(A Loki Drabble)
"Even I don't know what it does. Should we find out?" A Midgardian. Average height and weight. Caucasian. Straight mouse-brown hair. Balding. Sharp but otherwise unremarkable eyes. A weathered sadness in them, but only noticeable if one squinted. A large nose. A plain charcoal gray suit and a plain black tie, tailored acceptably, but nothing stunning. Tidy and normal and the picture of "sufficient." Holding a large bazooka that Loki could recognize, from ten feet away, was built from Destroyer technology.
From his own grave miscalculation, in New Mexico, so many months ago--or was it years? Loki had lost track of time while swallowed by a wormhole in space and made a personal plaything by Thanos and the Chitauri. This impudent human about whom nothing, nothing, was memorable, was waving a piece of Loki's biggest tactical error in his face, like a gods-damned bugle heralding his flaws.
His hands raised off the hovering holo-console on which rested the "eject" button capable of dropping Thor to a gristly fate. Slowly. And Loki's taut frame froze as the contingencies on the motherboard, the chessboard, shifted, and his brain scrambled to reorient around his next move. His next move would be to kill a human, not a deified brother.
How droll this would be.
Loki thought it amazing how satisfying collateral had come to feel.
In the past, he had only considered the tidal wave of violent harm that came in the wake of his labyrinthine pranks to be a neutral necessity. Something over which to try and lose little sleep. For if one began to second-guess such peripheral sacrifice, one was instantly tethered to inconveniences like guilt, and hesitation, and conscience. Pesky things that Loki did in fact have in spades, lurking somewhere in the fog of his ethical landscape, scattered somewhere, shards of his infinitely fragmented self. These things, like consideration, and shame, and compassion, were to be kept intentionally quelled, the better to broaden his horizons and heighten his possibilities. From the very start, Loki recognized in himself a failure to understand his own mercurial humors--his sentiments, his tender attachments, his...emotions...--so, the ruthless pragmatist with the analytical precision of a needlepoint judged, it was better to compartmentalize these bewildering things, and shove them into a dusty, unused corner of his psyche, and hope they did not boil over at inconvenient moments. Often, they did. But that anger, that vitriol, had a beneficial side. It fed him, spurred him on, gave him the courage to see almost suicidal plans to fruition. Loki's erupting emotions sent him to a place that was stubborn and blindly reckless and illusively invincible. They overrode his natural cautiousness and helped him dare dream of more than he had ever been willingly granted.
Thus ambition strangled moral consideration, the older Loki got. Steadily, erosively.
In no time the young prince was a long, lean, whittled man, perpetually starved with envy and mistrust, who badgered his father until he heard from Odin's lips that he was, in fact, the son of Asgard's collective cultural bogeyman. And on that day, an explosion of strained lungs and weeping signaled that Loki was as ready to accept that role as he was horrified by it. A black baptism in his own confused tears christened Loki Laufeyson "the monster whom parents tell their children about at night."
The monster. The filth. The chaos, the underbelly. The shade, the in-between, the devourer of decomposing things, the moon and the darkness. Loki was these things, so that the sun, the Sun, the favored Son, might shine all the brighter. In one paradoxical, dirty way, Loki could finally be Thor Odinson's equal--by being his wicked, cruel, perverse antithesis.
Infamy was better than invisibility. Anything, anything, was better than to labor toward perfection for centuries with no reward, no acknowledgment. Anything was better than to be alone and forgotten, forgotten except to be told by an incessant array of burlier, gutsier bullies to shut up.
To know your place.
To either speak loudly and aggressively for once, or to be silent.
To stop having black hair and green eyes in a world of towheads and cobalt irises.
To stop reading books and conjuring spells and hiding behind an infinite program of shifting bodily forms, and using diplomacy as a weapon, and being christened "Silvertongue," when you ought to be growing muscles and a pair of balls and drinking mead and getting hair on your chest and just flinging your enemies through walls with your bare fists and bedding women, only women. To be a "real" man and stop being so pretty, and frail, and sensitive, and feminine. To stop getting tears in your eyes, at all, ever.
To stop being so irritatingly, disappointingly different.
Enough, Loki. Enough. Be more like us, or shut your mouth.
He had tried both, and failed. Failed, failed, failed.
Anything was better than more of that. Power was better. Especially power. Because as it turned out, love could never be earned. And so, taking power by force was better.
Fear was power. Fear in the eyes of others was now Loki's aphrodisiac. For power was the one true way to safety, to solace. Power and safety were synonymous. Fear was a precursor to domination.
And so Loki the Monster changed from a being who accepted collateral with a squeamish cringe, to a being who smeared the blood of his fallen--and anyone else who happened to be nearby--all over his pale, gaunt face. And licked it off, and imagined everyone who had ever taunted and derided him crunched under the sole of his boot--for bones made a satisfying wet crunch indeed--and laughed.
And there was a particular elation to this kill.
This little ant. This arrogant little inconsequential pawn.
This little human man who called himself "Coulson."
Loki had learned much about Phil Coulson from Clint Barton, in the time that Clint had been devoured by the Tesseract and become his loyal slave. A high school principal. An incessant middleman. He shopped at Gap, watched "Supernanny," and had a cellist girlfriend in Portland, which was a city in the most unglamorous state of Oregon. He was nothing, nothing.
But Phil Coulson had friends. Phil Coulson had comrades who loved him, who respected him innately, who judged his every move honorable. The Soldier who was Legend was Phil Coulson's idol, and it was reciprocated. Phil Coulson had to do nothing but be Phil Coulson, in order to be loved. And so Loki was so jealous, so nauseatingly covetous, of Phil Coulson, that it made his envy of Thor look utterly innocuous. Because at least Thor was giant, and golden, and loudly valiant, and at least Thor's adulation was the justifiable adulation of a god.
Phil Coulson was just a man, but he was a man that had everything Loki had ever wanted.
And Loki wanted to kill, kill, kill dead, Phil gods-forsaken Coulson. Not only because he was collateral. Not only because he was in the way, and inconvenient. But because Loki wanted to end the unfair existence of this haunting little man. He wanted to dig out his eyeballs and stand on his belly and crack individual ribs with his toes and wrap his upper lip backwards across his skull and cut away at his annoying stuck-out ugly human ears with a fine blade until they were in bloody jigsaw puzzle pieces on the floor and listen to Phil Coulson screaming for a mercy that would not come until he finally stuck a knife in his heart and ended it.
Pity there was no time for all that. Loki would just have to make it quick.
The God of Mischief bared his teeth, his hard straight glinting white teeth, like fangs where he stood. A tell-tale vein pressed against the thin, white flesh of his high forehead. Loki left his skin there, a lizard, a snake--left his doppleganger there standing, its hands still pacifyingly aloft at the Destroyer-gun aimed at its chest-- and Loki slipped as through oil into an astral plane on the invisible underside of reality. And Loki skittered like an insect across that intangible nothingness, until he emerged behind Phil Coulson, with Phil Coulson's back bared at him, laughably, stupidly. In the span of three seconds, at the most.
And Loki stabbed Phil Coulson through the gut with his Chitauri spear. The end of it glowed, a pitiless icy blue, stirring something further feral in Loki's chest. Yes. The squelch of the long rod through living tissue, like metal through a ripe peach, felt supernally glorious. And Loki unwound all his misery and anger onto this victim, unloaded it there, like Coulson was his sacrificial lamb, and withdrew his staff, and let all that anguished blind rage fall along with Coulson onto the floor.
And Loki's eyes darkened as his pupils dilated, fast and cavernously black, a shark's eyes at taste of blood in the water. And they rolled back and his lips pursed against the feeling of pleasure that taking this life elicited. His head tilted back. He licked his lips. Just like the serpent gnaws at the roots of Ygdrassil, I will fulfill my true calling at last.
He felt better for a millisecond, until Thor, incarcerated in the Hulk's steel-and-glass prison, screamed an agonized "NO!"
A disappointed "NO!"
Father, am I cursed?
The rage and resentment saturated Loki again, and gnawed like acid drawn into a sponge. His lower jaw jutted, and he turned an expression somewhere between wild and childishly petulant on his brother, who was slamming his meaty fists against the cage....desperately.
No, no. No. This could not be borne. No. It was not a game anymore. That was obvious. Thor had ruined the game.
Get it over with.
Loki locked eyes with his brother, who had dared beg him to "come home." His brother, who was home, and also, every impediment in its path.
Thor was not struggling anymore. He was just looking at Loki, helpless, lost. Incomplete without his saner, more strategic brother at his side to harness his compulsive, temperamental being to a Clear Way.
They were both so lost.
Get it. OVER. With.
Loki smacked down so hard on the red "EJECT" button that it made a circular dent in his palm. And Thor was gone. Like that. Gone. And a part of Loki fell with him. And Loki was stunned at that.
He lifted his hand off the console almost flippantly, tsking once like a handyman ticking something off his to-do list, an overcompensation for the leering weight that now sat on his heart. He bit his lip until he tasted blood, and began to limp toward the doorway and "freedom." Life's greatest lie.
"You're gonna lose."
Loki whipped around, surprised and disoriented that his earlier victim still drew breath. Coulson was gray-skinned, blood dripping from his mouth. And still so gods-damned calm and collected. The look in his eyes haunted Loki the most.
A look of knowing. A look of one who had weighed and measured the specimen and was both unimpressed....and pitying.
Pitying. How dare he. Pity presupposed superiority. How dare the gnat.....
Loki had never been transparent. Not even to his closest family.
But Phil Coulson had read Loki like a scroll fully unwound with the runes printed in bold red. He read it, and he did not give two fucks.
And Phil Coulson was a better man...a better living being...than Loki would ever be. Without even trying, as Loki had always back-breakingly striven.
And it was so unfair. So, so unfair, and so undeniable too.
And this, all of it, every plan and every scheme, every madly soaring aspiration, was not fun anymore.
It was not fun anymore.
And for a split second, it wasn't worth it, either.
Loki tried for some bombast. Ticked off his credentials and every element of his upper hand. Even managed to parade around the chamber, and bob his head with something like despotic sass.
Coulson just stared back at him, flat, deadpan, even the faintest bit...amused.
Like he was watching "Supernanny."
Loki felt sick. He knew that look. He knew it. He had known it all through his boyhood, from one person in particular.
Father. Father, what AM I? You never answered that question. And now I am lost.
"You lack conviction."
Coulson uttered the character assessment, the personal summary, the prison sentence, so very casually.
Loki was lost to that blind rage that both drove him on and rendered him inert. The irrational, senseless, impractical need to justify himself to this puny creature overtook him. He reared up to his full towering height, indignant, hands in clenched fists at his sides, and roared, "I DO NOT THINK THAT I--"
A strobe-like flash, a hot and searing sensation in his belly, and he was thrown back on his ass like a toddler bested in play-sparring. Humiliated again. Coulson had fired the Destroyer gun.
Loki lay on his back in a daze for ten seconds, but those three words would haunt his ambivalent soul for an eternity.
You lack conviction.