She used to stalk me, in the dark. Whisper her treachery across my cold bed, into my closed heart. After our master's death, she was the only one I had left, and she enveloped me in her stone cold façade, surrounded me with her strength and hate. And I let her.
But we have parted like bitter lovers. She clings to me in a vice-like grip, jealous of the man in my bed, the man in my heart. I don't need her anymore, and she knows it. But still, she lingers. Taunting me – or daring me, I'm not quite sure.
She prowls around the edges of the room stealthily, keeping to the shadows. She doesn't speak.
Her hair is bound tightly back in an uncompromising braid. Somehow, it seems to make her harder, made her face appear tighter, her jaw squarer. I wear mine loose now.
Bright eyes glare at me from the gloom, appraising me, judging me. They could be green, were they not so dark, so filled with hate. She hates everything I've become and everything I've had to do to become it.
From the bed I cannot see her clearly, she is one with the darkness. But every feature, every angle and curve of her body, of her mind, is etched into my memory. I know the woman well.
For you see, I used to be her.
My entire life, we had served the Emperor together. We heeded his every demand, surrendered to his every wish. And we had done it gladly. He had commanded loyalty and absolute obedience. We gave it without question.
She and I were one – The Emperor's hand. I had no other true self, although we had several pseudonyms, characters we embodied, masquerades we played at.
As Darth Vader had controlled and masked Anakin Skywalker, the Hand had been my identity, the very face of my slavery. She guided my hand as much as my master did, and I followed blindly, giving myself over to his divine construction. Droids always thank the Maker – I've come to curse him.
Perhaps things would have been different, had I been older, not just a scared child with no understanding of the way things were – the difference between right and wrong. No, I was malleable, easily shaped into the Hand, the silent enforcer of his will. I loved my master, and feared him. Fear was love, he taught me. Love was unwavering devotion and loyalty, was unquestioning obedience.
Luke would say that my intentions were pure, that it was this very submission that kept me out of the Dark Side. But then I remember the horror I felt after my first kill. The blood on my hands, my soul might as well have been my own, for the pain it caused me. It felt like drowning. But the Hand soothed me, telling me that scars fade, that blood can be cleaned off. That in time I, like her, would be numb to the pain and the guilt. It was not my place to question the will of my master.
Luke would say that it was not my fault, that I didn't know any better. But the thing is – I think I did know better. I knew enough to be horrified by my actions. He can believe what he likes. I don't think I will ever know the truth.
It's all from a certain point of view, anyway.
The Hand and I were so entwined that I can't exactly pinpoint the moment where I began to leave her behind. Perhaps it began in the forests of Myrkr, or Wayland. Perhaps it was even has far back as the moment I heard his call, and rescued him from the cold emptiness of space. But I know I truly left her that day on the roof of the Imperial Palace, when he pressed his recovered lightsaber into my hands. His father's lightsaber. That unspoken promise of redemption.
It still chills me, how close she brought me to the Dark Side in the years before I met Luke Skywalker, before I knew the truth. I skirted a thin line while in the service of the Emperor, saved perhaps only by the nature of that service. But the hate, the desperate need for revenge, even if only to silence his voice in my head, almost sent me over the edge. It is lucky, that I never had the chance to fulfil that last command, or I would have been irredeemably lost to the darkness.
Or maybe not luck at all, but more to do with the kind of man Luke is. Had he been arrogant, detached, or egotistical, it would have been easy to dispatch him quickly. But it was his kindness, his humility, his faith and obvious loyalty that made me reconsider what the Emperor had told me. I would never let him know it - It's hard enough admitting it to myself - but Luke saved me in every way possible.
But salvation, I suppose, comes with a price. The Hand feels no shame, no remorse, for what we had done during our years of service. That is my burden. Guilt still permeates my every pore, a dark satin tainting my soul that could be lessened, but never removed. I cannot forget the faces of those I had betrayed, those I had eliminated in the name of the Empire. Nor should I. It my penance, and in my opinion, not a hefty one, considering what I have gained. A family that is so much more than a husband, and a man that returns my love tenfold. For all that, I do not mind the guilt, the occasional bouts of sadness when reminiscing over the lives I had a hand in destroying.
I have made my peace with my past. Only one ghost remained, and she stands before me.
She is a shadow, a spectre, taking refuge in the gloom. From the darkness she calls to me, as I have let her – for close to ten years. Ever since I had banished her there, the far corners of my mind. But banishment will not longer suffice, not now. She threatens my happiness, with her whispered words of treachery. That I am undeserving of such a life, that I am weak without her.
A part of me believes her, but I refuse to give into weakness, or doubt. Softly, I sit up in our bed, careful not to disturb the man asleep beside me. Gently, I take his artificial hand into both of mine. He had been concerned, that I would be repulsed by the circuits and wires that lay beneath the impressive illusion of skin. It didn't bother me in the slightest. I knew what it meant to him, how he wore it as proudly as any other battle scar – perhaps even more. The black glove he usually wears is absent, cast aside on the nightstand for sleep. In the pale moonlight, it appears as any other human appendage. But I know better.
It is a reminder for Luke, that hand, so often encased in black. Covered not due to shame, but as symbolism. For him, it is a constant remembrance of how close he came to the Dark Side, how close he came to being his father. I think tomorrow I will ask him if its time to let go of the security the glove affords him. After all, tonight I am removing my own.
I turn my attention back to the Hand. She smirks cruelly, maliciously. She cannot guess what I am thinking, she doesn't have the emotional strength. The balance has been tipped, and I now hold the power. But I will never be free if I allow her to fade back into the shadows of myself. No, she will be the last person I ever kill in cold blood.
It is self-defence, really. I act not in anger, nor in fear. I can't – I serve the light now. In the pale gloom of my mind, she ignites her lightsaber, the magenta light flickering hauntingly in her eyes. I await her attack, knowing she will see my inactivity as surrender. She advances slowly towards me, poised for the final blow that will make me hers again. At the last moment, I ignite by own blue saber, illuminating all of the shadows in the room. The darkness recedes as I swing forcefully, cutting off her attack and delivering the killer blow to my last enemy.
It feels like freedom. There is silence in the room as I sigh in relief. The sounds of Luke's breathing join with mine in tandem, and I realise I am still clutching his hand. I look to the shadows, and they are empty. Relieved, and for the first time, at ease, I lay back down next to my husband. His other arm unconsciously moves around me, and I lay my head on his chest, rejoicing in my victory.
The Hand is dead. Mara Jade Skywalker has been born.