They missed him. Every day, in every conversation, they wound up shaking their heads and clucking their tongues and saying what a shame it was. What had the world come to? Such a bright, smiling face lost to them, possibly forever. What a shame, what a shame. They missed his smile, his laugh, his bright eyes. They missed him. He wasn't there to make his daily rounds, stopping in every building, greeting everyone he met. He wasn't there to stand quietly and listen to them, nodding and smiling, saying little with his voice but so much with his heart.
He used to wake up in the morning and dress quickly. He dressed so much like his father. He looked so much like his father. They were so similar. They were both so strong, so reliable. They were there whenever they were needed. They knew, somehow, when someone needed them, and they answered every call, no matter how ridiculous. They never seemed sad. They were quiet, serious, always listening. The son was so much the same, and so much more. He lost his father, and stayed to help his mother. He took his father's place, took his mother and lifted her up, took the town and lifted it up. He put it all on his shoulders and bore it with pride, and never showed any strain. He was their savior.
With the weight of his town's hopes upon him, it was a marvel that he did not break. They loved this about him. What a soldier. What a rock, what a pillar. He was there to support them morally. He was there to help them with the heavy lifting. He played with their children and looked out for the elderly. He was everyone's big brother and he was like the son some of them already had. Whatever they needed, he was ready. Ever since that day, since the day he rose up and took a stand, they saw such a gleam of a future in him. He would lead the town out of its losses and he did. He could lead the town into peace again and he did. Even though he was so young he took it all in stride, they thought, and admired him and asked him for more, because of course he could handle it.
They never saw him cry. His friends cried, they cried and cried like babies. The big one was resentful sometimes. They didn't pay him as much attention. He sulked, wandered off on his own, came back with a scary sort of feeling about him. He looked at them and sneered at them; he did not need them. That lasted for a little while, until Isaac came to him and said, "let's go," and they went. The big one was pathetic in that way. He did not need the townspeople. He did not like them, as a unit. But he followed the bright one like a dog. The townspeople sneered at him, because he had sneered at them. He glowered, and cried some more, and made as if to run away and leave them, but he never did. He loved Isaac with all the love one man can possess for his best friend, so he stayed, and cried, and threatened to leave, and stayed and cried again. Over and over he did this, torn between his hate for their little society and his love for the one person who appreciated him.
The girl loved him too, wrapped herself around him and held him and would not let go. He accepted it, and wore her like a garment, wrapped tightly around him, but only sometimes, when everyone else had no need for him. In those times, he would come to her, take her hand, and talk to her, and she would nestle in close to him, listening to him. His words were filled with passion and ideals. He had goals. He had dreams. He spoke of these to her, and to no one else. She took them in, and made them her own dreams, as long as he was there in them. Her dream was to be with him forever. Sometimes, when he had told her his dreams again – she knew them all so well; he told them to her and it was all he spoke of – she would dare to put her fingers over his mouth and silence him, and they would not speak any more, but run into the dark and stay there until morning, and when they returned they never spoke of it. She always cried afterwards. He was never hers to keep. She poured herself into him, gave herself to him and only to him, but he had everyone else to please. Everyone needed him.
They all poured themselves into him. He was their vessel, he carried them all. He was a cup; his being overflowed; his mind ran over with their needs.
They did not see him cry. They saw the big one cry and ridiculed him. They saw the girl cry and scorned her, because they believed he loved her the most. They did not think him capable of tears. He was, to them, a great statue of marble, sculpted and beautiful, untouchable, unchanging. Still, when he found solitude, every once in a while, tears rolled down his beautiful face and crashed to the ground in waves. Every once in a while, he emptied himself, ejected everything that was put into him every day by everyone he ever knew. He cried, open-mouthed and silent, his knuckles white and clenched, his fists pounding the floor. His body shook, rejecting the poison that flowed through him. He sweated it out, and twisted to the ground, from his prone position he would stare at the ceiling and lie, almost catatonic, until sleep came to him.
He had to leave, eventually. It fell upon him, of course, the task of saving the world. The town that had raised him to be a leader and a savior was forced to set their creation loose in the world, with the burdens of the world upon him. He grunted, lifted the weight, and strode off with it. The big one followed, of course; there was nowhere that the light one could go that he would not follow. The girl had been taken, and they would save her of course, because she needed him. They would save the world because it needed him. He heard their calls and obeyed, came to them.
They met more adventurers. A small boy, timid and afraid, took to thinking of him as an example of strength that should be modeled. A blue-haired nurse saw a kindred soul in him. She was well-accustomed to being needed. She followed him, believing that together they could take care of anyone who needed help.
They journeyed together and everywhere it was the same. The rescued people; saved villages. They found ways to help everyone, because it was his job to support everyone. He could not see a person suffer. He went to them, prostrated himself before them, and promised to save them. He would do everything in his power, he said. Nothing was of greater value to him. They would lift him up, teary-eyed, and thank him, smiling at his beautiful face and sparkling eyes, marveling at his fine form and his broad heart. They saw his friends and smirked; saw how they paled in comparison. His friends never noticed. They were too enamored with their golden friend to see anything else. He was a demigod. He existed on another plane. They lifted him up, set him apart, in a world that he alone occupied.
They pressed on, chased the girl's captors. Those fiends aimed to destroy the world. Isaac existed to save it. Isaac existed to carry it, to lift it up upon his shoulders and ford the dangers with it, keeping it dry and submitting himself to the chill and force of the black waters. He might choke and sputter and stumble, but he would press on. They needed him to. They saw him and knew that he was theirs; that he had given himself to them wholly.
Time passed. He became stronger. He offered his hand to anyone that asked for it, and they all took it. They held his hand, roughly stepped upon the knee he offered, and climbed up on top of him. They pursued the fiends across the world as it changed and shifted. He felt, for the first time, that he was not needed. His dark counterpart was always ahead of him. The dark one could evade him and deny him success... he was surrounded in shadows. Everyone had always felt that cloud about him. The girl had loved her brother but never understood him. He was born of the earth, like Isaac. But they were not the same. Isaac was earth freshly tilled, rich and aromatic, perfect for growing life. Felix was a boulder, crushing and powerful; he was a sharp crag thrust up from the floor of a cave.
Somehow, the other one was taking people from the bright one. Somehow, wrapped in his shadow, the other one was becoming the savior. It was coming to him. The bright one stumbled. He knew he must catch up to the dark force that ran from him.
They met, eventually. They met and joined. The true peril was revealed; once more the bright one picked up the burden of the earth and resolved to save it. It did not matter that he had been chasing the wrong enemy, just that the earth be saved. And the world, comfortable upon his back, kicked its heels into his ribs and urged him onward. He started, stumbled, and lurched forward. A dragon rose up in front of him. He saw his father, crying in pain. He could not kill him. Yet they were upon his shoulders, breathing down his neck, and urging him to draw his sword. He must save them. His own desires were nothing. Perhaps he wished to destroy the Wise One for its treachery. Perhaps he wished to light that beacon and take alchemy for himself, consume the power and return his father to their plane, but the world depended on him, and in the end he could not let them down. He drew his sword and made a gallant effort, and he struck his father down. He stood, victorious, and proclaimed that he had known from the beginning that it was his father. He proclaimed this, and his heart broke in two. They all cried, but he stood, silent. His duty spoke for him. It was for the world, he said. Surely, his father would have appreciated this.
They lit it. Tears streamed down his face. Perhaps he had made the ultimate sacrifice but where was the joy in that? He had saved the world but the cost was high. He wondered, suddenly, whether selflessness was such a noble ideal. It had, after all, lost him his father. The weight of the world was so heavy on his shoulders. Why should he bear it alone? He was not the only person. Everyone shared the land and the energy flowing in it. Why should he take it all upon himself?
He stood straighter and it fell from him. He threw his shoulders back and threw his head high and laughed as beams of light shot across the world and collided over his hometown. He laughed as the earth shook and everyone around him was stunned. It was a quiet laugh. No one noticed. He did not care if anyone noticed. They needed him but he would not give himself to them wholly. He would smile and help, but he would not bear their weight.
Warmth surged through him. Back home, they missed him. Their village was in shambles. Where was the boy with the golden hair and the glittering eyes to take the hammer and carry the wood and urge them to sit and let him do it all? They needed him so that they could build the town together. They wanted him to offer his hand, and they would smile and grasp it and climb upon his shoulders and tell him what to do. Where was the boy to save them from this mess?
Around town, people murmured. Where was he? They started work, laid foundations, raised up sturdy walls, but all the time wondered where their shining hero had gone. He had come home, they were sure, but he had disappeared, wandered off somewhere.
He came back later, tall and straight, radiating more life than he ever had. They were blinded by him and dared not approach him. He wordlessly moved in to help them; he moved from one project to the next on a whim, fixing things a little bit and then moving on to the next thing that caught his eye. At the end of the day, everyone was tired, and wanted to feast a little in celebration, and expected to see him out in the town still, working unbidden, driving forward selflessly for their benefit like a horse. But once again he was nowhere to be found. They frowned, murmured about how selfish he was, but raised their glasses and engorged themselves with what could be found in the wreckage of the town.
The big one lumbered up the hills that closed in the town. The girl held his hand. They had traveled home together, and fixed houses together, and planned on building their own home together. She had not seen the bright one in a year and found him changed when they met again. He was not the secretly fragile, selfless boy she had known but a strong, willful hero, so sure now of himself. It scared her; he scared her. She looked at the big one and he seemed so tender in contrast to the firm brightness that shone now in Isaac's soul. They walked up the foothills of the mountains that walled in the little village and looked for him.
They found him, sitting by himself, watching the sky quietly. They felt shivers. He was serene, at peace. They had never seen him like that before. They saw him, sitting in that way, and saw how relieved he was. They saw how his shoulders were so much straighter now than they had been; they saw how light his face was now than it had been.
Down the hill they went, letting him be. They went down the hill and left him to his thoughts; they went down the hill and built a home. They raised a family, watched the years go by together, and sometimes remembered the radiant man who had passed through both of their lives so briefly but with such a great flash that he was imprinted forever on the town's consciousness.
He never came down that hill. He disappeared, but left behind the burden he had carried for so many years. The townspeople found it and picked it up, split it among themselves, and went about their lives. They had no more heroes. They had no one to carry them anymore. It was hard; they had relied on him for so long. No one was there to be the town friend. Sometimes the big one played with the kids. Sometimes the girl spoke kindly to the old people. It wasn't all the time, not now. They had their own family. They were normal now. The townspeople forgave them that, and took them back in. How could they have done that to that poor boy? So much weight had been put on his shoulders… so soon after losing his father. Why had they done that? They felt shame and resolved to carry their own world.
Isaac left them. He dimmed his own light and set down the cares of the people who had depended on him for so long. He was not needed now. They had lifted the world from his shoulders and bade him to carry whatever new load he desired. He put his sword on his back. He walked out into the great open lands, the radiance of Sol eclipsing the inner light people had once found so blinding. He went away, the world supporting his dreams, for once, instead of the other way around.
This one has taken a while. It's a little angsty, especially at the beginning. I was feeling pretty angsty myself when I wrote that part, so that's probably why. I could probably rewrite that part but that can come later. If I don't publish it now I'm afraid it'll never see the light of day again.
Not the best piece I've ever written but I like the idea.
I appreciate comments, constructive criticism, etc.