In the beginning there was one
Anxiety. That was all I felt. It consumed my body and my mind, causing every breath I took to feel like a hammer blow, and every bead of sweat burn like a wildfire. Despite the hammer and the fire, I tried to keep a calm demeanor. I had to appear normal. If you have ever been faced with the normality or death ultimatum like me in this moment, you would know that that chance of death makes the whole normality thing close to impossible. The more you think to yourself – act normal – the more “normal” becomes a smoke that refuses to be caught by human hands. It’s even harder to look the part of normal when there is a guy sawing at your bindings. That pretty much ruins any illusion you are able to maintain. At that point, acting normal is to make yourself feel better. In the pit of my stomach I knew no matter how normal or bored I appeared to be, if the guard walked in at that moment all Nether would break loose. Slowly –finally- the thin wire that was wound around my wrists a bit too tight was starting to give. The wire was so thin that it should have given within minutes; it should have split with the slightest movement. The wire should have, and would have if it were made by any human. The greatest human metalsmith in the world could have made it and it still would have given long before now. The thing was, it wasn’t made by any human. It was crafted by the stupid “overlord” elves, probably from some rare moon metal. The elves are sick and cruel, but even I can admit that there were no better craftsmen, nor better warriors, nor more nimble a type. It took Other Prisoner weeks of sawing at his own wire to break through it. I swear he didn’t eat, and those nights when I couldn’t sleep I could hear him sawing away at the line. I didn’t think it would ever give, but sure enough, one random night there was a snap. The moment he broke through his, he crawled over to me and started on mine without a word-no questions asked.
He worked on mine now cautiously, not wanting to draw the guard’s attention. No matter how much caution he exercised, it would only take one glance in our direction, for his head to be mounted on the wall. At least they would kill him instantly. I don’t know what they would do with me. Would they saw off my hands? It would be slow so I could feel the teeth of the blade ripping through my skin and bones. Would they stick needles into the tips of my fingers? One would think I’m over exaggerating. After all, besides their slight superiority complex, the elves are so ethereal. They are like the moonlight’s gossamer caress. They are the love of the sun, the envy of the mighty elk. Leaves and the wind are capable of love only when it comes to them. That’s what makes it all so disgusting. They are gods who feed off of torture. I knew then already first hand. It took all my willpower to keep from puking as I thought about it. I could taste to bile playing at the back of my throat, and the involuntary shivers which always seem to accompany it. The guard probably thought us too stupid to devise any sort of plan. If we wanted his attention we would have to beg for it, but I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know that the guard wasn’t looking into the barred door window every few minutes. All I knew a taste of what the elves are capable of.
Other Prisoner was an anomaly in his own sense. I didn’t know what he was sawing through the wires with or where he got it. I didn’t know what he was, or if he were really a she, or if he were tall or short or fat or thin. It was all just more stuff I had no idea about. I did know his voice though. It was what made me certain of his gender, though it was never above a whisper. I rarely heard it, but today he decided to grant me the privilege. The hot moisture of his breath accumulated on the nape of my neck as his sly voice begin to slither into words.
“Calm yourself, I can hear your heartbeat. Focus your energies on being useful in some way,” he whispered. I tried to slow my breathing.
How did I even get into this situation? I closed my eyes as a formality to think back to where it began. First there was the sun. Everything was green, there was so much life. There was children’s laughter. We were a camp of escapees. We had nothing, but we had our freedom. It was all due to my gift. Looking around, people were afraid of me though they knew I had saved them. My connection was perturbing. Still, the air was fresh, and water ran cool over my feet, which was good enough for me. I was used to being ostracized. The murmurs were simply the wind to me. I was given my gift to save them, not to be loved by them. Fish nipped at my toes as I thought in my isolation. Tadpoles swam around in large groups, as if to make one cloud. I could feel the life of the forest and the pond flowing through me. It was a good time to make a connection. Slowly, the rest of my body melted into the water, the fabric of my robes flowing around me. I searched through the minds of the elves, looking for a weak link to let me in. I found my target. Everything I saw morphed into everything someone else saw. I was suddenly not around the trees and the birds and the children, but in a bastion. The floors and walls were all of a white marble. My host was a most grievous lanky elf who was shifting though the pages of a ledger. I tried to remember all the names. Some of the names I had heard thrown around by the refugees, others were completely new to me. There were too many to remember, but I couldn’t forget any of them. Some could be places, others connections. Every name was important. Suddenly the elf slammed the ledger shut. He sat still for a moment, then pushed me into my own mind. I had never had that happen to me before.
“I don’t even know what this cell looks like. I really can’t help you,” I whispered to Other, coming back from reminiscing. I wished so hard for him to stop breathing on me. His breath smelt horrible. His whole person smelt awful, he hadn’t bathed in weeks, maybe months. I hadn’t either. Laughter bubbled at my lips then. My life was at risk. There was a dagger ear outside the door. A strange man/boy/maybe woman was helping me for no good reason. I was taken in the first place. I didn’t know where any of my friends or family were. Still, one of my top concerns - next to saws and needles - was hygiene. I almost forgot myself in the humor. Suddenly, I heard it. The snap. Other probably couldn’t hear my heart beating anymore, because it had stopped completely. Sweat no longer served as drops of wildfire because my body was completely frozen. The wire – Other did it. My wristed were chaffed from the mystery blade rubbing against my skin. My shoulders were cramped from being stuck in one position. Even as Other pulled the wire away from my wrists I could feel where they had sliced into my skin. I thanked the Gods over and over, and silently thanked Other. That one wire was the cause of so much pain, apprehension, and so many restless nights. Now it was lying on the floor, already lost in hay. My shoulders were had a dire need to be stretched, but I was afraid it would somehow alert the guard. Other sat in front of my now, a warm body in a freezing cell. He wasn’t fearful like I was – or, if he was, he hid it really well. I had a feeling he had been in a situation like this before. He was probably face to face with me now, for maybe the first time ever. I wished so bad to see his face. Yes: He smelled horrible. His voice was a snake. His background was certainly questionable. Yet, for the past I don’t even know how many days/weeks/months, he was my only friend. The few times he spoke to me were the only somewhat friendly hints of voice I had heard.
“We are the only prisoners here,” he whispered. We sat crisscross, his knees touching mine. I drew figures in the dirt next to me. Here was a dirt tree, there were dirt clouds. He leaned in closer.
“One cell, one sentry,” his whisper was laced with an excitement I had never heard from him before. In fact. It was the first time I had heard any emotion from him. My body tensed up as I realized what he was about to do.
“No, no you’re way too weak,” I heard myself speak involuntarily. There was a shift outside the cell that made me cringe. If the Other didn’t try to get the guards attention I may do it myself in a fit of irony. His fingertips met mine in the dirt, and for a moment the cell, and the prison was dead quiet. The mice didn’t squeak, water didn’t drip from the ceiling, and neither of us were breathing. We seemed to be fighting in the emotions we were exerting alone. His fingers stroked mine, telling me it would be okay, and to prepare. I closed my hand into a fist as if to reject him. His rough fingers, all coated in dirt, in turn gently pried my fist back open. My hand was engulfed by him. Finally, I squeezed his hand weakly in submission; a feeble okay. Suddenly his hand was torn out of mine as he threw his entire force into the door with a slam. The door moaned under the weight. Again there was the slam and the moan. Before I heard a third slam and moan, the door was ripped open, flying off the hinges and shattered on the wall on the other side of the prison. There was no way other could win this.
I wish I could describe the epic battle, but I saw nothing. I only heard grunts of pain, and bodies being smashed against the wall and the floor. The fight went on for minutes longer than I even thought was possible between an elf and a human. Someone was whipped against the ground with a nauseating snap and screech of pain. Suddenly, the guard pounced to where I was still frozen with a mix of fear, confusion and lack of comprehension and sliced into my back with his blade. I contorted with pain and screeched, jumping up off the ground. I always imagine that at this moment, Other pulled the guard back by his presumably long, flowing hair, because the body was suddenly jerked away from me with a yelp. I felt the blood oozing from my back, warm and sticky. I franticly reached back and touched the cut as if I could magically heal it, but instead my fingers were completely covered in the sultry fluid. Both men were breathing hard. The crunch of fist against bone sounded again and again. Still, it seemed like neither fatigued, because the vigor only built between the two. Finally, someone’s head was smacked into the wall, then again, and then again. I heard the sickening sound over and over. My stomach twisted. I started to dry heave. If there were any food in my stomach, I would have been puking. Whichever man who had their head bashed in fell to the ground. Crying uncontrollably now, I stood shaking. I choked on the hot tears, each breath came very audibly and shaky.
“Other?” I managed to say through the tears. I was afraid he was lying on the floor in a mangled bloody heap. More than that, I was afraid that he was standing after killing the elf as brutally as possible. The cut on my back stung with a strong power. Whoever was still standing let me stand in a torturous anticipation for what seemed like hours, but couldn’t have been more than minutes.
“Great help you were, sitting on the floor. I thought you would get my hint. You didn’t help at all,” Other finally said. At first I didn’t recognize the voice. I had never heard Other speak aloud, only in whisper. To me, his whisper was always frightening. I couldn’t tell his angle. Yes, he was on my side, but he must have had other motives. His voice was more gravelly, more real. I had never been gladder to hear a voice. It was a normal voice, but at that moment it was the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. When I actually registered what he said, I was consumed with shame. Still, he pulled me into a hug. He let me run my fingers over his face and down to his shoulders. I could finally paint a mental image of him. He wasn’t all that tall, just a few inches taller than I, and he wasn’t thin, but I wouldn’t call him fat. He was just average. In fact, he was more muscular than anything, my not overwhelmingly so. His nose felt broken and his face was covered in blood, unless I was spreading the blood from my back onto his face. His bottom lip was swollen and there was a considerably large whelp above his left eyebrow. His lips were chapped, and his chin was covered in rough stubble. I thought about how this human was able to take out an elf as I started to calm down. The shoulder of his shirt was already soaked from salty diamonds. He just held me. He needed each other in that moment. Eventually, he eased up and held me at arm’s length.
“You’re blind,” was the first thing he said in his raspy voice. I sniffled and started to laugh.
“I am,” I responded, but that was all. I gave no explanation.
“Did they do it?” he already knew the answer. I nodded.
“You have it then, the connection? They blinded you because your eyes won’t work in their bodies anymore,” saying things I already knew.
“I am forever in your debt,” I finally said, “but I just want to go home,” he was silent. It was a knowing silence.
“You can’t go back home. They burnt it down. They killed everyone. It’s a constant with them. They don’t accept escape, and they don’t accept harboring of someone with the connection. There is no home for you to go to,” he spoke softly.
Maybe that was it, where my humanity was lost –because when you know that you are responsible for the death of every person you have ever known even vaguely, something breaks. Something is taken - no - ripped right out of your soul. Maybe it was the moment when I fell to my knees onto the bloody dirt. Maybe it was when I screamed so loud and so hard, over and over, that my throat went raw. Maybe it was afterward, when I had lost my voice completely, and sprinted out of the prison into the nowhere. Maybe it was when I passed out from pain, or when I woke up with my wound tended to but more broken than I had ever been. They took my life, and that was okay. They took my eyes, and that was fine. They fed me as little as possible. It happens. I would have come out okay from that. I would have come out human. No, this, the massacre, that was it. That is when the crystal running waters of the rivers only made me hate myself more. It was the day I vowed to end the reign of the elves in the most gruesome way possible. I would tear whatever they have in place of a soul apart like they did me when they tore apart my family.
There was nothing of me left – they had hollowed me out and left the rind. The only time I could live with myself at all was when my fingers were wrapped around the hilt of a blade. My battle for humanity started after I lost mine. Ironic.