Mother Portia: A Novella Project – Part 11

In the previous installment, we get a glimpse of Azibo’s increasingly erratic and repulsive behavior as he physically assaults an older man. We also catch him daydreaming at work about becoming a martyr and carrying out a suicide bombing mission for The Collective. Will he go through with it?

Let’s jump to Part 11, where we get another look at Azibo and Unity’s rocky relationship.

Breathing heavily, Azibo opened the apartment door, then slammed his keys down on the creaky living room table.

“Azibo? What’s up? Did you run here?” Unity emerged from the bedroom, wearing one of his old Bible Camp t-shirts.

“Yeah. So what?”

“I thought you had work?”

He slipped off his sneakers, threw them in the corner. His chest heaved up and down – he wasn’t used to sprinting like that.

“Shura let me out early,” he lied.

Unity stared at him, frowned. “Then why did you run home?”

“I wanted exercise.”

Azibo’s habit of lying about the most minor things drove her crazy; it was something she constantly got on him about. She liked to say he always seemed to be hiding something. He rarely opened up to express his true feelings or even express what actually happened to him on any given day.

“So … are we going to talk?”

“About what?”

“Az … about the mission. Suicide bombing.”

He stared off into the distance, lost in his head. He was dreading this conversation. He knew she’d try to talk him out of it, and he feared this could be the thing that broke their relationship for good. He needed her, true, but his desire to be a martyr was greater at the moment.

“I’ve decided I’m going to do it,” he said. “You can do whatever you want; you don’t have to do it, too. But I am.”

Her face twisted in anger and concern. “That’s not fair. What about us? You’re just going to sacrifice your life? What about me?”

“What about you?”

She choked up, fighting back tears. “I swear, Az. I’ve known some selfish people in my life, but you are one of the most self-absorbed I’ve ever known.”

Azibo stayed silent, sulking on the couch. He didn’t want to hear it; this was the greatest opportunity of his young life to him, and he wasn’t going to let it pass by. Martyrdom was a chance at a kind of immortality.

“I can’t take this much longer, Azibo. You barely even talk to me. And you’re grumpy all the time – aren’t I enough for you? Are things really so bad that you want to end your life? And for what? For the Collective?”

“Yes!” He shot off the couch, his voice raised. “For the Collective. To stop Machina, and Portia, and this terrible world we live in!”

“It’s not that terrible! We have each other.”

“It is terrible! This world sucks, and I’ll be glad to screw it up more before I leave. What do we have to live for? There’s no such thing as family anymore. My family’s gone, and so is yours. It’s just endless bullshit out there; mass consumerism on an unprecedented scale, total depravity.”

They gazed at each other in silence for a moment, Unity wiping tears from her eyes. She picked up a framed photo of them, held it up.

“Then this means nothing to you. Us – we mean nothing.”

He didn’t reply. Instead, he sat back down and looked away.

“I’m going to stay with a friend for a while,” Unity said, regaining her composure. “I’d been thinking about it for a while now, but it’s obvious now I have to. Please don’t call me while I’m away.”

“Which friend?” He began to panic.

“It doesn’t matter.”

She walked into the bedroom, and he could feel a different energy in the air. It was the energy of a breakup, the way her tone of voice change to note some kind of inner-resolution and finality.

“Take care of yourself, Azibo. Don’t do anything stupid.”

He had too much pride to beg, but he felt like doing so. It was his worst nightmare to lose her, yet he kept pushing her away. His knees began to shake, so he headed to the bathroom medicine cabinet and popped a downer.

Unity left with an overnight bag five minutes later, not even popping her head into the living room to say goodbye. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. He hadn’t cried in years, probably since the day his father was murdered. There was a place of immense hurt, which he located in the center of his chest. It was a physical feeling, one of tension and soreness, and it was something he never knew how to deal with. He laid on the couch that night, feeling that hurt.

He thought about martyrdom, the Collective, and it didn’t seem as appealing now that Unity was gone. But he reassured himself he was making the right decision, doing what he had to do to stay pure and absolve himself of his many sins.

To be continued

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