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#14301920 Feb 04, 2020 at 01:12 PM
1197 Posts
Content Warnings: maternal mortality, suicidal ideation

We Are As Brothers

Early memories--senses of my identity--come in images like dreams; Dashing through bamboo thickets on four legs, shadows cutting through the woods beside me; Rending flesh from bone with powerful jaws, and howling together at the moons; Standing on two legs beneath the weight of heavy plate and scale, beneath mighty stone structures; Standing again on two, as massive and every bit as stone as those structures. In each of these pictures, there's a shared sensation. A common thread. A purpose. A command: Protect.

Clearer fragments of memory belong to a creature--a machination--no larger than a rat. Just as in the flashes of dreams, this creature was both me, and not me. Not as I am now. These memories are an incoherent cacophony of sensations. There was a maze it was taught to navigate, with wooden walls, and a tall stone ceiling overhead. It was dark. Vast. Its task in this maze wasn't to seek out a reward like a mouse to cheese or an ant to sugar, but to seek out living creatures, to distinguish the threats from the wards among them, and to destroy only the threats.

In the earliest days, this task was met with frequent failure, and for it, the creature was changed--improved--little by little. I can glimpse short images of the skilled hands of the gods reconstructing parts of the creature's first body. Sometimes I vaguely recall the thrumming, churning sound from an enormous brass tank. Hearing it, from both inside and out. Like a forgotten fever, I can still feel the ghost of a cold, metal nozzle pressed to my core, and can still sense in some abstract way, being reborn, time and time again.

The creature was constantly given new mechanical bodies. At times, it could run. At others, it could fly. On occasion, it could even swim. But no matter the change, its task never changed. It got better and better at it--next to perfect--when at last it was deemed acceptable by the gods. Something was wrong, though. This creature was not yet perfect. Perhaps the gods made too hasty a determination. The creature's form was changed drastically one night. Not a machine, this time. Something very small. It could neither move, nor see, nor hear... but it could think. It was still alive.

The point between is hazy, but thereafter, some memories become clearer. The creature now existed physically within a human, but its consciousness drifted about in a place not unlike the one I inhabit now. A non-physical space. An ethereal space. The body belonged to a young, distressed Harani woman, and her soul already occupied it. There was a sense of something else inside of her too. Another being, but not hostile. Not a predator. New. Very new. A soul still growing, but not yet whole.

The creature was trained to distinguish threat from ward, but this was confounding. Was the thing inside of her a threat to be eliminated or was it a ward to be protected? Before its form changed, it was told to eliminate it. But why so, if it was not a harmful predator or spiteful entity? The babe was a risk perhaps. A foreign being could endanger the host, and the Harani woman was indeed very physically weary, but the creature distantly understood the nature of procreation--that this was perfectly normal. Sharing the body of that human, it could feel the physical effect of her pain, illness, and depression, but could not sense her thoughts or feelings. Not yet, at least. Had it not questioned its gods-given purpose, it may have eradicated the baby from the woman long before it was viable. But it waited, torn.

Over time, tendrils between its soul, and the woman's, grew. As a result of this joining, it, over time, became capable of interacting with the human in her dreams. It wanted to better understand its own purpose. Its own identity and morality. The creature was previously bid to destroy the child by the gods, and in that, it felt a sense of dutiful conviction. But joined as one with 'Rena,' the Harani host, it was affected deeply by her emotions--primarily, a desire to keep the babe alive at any cost. It was at war with itself, utterly indecisive, and while it stewed on its dilemma, tragedy struck.

I was born as a result of this misfortune. Rena fell ill--gravely ill. The creature did not know if it was because of their joining, because they may have not been compatible, or if it was a mere coincidence. I believe it was fate. If Rena died, the child would die with her, and it was in that moment the creature determined the threat, and the ward. It could not save Rena, but her death would kill the child. Rena was the threat, and the child was the ward. So, the creature attacked, to kill, and to protect. It was dependent upon Rena for its own survival, and did this knowing that it could fail in so many ways. It gave everything to protect the child, and to kill his mother.

And then there is darkness, in my memory. The creature's last thoughts were of hope. The child was delivered. The creature died, and the mother could not have been long behind.

My birth was peculiar. The creature was some part of me, but I was--am--something other. I am not just the wretched combination of beasts past, but a new soul as well... Apart from, yet mutually dependent upon the soul of my brother. When I was young, my first instinct was to destroy him. It was my predecessor's programmed purpose, and must have carried onto me. I made his life hell, but was too weak, and too young, to kill him. Because of me, he couldn't stomach his food, nor walk, nor sometimes even breathe, and I gave him such pain before he could even speak a word. I never realized I was working after my own demise in so doing.

There was a man more determined than I who persisted, and who kept him, Vahn, alive, despite my very best efforts. He made his mind sharp, his fingers nimble, and his magic strong. It was gradually that I stopped attacking Vahn. For years I was content to leave him be. His grandfather's love for him was infectious, and I started to love him too. I may have respected Vahn once before.

When his grandfather fell ill, Vahn disappointed me. He did his best to take care of his dying grandfather, but more and more, his thoughts wandered to suicide. It was too difficult to bear, watching his grandfather slowly forget his name, and his face, and eventually die. It was when he stood at the ledge of a mountainous decline that I grew angry, and desperate. How dare he try to kill us! How dare he be so weak-willed as to give up! How dare he try to stop me from my instinct to protect! I wanted to kill us too, just for that. I was livid, but I realized, as soon as the pain struck, the thoughts of suicide fled, and focused only on ways to stop the physical pain. It was odd, and euphoric to me, that he never considered death in those moments. I stepped in time and time again to punish him when he dared to try to die. In time he found his own method. His own medicine, both to dull my punishments, and to dull his own thoughts.

After grandfather died, it was so hard. Every day, for two years, we warred. He had fleeting thoughts of his demise, and I would bite, until he stopped, or drank his medicine into a stupor. This went on and on in an endless cycle, until one day, it was dire. We spent three days in a sleepless war. He was truly determined this time, and I was still as determined as ever to counteract him. And I won. I loathed him so, and I was angry, and I would continue to punish him for this day and every day prior, even if the thoughts didn't come back. I would consume him with regret. I would claim control over my body, and banish that coward into the recesses of his mind with shame. Those were my post-victory vows.

And then he did something interesting. He put his mind to use. His sharp, sharp mind that he was so determined to dull. And he found a reason to pursue life. Equipped with his own newfound drive, he left the mountain. Grandfather had warned us about The Outside, and that is was a terrible and cruel place, but Vahn wandered on, despite the memory of his warnings. This was only a few short months ago, and since then, he has had greater highs than he has ever known, and terrible lows almost as severe as grandfather's passing. People were drawn to him... and in time, they learned about me.

I punished Vahn for considering death over the smallest of things. He considered it because his new friends say insulting things, or because he didn't immediately know the solution to a problem that wasn't his, or because he was lonely or scared. I wanted to kill him--but by now I knew that would kill us both. And when he was too scared to defend himself, and he withdrew into his own mind, I took control. I had so much power. I punished the people who dared to hurt me, or him, or any of our friends. I killed, and the coward added that to his mountain of reasons to end his own life. He hated himself. He hated me. I hated him.

Some capable few sensed me. They sensed my anger, my hatred, my envy, my wrath, and my fear. Aurumin tried to calm me, and magically caged me on more than one occasion. Onouris sedated and temporarily defeated me. Lysander heard me in the midst of my duties to prevent Vahn's demise. Samaela tried to reason with and understand me.

Everything culminated to Vahn following in the footsteps of the Hero he worships as a God. With the guidance of Lysander the Elf, he Dream Walked, and it was there, for the first time, that Vahn and I had ever spoken. My anger was still there. There was anger in him too, that I had never sensed before. There was fear in both of us, and longing in both of us. And then, at last, budding hope. Relief. Compromise, and understanding. We spoke all night... I will be gentler with him, as he asked. He will strive to be stronger. We will protect each other, and honor each other. We will overcome our anger and our fear, with one another, and with The Outside. Now I understand--we both understand--that we are as brothers, and we stand on the same side. We are intrinsically and vitally linked, but we are two souls of our own as well.

It is time for me, Mianh Draren, to greet The Outside.
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