Several hours before the funeral, I broke into Curtis' flat. It was located in a rather snobbish residential structure several stations from where I lived, and, although I had been absolutely aware of Curtis' financial status, the luxury displayed by the interior left me amazed. The way up in the elevator seemed to have lasted for hours, and looking through the large windows of the flat I actually had the feeling to stand aboard of a kind of large urban vessel. One side of the living room led to a terrace; the weather was particularly bad, and the fine veil of the raindrops merged with the smog and dust from the streets below to support the impression of somewhat Odyssean seafaring, with weirdly geometrical cliffs rising to the left and right.

In spite of rain and wind, I stepped outside. A small table and a single garden chair were placed on the terrace, and, upon the table, a cup and a now completely soaked newspaper were left as if Curtis had forgotten them in the hurry; but knowing his pedantic attitude, and regarding the logistical perfection of his backpack and arsenal he had prepared for our so-called expedition, I was sure that somehow, he apparently had anticipated that he would never return here, and left those little symbols of his former lifestyle back, subjected to an equally symbolic process of decay. The water in the coffee-cup still showed traces of the original, dark liquid Curtis had not cared to drink up, but some more days of rain would surely wash it out entirely. I left the things on the table and went back inside.

Eventually, I found myself in Curtis' bathroom, rearranging my soaked hair. As I put down his plain black comb back on the shelf, it suddenly struck me that we had been similar in much more traits than I ever had wanted to realize, our painstakingly celebrated vanity being just the most tedious of them all. Irritated, I returned to his living-room. This room was a massive celebration of high-brow decadence, complete with various works of art, expensive designer electronics and lots and lots of literature, including a number of tomes for which Curtis had certainly spent several weeks to hunt them down in some obscure second-hand bookshop. I stood there for a while, gazing silently at the spines, amazed, but much more shattered by the fact that this first contact with Curtis' more personal side happened by intruding into his living space after he himself was dead and gone, reduced to nothing by the ungodly ionic disruption of the Retributor, burned like a mere blade of straw in a volcanic cataclysm.

For a while, I tried to reconstruct Curtis' personal history through the diverse objects he had neatly arranged on white pedestals or on the shelves between the books, but after a futile attempt to interpret a single piece of flint I gave up, the brownish and blue thing likewise having been possibly the relic of some long-forgotten aboriginal tribe, or something Curtis had found at the beach as a kid during a memorable vacation, or just a simple stone whose form had somehow pleased him.

I turned to the HiFi set placed on the same shelf as the stone, and, noticing there was still a disc in the player, pressed the play button. I could not suppress a faint smile as I recognized the music as a really old Smiths album that I actually owned myself, but had not been listening to for ages.

Just like the objects surrounding me, my own memories of Curtis were far to hermetic to integrate them into some kind of picture; it all was just a tour-de-force through nightmarish, blurred snapshots, with the early coating of mystery constantly peeling away like old paint until the bleak truth presented itself as nothing but nonsensical, nihilistic bloodshed. It came to me that Curtis, whose cynicism had always disgusted me, might have realized this far earlier, and that his sudden sacrifice to save my own life had been a last and daring effort to give the whole drama the human touch it had lacked. For the first time in years, my emotional distress did not turn into the usual attack of nausea, but into grief, grief for a friend who therefore was more than just one of the countless fallen in the bizarre struggle into which we had unwillingly been drawn.

The whole scenery around me reminded me more and more of a well-equipped cell in a kind of single-person-monastery, and Curtis' complete lack of human relations exceeding those on professional terms underlined this with a grim perfection. His virtual non-existence inside the 'normal' social boundaries had found its analogy in the shadowy, unreal crusade that had led to his downfall, and I had the unpleasant impression that sacrifices like his were a necessity to stop this fire from spreading out into the real world. I turned the music a bit louder.

It was still raining as I arrived at the cemetery. Some representatives of the government stood motionless and uneasy at the open grave, and, the Smiths song ringing in my ears, I surrendered to the utter melodramatic cliché of the entire situation. There, my thoughts echoed, is a light that never goes out.