[SWC] The Promise I made to You
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October 8th, 2012 (3:32 PM).
Miz en Scène
Bonjour. First piece of creative writing after a loooong hiatus here. I've left it mainly unedited from the original SWC entry in the interest of... fairness and laziness I suppose. Mainly fairness. >_>
In any case, second place isn't too shabby. Special thanks to the judges, icomeanon6, Astinus, and Dragonfree for their efforts at judging. Also to Dragonfree(?)* for that wonderful review that I enjoyed reading as much I enjoyed writing this piece.
(*I'm assuming zhe wrote it)
Also, no one else posting their entries? I still have Dragonfree's(?) reviews saved and left unread so I don't spoil anything.
Anyway, without further ado, I present to you:
(Oh hey, that rhymes.)
The Promise I made to You
I can’t tell what you’re thinking.
Your face is smooth, normal, even fairly human, but I still can’t understand it. Your lips are an impassionate line stretching from one end to the other; your eyes betray nary a trace of desire. When you wring your hands together it is not of excitement nor of worry –you are only reacting to the cold. You react to good news nonchalantly; you react to bad news with surprising competence. Your actions are mechanical and oh so predictable –you take the most efficient course of action. Your grasp of the situation seems much more comprehensive than mine considering that I’ve been doing this for much longer.
We are walking now across the construction site. The clearing stage of the Goldenrod highway project is progressing as it should. The trees are removed and a foundation is laid. Concrete spreads through the former forest floor like a bacterium. We watch it as it grows ever so slowly every day, slicing a path through the earth for the momentary convenience it will afford commuters.
Another tree falls in front of us and the steam exhaust of the mechanical harvesters screeches loudly through the artificial forest clearing. A flock of Hoothoot clear out of a distant tree far away from the construction site. The timber corpses of previous victims lay strewn across the forest floor, torn up from the ground and left for the collectors. The homes of countless generations of creatures destroyed within seconds. We can’t have relocated all of them.
I spy some blood leaking out from under a log and I point it out to you.
“Probably another Pokémon,” you reply.
You leave it at that. There is work to be done and people to be organized. I thought that bringing you to the site would make you remember, but, of course, it hasn’t. I don’t doubt the words of your previous self, but I cannot betray my own feelings that maybe, just maybe, there is something deeper that drives you beyond pure rational instinct, a remnant of your past self perhaps.
“We were supposed to relocate all of them,” I say to you, hoping to elicit, I’m not sure, guilt?
“A few deaths are to be expected,” you respond. “No one can build a case against us on a few measly deaths. It’s all part of the job, and you should know this.” You stare at me momentarily with those impassive eyes of yours. I can’t tell if you’re trying to read me the same way I try and fail to read you.
The moment passes and you return to overseeing construction. I suppress a shudder. Your glare is as cold as ice. The only warmth I glean from it is probably imagined. I would love to hope otherwise.
You once told me to stop you if you went astray; I have not kept that promise.
I am conflicted inside. It should no longer be a promise if one of the parties to the agreement no longer exists. However, the fact is that you do still exist --do still think. The problem here is that this is a different you. Is the promise still binding? Have I withheld the truth for far too long?
The obvious answer is yes.
We are in the on-site trailer now and it is night. The stars shine brightly on Ilex forest like it does on all of Johto, but I wonder for how much longer? Will the lights soon to be erected flood out the stars like it has in Kanto? Am I at fault for being party to this? I feel no guilt at snuffing out the stars, as it were, but I cannot say the same for you. Do you, can you, feel guilt?
You are taking a break, resting against the walls of the trailer and looking out into the distance at the forest construction site. The mug of coffee in your hands remains untouched. I suspect, I have always suspected, that the bitter beverage is not to your liking but that you drink it because it is the most logical course of action –something which will give you enough energy to finish the project in the least amount of time.
I edge closer to you, wanting only to see your face. I pretend to sift through files and look at charts --you do not move. As always, there is only impassion on your face as you stare out at the ravaged forest before you. I wonder what you might have said before this. This was what you wanted to prevent was it not? Why are you being party to the thing you hate most? Am I at fault? Whose wishes should I respect? The dead you or the living you?
Again, the obvious answer.
You sip your coffee and I note a rare moment of expression.
You once told me, a complete stranger of obvious ill-intent, that out of one of the many possible futures, one was becoming more apparent by the day. You said you saw a grey snake which ripped through the forest like a scar. You said that Ilex was dying and this was merely the beginning. You said that this future was one of invisible pain and intangible suffering but that it was only the most perceptive of us that would notice it.
I was not one of those perceptive people, and I knew that you knew that.
However, you chose me to be your guardian nonetheless. You told me that something would have to be done, something only you could do at a great cost to your own personal being. I would have to be your shepherd.
You explained it to me, but I didn’t understand. Never mind, you said, it would become apparent. It would be obvious once I understood.
I still don’t understand your plan.
I don’t think that this was it, however.
Work on the clearing progresses slowly. The timber from the day prior has not been collected and the harvesters are finding it harder and harder to move. You and I are cooped up in the on-site trailer, trying to sift through the mess that has become of the project.
“We could get the workers to do two shifts instead of one to make up for lost time,” you say.
“The unions won’t allow it,” I respond. “And it is a bit cruel,” I add as an afterthought.
“The unions are slowing us down…” You pull down a critical path chart and make some adjustments. “There must be another way to make up for lost time.”
“If there is, I’m at a loss.”
“What about this?” You bring out a topographical map of Ilex forest in which the highway’s top-down plan is clearly outlined. Your finger traces a path through the woods. “Why don’t we cut through here instead of curving around the current path? It won’t take too long to issue a slight path correction, and it’s more efficient this way.”
I frown and stare at the map. “That’s a protected zone,” I say. “They’d sue us if we built through there.”
“I’ve checked,” you say. “Ilex was never classed a heritage site. The most we’d be fined for would be deviating from the plan. The cost cutting from the deviation, however, would be far more than enough to recuperate losses.”
I note the path you’ve traced out. It seems all too familiar and I wonder briefly if you are thinking the same thing I am thinking.
I know you act like this now because you said you would. You said you would act rationally. Logic would dictate that you would do what was best and I would only have to watch. In retrospect, however, I don’t think you understood what logic was. How could you have? You were not like us then. You were innocent. You knew nothing of how humans really were. You assumed logic was objective because you held the truth of life to be self-evident. You were an enlightened being.
The truth of the matter is that humans are far from logical.
I think on some level you must have known this. I think that you must have predicted the small chance that you would deviate from your plan based on the rules you’d set out for yourself. That must have been why you entrusted me to be your guardian.
Indeed, I never forgot the promise I made to the past you; I just ignored it.
Why? I don’t know why.
You aren’t happier this way. In fact, nothing ever pleases you. You react accordingly because I think you feel you have to act in a certain way. You have carved for yourself a hollow purpose, and I sit here, content to watch you whittle your life away on, what I’m sure your past self would have called, a trivial pursuit.
And it can still be avoided, but I choose not to. I still keep the truth hidden, and I don’t know why.
But I know I’m lying even to myself.
I know full well why I do this.
“Where are we going?” you ask as we pick through a much denser part of the forest. There aren’t many Pokémon left here but the ones that are left all withdraw in fear at the site of us. Times have changed and the forest is dying.
“This is a scouting mission,” I say. “We can’t delegate this to an official scout because it’s technically illegal, so we’ve got to do it ourselves.”
You nod understandingly and don’t question my actions. It is as logical a course of action as any.
We proceed in silence and eventually we come across a small, grassy glade. Golden light filters in through the canopy above, giving the place a magically warm glow. There is a crude rocky structure resembling a shrine in the middle of the clearing and it’s covered in moss. I turn to you and notice that you are a bit more tense than usual. Something about you seems amiss –I cannot tell.
“Take a look at that,” I say, pointing at the shrine, “Do you think we could knock it down?” It pains me to say it this way, but I know that is the only way you would ever approach it.
“It doesn’t seem that sturdy,” you reply in passing. You’re ignoring the structure completely and instead you bend down and take measurements of the soil’s consistency. I feel like you may be trying to avoid it but I cannot be sure.
“Just check it out, will you?” I press.
You turn to me and I shy away from your gaze, pretending instead to look busy by taking down notes. I cannot face you because then I would be showing weakness; I would be interfering, not that I haven’t before.
I hear the short shuffle of feet through grass and look up ever so slightly from my clipboard. I notice that you approach the mossy shrine with trepidation. You don’t stride confidently as you normally do, and you hesitate to touch it. I begin to feel that my theories were correct. Somewhere deep down, the former you is still there. Hiding, just under the surface, guiding you ever so slightly, forming the core of what you are.
“Isn’t this where you found me?” you say. I notice a slight tremor in your voice. It’s barely perceptible but it’s the first true emotion you’ve shown in a long while.
“Yes,” I respond with bated breath.
You move closer to the shrine, frowning as you do so.
“Why are we really here?” You turn to me and fix your gaze to mine. This time, I don’t turn away. Your eyes are accusatory, and you look at me with slight contempt. The mask of impassivity has faded and I can finally see something beyond what you show. I can see fear and I can see doubt.
“Why are we here?” you repeat. It’s without confidence this time. You know that something’s afoot and that I’m at the centre of it all.
I shrug. “To scout the area.”
Inside, I am furious with myself. So close to the truth and yet I still cannot bring myself to do it. Why can’t I tell you the truth? Why did everything have to be so complicated after I met the current you? You are more human now, more than ever, which makes it so much more difficult because I know, and this is the truth I accept now, I know that you will leave me if you ever find out. You will die and you will be reborn as your past self. I do not want that to happen and yet I am bound by the dying wish of your past-self to see you die too.
You turn to the stone shrine and kneel before the altar. There are inscriptions there. Inscriptions that tell a story in an old language that neither I nor the current you will ever understand.
“What are you doing?” I ask. I realise that I am more like you in this moment. Impassive, stone cold. Content to let fate run its course. I cannot let you go, but I will not stop you if you do. Deep down, I know that this is also a lie.
“These carvings…” you begin.
“We are not archaeologists.” I hate myself more and more by the moment. Try as I might, I cannot avoid from steering you away from the truth.
“I know that, but—“
“Is it sturdy? Can it be knocked down?” I press you.
You are ignoring me and you continue running your hands over the inscriptions, feeling rather than reading the message left there. I fear that this is it –the moment I lose you is finally here. Your memories must be returning.
“Are you listening to me? Can it be knocked down?” My voice is rising to an unnatural strain. “Celeste?” I croak.
You seem to pause at the mention of your own name and my world stops as I feel something change. Physically, nothing is different, but I cannot shake the feeling that there has been a shift in perspectives, that your mind has finally transcended. Your confusion, your fear, is instantly replaced by a frown. I note the displeasure upon your face. You know. You must know. Carefully, you place your hands on the altar and push yourself back up on your feet.
I am scared, I admit. I am scared that you have died. Scared that you are merely a walking corpse for the inevitable rebirth that is soon to occur. Scared that you are more deity than mortal now. I do not care that you might reprimand me for reneging on our promise. I couldn’t care less about your past self. All that I fear for is that you might leave me. The you of the present.
Then, you kick the stone altar and it collapses.
My fear instantly evaporates at the imagined scenario.
“Weakness in one of the columns,” you explain. “Neglect meant that it was only a matter of time.”
I nod weakly. You are still the present you, and I will live another day to see you and me together. It is selfish, I know, but I have never claimed not to be a selfish person.
We begin to leave, and in doing so, we both agree that this is as good a place as any to cut through. Your brief display of emotion is quickly forgotten and neither of us mentions it, though I am sure it is not forgotten. Had I left you for much longer, I am sure that you would have remembered what you set out to do. I curse myself for the intervention, but I am simultaneously relieved.
We leave the glade behind, but not before I recall my first visit here those few years ago when I first met you. The promise I made to you. The promise I have broken and now continue to break by withholding the truth. There is so much to be said about how much I have wronged you, but I do not dwell.
I know you are unhappy.
I know you feel that you have a greater purpose in life.
I know you feel that I am hiding something from you.
But as long as I have you by my side, I don’t care. The forest, the former you, the dead you, the God you, and everything else is irrelevant.
I don’t care.
i c t i o
"Break his heart, Estella. Break
his heart..." - Cutlerine
a n f i c t i o
The Promise I Made to You
SWC 2012 Second Place
Miz en Scène
Joined Sep 2008
Miz en Scène
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