The sky twisted inside out, stars warping like melting diamonds flung off a black blanket, and the air howled, crackled like the wanton burning of time. Curioso kept running, dodging boulders, leaping cracks, heading towards the rift they had been struggling towards all day. Somewhere behind him, around him, gaining, somewhere, his brother followed, with the unleashed pack of hell.
There was a break in the starfalling ahead, and he saw the break in the wall of rock. Again the sky whined, and he hurtled on, come on, come on, brother, come on. Howls of rage began to fill his mind, he was closer now, he could feel the white anger rising in him. He felt himself losing control, and at that instant he remembered the teaching of his beloved master, and he grappled to his lifeline, his breathing, his thread through the darkness. His body shrieked at him, his breathing came thick and fast, and it was not like sitting in placid meditation, but he persevered, and had a moment of respite. And then a great red wave hit him, and knocked him down.
"Hello brother," said Dominic. The voice was ahead of him, at the opening through the wall.
"I'm here. It is time." said Curioso grimly.
"Oh, brother," said Dominic, "you are so naive. Do you think a murderer like you, a man with blood on his hands, can do this? "
"No," said Curioso," No. I have no expectation. I have come here to be killed, to break into your world."
"You were always an idiot. Do you think that I care? Do you have any idea where I am getting all this power from? You aren't anything."
"I know. I know that you are an anger-sucking beast, that the world is descending into war, that you bathe in the pure bliss of the marching of armies, of the eradication of beings, and that I have been a part of that. But there are things you are blind to. You did not get through all the worlds of power. There are other worlds of power."
There was a thickening in the darkness ahead. Dominic was coming to roost.
"But not now," gloated Dominic, " not now."
"Always," replied Curioso, "Always. You know nothing of powerlessness. I cannot fight you on spiritual terrain, because I have failed, but I can try what I can try here." And he hurled himself on his brother's wraithlike form. The touch stung like grappling an electric eel, and he was shrugged off forward into the snow. His hands burned. Dominic laughed.
"What was the point of that, baby brother?"
"This," yelled Curioso, tumbled ahead, got to his feet, and raced for the cleft in the wall ahead. Dominic howled, and came after him.
There was a tight labyrinth for a few feet, and then Curioso broke out. In his pain, even he staggered and slowed. For ahead lay the Sacred White Mountain. They had come into the realm of Shangri La, of Mount Meru. It was so gigantic, that the star and moonlight glimmering off it illuminated the vast ridges and valleys below, descending seemingly forever until they reached the valley floor below. Curioso found himself on an infinitesimal ledge along the opposite ridge wall, and after the initial horrible realization that he had done exactly what Dominic had wished, he had no choice but to move as fast as he could away along the ledge. Behind him, his brother now appeared, who he could just see in the mountain glow. Where this ledge went, and how long it went, he did not know, but he had no choice. It curved and undulated, and the two brothers inched their way along the face. On the other side, the Sacred White Mountain watched dispassionately as the tiny dots moved through the night.
Finally the ledge widened out onto a shelf, enough room for a stand. Curioso stopped, and caught his breath. He was helpless. His brother was physically stronger than he was, and he was blocked against using spiritual weapons because of his great sin. And he could not bring himself to kill his brother. His rifle remained on his shoulder. He could only die. The ghostly form of his brother arrived.
"Thank you, baby brother. You have been a great help to me. I would not have found it without you."
"What do you intend to do now, Dominic?"
"You see that mountain? It is a vast unknown form of radiation. It is what keeps the people here young, warms the region, lights up the night. It is not sacred: it is like me: it is whitehot, pure radiation, condensed anger. It will make weapons, wield destruction, blast everything. I will use it to destroy this whole country, first, and then whatever else takes my fancy!!"
"It will not work, Dominic."
"Oh, no? You should ask that woman about it. She knows. She is on track to build the bomb, she and her friends, those wise, oh so peaceful, Nobel prize winners and bomb builders. It is coming, baby brother, it is coming. I can feel it!"
"Well," Curioso said, "You will have to kill me first. "
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure."
"May I have a moment to pray?"
"What right have you to pray, murderer?"
"I am not praying for myself. I am praying for someone I love. And for all beings. But especially for someone."
"You should pray for her, baby brother. Yamada will deal with her, the way he dealt with her before. Then maybe I will, oh, who knows, come in and mop up afterwards. "
"I am not praying for her. Love is prayer, always, daily, endlessly, you cannot know. No, I am praying for the soul of my lost Geshe, that in the next life I may atone to him for what I have done." And the tears came into his eyes.
There was a bitter cry from the darkness opposite. "Baby brother, you are such a fool. Do you really think that it was you who murdered that monster? That you can take credit for it? It was a game I have played with you. I deluded you, drugged you with that idea, on that awful night when he and I fought for my soul, and I won and he lost. You were nothing, you were my pawn, I did it. I did it. I did it. I did it all!!"
"That is all he really needed to know, espece de cochon. I am not your damned brother, and not your damned sister either, Grace de Dieu." Annette's dark figure stood behind Dominic on the edge of the perilous shelf, with the rifle pointed at him. She shot three times, bursts of light in the darkness, and Dominic staggered forward. He fell across the abyss, clutched the crumbling edge of rock, and then fell forever.
There was a moment of silence. The two figures came together, and embraced.
"You know, a little extra prayer for me would have been nice." Annette said at last.