Playing Columns On the Walls of Jericho
I should have just told him in the first place.
It was an impossible secret to keep, like sweeping the Apocalypse under a rug and hoping nobody will ever find it. If I didn't tell him, someone else would tell him. Even if he was never told, he would have just gone and found out for himself. I should have known that from the start. After all, we're exactly the same.
There was no big reveal, no sudden moment of clarity. He just kind of gradually put the pieces together as he went along. It was all a little stupid really, how obvious the sham was if you were looking in from the outside, instead of desperately trying to fool yourselves into thinking that you weren't living in a golden birdcage. I think he only left it this long because he was looking for some kind of final confirmation. Or maybe he was just trying to find any evidence at all that it wasn't true, like a defense lawyer trying to find any shred of evidence at all in favour of his obviously guilty client.
We had won a battle. The Time Eater was dead. He couldn't return to his own time yet. Something about damage to the timestream, paradoxes trying to resolve themselves, narratively important individuals displaced from their own personal timelines. In other words, Tails stuff. I stopped listening after a while. I had heard it all before, the countless other times I had ended up in another time or a parallel dimension or something, and Tails always fixed it in the end. I explained this to him, then we went off to eat more chilli dogs and talk about more random bullshit.
He told me he wanted to go and see some of his favourite haunts again, see how the old homestead was thriving. We went for a picnic in the Green Hill Zone, then we had a race through Emerald Hill Zone before spending the evening strategically losing all our money in Casino Night Zone. We laughed and joked about our stupid nicknames, 'Classic' and 'Modern' Sonic, as though we were some kind of music genre or sports car up for auction, and we made up names that sounded more like people – Baby Sonic and Old Fogey Sonic. Emo Teenager Sonic and Mid-Life Crisis Sonic. We talked about what had changed and what hadn't, what had improved and what they really should have left as it was. We talked about how we really weren't that different, how the line between Classic and Modern wasn't very well marked out at all. For instance, we could both describe NiGHTs and paint pretty much the same picture. He would be describing someone he'd just met and I someone I had been trying to figure out for years. We'd both be equally confused and it isn't like NiGHTs ever changes.
I should have noticed he wasn't really listening. He does that foot-tapping and finger-waggling thing when he's bored or irritated. Apparently it used to be cool back in the day. He wasn't even concentrating on me at all. He was looking for the cracks where our illusion was falling apart at the seams. Those little signs, like the way I sometimes trip over because I still haven't gotten used to the new controls. The way there are new and old versions of all the zones and no trace at all of the originals, not even signposts with directions to them. As though they were too far away, or weren't even there any more. The way nobody ever seemed to care that much about the victories any more because no victory would ever make up for their total and utter defeat as a species. The way Dr. Robotnik was a prisoner just as much as I was.
The way the whole world felt so fundamentally wrong at a level beneath the sensory, as though the soul was screaming at its incompatibility with the very laws of existence in this godforsaken hell-hole.
As the sun set and night fell, he told me everything he knew. At least that took away the trouble of explaining it all. I took him back home – to our real home. I told him to go back to his own time. It was my mess to clean up. If he died, every future Sonic would be erased from the timestream. If I died, he went back in time and told people what was going to happen in the future if they didn't get their act together.
I thought I had him convinced.
The next morning, he wasn't in the spare room I made up especially for him. It was an exact copy of my old bedroom, from memory. I surprised myself at how many of the little details I remembered exactly right. His face lit up when he saw how well I'd done it. He trashed the whole place before he left through a hole he made in the wall.
He had taken the chaos emeralds with him.
I was fairly sure I knew where he'd go – where I would have gone if it was me and I had just found out. I met Shadow on the way and he confirmed, with an utterly confused look on his face that didn't suit him at all, that he had seen me heading towards the border and there was no way I could have turned around that suddenly going at that speed without crashing into a wall. No other living creature could have even spotted me at that speed, never mind caught me up. He tried to ask me where the hell I was going but I threw him off with a snarl without even looking at him.
"And your eyes were glowing red," he had said, "Its not a good sign when your eyes go red, right?"
I know I should try and catch up with him. I was worried about the collateral. The enemy had innocent bystanders as well. He might even get himself killed. After all, he's going up against an entire empire on his own when he's technically already lost the battle and his only strategy is to be as angry as mortally possible.
Maybe this is something that was bound to happen: an earlier version of me, fighting a battle already lost that I should have been fighting back when it mattered. We are two very different hedgehogs after all.
Products of our worlds, I guess.