Darkness and melody.
“I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride. With sword and pistol by my side.”
Alone in a room, King Blueberry sits. He’s leaning slightly forward, two taped hands rubbing together in nervous anticipation. The fingers of his left hand bend and flex instinctually, a lasting memory of extreme violence running through his mind.
And while he’s facing the camera, his head is down. His eyes look towards the floor. This is not the posture of man ready to march to war, but one about to take his last few steps to the gurney where a lethal dose of pentobarbital awaits.
These are the last moments of King Blueberry.
King Blueberry: They used to be the good guys.
He taps his chest with his right hand. His torso is covered by a tee shirt, black with four faces in silhouette over a desert town.
Cyrus Raines. Jason Cruise. Amy Campbell. Jonathan Rhine.
The original Highwaymen, a FUSE faction dating back over fifteen years. The company logo is still visible despite how worn and dated the rest of the shirt looks.
Fitting that the last two faces hover just above his heart.
King Blueberry: Until… Well, one of them wasn’t. They were the people who put themselves in front of the bullet, who threw themselves on the grenade, who made sure that whenever an outlaw rode into town that someone was there to meet them and draw down. Until one of them didn’t. It’s a familiar refrain, I guess, though the circumstances are a little different. That person? It took a while, but they got it together. Maybe even had a little help along the way. They got their happy ending. Living their best life, as I understand it. You?
He raises his eyes to the camera for the first time.
King Blueberry: I don’t think you’ll be so lucky.
It’s followed by a steadying breath. The first of many to come.
King Blueberry: You know, when I was little I was convinced that monsters were real. That they were coming to get me. I thought that if I hid under the blankets, if I couldn’t see them, then they wouldn’t be able to see me. Pretty stupid, all things considered, but that’s a running theme with me. I could hide, sure, but that didn’t change anything. My parents tried to convince me that I was wrong, and it was all in my head. I’d hear it every night before bed. “There’s nothing to worry about,” they’d say. “Nothing is out there.” But they were wrong, weren’t they?
King Blueberry: What would you tell your kids?
He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
King Blueberry: Sure, there aren’t any vampires or werewolves, but that doesn’t mean that the monsters are any less real. It’s just that they know how to hide. Their disguises are far worse than anything I could come up with. We know a thing or two about hiding though, don’t we, Paxton?
He stares directly at the camera, through it. The mask that he’s worn for so long is all but in shreds, a collection of tears and stains, haunted by memories of blood and chocolate and chains. Hazel eyes and a strand of pink hair shows through.
King Blueberry: For nine months you had me convinced. Hell, you had all of us convinced. Here’s a brave guy, a fearless guy who just wanted to do right by his daughter. You know what? I was proud to play a small part in helping. I cried the night I learned she was in remission. Cried like a fucking baby, I won’t deny it. But that wasn’t the whole truth. Now we all see it, the monster that was pretending to be a man. This?
The words escape his lips before he realizes what he’s saying.
King Blueberry: This is who you are.
He shakes his head and sighs, letting his eyes fall back to the floor.
King Blueberry: But who the fuck am I?
The camera begins its slow zoom forward.
King Blueberry: I used to know a guy, a real pain-in-the-ass type. He thought he could make a difference. Thought he could help. So all those grenades people kept throwing? He dove on all of them, just so that no one else would have to. Because he thought it was the right thing to do. Because he didn’t care about the cost. God, he was such a dumbass. Eventually it got to be too much. That kind of shrapnel? It leaves the kind of scars you can’t see. So he ran. He hid. He pulled a blanket over his head, because as long as he couldn’t see the monsters…
His eyes glance up, looking just off camera, and for a moment there’s the smallest hint of a smile, warm and genuine, playing at the corner of his lips. He’s silent for a moment before speaking again. The words that come now are emboldened, those of a man who knows what he has to do, even if it’s not what he wants.
King Blueberry: I’ll fly a starship across the universe divide; And when I reach the other side; I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can; Perhaps I may become a highwayman again; Of I may simply be a single drop of rain… but I will remain. And I’ll come back again, and again, and again…
King Blueberry: …and again…
King Blueberry: …and again…
King Blueberry: …and again…
King Blueberry: …and again.
A second breath. What happens next is the hardest part.
King Blueberry: I may not be a “lost soldier of the highway.” I definitely don’t have many sets of eyes with which to see. But I see you, Paxton. God, I wish I didn’t.
With one hand he pulls free the strings that hold the mask in place. They give easily under his fingers, the months of wear finally taking their toll. This particular piece of armor will defend him no longer.
King Blueberry: It’s been a year, and despite everything that’s happened I realize we’ve never been properly introduced, not really.
He closes his eyes, bracing for what comes next.
Inhale deep. Hold. Exhale.
His right hand takes hold of his mask, and with a single tug the bandage is ripped free. A mop of brown and pink hair tumbling free is the last thing the camera sees before it cuts to black.
But the audio remains.
“Hey, Paxton. I’m Jared. I think it’s time we met.”