Saul finds Vladimir crying on a bench.
The hunger for human flesh is there. It is tugging on Saul’s sleeve. It is asking for his attention. Saul considers it. But since Vladimir controls swarms of Lethal robot bees he is not the most edible man on campus.
Saul sits down.
“Hey,” he says. “What is it?”
Vladimir looks up. “You will kill me,” he says.
“No,” says Saul. He shakes his head. “I’m not going to kill you. I’m here to give you a shoulder to cry on.”
“No. Not now,” he says. “You will not kill me now. That is essentially impossible in the scenario as I understand it. But later. You will kill me later.”
“Oh,” says Saul. “That. Well—well, yeah.”
Saul grins a little.
“But we’ve got time,” Saul says. “There’s no hurry, now. No one’s joining the House of Hunger any more. I don’t know if the Hungry breed true, but if we don’t, and even if we do, really, we’re just a tiny handful of predators wandering an infinite world of prey.”
“It is my fault,” says Vladimir. “I have seen it. It is my ambition. It was too overweening. I weened, and then I weened more than I should have. In such a fashion did I doom us all.”
Saul pulls Vladimir over. And Vladimir rests his head on Saul’s shoulder and there he cries.
And Saul strokes Vladimir’s hair, and says, “Sh.”
“You will die too.”
“That’s all right,” says Saul.
Saul gestures out at the horizon. “See,” says Saul, “I know the purpose of the world. It’s hunger. It’s the hunger that surges and falls inside me like a sea. I think we can make it grow in us. I think it can transform the world.”
Here Saul hesitates. He looks briefly confused. Then he shakes his head.
“The others are too confused to do it,” he says. “They’re pawns of the hunger. But I can teach them. I can lead them. I can make it grow. And if I succeed in this then it doesn’t matter if I die.”
“You do not know the purpose of the world,” says Vladimir.
“Pardon?” says Saul.
Vladimir withdraws. He gives Saul a corpse-grin.
“Here is what I know,” says Vladimir. “We see the purposes for others that are in our minds to see. But these are not their purposes. We are a lens that looks at one another and ourselves. But we are a flawed lens. I made a hat. It was my most brilliant creation, Saul. It was true genius. It found the potential in each person and sorted them into the House that would bring that potential out. But its world view was limited by the flaw in my personal lens, and the name of that flaw is Gotterdammerung.”
“Hats don’t lie about moral issues,” says Saul, uneasily.
“I cannot say,” he says. “I am sorted. I am head boy of the House of Dreams. I am surrounded by the lightning and I cannot see the truth. I have trapped myself in the construct of my purposes. But I pray that it is wrong. I pray that someone will save us. Because I finally understand that that purpose is an evil purpose. It will crush me. It will crush you. It will take away our humanity.”
Something in this touches Saul. Perhaps it is the pitiability of meat regretting lost humanity. Perhaps it is the way that Vladimir in his edibleness nevertheless reminds Saul of his peers.
So Saul says, very gently, “We must take joy in the purposes given to us, Vladimir. They are all we have.”
The hunger is a rising storm; but Vladimir is a “sometimes” food.
Saul brushes his tears away.
Fun Fact! Some dieticians think that it’s okay to eat Vladimir all the time, but Vladimir doesn’t think it’s okay to eat him even once!
House of Saints is over. There will be one more related legend at some point in August or September. Beyond that, I make no promises, either to those who like it or those who don’t.