Four Last Things


Death overtook Hohenheim unexpectedly on the road to knowledge. He remembers the palsy in his legs, the strangling weight in his chest ... how, even as he fell, he forced his eyes to focus on the scarlet wonder he had wrought. Think of honor and of wealth!

But not of immortality. That he never sought—nor, surely, Dante's parasitic athanasia, this illusory preservation. The ground of la danse macabre sounds in his ears with his pulse: Follow. Follow. Follow. He waits only for the proper moment to change partners (Earth, gape!) and tread the measure ordained for wits and fools alike.


"Why did you leave us?"

Hohenheim would rather face his Maker all unshriven in his sin than this fair, tormented creature he has made. The night shudders softly around them, too near the burning city where destruction wails newborn. Strange bar for an overdue accounting, but Hohenheim cannot stop his ears against his son's questions, cannot deny the self he sees in Edward's eyes: fool, coward, sophist ... unloved, but still, helplessly, loving. Look not so fierce on me!

He reaches for his shirt cuff, praying the testimony of his body earn him the mercy for which he dares not sue.


Convalescent, Edward rages against the exile Hohenheim coaxes him to accept. "All you've ever done is run from trouble!" he shouts. "Go to hell!"

Tired of arguing, Hohenheim smiles with unfelt sweetness. "'Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it—'"

Edward throws up his hand and retreats with a snarl to his books. Later, nodding in his wheelchair, he murmurs, then calls his lost brother's name, waking himself. Hohenheim pities his uncertainty, his ignorance: a most perfect damnation for a man of science. Yet, eavesdropping on his son's tears, he finds he'd gladly trade for it his own.


Munich, 1922

Hohenheim sits in his corner, ostensibly reading. The boys have forgotten him, heads together over a physics exercise by the window, its sash raised to admit the cool September air. Suddenly Alfons leans back and laughs; Edward grunts, but cannot maintain his gravity: he shakes his head to hide a smile. Alfons returns to work, still venting chuckles, and earns an admonitory poke from Ed's pencil.

Hohenheim turns a page. He can smell the Sauerbraten simmering, hear quick steps setting the table for dinner. Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven ... for I shall never be closer to paradise.