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My Life, My Death

The second time I died was different from the first, yet eerily similar. Both deaths were filled with a rush of emotion that was striking in its violence. It simmered my blood, sending my pulse pounding, and cracking my bones. Both deaths were the same, but not.

The first time I died, it was in despair. The turmoil of my life had finally caught up to me. Everything that I strove for, everything that made me strong turned to ash in my hands. I died with nothing. Not honor, not principal, not even righteousness. My vengeance was stolen from me, squeezed mercilessly out of my body by the lethal coiling of a single tail.

I cried that day. I cried for my people destroyed, for my family dishonored, but mostly I cried for me. How could such a life been mapped out for me? What could I have done in a previous existence to have been made to endure such cruelty?

I knew what I was. I was a murderer, a monster, a purger of worlds. I did what I had to, dismissing those who stood silently by, killing those who got in the way. All of it was for my survival, my continued presence of being. Not because I wanted to live, but because it was demanded of me. I was the last of royal blood; only through me would my people live on. Every day I fought not to buckle under weight of my people, calling to me, crying out for vengeance. I was their heir, their hope, their sword.

In my pod, half asleep, my animal brain still awake, hazy dreams of what used to be would drift through my mind. As a child I had been strong, cruel in the way of royalty, but with no aspirations of becoming the demon that I was. I remember laughing, a pure sound untainted by blood lust or insanity. The laughter of a child who knew something of family harmony.

The first time I died I had been full of hate, the knowledge of what I was and what I could have been throbbing inside of me, the puss of a wound barely scabbed over. My master had taken me, molded me, and when I had no where else to go, he broke me.

I admit that he did. I fought it like a dog fights his chain, but that which is stronger can not be broken, and my master was so much stronger. So I remade myself, built myself up from the scraps that were left over. The refuse of my body and soul, the unwanted bits of my mind. I recreated myself in the image of my master, someone who was stronger, a creature without weakness.

What was left over was truly monstrous. The destruction I wrought was infamous. I became the feared, the terrifying, and the monster that everyone ran from. I was the tentacle thing under the bed, the ogre in the closet, the ghost in the hall. I was the bedtime tale of warning to children, and a nightmare for the parents.

Worst of all I was real.

That was my first life, and when I died all that hate, all that fury dissipated in the wind, leaving the shell of my body to rot in the dirt.

The second time I died it was for love. For love of family, of friends, of honor. As I died again, I thought of my second life, something that had been so different than the first---different but the same.

The memory of my past returned to me as my body was returned to me. I inhabited the husk that had once been my home with something akin to mesmerizing awe. My body was familiar yet strange. I didn't feel as if I belonged in my skin anymore, it itched and burned, bubbling just beneath the surface. Creepy crawlies had lived there for a time, it was their home now. Worms and maggots had their fill of my insides and squiggles had eaten my eyes. From then on the things that I had relished in my previous life, the smell of rot, the signs of decay, and the slimy, slick trails of flesh-eating worms turned my stomach and made me ill.

That was when I realized that I was the same but different. The memories of my first life haunted me, clawing through the vastness of time, struggling to find me, only to remind me of what I dared not forget---that I was a monster, unfit for this world.

In my second life I gained a family, something that I had lost in the first. The agony they bestowed on me was the worst I had ever felt. I looked at them and saw happiness, joy at living. They would turn their fearless gaze on me filled with adoration and love, begging for me to return it, only to turn away in sadness when realizing that I would not.

Karma is a bitch. She follows behind me, taking note of the litter that I leave behind. Nothing escapes her knowing look, no matter how many lives I jump through. I knew she was there, watching and waiting for her chance to show me that I was nothing more than trash, something that had to learn the lesson of humanity, no matter how much pain I had to endure.

She offered me everything I wanted, a family, acceptance and love, but it was a ploy, I knew. She held out all that I wanted, waiting for me to reach for it so she could snatch it away. I knew her ploy, so I did not reach.

But I didn't have to reach, because they came to me. First a beautiful mate, someone who was unwavering faithful, vocal in her defense for me, silent in her love. She gave me a son, something I always wanted, but I knew I couldn't have. I pushed them away, leaving them behind, shouldering my cold burden alone---the corpse of my first life.

Then the day came where I had to give away my second life. This time it wasn't squeezed from me, I wasn't murdered, I was sacrificed. Sacrificed to my family.

The emotions that swept through me was just as powerful as the first time, but they were opposites, white to black, light to dark. I died out of love, out of friendship, and the need to protect what was mine. My family and all that I had built out of the ashes of my previous life.

Power flooded my veins, emotion pounded through me. Under the scalding heat of my sacrifice my soul was purified, and my worm-bitten body shattered. In a single moment of sun-blinding light, Karma could no longer see me, and I was free to melt the past, smearing it into an indefinable pool of nothingness.

I thought that was it, that the story of my lives had ended, but I was blessed again with a third life. And this time it was truly a blessing, not a curse like the last one. I was called into service once again to fight, to protect the ones I loved in return for life, my life and theirs.

In my third life I was a new man, completely and totally. The shadows of my past only skirted the edges of my mind, never bravely stepping into the light of scrutiny. There were still scathing battles to the death, bolder fights and unaccountable victories, but never was I the man that I was in my previous lives.

I openly loved my family, bestowing them with affection that I didn't even know I was capable of. I thanked Karma every day for her stay of execution, for allowing me a life that I had always wanted.

My first life I learned to hate, in my second life I learned love, but it was my third life that I learned acceptance. Acceptance that hate was a means to an end, a driving force that was nearly unstoppable, but not undefeatable. Acceptance that love was there for me. It was given to me unconditionally, and all I had to do was reach for it.

My vision blurs and the landscape wavers. I sit upon a knoll, a hardy oak at my back as I leisurely scan my surroundings. A green valley dips, dotted with pink, purple and yellow, before climbing up squat foothills. It is a beautiful scene, something that I have seen many times.

I smile, remembering the past. The first time I set eyes on this meadow, I saw only the bodies of my past littering the valley floor. The second time it was to reluctantly make love to my little mate, the entire time my back tensing for fear of a dagger. The third time we sat silently, arm and arm, her head resting against my shoulder.

Now I visit this place more frequently, musing over my memories, sometimes laughing, mostly talking, and rarely crying.

I shift and my forearm brushes over marble, chilling my skin. Smiling I look over at Bulma, her presence a balm on my wearied soul. She is as beautiful as the first day I met her, long ago in my first life. It is because that she was present in all of my lives that I know that we will meet again. No matter if we are born galaxies apart, I know that I will find her, and this comforts me more than anything else ever could.

I lean closer to the stone tomb, brushing a kiss over the carving of her name. My little mate hadn't liked the creepy crawlies of death no more than I. She insisted on an air tight resting place, her will decreeing that she wished to sit under our tree and look out upon the valley. Before she had died, I knew of this wish, accepting it with a broken heart.

I settle back against the tree, thinking of my third death. It is so very different than my others, but still so similar. I have died in a flurry of emotions, hate, anger, and love pooling beneath my skin until it burst out in a torrent. A whirlwind, blood-singing, teeth-aching, pulse-pounding demise.

My third death is serenity itself, calmness and acceptance. My emotions are bone-deep, entrenched into my very soul. Love, loyalty, acceptance. They are more powerful than hate and sacrifice, but subtle, nearly unseen. No one would know to look at me that I am experiencing the most heart-wrenching emotions of my life.

I am finally going to rejoin my mate, to see and hold her once again. Joy overfills my heart, flooding into my soul until it is alit with happiness that pours out of my eyes.

I close my eyes, my arm resting on Bulma, my head against the rough bark of the tree. I think of my lives and my deaths, and know that this one is the most meaningful. This is the death I have always wanted.