Author's note: If this sucks, I'm sorry. I made it in an hour after playing Creatures 3 and having to kill a grendel. I'm pretty sure it killed a nornling. With that on my mind and "Blackbird" playing on the CD player (my mom loves the I am Sam soundtrack) I couldn't help but write this.
When I was young, I used to stare out into space; unable to touch the pretty stars.
Now I can. My eyes are open to the cruelty on the ship that's now behind me.
I was born in the jungle. But the Hand took pity on me when I was a babe and brought me into the terrarium to live among the norns. My brother, Grunt, was forced to stay in the jungle and survive off of mushrooms and bugs. He never got a chance at happiness from the day he was born to the day he was taken away to the airlock.
I was so naive. I thought my life was going to be peaceful and contented forever. I couldn't mate, but the hand gave me the privilege of raising a nornling. His name was Ergot and his mother had died. She had walked up into the teaching room, fallen ill, and died. For some reason the Hand doesn't even know, that room is full of disease.
I took good care of Ergot. I really did. But this is a harsh world. One day he fell asleep in the shade under the cliffs and didn't wake up. It happens to very young nornlings all the time.
Don't let anyone tell you grendels don't cry. I cried over him until he disappeared. But as if the pain of losing Ergot, my little civet, my child wasn't enough, I was blamed for his death!
So now I sit in the only room that could contain me. It's a little cave like structure beneath the shores. One small window allows me view of the sea. I can see by the shadows that evening is here.
By this time tomorrow, I'll be dead.
There is a clink at the door and the hand floats in. She has no eyes but I can feel her disgust for me. She tosses an apple and a hunk of cheese to me, along with a beaker of water.
"You killed him." She says this empty of emotion. I can't answer her until I finish devouring the food and water. The Hand's disgust increases. She must be thinking it's typical grendel eating habits. The fact that I've been starved means nothing to her. "Cheese is too good for a nornling murderer."
I always thought of the Hand as my mother and my friend.
But I guess I'm no more than a monster to her now. I realize she isn't the mother that used to play with me, to tickle me and call me Pretty Bird when I was a child.
"I didn't do it."
She slaps me across the face. "Liar! It was only a matter of time before you killed! I should have left you where I found you-under a jungle fern eating insect larvae! You are not Blackbird anymore. You're a grendel, a killer! And by tomorrow night you'll never kill again!"
With that, she leaves.
Her words sting me more than the blow.
I'm hauled out of my cage the next evening. The Hand has tightly fastened two manacles to my wrists, two around my legs, and one around my neck. Holding the chains, she leads me to the airlock.
On my long march to death, my eyes finally open.
I change from the happy little grendel playing by the pond in the Norn forest to a doomed grendel going to the airlock. As I'm marched through the forest, I see the ship for what it is.
The soil under my claws is red. It has been stained by the blood of many creatures like me; creatures who were inconvenient to the Hand. The grazers contentedly munch grass nearby; I remember playing with them as a child. Now I see that the goshawk picks young ones off to be torn apart by her chicks. I used to watch the goshawk teaching her chicks to fly and soaring among the stars. Now I see she can barely lift the grazer piglet, so rarely she gets to eat.
The norns watch me pass through. Some of them were my friends as children. I look at them pleadingly, begging for help. But they turn away. I realize that they're cowards. They spend their lives in the safety of the forest, stuffing themselves with cheese and nuts and fruit. They don't care about anyone but themselves. And when a creature needs them the most, they ignore it.
There are sharks being used in breeding experiments in the ocean room. Creatures in the desert are desperate for just one piece of food, but starve unless the hand feeds them. Grendels, useless norns, and ettins are thrown to the piranha.
I suddenly hate the ship that has always been my home. I hate the hand that's been our leader.
I'm led into the airlock and unchained. Heavy doors slam shut behind me.
"Grendel, do you have anything to say for yourself?" the hand asks.
I nod. "My name isn't Grendel. It's Blackbird. That's the name you gave me. That's the name I'll keep."
"I mean about the nornling you slaughtered!"
"What's the point? I'm innocent, but you've got it into your head that I'm guilty. So anything I say won't make a difference."
The blaring and red lights begin. 5...4...3...2...1...
I'm shot out into the vacuum of space. The cold air rips at my skin and pops my lungs. Soon I'll rejoin Ergot. He's the only one who knows I'm innocent. A grendel can't win among norns and I'm glad to leave the ship behind. I still wish things could have been different.
But if this is what freedom feels like, I'll take it.