"The Inspired"

By Nidonemo

I am Lemming. I wear a blue shirt like the infinite sky, and I have green hair like the wind-blown grass. I have no name but Lemming. We follow he who has a skill, or just forward. There isn't much to it all, really. I had a childhood, I grew up, and now I am out in the world with my brothers and sisters.

Everything was very easy in the beginning, you followed the line, kept the pace, looked at the world for all the green rolling hills and blue sky there was to see. Then when someone discovered a hole in a mountain, things started to get complicated. We followed him, for he was inspired. Inspired lemmings are special. They can climb walls, they can build ramps, they can dig holes, they can mine through the ground, and they can even hold up their hands and say "Go back!" and we will comply with their orders.

The inspired one lead us forward into the mountain, through a grate that opened in the ground, and we fell into the darkness of a small cave, one by one, falling down onto the soft grass and wandering about, happy to be alive. Then, someone started to dig a hole. He dug, and dug, and he dug until the ground gave out beneath him and we all fell through once more. We landed on the grass again, and wandered about. Then someone cheered and vanished into a yellow doorway alight with torches, the way out. We followed, one by one, passing through the doorway, each one of us giving a little shout until it was my turn. You see, I'm always at the back of the line, it feels safe to me, being the last one. When it was my turn, I felt a rise of joy in my heart and let out a "Yippee!" as I jumped through the doorway.

Our journeys continued in this fashion, we would drop through a grate we would find in the darkness, and fall into a whole new world. We would look to the inspired ones to guide us, sometimes the same lemming will be the inspired one, sometimes a different lemming will be inspired, and we will readily follow their lead and direction. Sometimes the inspired ones vanished, and we never saw them again, but we assumed that they had found another path to safety in these odd worlds and didn't give it another thought. Our journeys continued like this until I noticed something.

Our numbers had started to shrink. I was certain there was a great many number of us when we started, but as our trek continued I was absolutely sure a lot of us had gone missing. It wasn't until we had successfully navigated through a cave of shining crystals that I made a heart-wrenching discovery. One of the inspired ones had held up his hands at the edge of a cliff and told us to go the opposite direction, so when the rest of the line had already gone through the doorway, I looked back and called to the inspired one to follow me out, but he shook his head and started to cry.

"I cannot follow." he called to me, he then gripped his own head and started to shake violently. I called to him again, asking him what was wrong, but it was in vain.

What followed will haunt me to my last breath.

His body began to convulse, throb, and then with a great scream he exploded. His body splattered the shining crystal floors, staining them with white, green, and shreds of blue. He was gone. Never to see the shining sunlight again. Never to walk the line. Never to follow the inspired ones. He was gone. Scared out of my mind, I ran into the doorway. No joyful yelp left my lips that time, or ever again.

How I wished that was the only tragedy I would ever witness, but as we went further onward, the tragedies came at us more and more frequently. Followers of the line dropped off of cliffs, splattering against the cold hard ground so far below, or into the infinite darkness with only a scream to be remembered by. Some walked right into open flames, their bodies scorched to ashes in a bright flash. Some fell into merciless waters and were enveloped by the hungry waves, never to surface again. Some were trapped by nefarious machines, either snagged by their leg, yanked into the air and torn apart; or crushed by an unforgiving steel ceiling; or impaled upon spikes that shot out of a wall and back again; or sliced by a serrated steel mouth that snapped together and beheaded them.

Each loss was a weight on all of our hearts, and a shock to see our comrades meet their demise in such merciless and heartless ways. Some couldn't take the weight of the deaths and took their own lives, or they abruptly sat down refusing to move (we had to leave them behind and said silent prayers that they would see the sunshine again). Others kept marching forward either numb to the heavy sorrow or hardened into cold apathy.

After what seemed like ages of walking through these complicated and heartless realms of death and sadness, I was left with several other survivors, we walked across the top of a narrow bridge over a lake of fire. The heat was so intense, I had trouble seeing in front of me as the air itself looked as if it was dancing and bending. I remember what happened very well, the inspired one who we had been following suddenly started to dig through the thin floor. We watched in horror as he scraped at the bridge with his bleeding fingers, a look of crazed madness in his eyes, he didn't care at all, the trauma had infected him and he didn't see us anymore. All he saw was the floor and the fire below it, he scraped and dug fervently, I could see tears in the eyes of the others, they knew he was going to kill himself and take us with him, but they just couldn't do anything about it. Once a lemming is inspired, they do not stop until their inspiration leaves them or they reach an obstruction. No amount of screaming, yelling, crying, or shouting can break them of their focus. The moment we had hoped so hard against finally came to be.

He fell through.

His body tumbled through the hot air like a rock, his face blank, emotionless, his eyes were dead and gone. I am certain that he was dead long before his body hit the undulating redness below and burned away. The others kept marching, now sobbing flowing tears of hopelessness, and I was right behind them, walking towards death. I watched, scared silent, as they walked off the edge screaming into the flames below, their voices ripped away in flashes of heat and fire. Then it was my turn. My turn to slip into the open hole. My turn to have my body fall through the air, through the heat, and into a boiling lake of suffering and unimaginable pain. To never see the sunshine again.

But I didn't want that to happen! I wanted to live! I wanted to survive! As I walked towards the gaping hole, I shut my eyes tight and wished against it! No! I don't want to die! I want to see the sunshine again! I want to feel the wind! I want to look at the sky! I want to feel the grass! I WANTED TO LIVE!

Then something happened. I felt a light flash in my mind, like I had stopped myself from tripping. I reached behind me and gripped a hard block from a sack that somehow was on my back, but I had not noticed it there before. I felt it in my hands and I felt myself place it down on the edge of the hole. I reached back and gripped another, and put it down on the first one. Then things started to make sense! I simply had to place each new block on top of the edge of the last one, and I could build a ramp over the hole! I could live! I kept building the ramp, over the hole, towards the other side and towards life itself! One more came out, one more went down, one more came out, one more went down, and suddenly I didn't have any more. I looked back at the ramp I had built over the hole and it hit me. I was the inspired one now.

As I walked off the edge of the ramp and towards the exit I started to think. I did not think about the puffy clouds or the shimmering grass that I missed so much, but about the other inspired ones before me. What they did, and how they did it all. I searched my mind and found memories of them one after another. I pushed myself to the exit and leaped through. As my eyes were blinded in the darkness, the memories flooded into me, the inspired ones flashed before my darkened sight. They paved the way for us, for me, with their very lives they gave me passage so I could survive these constant, merciless hells.

Now, I faced a hell all on my own. No one to break through solid rock, no one to dig through the ground, no one to build a bridge, no one to stop me and turn me away from certain danger. No one to even walk with me.

All on my own.

The grate opened and I fell out of the darkness and into a room filled with rock and moss. I took a very long look at the path ahead of me, through a cave, over a fallen tree, and up a small steep hill. As I began my journey I halted at the mouth of the cave and something inside me screamed to stop. Flashes of memories of the inspired ones flooded me once more, on the wind I could hear a scream, or at least I thought I could. My eyes forced themselves downward and I spotted a suspicious rock. I had seen them before. Those that stepped on them were smashed by a boulder, looking up I could see a loose rock embedded in the ceiling. I remembered the builders from before and sure enough the sack had reappeared on my back, I used the blocks to build my path and continued onward to the fallen tree.

I felt the wind now, it smelled fresh and tears welled in my eyes. I wiped them away and looked down, focusing on my feet as they carried me over the trunk and up the hillside. I saw the edge approaching and called upon the builders once more. This bridge would be my best, spanning the size of an entire valley! I would make my brothers and sisters very proud! I slapped block after block after block down on one another, each time I felt the sack getting lighter I stopped and shut my eyes tightly, whispering the memory of the inspired builders that saved my life so many times before and the sack grew heavy again. When the other side was directly beneath me, I thanked my brothers and leaped down. I found myself on a wooden bridge over treacherous waters, I pushed my exhausted body forward, but I glanced down at the undulating blue mass below. My eyes filled with tears, the screams of those who drowned called out to me.

"Save me! I cannot breathe!"

"Please! My body is sinking!"

"Why do you ignore me! Stop walking!"

"I'm so scared!"

I screamed and fell to my knees, my hands clapped over my ears could not deafen me to their wailing, my heart was pierced with agony. My body shook with rage and hate, sorrow and regret, fear and cowardice it all dug into me, into my very being. I couldn't move!

"Keep going."

"Do not stop here."

"This is not the way, the way is that way."

"Keep walking please."

The ones who stood still. The ones with their arms outstretched, shaking their heads. The ones who vanished behind the line. I could hear their voices right next to me, as if one sat upon his knees and his hand rested on my back, pointing me forward.

I opened my eyes and crawled across the bridge on my hands and knees. Pushing myself up and staring down over the edge in front of me. I shook as I reached back one last time and slapped blocks into the floor, one more bridge, just one more. One more block, just one more, one more, one more block. The bag is light again, but I no longer need it. The final bridge is finished. I fall onto the grass and collapse, my body spent of energy and tears.

"Inspired one!" called a voice as my vision went dark, I feel arms pick me up and hold me up, I feel voices gathering, warmth. It must be a dream, a blessing from the stars, my memories comforting me.

"Hey! Awaken! You cannot sleep! Almost there!"

As I open my eyes again, they are met with a miracle. I see my brothers and my sisters, gathered around me, smiling broadly, some excitedly pointing to a large exit. The exit is alight with the brightest of torches, the fire actually dancing, sparkling with a grin, waving at me. A long line of my brothers and sisters eagerly running through, joyful voices jumping into the air, laughter spilling out. The ones surrounding me hoist me up on their shoulders and we all walk into the exit together. My body feels so happy. My legs tingle, my hands sting, my breath is heavy, my hair aches, but I feel a warmth. A warmth I so missed, a warmth I had almost forgotten.

I could feel a breeze tussle my hair, and I looked up. The sky was dim, but blue and infinite once again. The ocean, sparkling in the morning light greeted us all with its roar and whispers as it gifted us the sun again. My brothers and sisters eagerly danced in the breeze, and on the cliff. Breathing air so fresh and deliciously salty.

"Alone?" asked one of my sisters, kneeling to meet my eyes, hers with sympathy and curiosity. I smiled and shook my head.

"Not anymore." I answered her, as I fell to slumber's ever so merciful embrace.