Afflictions: Part Forty Two

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Paul sat on Arte’s bed, and stared blankly down. He really scared the shit out of Deven… and himself. He had to tell someone. Despite what he’d thought, he couldn’t just not talk about this. He couldn’t exactly seek out a therapist, and Arte already knew a lot of it, so he figured she was the natural choice.

He heard the door open. “Christ, Paul!” Arte shouted. “You can’t just go in here! It’s an invasion of my space!”

“Yeah, sorry. I guess you’re probably right.” Paul nodded. It had been a little bit since he had actually earnestly considered the feelings of others. He had mostly been engaged in the facts of the future, and preventing bad outcomes. “You never put up with my shit, huh?” He chuckled.

“Are you okay, Paul?” Ashley asked.

Paul was slightly startled. He hadn’t seen or heard her coming. He couldn’t let her know this, since she was potentially involved. He hadn’t gotten it fixed yet.

“Yeah, do you mind if I borrow Arte for a minute?” He tried to resume his usual casual tone.

“Oh, sure. I can wait.” She walked off, and the door closed again.

“Alright, asshat. You’re keeping me from a date, so make it quick.” Arte moved towards the desk.

“I haven’t told you the whole story about Zoey dying. Don’t worry, Zoey will still live, and please don’t hit me until I’ve had a chance to explain…” Paul sighed. He shouldn’t. It might change things. Then again, a few hours ago he had been looking for a big shock… He had to do this for Deven, and for everyone else. At this point he was bordering on being a danger to himself and others.

“Okay. I’m listening.” Arte sounded sincere. She always had a way of turning that on when he needed some comfort.

“We saved Zoey. That was true.” He nodded. “What I didn’t tell you is that someone has to die.”

“What do you mean? Who dies?”

“That’s not important. What’s important is that right now, Ashley is set to heal them. That can’t happen.” He shook his head. “It can’t.”

“Okay.” Arte nodded. “What happens if she does?”

“Well, the future isn’t significantly different from the correct person dying, but she would die. I can’t let that happen.” A tear ran down Paul’s face. He hated this. He didn’t want this awful power. Nobody should have to choose who lives and dies, least of all him. He was just some asshole, who thought he was smart, and got superpowers by chance.

“Paul. I need you to answer me honestly.” She sat down on the bed next to him. She was quiet for a moment. “It’s you isn’t it?”

Paul broke down crying. He couldn’t keep it in anymore. After all this time, and all this work, he finally broke. He felt a hand rubbing his back. He cried for a while. He wasn’t worried about keeping time. After a few minutes, he pulled himself together.

“Please, don’t let her heal me. You two deserve each other, and it’s my decision.”

“Isn’t there any other way?”

“No. If someone low impact doesn’t die, nothing works out. It’s a fixed point.” He shook his head.

“Are you saying you’d be low impact? We need you Paul.”

“I can arrange to have anything you’d need from me given to you at the right time. None of you can do the same.” He sighed. “Also, I’m minimizing the people that would miss me. I have no significant relationships outside of you, Deven, and Jude. Anastasia is done with me now, Vanessa’s been done with me for a while, Jude and Deven can manage, and you have Arte. I’ve put up a good distance.”

“Is that why you’ve been such an ass to everyone?! Do you have any idea how selfish you’re being? You’re taking away their choice!” She raised her voice for a moment, but then took a deep breath. “All relationships come to an end. You’re robbing them of happy memories with you.” She sighed, then added, “And that’s assuming I’m going to let anyone die.”

“Do you really think I’m doing the wrong thing here? I don’t have that long left. Wouldn’t it be selfish to get close to them, knowing what happens?”

“No, Paul. Everyone dies. Just because you think you know when it happens, doesn’t make that any different. Everything has to come to an end.”

“Well, I’m not sure that I could actually win anyone back at this point. I’ve been a dick to pretty much everyone.”

“So your answer to that is to… Keep being a dick to everyone?”

“I… I just don’t know…”

“I know with your god complex that’s a sensation you haven’t experienced in a while, but to us mortals, it’s a common occurrence.”

Paul chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so…” He paused for a moment. “Can you please promise you won’t let Ashley sacrifice herself for me?”

“Can you please promise me that you’ll respect all of our friends, and give them the choice they deserve to be able to make, and get your shit together?”

“Fine.” Paul nodded. “I’ll try to get it together.”

“In that case, I’ll abide by your wishes. I’m not letting anyone die, though. Seriously.”

“Thank you Arte.” Paul stood up, and paused. “Live a long and happy life with Ashley for me, okay? Since I won’t get that ending, I want to make sure someone does.”

“Keep your nose out of my love life you wannabe romantic.” She laughed. “Now if you’ll get out, I have to get ready for a date.”

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