I awake to the echo of clockwork. After rubbing my eyes I look around. Above me hangs a giant clock. It floats in a place where nothing else other than darkness exists. The time reaches midnight.
The darkness splits in half with light. White light like a spear pierces through this lonely chamber. I step toward the divide. An infant’s cry, a solemn gasp, and the ticking of a clock sound as I approach.
“Child, you have returned. The place you are is the first and last place your existence came to be. From the heights of freedom to the depths of sorrow you fell. Here, you can forget for you’ve become faded.” echoes an omnidirectional and gentle voice.
Cracks of light spread until everything clears up. I fall to my knees and gasp at the sight. Charred ground that black vines grow from goes from horizon to horizon. A mob of people with a dark gray eyes walks around aimlessly. I feel a coldness in their gaze.
One woman grabs my arm. Despair, loneliness, and captivity surge from her weak touch. I pull away suddenly. The mob turns toward me. My mind screams to run but, my body freezes in fear. Stupidly I think about the state of the human condition as they overpower me and tear at my flesh with overgrown nails.
“Damaged. . .” I spit out that single word with a little blood, “Anger and hate vents from broken and lost hearts. Are you looking for a new beginning? I know I am.”
They mindlessly attack me. I feel myself sinking beneath the tide of their bodies. All the emotions gnaw at my heels to keep me stuck here. I cry and scream for help while knowing it’s just in vain. Eventually my body grows numb to the pain.
I dig my nails into the charred ground and pull myself through the mob. My arms collapse from exhaustion. The shadows of their tangled bodies swallow me up whole. I try to remember better times before now because I can no longer feel anything. One memory finds its way among these dark times.
A day where my heart aches but my eyes could no longer cry. My best friend, another kid apprentice in a small town known for its superb smiths, argues with military officers about prices. They call him a greedy kid but they are wrong. He works hard trying to get medicine for kids in an orphanage.
He looks at the villagers who turn away from him. And I, his friend, walk away to work on my craft. After a few hours I run to his family home knocking on the door. No one answers. I decide to sit on their stairs until they return. Before I notice the suns begins setting bringing with itself a cold April shower. Cold and shivering I wait.
I open the door around midnight. He sits there on his knees in a pool of tears. The candles cast a shadow over him but I reach out to touch his shoulder. My thoughts race and no words come out. He pushes me away.
“Where did you go! They, no. . .no one believed me. Those kids are dying! And the military offers nothing while expecting cheaper prices for their duty. They called me a petty thief. No one spoke of my innocence as they called me guilty. Look at what silence does!” he raises bandaged hands missing a few fingers.
“I’m sorry but what could us kids change? They could’ve killed you.” I speak without hesitation and bite my tongue after.
“Get out.” he pushes me back.
That day’s mistake still eats away at my conscience. Thoughts like what-ifs gnash and tear. A wound forms from looking back while knowing I can never change the past. It keeps me awake at night. And my senses return with the old heartache.
“I fucked up back then. I know that. Yet from failure I still dare wish to succeed.” I shout with my whole heart.
“To feel pain is the cost to feel anything at all but don’t become obsessed with it. Learn to grow with every step. And with any luck this darkness, a horde of tainted hearts, will never be. Cure the blight.” everything blurs out of focus.
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