It is only natural that the infection at Elm Hill should find the ghoul appealing. It is only natural that it should say to him, “I am like you and you are like me and we are we.”
It is wounded, as he is wounded, by the Thorn.
It has spent its long slumbering years without anything closer to its nature than the occasional wicked child stumbling by; and now, such a feast of kin! The ghoul; Micah; the nostalgic taste of Liril and the grangler in its depths; and Melanie—
“Sublimate into me,” it whispers to Tainted John, “o wicked child.”
It beats about his mind like a moth. It caresses him like a hank of dangled silk. It yearns for anything to end its loneliness and fill the wound it cannot fill.
John has somehow missed Vincent. The man isn’t in his brain. You’d think that when you can reach your hand right into somebody’s head and feel around that he’d have the grace to be there, Cartesian dualism be damned, but no, the man’s warm body is just an empty corpse.
It’s enough to tempt a man to become God, seeing your sacrifices get away like that. It’s enough to make you think: yeah, maybe that Jesus had the right idea. Arise, and be as God.
If you’re, you know, a ghoul, with a particular concept of divinity and a poor grasp of the theology behind the miracle of the incarnation, and you’re rooting around in Vincent’s brains outside Elm Hill.
One day Tainted John will look back on this and think how amazing it is how many problems he could have avoided if he’d grown up and gone to seminary instead of trying to assert order on the world and on himself through the vehicle of Liril’s flesh. Or become some sort of workman, maybe, if a seminary didn’t fit.
[The Frog and the Thorn – CHAPTER TWO]
May 28, 2004
He can smell them. A moment later he can see them—a flicker of white and black. Rabbit.
“Arise, and be as God,” whispers the wounding of the King.
He is already moving when the lightning strikes. He has already caught one of them when he hears its long low roll. He lifts it up in his hand, weighs it, judges it, the black rabbit, and it is numinous and shining and no mortal thing all wriggling and writhing in his hand.
The white rabbit’s halted, trembling, in its run.
Tricky, he judges. He opens his mouth. He’s going to say something, but he doesn’t get the chance.
The world turns to blaze. A hot wind blows, and full of screams; and behind him, the doors of the facility, the wall, the ground below them —
The sands dripped through the hourglass
And the hour of the wolf closed in at last
And life is sweet and the sun is high
But the flesh and the fire are born to die
There’s a girl in the sun
And there’s girls in the sea
And in Elm Hill’s cages
There’s a girl like me.
He almost makes it. Vincent almost makes it.
He’s wrenched from his body an instant before Tainted John’s hand wrecks his brain. He’s dragged out, stumbling, staggering along the ground, with Kaela crying urgency into his soul.
Kaela’s seized up by the boy and helpless and he can’t make himself leave her and even still he almost makes it, because it’s just then that the world turns white and Tainted John is tumbling and the rabbit slips away—
But it is Kaela, and not Tainted John, who lands broken; and Vincent can only watch as Tainted John picks up his heart, his familiar, his salvation, and gulps her down.
And one day, maybe, he’d look back on this and think how amazing it is how many problems he could have avoided if he’d gone to work for the Devil and not for Central; or become some sort of workman, maybe, if the Devil’s shoes didn’t fit; anything, really, that wasn’t working for the monster; except that his brains are jam and his rabbit’s gone and so, suddenly, he’s dead.