So Sung the Chorus

Yuri gripped the balcony’s railing. The ornate metal returned his fury and dug into his palms. Moscow gleamed in front of him. The summer sun dipped low sending golden-red rays over the city, painting the clouds in Victorian glory. Divine opulence earthly beings only dreamed of.

The sunset’s beauty was lost on him as Lada’s screams continued. He turned his back on the view, on the golden clouds and the sun’s final rays, back toward his wife’s painful wails.

Yuri brushed his hair away from his brow with an agitated hand. Through the open archway, resting at the end of the long hall, waited their bedroom. From behind the weathered door, Lada’s howls reached down into him, clawing at his soul. With every shriek his heart dipped deeper, he clamped his eyes shut, hiding from his helplessness. His fear grew and burned from within him as he clenched his jaw hard, hearing his teeth groan under the pressure.

Yuri couldn’t take her screams any further. Something was wrong, he knew it. He would not leave Lada to the torture she endured, not alone.

Who were they to remove him from the room? He was Regent Volkov, a line chosen by blood and God himself. He would stand by his wife, and nothing could prevent it. He left the balcony, the burning desire to end Lada’s suffering driving him back down the hallway toward his bedroom.

He crossed the distant hall, determined to stand with his wife. He passed paintings of his father and grandfather, of generations of Regents who glared down at him from their frames. His forefathers gave him strength. He was a Volkov; he was Regent; he would not shame them. The doctors couldn’t remove him, not now, not after this much pain. Lada needed him.

Another scream, a different one, stopped him solidly. It was smaller, innocent but strong. His anxiousness abated; the need and worry evaporated. He stood frozen, staring at the closed door.

Yuri shook off the unfamiliar hesitation and continued. Before he could reach the bedroom door, it opened. The doctor who had removed him exited. The shorter man seemed nervous as he lifted his paper mask revealing a hesitant, fearful, expression. Behind the man, the voice of his newborn amplified before being hushed by the closing door again.

“What is it?” Yuri asked, hating the weakness that colored his voice.

“My Regent,” the doctor began, his eyes found the wooden floors. “She is very weak.”

“Move,” he growled and strode forward.

“There isn’t anything we can do,” the man put out both hands trying to halt Yuri. “We can’t stop the bleeding. You nee-“ The doctor’s words were cut short as Yuri smashed a fist into his abdomen. He doubled over, and Yuri brought a second fist across the man’s face sending him into the wall.

Yuri opened the door and crossed into the lavish bedroom. On the nearly square bed of bloodstained white linens lay his wife. She smiled warmly at him; her skin was pale and as ghostly as he’d ever seen it. Several nurses shrunk toward the opposite wall away from him.

Another doctor, Dr. Mikhailovich, held in her arms a small bundle. But her panicked eyes were fixed squarely on his. She clutched the baby defensively as if he meant the little one harm. He was disgusted by their fear. It permeated the air of the room.

“Yuri,” Lada called, her small voice carried in the now silent room.

Her voice ripped him from the shrinking nurses and nervous Mikhailovich. He crossed the floor, treading over the decadent rugs and finally ending by Lada’s side. He gripped her soft hand.

“Lada.” He brushed the jet-black hair from her damp forehead with his free hand. He expected her to squeeze his hand like she always had before, but her hand remained weak, barely clutching his own.

“He’s finally here.” She smiled sweetly at him.

Yuri glanced at the stained sheets with concern. “Lada, I’m going to fix this,” his voice trembled, wavering between rage and grief.

“Yuri,” she looked deeply into his eyes.

He couldn’t let her speak, he would not say goodbye. He just needed to keep her here with him, he knew it to be true. “This is all going to be ok, I’m going to stop this.” His eyes, now gleaming with tears, found the doctor and nurses. “Stop this!” he screamed at them.

“My Regent,” Dr. Mikhailovich began, “it is internal, we’ve been trying to stop it, we can’t.”

“You will stop it, this is not how this happens, this is not how this ends!” he bellowed. Yuri felt a hand on his cheek. The touch of a mother, of a queen, his love.

“Yuri, can you hear it?”

He turned back to her. Her lost green eyes searched the ceiling beyond him.

“Can you hear the Chorus?” she asked. “They sing for him, for our son, they sing his name.”

Yuri pressed the nearly limp hand to his forehead, openly weeping. His words were stuck in the clenched muscles of his throat. He pleaded with God. Prayers echoed in his mind, ringing and begging with only silence returned to him.

“Gavril,” Lada whispered. “He’ll reach the heavens.”

Again, the prayers erupted, screamed, and whirled in his skull. He promised everything in his power and more.

“Our Chorus.” Lada breathed. Her chest falling and failing to rise again. Her hand went limp in his, and a hollowness filled him.

Her faint smile remained, accompanying her transfixed eyes. Yuri slid his hand between the side of her face and the pillow, then gripped the base of her neck with tender fingers and kissed her. Lips always so ready to meet his, lay still. He kissed her again feeling his tears roll down his cheeks onto her face.

He pulled away and placed his forehead on Lada’s. Screams filled the room again; woefully pained lamentations of something wounded. An animal damaged and broken, wading out into the wilderness to find an end. He hadn’t realized it was him, the sound of his agony. He clasped the sides of Lada’s face, his forehead still pressed against hers.

He was alone, and all the world was empty.

“Come back,” he sobbed.

Heavy, labored, breathing pulled him from his pit. The doctor that had attempted to bar his way shuffled disoriented through the doorway. The man clutched his stomach.

Unfathomable rage filled the emptiness within Yuri’s chest.

“You were supposed to keep her safe,” Yuri stated, his voice grave.

“My Regent, I did everything I could to stop the bleeding.” The doctor held his arm up defensively.

Before Yuri knew what he was doing, he felt the ring on his left hand activate. It cracked audibly, releasing steam and pure white light between its dark metal frame. The familiar burn in his muscles and skin began to shift down his fingers then up his arm. His skin and fibers changed into the bio-metal, the Hand of Gabriel. In the lines of his arm, the dark, unearthly metal split revealing more brilliant light beneath.

The fabricated chemicals, hormones, and compounds surged through his system. The adrenaline-fueled components pulsed from the heavenly machinery through his heart and circulated through him. His sleeve burned away from the heat of the white-lit vents in his arm, the speed and strength of an angel bestowed on him.

Yuri was on the man before he knew it. Blood already staining his bio-metal fist. He heard nothing but the thudding of broken bone and flesh. The world was silent in his fury as he beat the doctor to death. With every impact of his fists he felt bones snap as if made of dry twig. He hauled the man to his feet by his collarbone; it broke and crumbled in his grasp.

The man was dead, bent and broken from the onslaught. Yuri dropped the limp body, backing away from it smoothly. He became aware that tears still cascaded down his cheeks. He glanced around the room, seeing the cowering figures that shrunk away from him. All except his Lada, who had never feared him. She would never fear again. She would never hurt or doubt. But here he stood, without her for the first time since they met.

The nurses huddled further into the far corner of the room. Dr. Mikhailovich stood in front of them, obscuring them from him, protecting them. His anguished eyes found Lada. Distant and departed from this place though she was, her beauty sent him drifting back. Everything within him told him she would blink and smile at him again. But her face remained as beautiful and unmoving as it had been when she passed. His back found the wall. He slid down the face of it until he sat.

Yuri didn’t know how long he’d sat there. how long he sobbed. But finally, he looked up into the eyes of Mikhailovich. She stood over him, beyond her the nurses huddled around Lada prepping her to be moved from the crimson stained sheets.

“Your son,” Mikhailovich said. She extended him the small bundled baby, his son. The boy had stopped crying and instead lay comfortably in the soft swaddle. Yuri took him. His son’s blue eyes fluttered, trying to remain awake, but eventually, they closed peacefully.

Mikhailovich said something, but it seemed muffled and far away.

“What?” he glanced up.

“Gavril. She named him Gavril. My Regent,” She said and bowed curtly, then turned and went to help the nurses.

Yuri stared down at the little thing. The baby they had been waiting so long to hold, now, sat in his arms, never to be held by his mother. Lada was gone, and her killer rested in his embrace, sleeping and oblivious to a world without her. Disgust filled him abruptly and shame quickly followed. This small thing had taken her from him, his boy had killed her. This thing that he’d been waiting to love now revolted him to hold, let alone be near. He would have to live the rest of his life raising the one who murdered Lada.

“Mikhailovich,” he managed to say through a ragged throat.

The doctor turned back to him, abundant fear making her eyes grow wide.

Yuri stood. He crossed the room and handed the babe back to her. He turned to Lada and knelt by her. “Get out, all of you. Get him away from us,” he said. Yuri retook Lada’s limp hand and pressed his lips into her soft knuckles.

“He’s your son,” Mikhailovich replied appalled.

Yuri turned from his wife, his eyes red-rimmed and furious. “He’s a murderer,” he growled.

Mikhailovich shrunk from him as if his disdain alone would harm her. She gulped and looked at the nurses, hoping to find strength in them she no longer had herself.

“Leave us,” Yuri ordered. His words rung like Sunday bells in the quiet room.

The nurses filed out, trying to avoid the growing puddle and body Yuri had left behind. Mikhailovich stayed in the doorway. “I’ll hire a nurse for you, someone to help. But, the boy needs his father,” she said.

Mikhailovich took the baby with her as she left, and before closing the door, uttered softly, “This is not his fault.” The door clicked shut as it closed behind her.

Yuri did not stir, he didn’t say a word in return. He mourned at the edge of the blood-stained bed. The world had ended. Lada was gone, and her newborn killer had taken her place.

The golden clouds outside the window still churned over the horizon and city. They floated on a tainted breeze, stained by the red glow of the faltering sun, there in the last remnants of a dying day.

by: James Romansky