the winter palace had been stormed, the control room had been broken into, and the people were dancing in the streets.
the imperial family had fled. not that they would get very far.
the bankers and the landlords and their lackeys had been strung up on lampposts all over the city.
all that was left was the restructuring of society.
carlos had called a meeting of the steering committee - the most trusted comrades who had been the hard hammering fists of the revolution - to divide the world into revolutionary districts and begin the planning of reeducating and reassigning the populace.
the meeting was held in the former grand hall of the winter palace.
the broken windows were open to the night sky. cold air poured through them.
gallons of scalding hot revolutionary coffee had been brewed for the occasion.
the meeting was about to begin when the unthinkable happened.
carlos started to get sleepy.
carlos, the burning firebrand who had kept his comrades on their toes through the long years of struggle.
carlos the unquenchable, who could harangue crowds, defy hostile mobs, and argue the fine points of revolutionary theory for days at a time.
carlos who was never caught napping by friend or foe.
carlos who had ferreted out plot after plot against the people’s cause. often plots by the most cunningly disguised and embedded traitors.
carlos who never slept.
now the others looked on in shock as carlos suddenly stood up, passed his hand over his eyes and announced - “i - i have to lie down.”
none looked more stunned than luis, his ever loyal lieutenant who had followed him around the world and fought a hundred battles by his side for the cause of the people.
unless it was rosa - rosa the inflamer - the red goddess of defiance who had stood with carlos at a thousand barricades.
luis seized carlos’s arm - to keep him from falling. he glanced back at the others. “it is only an attack of dizziness.” he cried. not that anyone had ever seen carlos experience so much as a spasm of dizziness before. “he will be all right in a minute.”
“no,” gasped carlos. “i - i need to lie down. i need to lie down.”
grasping carlos’s arm tighter, luis turned to the others. “start the meeting without us. breckenridge - take over. we will be back soon.”
luis and carlos left the room. there was only stunned silence behind them.
luis led carlos down the wide stairs of the palace . cold winds swirled around them.
“a little fresh air is all you need, my friend,” luis assured carlos when they reached the bottom of the stairs.
but at the door he hesitated. sounds of celebration from the street filled the lobby.
“the people must not see you like this,” luis murmured.
“you are right,” carlos muttered. he was making a great effort to stay awake. “the roof - i must get to the roof.”
“a good idea,” luis agreed. “there must be elevators here.”
after kicking through the debris of the previous day’s battle - including the corpses of several imperial guardsmen - they found a freight elevator.
miraculously undamaged, ihe elevator took them to the roof.
“leave me,” carlos told luis as they stepped out on to the roof.
the celebrating, still burning city spread out forty stories below them in the darkness.
“but - “ luis began.
“leave me!” carlos commanded.
luis left. there were some deck chairs on the roof and carlos sat down on an especially plush one - the emperor’s own?. he looked up at the sky.
his comrades had always thought that carlos “almost never” slept.
they had never realized he never slept at all.
not because of some freak of nature, or because of his iron will.
but because he had bargained his soul to a fallen angel, a colleague of lucifer’s named carrasco.
now he looked around to make sure that luis had not returned, and that nobody else was on the roof.
he took a little packet of powder from his pocket, sprinkled a little at his feet and lit it, summoning the demon.
carrasco appeared immediately, with the hint of a smirk on his face.
carlos did not waste words. “we had a bargain,” he told the demon.
“indeed we did.”
“that i would stay awake until the revolution succeeded. that i would not sleep until the revolution was over.”
carrasco pointed down at the celebration in the streets. “and you have succeeded, my friend. are you not sitting in the emperor’s own chair? is his palace not yours?”
“but the revolution has only begun! we must cleanse the world of reactionaries! we must educate the people! restructure the basis of human society! build a new world!”
the demon shrugged. “that is not my understanding of the word ’succeed’. according to my understanding you have succeeded very well. and besides -“ he smiled, “do you not trust your comrades to go on without you? can you not rest a bit?”
“the people need me!” carlos cried. “the revolution needs a strong hand - mine! mine! this was not my understanding of our bargain.”
“but it was mine - and it is mine that counts.” the demon shook his head. “you need a long rest, comrade. a long rest. what do you say to ten years of rest?”
carlos slumped in the emperor’s chair. he felt a great weariness. “well - if i must. if only - if only i could be sure of the others …”
carrasco laughed - a loud, mocking laugh that echoed in the night. “as to that, my friend, i am afraid i can give you no assurance - none at all… in fact less than none at all… ha, ha! “
carlos started up. “what! what say you?”
“yes, you have been betrayed. cruelly betrayed. there are those among you - in your innermost circle - who are the tools of your enemies! you think you have hanged the bankers, the landlords, the reactionaries - but they lie in wait… they are everywhere… ready to return at the first signal…”
“the signal from whom?” carlos gasped.
“breckenridge! that blue-eyed gringo bastard! i knew i should never have trusted him!”
the demon laughed again. “indeed. and who was it, when you suspected breckenridge, persuaded you of his loyalty?”
“it was - rosa!”
“exactly. ha, ha, ha! you poor fool! playing your role in the oldest story in the book! ”
“and - and luis? what of luis?”
“oh, luis is loyal. but he will be no match for rosa and breckenridge.” and with that the fallen angel vanished into the air.
“no!” cried carlos. “no!” but already he felt deep, black sleep descending upon him.
he staggered to the edge of the roof. “no!” he cried again.