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The Problem of Redemption

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The other Farouk, the man from the future, is standing on the balcony overlooking the Moroccan landscape. Amahl watches him, studying the familiar lines of his body. 

It’s all over now. There has been no battle, no war. His prey, Xavier, has left, and all that remains now is for the travellers from the future to fade away. 

Amahl steps up beside his doppelganger, looking where he’s looking. They are a mirror of each other. 

“Stay with me,” Amahl blurts out. 

Farouk laughs, looking down. “Always the narcissist, no? No one could be good enough for us but ourselves . . . you know I can’t.” He looks up, meeting Amahl’s eyes. “I came here knowing that this was the end. You must live for me.”

Amahl’s hands tighten into fists on the balcony railing. “So that is it, then? The three of you come into my life, tell me to change everything, and then - leave.”

Farouk shrugs. “You know as well as anyone that life is not fair, my dear. Nothing has to change for you, if you don’t want it. After all, Xavier is a world away, and the rest of us will be gone. You can keep your kingdom, your pleasures, your power games.”

Amahl jerks his head to the side. “And what of what you showed me? You felt something for him. All of this, all of this, you did it only for him. And now he is gone. What now?”

“‘You can’t always get what you want,’” Farouk says. “‘But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.’” He turns to face Amahl, resting one elbow on the railing. “You have a second chance, my love. I have changed. You can, too.”

Amahl is silent, for a moment. It seems unbearable to him. Change his entire life around, and for - what? For Farouk, who won’t exist? For David, who won’t remember him? But what’s the alternative? “I told Xavier I was lonely. That was a lie. Wasn’t it?”

“Perhaps,” Farouk says, “It was not true then, but it is now.” 

“You have shown me a life I can never have,” Amahl snaps. “And now you will leave me alone. I deserve what you have had!”

“You deserve it,” Farouk says, flatly. “Is that what you believe? That you are a good person, that you deserve to be loved?” He shakes his head. “No, it’s more than that, isn’t it? You are loved. You have destroyed the life of these children, and yet they look to you as a father. There are men and women in every country who would die for you. And yet that’s not good enough for you, is it? You don’t just want to be loved. You want to love.”

“Pathetic,” Amahl spits. “I am not like that. You are the one who has grown soft.” 

Farouk looks at him with pity in his eyes. “Even with me, you will not dare to allow yourself to be weak. How long will you live a life like this?”

Amahl pushes himself away from the railing and turns his back on his doppelganger. “And what is the alternative? You didn’t love him because of him. You loved him because you had no other choice. You ask that I follow in your path - but how can I? Because of your actions, I will never have the experience you had.”

“I was lucky,” Farouk says, coldly. “Fate handed me something that you and I both know we don’t deserve. Your tyrant, the man you keep in a cage, do you think he did not struggle with his conscience? Do you think he did not suffer? Do you think he did not find that benevolence had too high a cost? You know you are better than him. Prove it.”

Amahl is silent for a moment. His doppelganger’s words strike a nerve in his ego. He needs what Farouk provides him, to be seen, as an equal. If anyone else dared to speak to him this way, he would lash out. Or, perhaps, he wouldn’t care, brushing off their words as mere envy. But Farouk is himself. Amahl cannot help but see himself through his doppelganger’s eyes, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

“How?” Amahl asks. “What would you ask of me?”

“Start here.” Farouk walks around him to stand in the doorway and face him. “These children you keep - they deserve better than to be boxes for you to store all of your nightmares. Take the prisoners out of their heads. Find them homes, if you can. And if not - take care of them. The way I should have taken care of David.”

“You cared about David,” Amahl says. “These children - I don’t care about them. They are props.”

“I have no easy answers for you,” Farouk says, flatly. “I will not tell you that you will be rewarded.”

“And if I don’t do what you tell me?” Amahl says. “If I go on with my life as I have been?”

Farouk shrugs. “I will not be here to stop you. You can do whatever you choose.”

Amahl is silent. It is a monumental task that Farouk lays in front of him. But to refuse it would, in some way, be to admit that he is incapable of it. And he has always, always told himself that he could change. That it was possible. That he simply chose not to.

“Perhaps I will let the prisoners out,” Amahl allows, after awhile. “Perhaps. They have served their time, after all.”

Farouk lets the silence stretch a little longer. Finally, he says, “There are other bonds in the world than those between parasite and host. Whoever you become - whatever you remain - it is not too late to seek an equal.”

Amahl laughs. “I have no equals.” His mouth sets in a bitter line. “Excepting only you.”

Farouk laughs back at him, shaking his head. “You know that is a lie. You simply will not accept them. Do the work, my love. We are too old to be so lazy.”

Amahl looks at him, and wishes, desperately, that this mirror of him could remain. He takes a step forward, and then another, and then grabs his doppelganger’s hands. He is holding them too tightly, he knows, he must be hurting the other man. But he needs this. He needs to be close. Just for a moment, he needs to look into someone else’s eyes and see another mind looking back. Not a shadow, not an insect, not the dreams and illusions surround him. The only real thing in this world of dreams. 

“I can’t stay,” Farouk says, quietly. 

“I know,” Amahl says, shutting his eyes for a moment. “I know.”

When he opens them again, Farouk is gone, just like that, and Amahl is alone.