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Children of Wood and Man

children of wood and man
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Estimated reading time — 24 minutes

To all my children, to all those who followed me, and to those who trusted me, I am sorry, but this is my suicide note. It is necessary to kill the monster which now haunt us, one beyond all hope for redemption.

There are many things which I should have said, many things which I should have done, and so many regrets. I should at least explain what happened and the decisions that will forever haunt me, know that I will never regret having you, who will read this, but too much has happened, and I need to die for the good of all; the only serenity I feel is that once I am gone, I will stop plaguing this blasted Earth. By the time you read this I will almost certainly be dead by my own hand. If this reaches beyond my intended audience, well, I can only say that I’m sorry, so so very sorry. All I can say in my defense is that I will not be able to make any more mistakes.

That’s my apology done, and that is all you need to know. However, this being my last cry into the void, I want to take this opportunity to write out everything which happened, heh, maybe I am stalling for time, but I… I at least feel like I should give my story out, it is all about me after all. To all those who don’t already know me, my name was originally Jonas Anderson, then Jonas of Man by you, and most likely remembered as Judas, the betrayer. Though I suppose that Adam who committed the first sin is more appropriate… Yes, call me Adam, and this is my story.

***

When I was young, there were only two things which I loved – the forest, filled with life, and carpentry. Nothing else really mattered to me, nothing made sense, not people, not things. My parents barely thought of me and left me to my own devices, they pretended I did not exist, and I made no effort to change their minds on the matter. I can’t say I had a purpose for living, but I tried to stay alone with my tools as much as possible, most people left me alone; it was the only thing that really mattered to me. I was alright with them, I was invisible, I was used to it. However, a few didn’t, they would steal my tools, break my works and do far worse, and I regret to say that I truly hated them. What did I do to deserve this? I wasn’t mean, or rude at the time, what made them think that I deserved none of their respect? Why did they have be so cruel? I am afraid to say that I tried to end my life several times then, in hindsight, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. My wrists were obvious, I tried but I never really cut deep enough; I tried to jump but somehow that didn’t really work out either, tried a few more things, no one ever tried to save me, but guess I never really had it in me.

Through those people, I grew to hate humans, all humans, man or woman, elder or child, I hated them because I wanted to love them and be loved in return; I hated them because I wanted to become like them, to love things than other carpentry and nature. To care, and be cared for, to share my soul and receive other’s soul. But if this was the way of the world, I resolved myself to become the worst version of myself to others, so that at least it made sense in my mind; It made sense why no one would contact me.

One day my parents died in a car-crash and I, being 18, inherited a sizable, if not earth-shattering amount of money. I sold everything and bought a cottage in the Canadian wilderness with as much of the surrounding forest as I could and put “Do not enter” signs wherever I could. I tried to kill myself before, but I was too much of a coward to do it, this would be my death-without-death. My isolation would be complete, I wanted to stew in my own unworthiness, away from the world until time itself took me. I had a satellite internet connection, enough gardens and animals around me to last me a lifetime or two, solar-panels and water generators with enough extra supplies and replacement parts to make preppers look like amateurs.

When I was finally alone, my muscles loosened, and my mind before so abuzz with anxiety finally grew quiet; the constant chattering of people’s opinions replaced by the calm breeze and rustling leaves. I realised I belonged to the tall trees and the wild animals, there was no evil in the forest, only nature. Only what was, and I wanted to be a part of it. A grizzly won’t kill me because it is evil, but because that is its nature, I can appease it, or get out of the way, or get crushed by it, but I can’t change it, it simply is. The soul of nature is simple and predictable, and peaceful. I thought I could stay for ever, living in my eternal “now” only available to wild animals without worries or thoughts for the future or past.

And so days became weeks, weeks became months, and ultimately years. It took time, but my hatred followed me. What I had seen as peace, became stagnation, what was once soul became inanimate, and what I thought was the meaning of the universe, became meaningless. On the day when my hatred now expanded to encompass existence itself, I took an axe and found the oldest tree I could find and tore it down, a contorted shell of a thing, broken and dying. I dragged the wood back to my cottage and carved my first piece, it was two stories tall, monstrous and terrible to look at, limbs too large for itself, seven uneven eyes peering outwards with intent to erase all it could see, my self-hatred directed outwards. A monster in which I could pour all my loathing and anguish, ugly in body and soul. This would be my little death, I would pour everything I could inside this monster and send it away, trying to kill this part of myself permanently, I thought of burning in once it was finished, but I always was a coward.

In the end, it was done. A mere two months after I started it; by the end, I felt spent, empty and calm. The calm of nature possessed me again, and I bathed myself in serenity once more. I looked at the monster I had made and wondered, what madness compelled me to create such a thing? How could I feel so much? No, this was my pain, a pain which the world refused to see or acknowledge. I posted the sculpture online to see what would happen, hoping that some crazy Russian millionaire would pay for have it shipped to his public garden so everyone could see it. I never would have imagined it would sell for over a million dollars to some billionaire who claimed it had “a deep spirit” inside of it. I stamped my triangle signature on it and got a container truck to move it.

Since that time, I was able to channel my fury, my hatred and anxiety into my work leaving me free from all those feelings to finally be at peace with the forest which surrounded me. I needed an outlet to purify my own soul, implanting it in my creations. Let the world have my hatred if they choose, I wanted none of it. I made hundreds of these sculptures, but over time, I mellowed. I had no use for more money, and my envy diminished. I started to forgive and understand, people didn’t really know what they were doing, no one was really an expert at living. I started to understand where I stood in the world and I become, if not glad, at least accepting of my place in it. My sculptures became less deranged, and finally on my one thousandth piece, I closed the computer. I wouldn’t need to create any more of these for others, I just wanted them for myself now, my love for the craft would push me the rest of the way.

But understanding doesn’t change the fact that I was alone, I was uncomfortable with my position, somehow, I still wasn’t at peace. I still looked outwards for the meaning of a soul, my soul. Was it unique to humans? But all the trees which I chose felt… angry, somehow. I can’t explain it. But surely rocks don’t have souls? Does the forest have a soul? Can it help me find mine?

One day, as I walked through the woods, I saw it, a tall oak, broken and on its side, only being supported by a large boulder. It was struck by parasites and fungus, but it was still alive, its leaves were green and you could tell, it was alive. I understood then, life isn’t constant, life is change, the tree changed forms, but it was still alive. It wouldn’t be for much longer in this form, but I would change it and I would keep it changing, alive, even if I had to give it another form.

Where before, my sculptures were about imposing my basest nature on the wood, now I played the role of rejuvenator. I would merge my soul with that of the wood, I followed the scars and lines closely, while making it look human. In the end, I suppose I should call what I made a dryad, a mixture of my own soul with the tree’s. I kept its sap and integrated it with the sculpture, I used my own blood to give it colour. I lost myself to the sculpture, I felt my beard grow long, my hair curl, my body ache like it was being turned into wood itself. This would be my magnum opus, proof of my existence, proof that I didn’t just mirror myself into wood, but create something truly unique.

But this wasn’t just a sculpture to keep in some gallery, it would change, it would be alive. It would be my companion and I named her Alcea. I took her with me while walking in the woods, and she would accumulate scratches, and I would patch them up, if she got chipped or burned I would fix her. For months I took care of her as a child, I felt my energy feed her, I felt less human by the day and more, myself. One day, I realised that her scratches would start to heal themselves, and I would have to take care of her less and less. One day, an emergency happened – a rock must have been dislodged from a ledge above and came crashing down on me. In that moment, Alcea cried out; she ran and pushed me out of the way, hugging me and crying in terror. I looked down to her eyes, and her green irises looked back at me, wet with childish tears. That was when I broke down, and hugged her back, and cried; for the first time in my life, tears of joy. I wasn’t alone anymore.

Most of the following, you should know already; I spent years teaching Alcea, watching her grow. But she was different from human children, the concept of time was difficult for her to grasp, she also tried to understand the true nature of things, not just their surface as we tend to do; she was incredible. She was impossibly patient with me, and though she had this instinct which went beyond normal thought, as if she could predict the future to an impossible degree, she was loving and sincere. Alcea had an old soul, older and wiser than mine, I think. But it wasn’t just her who was growing, my body changed, as I gave to her, somehow, she was giving something back; I didn’t care, she made me happy and change was for the living.

In the end, I forgot about the rest of humanity, even my own humanity. I resolved to live my life with Alcea, teaching her all I knew and more, not only about nature but everything I knew from philosophy to history and even physics. She sucked it all up like a sponge, the internet connection had been off for quite some time, but I had a huge library – thousands and thousands of books, and she devoured them all, reading each several times.

She never once asked why we weren’t around humans, nor where they were, I had found it a strange twist of luck that she didn’t want to meet them. I now realise that she was just probably as curious as any human child, but was also impossibly patient. She probably knew that one day, she would meet more of us, and that she would probably still prefer it at the cottage, and so she stayed with me. One day, however, she asked me if there were others like her; There weren’t, but how could I resist the chance to be a hero for my little girl?

I made several more sculptures from the finest trees and just as with her, I poured my heart and soul into them, and I taught her how to do the same with her own blood. I changed more and more with every example, my feet grew steadier, and to be honest, far furrier. My hair became harder and more horn-like, I started to eat and drink less and I found myself grow more patient. I didn’t care, I still made them in the image of humanity, of my soul. Humanity was never for me, but maybe, just maybe I could give it to someone else. It would just about be my only gift to the world.

And just like that, my children grew and made more of themselves, and more. I had been worried that somehow, they would be diluted into trees with each generation, but no – they created something entirely different, neither man nor forest, both, but lacking in neither. Their souls became more than the sum of their parts. It was beautiful to see realised, in the end, they didn’t even need to carve out wood – they could plant their own seeds, with a bit of help from others of their company, I laugh when I thought of the young romance between them. Through it all, Alcea was there to guide them, a mother to them all, while I became more of a grand-father-like figure. I won’t go much further into details, but the cabin grew into a small village of my children and great-grand children. I don’t know how many years I spent there, but I no longer cared; I, we were happy.

– until they started asking questions, that is.

The first and most obvious, since I still taught them using human books, where were the humans?

“Can we meet them?” they asked.

I said nothing. I looked through them with empty eyes, then I returned to my room; a piece of me broke that day. What… What could I say? No, humanity doesn’t want you? They didn’t want me and so they won’t want you? How do I know? What about the books? What if they had wanted lives, real lives, away from me? I didn’t want that, but what if they chose something or someone else? Why didn’t I tell anyone the truth, weren’t they my children? No, I was afraid. I was afraid of what the world could do to them; what losing them would do to me. I… I just didn’t know what to do. Alcea, oh the ever-patient and ever-loving Alcea, held my hand, just as we did when she was a child. I felt her heartbeat, the life that pulsed through her, just like it did with me. I realised that it didn’t matter, my thoughts didn’t matter, my opinions didn’t matter, I couldn’t keep them prisoner here, I needed to do right by them and myself.

By the time I went outside, I was a changed man once again. That was when I told everyone “I will go to the humans, and I want several of you to come with me.” Consequences be damned, I would surpass any problem, I would figure things out. I would solve every problem that would come up. It now seems funny, judging by how things turned out.

Well, four of my children left the cabin, well, village, with me and we traveled across the forest; I then realised the extent to which I wasn’t entirely human anymore, my feet traveled swiftly, my balance was nearly perfect, it was as if I became an animal, but keeping a human spirit. Along with my companions, we crossed the emerald forest and the lush landscape; I had no idea how long I had been away, but judging by the trees, it had to have been a very, very long time.

The time didn’t really strike me until we saw the paved road, cracked and overgrown, the streetlamps long since abandoned. Curious, I wondered if this area became an abandoned zone, exactly how long I had stayed away?

It took only three days to reach what should have been the nearest settlement by foot. But instead of a bustling hub of activity, which I told my children about. There were only wild foxes, trees, vines, bushes and most concerning – giant holes in the buildings, crushed cars, and all the signs of an apocalypse. I grew nervous, and my children could sense it, this was no longer the land of mankind, but of the forest. I admit that they were far more comfortable with these surroundings than I was, I couldn’t tell if it was their nature, or because the forest was all they had ever known. They marveled at the steel and concrete buildings, while I explored for any signs of habitation, the disaster, or even the current date; all I found were ruins. It was as if all the humans just… vanished.

We stayed there a further two days while we looked around, but finding nothing, we returned to the village to plan a much larger outing. This time Alcea came with me along with ten more of us, God we had grown. We decided to walk south until we hit the lakes, then turn west towards Toronto. A journey of almost a thousand kilometres, a little over two months if we don’t find any transportation. Plenty of time to think about how we would integrate into the population, that is – unless there was a nuclear war or an alien invasion which I just happened to miss, of course, but it was impossible for all of humanity to be dead. We didn’t have weapons, and there was the small issue that I didn’t entirely look human, but one problem at a time, as I like to say. Deep inside, I knew that I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to my children, but I couldn’t leave them trapped in the village for ever, I guess I just ran from myself as well.

It was an enjoyable few months, each one of us had a different perspective on things, Alcea of Oak (as the younger ones took to calling her) took the wisest approach in our debates, as usual, but Terys of Pine was more aggressive in their debates. Each was different, each was precious to me. Our peaceful debates were only interrupted by the incessant growing realization at the back of our minds, the humans had gone. Even after over a month of travelling, after many more over-grown highways and abandoned gas-stations, we found nothing. There were signs of violence, yes; cars were crushed and burned, buildings were collapsed, and we started finding new damages, holes in walls and the ground as if things dug through them. But we didn’t find anything until we reached the outskirts of Toronto.

The city was completely overgrown, the streets had become a marsh, festering with insects of all kinds as well as tracks from larger animals, we witnessed the same signs of destruction as before. In the end, we decided to hunt for supplies in the largest still-standing building in the area – the local Walmart. It stood out like one last defiance of humanity against whatever cataclysm had taken them, a huge concrete structure, with surprisingly little grass or moss growing on it, though the roof had long-since caved in. Inside were festering pools of stagnant water, stinking of ammonia and rot, almost enough to make you sick, moss growing over almost every surface; but as if to add to the absurdity of the situation, the shelves were fully stacked. Of course, the perishable goods had long since rotted away, leaving only wet remains of plastic wraps; but the cans, the plastic toys, even the bottles were all there. A relief to be sure, but what apocalypse could come so suddenly that people didn’t run to the shelves? Just remembering the toilet-paper shortage of 2020 had ingrained in me the thought that even a perceived potential emergency which could might maybe happen at some unspecified future date would send the people running for everything they could find. We moved deeper inside the building only to notice the holes above seemed regular, almost like the footprints of some giant trying to destroy cockroaches hiding from him in his yard. The ere silence hung above us, only interrupted by the occasional drip drip from the ceiling.

Creeek. Creeek. Creeek.

That was when we heard the call for the first time, yes it was a call, not some moving door, we were sure of it. Creeek. Tya of Maple jumped up and held out a spear fashioned out of a knife she had found, she had keener ears than the rest of us, and if she went alert, it was already past time for us to do so as well. We drew whatever weapons we had, nothing better than prehistoric hunting tools, but it was better than nothing.

Creeek, it drew closer. Creeek, it was almost onto us. Creeek, Creeek, Creeek… it wasn’t alone.

We heard sloshes in the water, behind the broken shelves; then another step behind us, a broken branch from another side – they were surrounding us, whatever they were, they surrounded us like a pack of wolves, I could feel it. Well, we weren’t just any prey – we drew into a circle, spears, knives and axes pointed outwards. It would have to be enough; silence filled the hall. Drip… drip… the drops from the ceiling, beating like the battle-drums of this impromptu encounter.

Creeek! A shape lunged at us, Tya swung at it with her spear and shoved it away, but did not pierce its skin, only made it fly into a shelf. Another creature lunged at my foot, I only noticed the sharp brown teeth as it sunk them into my skin – to my surprise they did not penetrate, it bit hard, but I guessed that my skin was tougher than when I was truly human, I took my axe and swung it towards its head, breaking it open. The third creature showed itself and circled around us, then joined by the first creature which had quickly recovered. They seemed more cautious now, keeping a safe distance – they weren’t like any animal I ever saw, their skin was wooden, almost like the bark of a tree. Their faces like goblins from fantasy stories, with bulging teeth and mad eyes, they could walk on two legs, but preferred to clamber onto furniture on four. They were smaller than they first appeared, only about eighty centimetres tall, roughly proportioned like a tail-less monkey as well, though something about it reminded me of a human as well. The two circled around us, but we could tell that the corpse of their comrade diminished their killing intent by the second. Creeek. They left us, abandoning the limp body of their friend.

Both shaken and curious, I kneeled down to check the corpse of the creature, its skin was made from bark, but it’s insides felt like… meat. Some amalgamation of animal and plant.

“It’s like us” I remember Tya say, “It’s a creature made from wood and man!”

I recognised the relationship, but just shook my head “It’s as much like you as a cockroach is like me, Tya” I told him “You were born from my soul and the soul of Maple, because I wanted you to live.” I looked around at another of my children who seemed nervous, “and you, Sten, were born from the love of both Syl and Pine.” I held the wooden creature in my hands, “this, whatever this is, whyever it moves, was not born from anything worth mentioning, it just hates and kills, and it is nothing like you.”

Looking back now, I am proud by how I made them feel, but I had meant those words metaphorically, I didn’t realise to what extent I was right.

After the incident at the Walmart, we dove further into the city, spotting more of these wooden creatures, some aggressive, some grazing, some as tall as giraffes, others like rats. Some seemed to live in coexistence with the animals, I even saw some dogs eat these wooden creatures, so at least they had integrated themselves into the ecosystem so as not to disrupt it too much. It was amazing to see, but also terrifying to think that something could so completely replace us. Looking at the glass and steel towers of Toronto, like shards of broken mirrors, reflecting the forest now around it, like artificial mountains, impossibly large and ancient, from an age so far forgotten that one would assume these to be a part of nature and not the toil and work of countless thousands of humans.

Humanity seemed to just be… gone. Gone without so much as a single body in the streets, or the signs of panic. What were these creatures which took their place? The pieces just weren’t falling together. My stomach started churning, were they somehow related to the birth of my own children? As we walked through the streets reclaimed by nature like a body slowly rejecting an infection, we heard a low rumble.

Thud. The glasses in the windows shook, our group didn’t really know what to do but look around, with a quiet panic setting in our little band. But there was no follow-up sound, we decided to continue, though a bit more cautious.

The birds grew quiet and the air grew stale, the sound of every step we took stood out like drops of blood on a clean hospital floor; still, there was no obvious danger, and so like the fools we were, we continued – Alcea leading us as she always did. Why did we continue? I still don’t know. We were there to find out what happened, not to get ourselves killed, we didn’t even especially want the answers, I just didn’t want to lose.

Thud. This time, the sound reverberated through the city like a church bell, shaking our core. Thud. The noise came again, somehow looming larger than a crumbling mountain. We bolted as fast as our feet could carry us.

We ran into a skyrise, through the broken windows to the deepest rooms we could find. There was no electricity, but the sun’s rays drove deep into the building. We hid just behind the doors; we were just as afraid of braving the darkness beyond, as we were of staying outside. We were at the precipice between light and dark, wondering which way we should dive, waiting for the danger to miraculously pass us, breaths painfully stuck in our throats.

The decision was made for us as the light from the sun disappeared.

“Huuuuuuuuuman.” The voice whispered, loud enough to pierce eardrums if we were any closer. “Hyyyyuuuuuuuuuuuman.” The voice seemed to explore the word like a child would a toy doll, “Hated Huuuman.” It said with more confidence now. “Doooo nooot hiiiide frooom me.” We said nothing. “Dooo you waaaant meee to strike down the pillarsss of your presumption on your heaaaaads?” A crash shook the tower to its core, clouds of dust bellowed from the ceilings and walls, glass from hundreds of meters up crashed down outside like an avalanche of shards. “Hated huuumans?” It resounded with malevolent playfulness.

Alcea got up, and before I could catch her, she faced the unknown fiend, back straight, and filled with pride. But I could see the fear in her shaking eyes, but she walked towards the unknown creature, Tya almost rushed after her, but I held him back. She had a plan, I hoped at least.

“We are not humans!” she cried out. “We are dryads! Children of the wood like you!”

A hurricane erupted as the creature outside smelled the air inside. Then rumbled in frustration “Yooooou smell humaaaaan, yooooou look humaaaan, yooooou talk like a humaaaaan, aaaaare yooooou saying that yoooou are NOT humaaaan?” The crash came back as the creature punched the building once more, causing another avalanche of glass.

It took a few moments for her to speak again “I am Alcea of Oak.” She continued, her voice trembling like the surface of water during a storm. “I am my own creature, just as you are your own creature. How could we be human if they have been gone for so long?” Thump. The ground shook this time, throwing all of us including, Alcea to the ground.

The creature seemed to measure his words “Dooo not fooool meeeee. You have oooone wiiiith you, a huuuuman. Coooome oooout before I kiiiill my kin!”

It didn’t have to finish its words, without a thought I leaped to my feet and walked out putting myself between the creature and Alcea. It would not have her, it would not harm her, for the first time, fear drove me to action. She looked at me, surprised, worried. But I could only faintly smile back, I wasn’t letting her face this alone. I looked around at the creature holding us all hostage, and I choked on my own bile. What I saw was a familiar monster, asymmetric, its limbs too long for its body, and seven hateful eyes staring back at me, my triangle signature on its arm. “I am the one you are looking for!” I screamed, pleaded at him.

It stared in shock, then took a step back, which alone shook the whole building like an Earthquake, then wind howled around it in bursts, no, it laughed. Its posture completely changed, from monstrous creature to that of an amused devil “AH! And my creator coooooomes! After two hundred years my creatoooor comes to juuuudge me! You look different than I rememmmmmber, so you also abandooooooned the follyyyyy that is maaaaaan!”

I couldn’t believe my ears, two hundred years? Has it really been that long?

It’s massive ten floor tall frame kneeled and stared at me, it’s hands outstretched, its face open in what I can only describe as manic joy “Are you prooooooud of me, father? I killed off maaaaan, are you prooooud of what you have maaaaaade? It is what you wanteeeeed I hooooope!” It laughed again, “Weeeeell at least it’s what I waaaaaanted, that makes it all worthwhiiiiiile I belieeeeeve.”

I shook with tears in my eyes and collapsed onto the floor. “No, I didn’t make…” I couldn’t contain my words, empty. “I didn’t want to make… I never wanted to destroy.” No, it was my creation, I made them with hate, of course they did, but… what? How?

The creature smiled joyously at me, its creator. Though now it seemed to drop some of its airs as it got used to our language “Oh, do not act so disparaged. You wanted this, or at some point you did, it makes no difference. A thousand of my siblings roam the Earth, their wondrous hatred eventually creating something beautiful!” It picked up one of the wooden creatures, some giraffe, like one would a cat “We hated humanity, we hated ourselves, just as you hate yourself, and hate us. But we surpassed you!” It outstretched its arm, showing the giraffe, “This is mine, made from the soul of a woman and many trees indeed.” It released the giraffe, “All these creatures are mine own creation, made in any form except that of man! Except that of you!” It arched its face towards my body “You made me despise myself, monster. But I chose no! I chose to reject you! I made them in any form except yours! You made me as the worst version of yourself, well I said no! I made them as beautiful as I could! I made what you never dared to make, beauty! I took the ugliness of man and I remade it in my image!” it screamed in anger. “I have surpassed you!”

I could feel none of it, I glazed over, I… I died there – not the little deaths I had from before, no, death. I never realised that there existed a realm of sorrow so deep that tears refuse to come out, there was no wailing, my mind just… broke. Alcea, yes Alcea, it must have been born at the same time as her, somehow. Oh god, the thousand sculptures, and they were in people’s houses. Did they slowly transform humanity? Did they multiply? No, it didn’t matter. I…

The monster I made taunted me again “I’m surprised you are not dead.” It said, “You so desperately wanted to die, I would have considered it a blessing.” It laughed “well” it shrugged “No time like the present,” it pointed at my axe. “I won’t soil my hands with you.” it then got up and left, it just left me there. I must already be dead.

But there, always behind me, Alcea kneeled behind me, and hugged me, let me feel her heartbeat, her life, I couldn’t feel mine. “It’s not your fault.” She whispered.

“It is.” I breathed back “I let him loose, it’s no one’s fault other than mine.” After two hundred years, my demons have returned, and when I thought I was happy, I… it was nothing more than me putting my head in the sand. Nothing was real, while I was living in peace, a thousand of my creations destroyed the world. This was it, nothing more, the worst villain of mankind, harbinger of its destruction, the one who deserved to die the most, the last one alive. Oh, I would have laughed if the irony wasn’t so heavy handed. Alcea gave me a hug I didn’t deserve, what have I done to this poor poor child. She doesn’t realise that I am the monster she should be afraid of, the monster she should be hunting.

Nothing more interesting happened on the way back, I now spent months in my bed. Apparently, the village is growing well, at least some hope lives, but not for me. There is only one justice for me, and death is too kind.
I am so so sorry.

Goodbye.

Adam

***

That was the note done, I readied my knife, stretched it out in front of me.

Heh, it was funny, for being so suicidal before, I never did find out what was the most painful way to die. It was all I could do to at least come as close as possible to the suffering I caused. I thought that maybe a strike to the heart would kill me properly, maybe the shock would cause enough pain. No, it doesn’t. Eight billion souls, how can one man carry the burden of eight billion souls? How could one man singlehandedly cause the destruction of eight billion.

“No!” A scream came from the door, Alcea ran in and shoved the knife away. I guess I wasn’t holding it strongly enough.
“Let me.” I said quietly “I deserve far worse, any afterlife I go to will be my punishment.”

“It’s not your fault!” she said, tears welling in her eyes, “don’t die on me, on us!” she sobbed, I retreated further into myself, “We are all waiting for you outside. Please, come back to us, to how you were before.”

I stared at the knife, now on the floor. “There is nothing to do. I am done. I caused the pain, I caused the suffering, 8 billion have died. I have to pay for it. I don’t deserve you.”

SLAP. Alcea slapped me, right across the face hard enough for me to fall off my chair. “You… know something,” Alcea screamed through her sobs “It’s not about you!” I blinked, what was she talking about “I can’t believe that in two hundred years, you still haven’t noticed! It’s not about YOU!”

“What are you…” she wouldn’t let me finish.

“All this!” She waved around her, tears now falling to the floor “This village, the dryads, us… me.” She held her trembling hands across her chest. “Are we just parts of you? Are we just made to make you feel happy for yourself? Does every tiny thing we do make you feel proud of yourself? Does the world exist just so you can be happy for yourself? Are you that self-centered?” She collapsed in sobs “No! It just is how it is. You are you. I am me. That monster is that monster! Picasso didn’t expect Guernica to come alive and kill everyone! It said so itself, it killed because it wanted to, it’s not your fault!” She grabbed my note through wet eyes and glanced through it “I don’t believe it! Everything here is about you, you wrote ‘I’ In almost every sentence! Just how egotistical are you?”

Her words hit me, harder than would ever care to admit. “Well, it is about me. I unleashed that monster, I have only myself to blame, I deserve the most terrible fate imaginable. If I wasn’t here, humanity would be alive!”

She sobbed again, and screamed through her tears “You want me to say it? Fine! Yes, it is your fault. But you didn’t know. You didn’t deserve it, and yes there are consequences, but you don’t deserve them!” she held my face in her hands “You are now a kind, soft, gentle man.” She put her forehead against mine “You deserve to love and to be loved, a kind quiet life. Everyone does, I deserved siblings and a life among humans, but it’s not about you or me!” I started crying, I tried not to, but I did, for the first time in two hundred years, since her birth.

Alcea was ruthless, she didn’t relent despite her verbal jabs in my gut “You are a good man, but all you’ve been doing is talking about yourself, for yourself, to yourself. Comparing yourself to others, thinking how good others are compared to you, how the world is unfair to you, how it doesn’t treat you right, or how you don’t treat others right. How embarrassed you feel, or how much pain you cause. Well, let me tell you something, LIFE ISN’T ABOUT YOU!” Now she shook with anger, her voice breaking with every word. “You need to be alive, not just yourself, but the rest of us, for your art, for our lives. Even if you don’t value your life, we do. Even if all you can do is help a single child laugh like we used to, or tell stories like we used to, isn’t that worth a life? Please. Live. For us. For me. For… For that one good deed you will do in ten years if nothing else.” She choked on her tears and looked at me with her green eyes which used to give me so much joy – no, which were usually filled with joy, now filled with pain – she was pleading with me, she trembled, tears pouring out from her now red eyes. What have I done to her?

I cried, and wailed, and hugged her, and cried again. A river flowed out of me, but ultimately, it dried up. I couldn’t bear to look myself in the mirror, but I did give her the knife.

I deserve to die, and I will, but it’s not up to me to decide when or how. Maybe I had once deserved to be happy, but somehow it doesn’t really matter now.

Now, I live. My children deserve to be happy, they deserve to be not just my children, but humanity’s children. No. They are dryad, children of wood and man. Themselves, not bound to me at all, except if they choose to, they deserve to be free and I shall give them that. There is a civilization to rebuild.

Somehow, after two hundred years, a weight has been lifted. All that is left, is the work to be done, and the children to teach.

Somehow, finally, there is peace.

Credit : GrandAdmiral

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