Chapter 44 – If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice
The dream felt like it lasted a lifetime. I suppose it did, in a way. I could still feel the empty aching at the end of it. A shadow of its presence remained, a warning to remind me the true cost of a life built on hatred. That is not the life I wanted for me or my lizards, not the one I lived so long ago. The burden of hatred followed me to my grave, both in the last lifetime and the lifetime of my dream, but never again would I allow it.
However, now that the dream was over, the battle I’d already fought inside it still awaited me. War was coming. I needed to warn my lizards, that they might not meet the same fate as the Surveyor. The Surveyor…it still stung every time I thought of him, and I could feel the rage surge inside, but the end of his story would always remind me that each choice has its own cost, and that I would have to bear the burden of those choices. Eternal servitude or the death of many, no good choice among them, but they were the only two I had. And likely, they would only be the beginning of the hard decisions I would have to make in the future. Decisions that will cost many lives.
Was I prepared for that burden? Could I sacrifice my lizards for victory the same way the Blood God did? Would I want to?
No, it wasn’t a choice I wanted to make, but one I would have to make. Wars cost lives, lives of allies and enemies, and even innocents in between. There was no such thing as a bloodless war; throughout the history of my people it was so. Even with the threat of world-destroying weapons, blood was still shed. Any who think a war can be won with only words and shows of power are greatly mistaken. Idealists, optimists, fools, they carried many names, and while the idea of a bloodless war was noble, it was also a fallacy.
Ah, heavy, it was so heavy. Although I had no body, I felt crushed under the weight of it all. The weight of responsibility, the burden of hard decisions, the pressure of resolve; the desire to run from it all was great, but leaving everything up to fate and choosing not to decide was still a choice…and it was one I could not make. Now, more than ever, my heart had to be strong. I would save as many as possible, and fight as hard as I could, but the doubt that despite all that effort we may not find victory…it was scary, and very heavy.
I suddenly became very tired. Not even just tired, exhausted. Everything that happened occurred in such a short span of time, I’d only just now really processed it all. The meeting of the other two Overseers, being cut off by the Maddness of the World, the death of the Surveyor, the dream of hatred; it all felt like it happened so long ago, and yet it’d been less than a day. My sense of time felt distorted; it used to be single chapters of my life were devoted to whole generations of lizards, but now what might have been a century or millennium turned out to be only a single day. And the stress of all this occurring over such a short period of time was so very tiring. It exhausted me in a different way from when I touched the lizards and influenced their lives. This was…mental exhaustion.
My sense of self and power to influence felt as strong as ever, but it was difficult to tap into as my mind slowed, becoming unable to process any more. It was too much all at once. And with my ability to mentally process events debilitated, it impacted my ability to act. My mind needed rest, but my sense of urgency to prepare my lizards for war would not let me. If I allowed myself respite, would a hundred years pass before I awoke? By then it would be too late. If I could give myself just a day, I would, but I had no way of knowing just how long a rest would last.
There was one way I could rest without sleeping, though. I often passed the time this way, and it relaxed me and calmed my moods. Watching my lizards. Seeing them live their lives when adversity was not present always served to set my mind at ease.
I looked to them now, moving away from my shell that held the hatred in, not letting it spread throughout the heart. I was excited to see them again, blissfully unaware of the hardships to come. I needed them, their smiles, their colors, their loving families.
But thoughts of the joys I might witness were soon dashed as I came upon the reality before me. Chaos, havoc, confusion. Waves of memories washed over me as all the souls that had been held back were finally released unto me. They were so full of pain! Why? What happened while I was gone? But I soon realized the truth.
The pain was not theirs, but mine; their memories merely carried it back to me. The moment the club came down on the Surveyor, my scream washed over the entirety of the heart, uncontrolled, flooding it with all my pain. And my lizards suffered for it. Some could not handle the intense tsunami of emotion and succumbed to weak bodies and damaged hearts. Those were the ones that came to me now.
Once again, it was all my fault. Not only the Surveyor, my actions cost the lives of all these lizards. Their blood was on my hands. Just when I reached my resolve to bring them to war, it wavered again under the results of my actions. I felt like I should be sobbing, like my heart should be wrenching out of my chest, but instead I felt nothing. I couldn’t feel anything. The sights, the sounds, and the knowledge of what occurred at the colonies during my absence, it was too much.
Numb. That’s what I was. My heart couldn’t handle anymore, and it just shutdown. Mentally, I knew I should be horrified, riddled with guilt, but instead my emotions were blank, pure white. Just like her. I saw the Shy Girl, her scales blanched from the brunt of the torturous tumult of emotion, and felt we resembled each other in that moment.
All I could do was stare at the scenes playing before me. The lizards moved in slow motion, and their cries and wails dulled on my ears, muffled by some invisible barrier. I couldn’t interact with them at all, my essence wouldn’t move, no matter how much I willed it. The contrast on my vision slowly increased, steadily dyeing everything white as the sounds disappeared. And then I didn’t see anything anymore.