, and you welcome their demise, loved ones and enemies alike, if only so they'll join you in the aether. Misery loves company, in life and death, and no one can decline death's final invitation with you as eager courier.)
Thankfully, that moment in eternity drowns under a swell of adrenaline that forces me past the threshold and to the surface. I gasp for air and life snaps back into focus—in all its sensory glory: crisp and bright and achingly loud—and I am human once more.
Or so I choose to believe. So I try to believe.
Perhaps the coldness stayed with me longer than I'd realized, married to my bones. Perhaps I was changed in ways unrecognizable at first glance, beyond mortal eyes, sight unseen. Perhaps I’m dreaming when I spy a trace of fog lurking in the corner of my eye, always beyond me, always waiting, waiting for me.
Perhaps I’m mad. They say madness runs in the Gilbert line. I wouldn’t be the first mad John.
I don't know. I do not wish to know.
All I know is this: I lived again and again and again, every awakening as extraordinary as the first shocking return, and with each new beginning I sought to repurpose myself, to make the most of my restored life while others less fortunate and more worthy remained cold in the ground.
Survival eternal: a gift, responsibility, burden, and curse—it was all of these and none, forcing me to wonder if I ever truly came back at all.
I have lived recklessly, knowing my death was never too high a price to pay, but merely a threshold I could cross at will. My deaths were never a true end, but always an opportunity. My enemies would relax their guard after they'd snapped my neck or drained me dry, and I’d awaken in their lair, my fist already clutching a stake. The element of surprise was my greatest weapon: the vampires would stutter in confusion, asking if I'd drunk their blood somehow without their knowing, and even as I staked them, they'd look at me with a hint of wonder.
And now I find that once again my death is an opportunity, only this time I can finally save one more worthy than myself.
I have gone willingly to my death countless times, knowing the nothingness could not hold me, and I'd awaken healed—but now is not the time for impermanence. Now is the ending of all my endings, now is the time for death to claim me whole.
I slip off my ring, and my bones sigh, and there in the distant corner of my eye, the glimmer of grey retreats. The sun is rising, a bright promise, and a long-forgotten hope fills my chest.
Today is a good day to die.