"… Clarice Starling. FBI." The words slip from my tongue and not for the first time they ring hollow, false. My eyes scan the lake, focusing on the obvious decoy of the boat only for a moment, out of reflex rather than a real hope I will catch sight of him. I know Dr. Lecter is already far from here.
My mind betrays me with the afterthought. I do not feel the relief I should at having escaped a madman or even frustration of an agent that my target has gotten away. Instead, I feeling nothing except the sinking sensation that I have somehow missed the point.
No chilling words echo from the back of my mind to correct my thinking or offer a pointed, painfully truthful observation. The familiar voice that confused and comforted me at the same time is silent now. Alone in my mind for the first time in many years, I somehow know that there will be silence in my mind tonight and many nights to come, yet I still won't rest easily.
The uneasy sensation that I have missed the point grows stronger as officers swarm down the embankment, surrounding me and searching the surrounding woods for the man I know they will not find. Each of their Kevlar jacketed forms a reminder of the choice I made. A choice that I keep telling myself was no choice at all.
The crack of fireworks echo over the lake, not quite drowned out by the whirring of the helicopters overhead, reminding me of what day it is. The fourth of July. Independence Day. Despite my days in the Orphanage - God, Fate or higher powers don't really figure into my belief system that much, and yet somehow I know this Independence Day was meant to be more than what it is now. I try to convince myself that it is. I'm free of the screaming. I'm free of Dr. Lecter.
Just as Dr. Lecter once knew when I lied to him, now I too know with unerring certainty that my thoughts are false. It's ironic in a way that I tie myself once again, ignoring my chance at freedom, to the organization that will destroy me on this of all days. Dr. Lecter was correct. Sooner or later they will destroy me. Yet I can't stop myself from returning. If they decide that I am an accomplice to his escape my destruction will come quickly. I almost find myself hoping they will. Otherwise I know I will continue on waiting for my destruction.
Like a lamb to the slaughter.
There are people around me now, talking to me but I don't hear them. I barely register anything as they toss the blanket over my shoulders. Whatever your reasons were, selfish or not, you tried to save me didn't you Doctor, just like I tried to save my lamb. Just like my lamb I was too heavy, too weighed down with responsibilities, my misplaced loyalty to them, my morality, my perception of myself and you weren't strong enough to set me free. You being who and what you are Doctor, my only consolation is that my screams won't keep you awake at night.
Memories flood my mind.
"Tell me Clarice, would you ever say to me, 'Stop. If you loved me, you'd stop.'"
"Not in a thousand years…"
"Not in a thousand years…" Words stopping. His mouth coming down towards my face. Never flinching. "That's my girl." His lips soft against mine.
My hand closing the cuffs around his wrist.
The tear running down my cheek.
"Now that's really interesting, Clarice, but I'm really pressed for time. So where's the key?"
"Where's the key? … Okay."
Him lifting the cleaver from the counter.
"Above or below the wrist, Clarice…"
Him raising the cleaver above his head.
"This is really going to hurt…"
I clench my eyes shut again and push the memory back. Trying not to remember anymore. I don't want to remember anymore. I can't be certain of anything anymore.
God, I hope my screams won't keep you awake at night.
I can still feel the track of my single tear as though it were still wet on my cheek. Incongruous with what I feel now, this dreadful chill, this bottomless emptiness. Do you know this terrible duality of nature, Doctor? No, I don't suppose you do. I didn't either, until you. Clarice wanted to let you run, Doctor. Agent Starling couldn't let you. It wasn't until the cleaver came down that I knew what I had to do. I did my best to let you run then. Keeping my eyes closed until I knew you were gone. Taking my time to remove the handcuffs from my wrist.
The price for my realization was too high.
One of the officers escorts me to a cruiser and I barely recognize the fact that he is reading me my rights. It seems my destruction will come sooner rather than later, Doctor. Not that it matters; I am already paying the price for my choices. What they do is inconsequential. No price they could exact heavier than the one we are already paying. If only I'd realized that sooner.
Like a lamb to the slaughter. I can't run, Doctor. I never could.