9a – Epilogue

EPILOGUE

Rupert gathered Aloysius in his arms mounting slowly toward light and air.  He glimpsed the Seine, then found himself stumbling into a celebration flanking the Louvre, all utterly alien to his delirious eyes. Cheering strangers chanted songs. Strangers screamed his and Aloysius’ name. Everything coalesced into a throb of sound and light pounding his temples. Dozens of people crowded around him. He spotted Claude waving his wrist-bandage like a flag.  He tried to decipher the odd joke Claude made with his bandage of a mock surrender. Strangers tried to hoist him on their shoulders, to relieve him from carrying Aloysius but he resisted.  They guided him over to the banks of the Seine where thousands were yelling, some jumping, splashing into the water. Torches cast crimson reflections on the underbelly of the wooden bridge and its honeycomb steel girders. Flares shot up. La Flamme campfires heaved sparks. Hoarded fireworks burst or, misfired, squirmed across the pavement like colorful snakes.  Looking up, he too gauked at  violet flares arcing the night sky like neon stars, trailing flame-tails and plumes before vanishing to earth or sputtering out to blistered arrows.  Remarkably, an intact spotlight focused on a barge.

Diogenes, still speaking from the Pont des Arts, preparing the crowd and himself for the worst, just announced the succession of sewer lid explosions,  confirming that most Atavists failed to surface, and relaying news from Denis that Neb’s troops had abandoned the barricades.  He scrambled down before ending his last sentence, spotted Rupert, saw Aloysius heavy, dead in his arms, nodded slowly, and understood.  Diogenes caught Rupert around his waist steering him to the bridge.  Claude shouted megaphone, in French, re-explaining Rupert’s — Aloysius’ — task.  A wild, appreciative cheer thundered. Then all of Paris’ ragamuffin defenders stopped, and one could the lapping of water against the stone banks of the Seine.  Even adolescent boys and girls who were allowed to swim quietly tread water and drew breath. For Paris, at that moment, watched a filthy, haggard young man on the Ponts des Arts, supporting his dead friend in his arms.  Diogenes stopped Rupert’s as he shrank back, whispering, “Breath slowly.  Take my hand.  No shame in it.  Rupert, hear me?   They know what you did.  They know what Aloysius did.  And look, look down to that barge!”

Undine was gliding toward the bridge, riding with the returned Louvre masterpieces.  On the opposite Seine banks, shadowed by captured Atavist supply trucks and deathwagons with their turret guns blow-torched off, or stuffed with streamers and confetti, in a wild, colorful junk sculpture procession — the paintings were gliding safely through.  She had delivered over them all: set up in rows, returned the Davids, the Gericaults, the Delacroix, the Caravaggios the panoply of gigantic canvases with light playing upon them from all angles.  Trotsky stood by Undine but she too was looking up, with Virgil, Rupert’s dog at the prow, pulling off a purple hood, as silent as everyone else, as the Anarchists protecting the barge, as the Parisians resistance fighters from the Northwest barricades, or anyone hardy enough to  jump on since the barge reached the center of Paris.  Her hands were folded over her head, her elbows out, she was staring fondly, biting her lip, amazed to see him alive.

Since fears of occupation had just been refuted by blasting manhole covers consecutively running down the streets to the demonstrators’ platform, and since being nearly overrun by suffocating Atavists and Blunts escaping through the streets, and since many of crowd just returned from heckling and beating into submission, blocking the last Atavists from their last act of regressive fascism in a chorus of jeers — Rupert, surfacing at that moment, somehow crowned the Revolution.  Paris won its freedom at the twilight of its history.  And even if it implied no dawn, tonight would challenge every morass-bent regression toward a Golden Age of lost power or wealth, toward Atavistic Eldoradoes of lost nationality, just as it reflected that humanity, deprived of money could still say “Yes” to itself even as the ship of its civilization foundered — even as the crew needed their enemies flares to commemorate its victory.

Rupert stared at Undine — quavering, like an image in some else’s paradise, but she remained indeed his, and alive.  Then he felt Aloysius, heavy, still warm, still soaked with sweat reflecting that Aloysius, who wanted nothing more than to paint, never saw his masterpiece: this Paris night.  Rupert swayed.  The enormity of it was beyond tallying, or counting himself “happy” in posthistory, beyond his body to tolerate.  Diogenes walked up to him, propped him with a shoulder under his armpit, smiling crustily, remarking the silent crowd:

“Rupert, look at me — is there anything like a good Revolution?”

“No, there wouldn’t be,”   Rupert smiled, ruefully, “… if one never had to lose a friend.”

Ulrike appeared and he saw her purpose in her transparent eyes and surrendered Aloysius to her as she alone shouldered him away from the crowd to chant over him, blonde hair tinted violet in the shadows by the flares, as she withdrew.  After Rupert watched her carry Aloysius away, he climbed upon the railings of the bridge and jumped headlong into the Seine.  The crowds egged him on, then waited long for him to surface from the oily water, until Virgil, panting on the edge of the Black Market barge helped Rupert by the scruff of his collar onto deck.  As Undine picked him up, it did not matter if all satellites had fallen to earth, before the fireworks and pyrelights dimmed on the windowpanes, before the procession and the night, reached its end.