The Gravemind lies. That’s what they all say, at least. It’s a way to comfort those that have experienced something terrible while passing through. It gives them the opportunity to dismiss what happened, filing it away in the back of their minds without examining it too closely. It’s a way to ignore the problem, brushing it beneath the rug—filth that accumulates with the rest of humanity’s sins.
They say the Gravemind lies when it tells you that you had a choice—and that you chose the darker path. They say the Gravemind lies when it tells you that you are a hollow shell—that you torture yourself in life with humble circumstances in a misguided attempt to atone for past sins. The Gravemind lies, they say. What they don’t mention is that the Gravemind also tells the truth—Zodiac told the truth.
And I hate him for it.
Autumn was coming—and coming quickly. The cool morning air swirled yellow leaves through the air, causing them to drop like rain through the canopy of emerald green. Light dappled the forest floor, beams scattering through the branches. It held its own kind of beauty—life and death. It was the last breath of summer.
Alexa remained silent beneath the trees, one leg stretched out in front of her as rough bark dug into her shoulders. Her swords lay across her lap, gleaming metal carefully kept clean of rust and blood. From her position, she could hear the town—the far off screams of those battling the dead, the idle chatter from those at the Double Tap, the careful footsteps of those walking the roads.
She found it hard to make herself care.
People struggled and fought and died. They fucked and screamed and created children that grew up to wallow in shit and create more children in turn. They stabbed those they called friends. They lied and cheated and cursed and shat out more filth that dirtied the world. She could see why years of seeing this repetition—this cycle—would cause someone to think like he did. She could see how someone who had good intentions would do the things that he did. A smirk slowly curved her lips. You know what they say about the road to Hell.
He had said to embrace it; he had said that it was a gift. Again, she could see why. It was like being God—seeing, knowing. If I followed a religion, I could have used that framework—the prattlings of priests and zealots that some need to exist. She closed her eyes briefly; she always knew there was power in knowledge—and he knew her well enough that he probably realized how tempting something like that would be. Years gave him the advantage, in that regard—studying others, knowing what they would do, how they would react.
The Infection flows through all of us. She could see how several lifetimes could cause someone to change—warp, twist. Power corrupts; it always does. And with that much knowledge—how could he not be the way he is after that many years? If she didn’t hate him, she would have pitied him.
Alexa opened her eyes once more, scanning her surroundings. A few people walked down the dirt path in front of her, not bothering to look at her as they passed. They chatted about the prices of rusted metal, about inane credits that didn’t really matter at the end of the day—useful to accomplish goals, useful in terms of fitting in and society, but otherwise just pieces of nothing at all. People never see, do they? They never watch.
After their conversation, she had been angry; searing rage burned through her as hot as heated iron. It was a natural response to the truth; no one had said it to her before, no one had bothered. Why fix something when it’s so efficient? I’m not allowed to die again because I’m useful, apparently.
Truth: It was more painful than any dagger. It had stunned her to the point where words had failed her. He had talked about enlightenment and she couldn’t argue with him. He had talked about the way she stood, about the way she acted, about her reasons—and she couldn’t argue with him. She had gone in blind. As blind as the rest of the world. And she didn’t know how to respond. It was only now that she was sorting through it all—making sense of it.
It was only now that the anger had left her, only now that she felt empty and hollow, that she realized what she needed to do.
Part of her wished that they could have another conversation. Part of her wished that she could have stayed and watched and listened. Part of her wanted to embrace that power again—to have another bite of the forbidden fruit.
That part of her terrified her.
Alexa shifted slightly against the tree, moving to a more comfortable position. The day was heating up, cool air being chased away by the last dregs of summer’s warmth. Leaves crunched beneath her as she moved, her breath stirring the pale strands of hair in front of her face.
He told truth—he was dismissive and even contemptuous of the choices that were made. And yet he forgets that even within the filth, the squalor, the dirt, there are pieces of brightness. Isn’t it worth digging through the shit to see them shine?
They both made their choices.
I need to make mine.
She smirked. I suppose this is what it’s like to deal with the devil.
“Why don’t you embrace it? It’s enlightenment.”
“Because if I did, then I would be just like you.”
“You could never be like me”
“…or no. Perhaps after a few more centuries you could be.”