Boss Citadel sat at the front row of the church pews, Ms Citadel at his side. The priest spoke but his voice was muted, as though he was an insignificant detail in a vivid dream. Behind the preacher was a great monument to his God, risen high to draw one’s gaze in implied reverence. The high ceilings housed the many who had filed in so dutifully and found their place in the lowly slums, cautious not to stray too far from their own. They stared past each other’s backs towards the holy man in diminished hope as he completed his daily rounds.
It was this sight, the droning organ, and the dour smell that immediately struck Boss when he had entered. He loathed this place.
As a child, Myrtle, his wretched mother, had brought him here to worship. She would tell him to repent through rituals of guilt and incomprehensible assumption. She would hiss at him if he dared mumble a word of the ancient recitals of bias and contradiction. And at the end she would curse him for reasons that only her twisted God could explain.
But Boss had always found one thing compelling, and that was the blank faced mass of people who so freely allowed this dictation to enter their lives; so wilfully manipulated by a back-ended promise. They would pledge their lives in anticipation of the payout which, in the end, could not be measured. That was an invaluable lesson. He applied it to every aspect of Citadel Inc.; from media to sporting ventures to supermarket chains. All the way to Walter Wallace.
But Boss was back in church now, staring at a princely box that contained the body of his brother. Locked inside the casket was the disfigured face of Mark Tanenworth, patched together in vain by the mortician but ultimately sealed away from the innocent eyes of the public. Instead they were to remember Mark according to his jolly grin, framed and resting atop the coffin.
Boss remembered the last time he saw Mark smiling like that. He had cracked a joke in the meeting days before his death. For a fleeting moment he grinned, awaiting the laughs of the attendees. But nobody laughed, they wouldn’t dare unless Boss himself had laughed. But Boss never had time for his brother’s humour. He was too proud and too weak to laugh at himself and he envied Mark’s ability to play the clown. The memory of that grin was forever soured.
Boss held a much more vivid image of his brother’s face. One he could not shake. As the scum behind him sobbed he wondered how many of them had seen it. There was the video of his suicide, it was broadcast online. Super slow motion and screenshots that captured the blurred chunks as they were blasted out of screen. How many had searched for the leaked photos from the morgue? Flagrantly displayed on the main page of the William Unston cultwebsite. How many had visited the apartment where the blood was still scattered like some sick memorial? How many had stood and watched as the coroner drew back the sheets to reveal Mark’s face, only with certain parts of it simply missing? It almost looked comical, like a poor photoshop job. Boss had shot people in the face before but he had never hung around to see the damage and he had never considered how odd it would look with all the blood and excess cleaned off.
Boss had not wept then, and he wasn’t crying now. He had not once cried at the news of his brother’s suicide. He had despaired and he had raged but he was yet to break down emotionally. He stared at the casket and imagined Mark’s spirit rising up and inevitably meeting Myrtle’s. She would be looking down at Boss shaking her head. Mark standing idly at her side, unwilling to disappoint her with his independence. He looked sheepishly down at his feet with his one remaining eye.
The priest called Boss to the altar, asking him to give his eulogy. Boss rose calmly; he found himself completely aware, a clarity which he had maintained at unprecedented levels since Mark’s passing. He strode to the stage, no notes in his hand, no speech stored in his head.
“Thank you, father,” he said with a stern politeness. He looked out at the people. His wife gave him a nod of strength. He accepted it, continuing to take his time. He brought his gaze slowly to Sammy. He had known where he was seated but did not want to go straight to him. Nor did he linger. He cleared his throat.
“Mark was a great man. It is not fair that he should pass and less so that he should pass in this fashion. I could take this not as a blight on his character but as a fault in society and how we filter ourselves, stifling the impulses of someone such as my brother. But would that be fair to acquit a man who chooses death in a world founded not in the perimeters of a human society but in the natural selection of a billion possibilities?
“Don’t be so quick to blame yourselves for not knowing Mark. He was funny and creative and had an open heart. But he was weak, and he was submissive. In the wild he would have fallen, and in this society which is designed to protect us all he still found that drop. But he was a great man.
“Imagine a world where everybody was as Mark was. It would be slightly backward, much less progressive and ultimately would struggle to sustain itself for even half the lifespan of our current society. But in that time there would exist an indescribable joy. A fearless joy and love for one another. In this world where happiness is confused with economy and determined as our ultimate joy we have failed to achieve even a millionth of a percentile of what Mark’s world would attain.
“But he’s dead now. My brother is dead.” Boss looked down at his hands, resting upon the lectern. He throat suddenly stung with gripping intensity. “It’s our loss,” he choked. “It’s my loss.”
Boss stepped down from the altar and walked. He passed his seat without acknowledging his wife as she stood to hug him. He walked down the aisle, his eyes searing like the dried up desert plains receiving the first rain after a fierce drought.
He left the church and climbed in the back of the black sedan that awaited him. As the vehicle pulled out onto the road he squeezed his eyes shut and dried the tears. He still saw the bastardised outline of his brother’s face, only now as he focused he saw Sammy staring back at him with a hint of fear in the one remaining eye.
Boss pulled the trigger and blew the fuck out of that one as well.