EPISODE FOUR: Terror and Virtue.
It is a bright hot day in Thermidor. Regardless Maximilien finds that all the colors have become muted and blur together. He isn’t sure if it’s from the unceasing pain in his jaw, the blood loss or the fact his glasses have been long since lost. As the cart rumbles down the street and the screams around him increase, Max closes his eyes.
He keeps the closed even as rotten fruit, small stones and insults are hurled at him, many missing their mark, but a few hit.
A moldy orange ads to the stains all over his once fine undershirt, a rock glances off his shoulder and people scream tyrant at him.
If he had been none of this would be happening. It seems like a logical fallacy, to call Max a tyrant, when he has selfless served the people, lived and breathed and bled for them. He’d promised his youth and happiness for them.
And now he will die for them as well.
Next to Saint-Just is utterly silent, even as the people jeer at him as well.
“Angel of death! The Angel of Death and his master!”
In the carts a head of them, Bonbon, dear brother Augustin, and Couthon both lay in the baking sun. At least they will not see the people’s faces, the sneering derision in their eyes.
The cart suddenly stops, but Max does not open his eyes. They are not at the Palace de la Revolution.
He can smell the sawdust, the summer lilacs. A dog barks somewhere and distantly Max wonders if Brount is safe? Is Charlotte? Will some kindly citizen keep them?
Max hopes so, since he has failed to.
When their father left, he’d promised his siblings he’d protect them.
He’d gone to Louis le Grand and Henriette had died in her bed.
He’d gone to Versailles and Paris to try and secure a better life for people like them, people without a family, and now he’s killed his brother.
Maximilien can only hope that his sister survives them. Charlotte deserves better. She’d always wanted was best for him.
He hopes the Duplays are keeping the windows shuddered, as they did for Louis Capet and Danton and Camille. He would not want them to see him, they were a good family of kind patriots who have done much for Max since has moved to Paris.
Has it only been five years? It seems like a whole lifetime ago.
He refuses to open his eyes to look, he does not want to know. He doesn’t want to see if Babet, whose son now doesn’t have a father, or Eleanor is looking at them.
Max wants to hide his face, but stubbornly keeps his chin up, refusing to accept the title that the people of Paris want to shove onto him. He won’t go to the guillotine with his head hung, like he can be shamed into being a ‘tyrant’.
That is not who Maximilien Robespierre is.
The cart rattles to life again and on they march.
Maximilien knows he only has about thirty minutes left to live.
He mourns for Saint-Just, because Max knows that he will never mourn for himself. Antoine will stand tall and just right until the moment they force his head into the stock before it is removed.
The Cart stops again. Max opens his eyes to the blur of muted colors. Time passes in dollops now. One by one his good and noble associates are forced off and walked up the steps to meet the madame.
First Augustin, who Max can hear moan and cry softly, his legs been shattered by the jump out of the window. Couthon screams as they force his body to the plank to tie him down.
Next to him Antoine straightens up when they grab him and force him off the cart. He looks up at Maximilien.
Saint-Just stares at him for a moment and it breaks something inside, so see how young, his friend really is, barely 26 years old, and has already done so much for the Republic and now will die at the blade. Max imagines there is something in Anotine’s eyes, some glimmer than he is desperately trying to communicate to him before the guards forcibly march him away but what it is slips away from Max, and he leans forward to gently brush his nose along his friend’s forehead for a last moment of friendly contact.
“Adieu, mon ami.” Saint-Just says, as if he is simply leaving the Committee for the night and not forever, and Max cannot see as they walk him away. There is silence, and then ‘thunk’ and screams from the crowd.
Then they come for Maximilien. He does not struggle as they pull him down from the cart. The world has gone strangely quiet around him, even though Max can see people’s mouths still moving, lazily like a dying fish’s. Through his blurred vision he can see the sunlight glint off the Guillotine. He is nearly dragged up the stairs, so eager are they for his blood. He stumbles slightly, his head spinning. With his nearly blind eyes, Maxime looks around at the people who have crowded around the guillotine. There are women knitting in the front row. Children are on their parents shoulders. People throw flowers and fruit.
This was what he wanted the Celebration of the Supreme Being to be like, Max thinks, a last flicker of irony going through his brain.
He is shoved against the plank of woods, bounds quickly wrapped around him. He stares around blankly, and something like fire races up his spine when he thinks that Danton must have been strapped to this same plank before he died. And Camille, and Lucile. Louis Capet. Marie Antoinette.
Maximilien Robespierre. His jaw throbs as the muscles twitch.
Suddenly a pair of hands is grabbing at his face and ripping his bandages away.
He can’t prevent the scream that tears itself from his throat. It has been building there since he was young and has been too long contained, he thinks madly, his own screaming deafening as the plank is lowered and slid forward. This scream is what is under all his tightly contained convictions, all his primness, and virtue. This is what he is reduced to, a screaming voiceless animal, who is going to die in pain, alone.
Maximilien dies screaming.
In the year three thousand.
Max flinched awake, immediately choking. His body automatically curls up to defend itself, every never alive and screaming to help him avoid death.
“Whoa! You’re okay! It’s fine, you’re okay!” Someone says to him and he moves away from the kindly hand placed on his shoulder.
Max gasps in air, even as he feels his throat constrict, and panics even more.
He doesn’t want to die.
If he can’t breathe, if he can’t breathe, he can’t speak and if he can’t speak he won’t be able to defend himself.
The blood of Danton chokes him!
“Relax, relax, your heart is going crazy right now, you need to calm down before you put yourself into cardiac arrest.” The words mean nothing to him, but the warm hand on his shoulder gives Max something to focus on. He is forced to sit up, his eyes struggling to focus on something, anything. He still has no glasses and the room is blindingly bright.
“Whoa, you’re face…” The voice, it sounds like a woman, mutters. “It’s okay, it’s okay, just breathe okay? Um, with me. In,” She presses on Maximilien’s chest and he takes a shallow breath in, feeling it end in dry sob. “And out.’
She forced him to keep breathing, patting his shoulder.
“I’m grabbing you some medicine, I’ll be right back okay? Just-just keep breathing.”
Max’s chest was caving on itself and he gasped, laying back down on the cold metal table he found himself on.
“Here, here, it’s okay. “ Something cold was pressed to his neck and within moments Maximilien was gasping in cold air, his lungs inflating again.
“There. Better? Huh, I didn’t know that you were asthmatic.”
Max squinted up at the woman, trying to bring her into focus. Her dark hair was free flowing and hung around her face like fabric.
“W-where am I? Who are you?”
“Stay calm. You’re on North America, in a city called Grand Forks. My name is Doctor Rainbow Miller.”
Max stared at her as best he could, his head spinning. He tightly gripped the edges of the table he was laying on and the cold seeped into his bare skin.
“H-how am I alive?” The words he meant to thank were of thanks, but they got lost and morphed on the way out.
She touched his shoulder again. The doctor sounded proud when she announced,
“I brought you back.”
Back, from death?
Max laid back down and closed his eyes, a headache getting ready to bloom behind them.
She patted his shoulder and he wanted to jerk away. The lights were blinding him and he was too cold.
“You’re going to be okay, Robespierre.”