Black as Sin


amato_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Black as Sin
Synopsis Nick dreams of his days at Treblinka and the wages of sin as dealt by a man of God.
Date May 29, 2011

In Dreams

Cold. The ground is white tundra beneath his bare and bleeding feet, the sky overcast and bleak, the sun so distant and shrouded by the white layer of clouds that it seems a distant memory, a faint and faded ghost that may never show its face again. Black smoke spews from a chimney of a black building in the distance; black and white stripes cover the thin forms of the men that Nick works with, digging a mass grave for the bodies he knows will be coming out, black and no longer human except in shape and past.

The only colors in the bleak landscape are the faint pale blue of his eyes and the sharp red of blood that stains the white snow; his fellow prisoners are all as white as Nick, with black hair and black eyes that seem as dead as those of the corpses they will be burying any moment. His shovel makes little progress, the snow too packed, the ground beneath too frozen. He finally casts his shovel to the ground with disgust and frustration. The effort is futile.

The first sound to rise up above the dull, dissonant symphony of labor both far and near is the snort of the horse. The snow crunches under the blades of shovels, but the hooves of the black beast that has ridden up to the line of men slaving at the edge of the pit might as well be the padded feet of a kitten.

Steam rises from the great nostrils, curling up to blend with the gray sky, but not before momentarily shrouding the face of the horse's rider, as if the lean man in the black wool and leather uniform were made of mist rather than flesh. When it recedes to reveal the pale yet lively face of the officer, he's smirking down at Nick.

"Think of it as a preview of things to come," he says, his voice flat save for a faint twinge of righteousness that sharpens the words into a needle-pointed blade.

Narrowing his eyes at the officer, Nick shrugs his left shoulder. A one-sided smirk lifts the corner of his mouth in humorless contempt for the fair rider. "As if I'm afraid of that," the Brit says, jutting a chin toward where the rest of the men trying to dig at what may as well be concrete for all the impact their shovels have on the frigid ground.

"Just do it and be done with it and quit the fuckin' masquerade already," he tells Amato. "You've a gun. Take me out now — quit this fuckin' hypocrisy that makes you feel better about murdering innocent people. It won't fool anyone in the end, you know. Not even you."

The younger man spits into the snow to punctuate his words — the snow gleams red when the glob of fluid hits its mark near the horses' hooves.

"Innocent?" the officer says with a lifted eyebrow, the word strangely devoid of the German accent carried by his fellows. He folds gloved hands across the pommel of his saddle, giving the horse its head. "To say such only adds crimes to your long list of infractions against God and your fellow man, Nicholas." He purses his lips and tsks, shaking his head slowly.

"The wages of sin is death, but you, ragazzo,

"Deserve to suffer both on earth as well as in an eternal hell."

Nick's jaw sets, muscles twitching as he glares up at the man on the horse. "I don't count myself innocent, Padre, but most of them are," he says coldly, nodding to the long line of prisoners continuing their fruitless labor. Their hands bleeding on the rough wood of the shovels drips onto the snow. From time to time, someone coughs, and when they wipe their mouths, there is the same gleam of red on their lips.

The young man takes a step closer to the horse and its rider. "Do you hate me so much for what I've done, or because I've done what you've only wished you could, I wonder?" he says suddenly, tipping his head to look curiously upward.

The officer's face hardens slightly, but shows no other reactive emotion. "I don't have a sister, Ruskin."

The horse snorts again, turning its head to fix one dark eye on Nick, the gaunt prisoner clearly reflected in the red-black depths of the large eye. A cruel smile curls into one corner of Amato's face.
"No one is blameless. Grace, forgiveness - it's all a lie to help us sleep better each night. Make no mistake, Nicholas. You will burn. The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."

He looks down then, lifting a hand to thumb his cap higher on his forehead, his eyes like chips of ice bordering a treacherous break in an otherwise still sheet. "I don't hate you, Nicholas. I don't hate them. If I hated you, I'd put a bullet between your eyes and send you flying back into that grave myself, to see it done right."

His smile grows wider - almost saintly in it's patience. "No, I don't hate you. Or them. I'm just protecting the sheep from the wolves. This," he pauses, turning to look around him, then down at the insignia on his collar. "This just happens to be efficient. Or so I'm told." He wrinkles his nose then, throwing a glance at the smoke that rises into the air, darkening the already gray sky. "Even if the byproducts are less than ideal."

Pale eyes narrow, and Nick's lips curve into a smile as cruel as Amato's. "So you would have done if you had a sister?" he says, as if the rest of the speech were not given, with its pretty and terrifying similes and pastoral metaphors.

"You're right, though, padre. There ain't no rest for the wicked. But we have a helluva lot more fun than the righteous." Nick's voice is whispery as he steps closer to the man. He nods back to the others still digging at the frozen earth.

"They won't notice and they won't tell if you an' me disappear for a bit, and maybe you can live for once for real instead of all that vicarious sinning you do, yeah? Whatever you want, in exchange for clean bills of health for my block… for as long as you want."

A hand reaches up to touch the horse's neck, slowly drawing down the tendons and velvety skin in a slow caress.

"And you'll want as long as I'm here," Nick adds, a cocky grin replacing the cold smirk.

Dark plumes of smoke rise from the nostrils of the horse as it snorts again, and when it paws at the ground with one heavy hoof, the sound is like steel scraping against stone. Amato's face twists with disgust as he looks down at Nick. "There are ways to fix people of your kind," he says slowly - each word fully formed before it leaves his mouth and echoing against the brick buildings.

The blood-red eyes of the horse, still turned on Nick, start to simmer. Small bubbles rise to the surface and pop silently. A light glints, and there is the slow slip of metal against leather as a black-gloved hand at Amato's waist pulls out the shining blade of a knife.

If the horse's strange behavior and appearance bothers Nick, he doesn't show it other than to move his hand from its muscled neck to Amato's leg where the Italian man straddles the beast. Nick's brow raises as he draws fingertips downward; his eyes flick to the knife being drawn and he huffs a sardonic laugh that rises as steam into the gray sky.

"Rather phallic," he intones wryly, "but a bit sharp for my tastes. C'mon, Padre, don't deny you're curious. And…"

Nick glances at the popping of equine eyes but doesn't let it derail him. "… I promise I'll be gentle." There's a beat. "At least the first time."

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

But it isn't the padre who recites the verse. It's the horse, the voice hollow and dark.

Amato turns his icy eyes to Nick's hand for a moment before dragging them back to the man's face. The flash of the blade is blinding, masking the initial bite of the point between flesh and bone.

The horse's gospel does distract Nick this time, his breath catching in his throat as he turns to stare at it; the flash of blade draws his eyes back to Amato too late, and he pulls away his hand to tuck between his side and other arm. The cocky grin is gone as he stumbles back away from the steed and its rider.

Once a few feet away, he spits again into the snow, the blood brighter on white than before. A shaky smile returns, though it's forced and feigned. "Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Nick manages.

The blade falls to the ground, silent on the snow. The horse rears, shaking its head and streaming more smoke from it's muzzle into the gray-white air. A tar-like substance ties its front hooves to the snow, but it snaps when the beast rises onto its back legs. Amato's face becomes a mask of cruelty, almost vaudevillian.

There is little effort involved in knocking Nick to the ground with those heavy hooves and the weight behind him, and the ground is not forgiving. Cold, yes, but as hard as cement, as if no blanket of snow covered the rock and dirt.

And there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

The horse snorts, blood and tar dripping down from its nostrils even as the smoke curls upward. It rears again, pinning fetlocks together to crash downward on Nick's offense.

The assault has Nick doubling in pain before attempting to roll away, fingers and bare feet scrabbling at the snow, blood staining and melting the frozen snow. Rather than merely muddying the dirt beneath, a chasm opens, a mouth of darkness that swallows him as it spews a black, sooty smoke that smells of sulfur and burning flesh.


In the limbo between dream and waking, Nick cries out in both worlds, then wakes with bone-rattling coughs that stain his pillowcase as crimson as the snow of the dream.

The door to Nick's room flies open with the scream, thrown by man mirrored in Nick's fever-ridden imagination. Like any good sick-nurse, Amato is quickly at Nick's side to assess the situation, pulling latex gloves onto his thin hands before he reaches for a new pillowcase in a stack of linens beside the bed, waiting for the coughing to subside before he changes it out.

"You're alright," he says, speaking somewhat softly despite the coughing fit.

The face of the compassionate nurse is the face of the devil in his dream, and fear and delirium make it hard to separate nightmare from reality. Nick cringes, rolling away to cower in the corner his bed sits in. Shaking hands cover his face as he turns his face to the wall, away from Amato.

He doesn't respond to the reassurance that he's all right… he isn't, and the dream has reaffirmed that much.

"I deserve to suffer both on earth and in hell," he whispers, blood painting his lips with the effort of speech as he echoes the words Amato said in the dream. "I'd kill myself now if that weren't true."

Amato quirks an eyebrow as he watches the behavior of his patient. But with Nick gone from the pillow, he takes it and carefully removes the bloodstained linen, replacing it with a clean one.

"You're ill," he says flatly, as if to end the discussion. "It is a pathogen. Nothing more. A pathogen that your body will fight off. You simply need to rest."

"No peace to the wicked," Nick retorts with Amato's words again, not that Amato knows it. He doesn't move to rest his head on the freshly changed pillow. "I can't rest. Every time I close my eyes…"

He shakes his head against the wall, eyes staying closed. "Just go. Thank you for…" he waves a hand to the pillow. "I'm sorry." For what, goes unsaid.

Wordlessly, Amato steps away from the bed, the soiled pillow case in his gloved hands. As he nears the door, he looks back over his shoulder and murmurs a prayer in Latin, pulling the door shut with a carefully hooked toe.

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