Please never ask me how I keep going. I have no idea how – or even why, for that matter. All I know is this: The shadows will never tire of chasing me, and there is no long-term escape. Just now they are closing in on me again, as I stumble and sputter along the well-trodden path, bound for another fall. I can feel them everywhere, in the glaring sun as well as in the pale moonlight. The space to manœvre, or even move at all, decreases rapidly with each step and with each breath I take. I desperately clasp every little bit of happiness I have managed to get a hold on and tack on to my heart. Yet there is not a hope in hell when the time comes for the shadows to engulf me. And they will feast upon me, eagerly and mercilessly devouring whatever I may naively have believed to be mine to keep, from the fondest memories to the most intense feelings of love still lingering. Finally, they will leave me alone in the dark to rot for two eternities. Alas, they need my repeated suffering to nourish them, and so they will leave the seeds of false hope to be betrayed to grow another tree of life from within the despair-infested grounds. For where death would be the only true companion, only emptiness awaits to corrupt the very essence of my being. May the day that death do us part come soon.
As the title says, the following is a draft of a prologue to a possibly longer story. It certainly needs some polishing, perhaps a few more details filled in. In any event, let me know what you think of it – especially whether it could make a worthwhile read – in the comments. Thank you very much!
‘I feel so tired, Damien, so incredibly tired and exhausted,’ produced Samuel, as they made their way up to the snow-covered top of the mountain. ‘Pray, tell me, you feel it too. You must feel it too…’
His hands shook as he spoke.
‘No,’ replied Damien in a dry voice. ‘But little does it matter, and little it would matter if both of us died.’
‘Wha… Why… How you can say that? How can you even think that? After all we have done, after all we have accomplished, after all these endless struggles, you’re telling me…’
‘… to save your breath if you would get where we are headed. We are close. We are almost there, brother, just a few more steps. But if we would get there, we need to keep going.’
‘A few more…? I only glimpse this shadow – there, in the distance.’
He pointed his finger vaguely, but where he was not even sure himself.
‘Each step I feel the desire to lie down and sleep grow stronger. I don’t know if I can keep my eyes…’
His voice trailed off and he leaned on his staff with exhaustion, a pitiful, emaciated figure of whom it would have been anyone’s guess how he was even still alive.
As Damien tried to support his brother who was on the brink of a breakdown, the wind began to rise again, stronger, harsher than before. Swirls of snow threatened to bury the brothers alive.
‘We cannot stay here, Samuel. We must press on.’
‘My senses…’, Samuel whispered in a hoarse voice, ‘they are on the wane, Damien, you had better…’
‘Think of the others, Samuel, think of the others, think of their sacrifice! You cannot die, not until our quest is finished!’
‘Yes, the others… where… where are they? I cannot see properly, where… I cannot see Carlisle… is she tending to the mount?’
He coughed violently during his speech.
‘The others are dead, Samuel. We are the only members left of our party, the only ones who can still complete our quest. Do you understand? I need you in there!’
‘Dead? How… I… I cannot take another step, Damien. I am sorry… please… forgive me, brother…’
Yet even as his brother prepared to give in to his desire for sleep, Damien still had enough strength within him – both physically and mentally – to carry his brother onward. It truly would not matter if they both died after finishing their quest, yes, but if they died before… He dared not think of it. And he needed his brother for the completion of their quest, it required two at the very least.
Even though Samuel had devolved into this barely recognizable shadow of his former self, each step took all the strength Damien could still muster. The snow reached his ankles under his robes, yet it was the shadow in front of them that sent shivers down his spine. His sight was blurred, yet still he knew exactly where to go. His will had always been the strongest, and had reached legendary status a long time ago. At the beginning of their journey, none of them could have known what they were about to encounter, but as weeks and months crept by, it became ever more clear that not all of them would make it to their destination.
The sacrifice of the other four former members of their party now gave Damien the strength he needed to carry on, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As he approached the large wooden door of the tower, it suddenly flew open, as though their arrival had been anticipated. And as they passed through the door, Damien still carrying his brother Samuel on his arms, the brothers vanished in the darkness that appeared to spread throughout the tower.
From the Book of Broken Wings, Chapters II and III:
On every sunny day in your life, there lies a shadow over everything like an invisible dark veil. It is the reality of life lying in wait, eager to consume itself time and again so as to reverse your experience. There is nothing free in life: the price of a smile is a thousand tears, the price of true love is a broken heart, the price of trust is a knife in your back. Regardless of what you are, what you do, and where you go, whom you love or hate, the shadow shall catch up with you. In the end, the darkside always wins.
I have lived through the horrors of endless nightmares, I have been broken to the core and built myself up from the ground again, I have been drifting apart into endless nothingness, I have seen and heard everything there is to see and hear. But if there be one thing left for me to do, then it will be to open up my heart and let the endless love which dwells therein explode so as to chase away the dark spot in your eyes for a single moment of grandeur before darkness shall finally conquer me and enfold me in its cold embrace for ever.