"Just like that."
Snap my fingers to demonstrate. It isn't until after I let the words out that I realize they had, in fact, been spoken aloud; I've never been one to talk to myself, especially in the middle of the night, with nobody else around to hear me. I'd been thinking about our golden days again, the 'times for short; they seem to be such a long way behind me, part of the un-relivable history that has been my life up until now.
Somewhat ironically, I had been reminiscing about a bunch of shit that had taken place only a fifth of a decade ago, but so much has happened in those two short years between then and now that, in spite of myself, I've called it a century. And oh, how it all fell apart.
Just. Like. That.
I'm about to let out a soft chuckle to celebrate the irony of it all, but am quick to stop myself when I'm reminded of the seemingly tragic circumstances which have put me where I currently am; where I've always wanted to be.
I'm nineteen years old now, and on my way home from a personal journey across the globe that has lasted me ten months. After the big shake-up from earlier, I decided I'd need some time alone, as well as a chance to learn more about the world I live in and to bear the weight of what I'm going to have to do next. If it were me two years ago, I would be thrilled right about now. But anyone who knew me back then could tell you now that I'm nothing close to the promiscuous, determined, yet talentless person I used to be.
Though I've thought about the 'times on more than a few occasions since I began my trek, it wasn't until I received a call from Al not too long ago that they began to haunt me again, rather than uplift me. The captain of the guard himself had somehow learned my whereabouts at the time – he wanted me back, pretty badly by the sound of it.
Wonderful, isn't it? I'm actually wanted for something.
I'm holding out my hand, and staring lazily at it again. I know I should be completely used to the sight of the mechanical, plastic-like joints, but since reading a few books on Animaloid history during my travels, I've come to look at myself in an almost completely different light. None of us are fully organic nor robotic; apparently, we're all the result of some screwed up (and decidedly barbaric) policy that's been in practice for three centuries. Not long after an animaloid is born, he or she must be "naturalized" - that is, have his or her entire body from the neck down covered, in some areas almost completely replaced, with cybernetic parts in order to survive indefinitely against the elements of the highly poisonous Earth that the humans left behind for us, after they all just took off for the stars one day and never came back. Thanks a lot, assholes.
So while we're all still subjected to this almost tragic practice begun by our human predecessors – while we're, in a nutshell, half robotic, we still have to eat, sleep, breathe, multiply, and even bleed; and we still grow old and eventually waste away like any living thing should. Nonetheless, it wasn't until a short time ago that this futuristic, somewhat symbiotic way of life began to seem disturbing to me.
Hesitate. Something's amiss.
I'm used to this. They've put an exorbitant price on my head, after all. Whoever they are.
Maybe I should let them know that I can sense their presence, as I usually do. But I just stop where I am, and I yawn, loudly.
Shadows around me begin to dance in the late night darkness. Obviously, they're coming for me. They're not necessarily stupid, at least, not as much so as the no-longer-at-large Seymour or his army of ninja crows.
I don't even have reason to care just who or what they are. They want to capture me, dead or alive, and their persistence is annoying; that's all that really matters.
I snicker a bit in spite of myself as I lean against a nearby evergreen, arms folded, eyes closed. They actually think I don't see them.
Heartbeat. Time begins to slow down as the dancing shadows change their formation, and seem to suddenly dart toward a central point, which happens to be where I'm standing. I slowly reach for my sword.
My eyes open.
Without really thinking, I begin to dart about at ridiulous speeds, hacking at the shadows, slicing the blades of their own weapons in half and rendering them useless. I hear screams of fear, disbelief, footsteps carrying the voices farther and farther away, until I am all alone again.
I put my weapon away like just another plaything, and I resume my journey on foot, thoughts of Edoropolis seeming to draw me closer to my destination.
Stillness. The sound of earth beneath my feet.
The sun is rising. I'm standing on top of a hill overlooking the city, each of the buildings bathed in a magnificently bright light. The sound of early morning songbirds pleasantly fills my ears.
I walk slowly down the hill until I reach the city outskirts. Hardly anyone is awake just yet, and I'm positive none of those who are even recognize me as I trot casually in the direction of the Emporer's palace.
Memories. They warm my heart as I step into familiar territory once more.
I pass by the abandoned restaurant, and stop to look at the cannon up above. Things will no longer be as they once were, now that I'm the only one aside from Francine who hasn't yet bitten the dust. This time, things are going to be very different.
I breathe in the delicious morning air, and exhale.
I remember when I first heard word of it. Back then, I wanted to study philosophy like the moron that I was. It wasn't long before I understood the words of the long-dead Socrates, about how the pursuit of philosophy like a career was meaningless, and that those who were true philosophers were in fact useless in this mob-driven society, where we are expected to see things as they ought to be, and not how they actually are.
It only made me feel worse about myself, but at the time I had nowhere else to go; my comrades went on without me, and before long had gotten themselves killed. It was tragic, indeed, but things had been badly screwed up between the three of us for the longest time anyway. I couldn't make myself cry for them.
A part of me kept telling me they deserved it.
"Y-you came..." Al Dente seems surprised. I can't believe you actually decided to show up, he probably meant to say. Sure, whatever you say, boss.
"Of course I did."
He begins to talk, and talk, telling me about this new bad guy, how I have to defeat him, and other related crap.
I tune it out, mostly. I glance behind me, and see two cat children, both maybe twelve or thirteen years old, enter the tatami-floored room almost simultaneously.
The boy, whose oddly humanoid complexion is somewhat uncommon in males of our species, places his bag on the floor next to him and sits down, a very puzzled and frightened look on his face.
The girl, who looks almost hauntingly like Francine, sits down next to him, still half-asleep. Her expression is vacant.
I quickly realize what they came here for, and what my new purpose is, and my mind begins to wander again.
"Have you been listening to me? This is very important!" I don't answer.
"Guido! Pay attention!" I snap out of it.
"Starting today, it will be your responsibility to look after these two children, and to teach them our ways. They will accompany you as comrades in the fight against this new evil. It is also important that..."
Blah, blah, blah-de-frigging-blah. Shut up. I get it already.
I close my eyes and nod when he completes every other sentence, to give him the illusion that I actually care about what he has to say. All in all, I pick up maybe half of it.
When he finishes, I make sure to say "yes, boss" as I lean casually against the hilt of my umbrella before I turn around and leave. Yes boss, right away boss. I don't even have to tell them to, and the two kids start following me out the door.
Follow the leader.
After maybe fifteen minutes of walking, I stop and sigh. I don't look behind me, but I just know the children have stopped too, and are probably looking at each other wondering what I'm about to say.
Nothing comes out of me, but things have become ever so clear.
I look at the beams of sunlight as they penetrate through the crowns of the trees in the early morning sun, and am reminded of when all of us first met on that day six years ago, and about both how much and how little has changed over that period.
"It's time to begin again."
Copyright © 2010 The Archaic Minister