Falls To Climb
Romantically you'd martyr me
And miss this story's point
It is my strength, my destiny
This is the role that I have chosen.
Falls To Climb, by REM
You don't remember what happened that day. There is no time, no space to search for memories when pain delineates your existence. Blistering what's left of your lungs with every mechanical breath. Squeezing your skull with every artificial surge of blood through your broken veins. Stinging your muscles as they are moved, stiffly and mercilessly, against your will.
On occasion, when sleep graces you with unconscious relief, you see the images. Silent and staccato, they flicker across your vision in the moment before you wake. Boiling lava, blue eyes, black smoke, splintered bones. A final plea. A sorrowful tear. Shock. Horror. Grief. Determination. The flash of brown eyes, soft lips and white hands. And then nothing.
But then you wake, and there is only the pain.
As your body heals, you find comfort in the darkness. The intoxication of your own power is mesmerising, and you reach out to it, tasting it, caressing it, the gravity of your presence in the Force, darker and denser than everything, continuing to pull you inside yourself. Seductively. Inescapably. Horrifyingly.
In fragments the memories return. You remember those who betrayed you, mocked you, abused you. You hunt the traitors, one by one, but the pleasure of squeezing the life from their bodies is short-lived, doing nothing to quell the rage burning within you.
Through all of this, a peculiar, infuriating void lies within your heart. You know Kenobi is alive. You are certain of it. And yet he evades you. You cannot feel his presence and the army of an empire cannot find him.
As the months, and then years, pass, your anger will cool. But a venomous loathing will saturate your body, almost as if it were fed intravenously from the tubes that maintain your existence. You will grow to trust in yourself, and in the will of the Force. You will grow patient, knowing your time to rule will come.
But still, you will remember nothing from that day but the screams of the children you killed, and the whispers of the one you now call Master.
You will never forget the name of the man you once were. But you will no longer remember what it felt like to be him. And you will never know what he did that day.
The groan of tensioned durasteel fills the sulphurous air of Mustafar's principal mining cavern, audible even above the roar of lava flowing hundreds of feet below the platform. From amidst a whirl of blue saber blades two figures emerge: one taller, younger, clad in black, the other, older man wearing the standard issue tunics of the Jedi Order. Beneath their feet the metal surface shudders. In only minutes it will give way, plunging both to their deaths. A single mining car swinging a few feet above their heads is the only possible means of escape.
"This is the end for you, Master," Vader sneers. One more carefully-executed attack might be sufficient; the Jedi's fatigue is close to critical, thanks to Kenobi's insistence on talking and fighting at the same time. The fool has barely stopped trying to argue since he arrived. As if words would be enough to stop the victory of the Sith.
Kenobi opens his mouth to utter another pathetic protest, and the Force whispers that the time is now. With a roar of victory, Vader plunges forward, forcing his opponent back towards the brink of the platform.
An unbearable heat radiates from the molten rock several hundred feet below.
Master? Obi-Wan?... Where am I?
Through tunnelled vision Anakin glimpses his mentor, his brother, his friend; noble face lit by a beacon of blue against the backdrop of fire, lightsaber locked against his own
Anakin reels, fighting the presence inside his own body, trying to free himself from the familiar, terrifying tendrils that curl like cold steel wires around every capillary, every nerve. They have never felt this strong before. Only in his nightmares.
But this is reality.
Obi-Wan is pleading for Anakin to come back, to fight against the darkness.
Anakin hears laughter, cold and cruel, spilling from his own lips.
Panic eclipses horror as one word echoes in his mind.
The monster whispers to him. Your beautiful wife. Perhaps not so perfect when I've finished with her.
Yes. Perhaps I'll even let her live, if she submits quickly enough. Your children too, I sense they will play an important role in the future of my empire.
Who are you?
Why, dear boy, who do you think? I'm Vader. I'm you.
"Anakin." Obi-Wan's voice brings Anakin back out of himself. He feels as if he is encased in a thick shell of iron; his limbs immobile under the monster's influence. His right arm is rigid, his saber bending Obi-Wan backwards. The older man's body is shaking with the exertion of simply maintaining his position.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan whispers, his voice cracking, "you can fight this. I know you can. You can find the strength. Focus. Come with me now. Let's talk about this. For the sake of your family. Please. Whatever you've done, it's not too late."
Dimly, Anakin feels the Force shimmer around Obi-Wan. Fear. His master is afraid. Afraid of him. That shock of that revelation gives Anakin the jolt he needs to find himself. He draws the light side of the Force inside his body, focusing it into a ball of pure white, a beacon to defy Vader's darkness.
He can do it. He can fight this. Obi-Wan is right about that. But he is wrong about something else.
It is too late.
For Anakin Skywalker it is too late.
With one swift movement, Anakin strikes out, catching Obi-Wan's body with his shoulder, and twisting them both around and away from the platform edge. With a surge of the Force, Obi-Wan is flung through the air, landing with a sickening crunch inside the mining car. Anakin swings his arm wildly and the door slams shut, sealing with a sharp hiss. Obi-Wan is injured, but he will live.
Crying out as he fights to keep his focus, Anakin manages to Force-hold the doors of the car shut while the automatic escape sequence initiates and the car begins to move to away. Vader's indignant screams echo inside his mind, and the ball of Force-light within him flickers, its surface solidifying and then beginning to crack, but Anakin holds on until the car is out of range.
Anakin's muscles tremble, and a wave of nausea sweeps over him as he crawls weakly back towards the edge of the platform. Completely blinded by darkness, he shakes with the rage of the monster's possession, fighting his own muscles to rise slowly to his feet.
He braces himself, swaying at the edge. The air is already unbearably hot and it begins to burn the clothes from his body, but the pain brings relief that Padmé will be safe. There is only one way to guarantee that.
Filling his mind with images of his wife, his beautiful, sweet, and loving angel, he lurches his body forwards.
A heartbeat later the ball of light shatters, and the darkness takes him.
Slumped against the hot metal wall of the car, Obi-Wan watches, powerless, through the window as the dark figure stands, swaying, at the edge of the durasteel platform. Then, suddenly, Anakin lunges forward and tumbles over the edge into the orange-grey smoke below.
His Force-signature is gone.
Obi-Wan screams, recoiling in horror, half-collapsing as his broken leg gives way. His fists pound the glass until blood runs through his fingers. Eventually, he slides to the floor, only half conscious, sobbing uncontrollably.
The car continues to glide silently to its destination.
You don't remember what happened that day. With disdain you recall the name of the man you once were. But Anakin Skywalker is dead, just like the rest of them.
What would you do, if you knew the truth?
If you knew that, out there, two people are struggling, broken, guilt-ridden, to mourn him, the other half of each of their lives?
That even as the years pass, they will still love him, the person you were, the person that sacrificed himself for them?
Would it give you the strength to disobey, to allow that alien spark, that tiny flicker of lightness, that occasional whisper of compassion, to kindle and grow?
Because the sacrifice Anakin Skywalker made that day was not worthless. And right now, the two people he once loved are caring for his children, fearing for them, daring to hope for them, and mourning him in every smile, and every gesture that reminds them of him.
That reminds them of you.