Quiet thumps emitt through the air, a cadence over birdsong and animal chatter, the occasional chink of metal echoing above the trees. A boy, no, a man , walks, as he is the cause of the noise, but he walks with such care, as if he doesn’t wish to hurt the grass underfoot with his worn brown boots, that it seems impossible that he would make any noise at all. And yet he thumps and clinks and hums as he walks, a soft melody of noises that seems to float into nonexistence the further he moves.
He glances into the trees, his expression soft, wanting, as he delves further into the thick forest that surrounds him so tightly. He walks through tunnels and past lakes, over bridges and around large boulders until he stops, almost suddenly, at a clearing with a large tree stump and a high hanging tree. He hums once more, a solidary note of sadness, before meandering over to the tree stump. He removes his pack, removes his sword, and settles himself on the edge of the stump, as if afraid to sit there, all alone. He glances at the spot next to him, longingly, with the passion of someone who has lost their way and simply wishes to be home again. He sighs, the long, suffering kind, and places his head into his hands.
He doesn’t sing as much as lets the words bubble out of his mouth, a slow rhythm full of pain and confusion. He whispers the words to the sky, as if quietly asking it if this pain was his fault. The sky does not answer, but twinkles a deep orange color as it sinks to twilight. The orange floods across the empty space, claiming it as its own before washing over the man, turning his green clothes a dirty color one cannot explain. The man clenches his fists, anger filling him before disappearing just as quickly as it came. He wails his next words, an accusation flung into the wind, a battle cry of agony, before a tear rushes down the man’s face. He has faced Fear and felt its sting, and now sings of its mercy. Mercy one cannot believe, cannot fathom. The man curls in upon himself, more tears streaming down his face. He does not stay like this for long, bursting out of himself, enraged energy imbedded within his bones.
He bellows, his voice engulfing the small clearing, as he stands, movements sharp as the blade he carries. He points at the sky, agitated, distressed, tormented. He yells his song, a song full of sorrow and confusion and anger. Betrayal is raw and oozing into his tone, something akin to the nature of a split lip. The man squeezes his hand into fist and screams a long held note, one that does not fit his song but his emotions. It is a powerful sight, one that no one sees but everyone feels within the seconds he stays there. He collapses onto the stump, knocking his sword to the side. It clatters, breaking the tension the man’s song has crafted so carefully, and the man throws himself into his own arms, holding on like a lifeline.
A hiccup erupts from his chest, an ugly sound. A sound that carries more weight than can be imagined, as involuntary as it is. Tears begin streaming once more as he chokes out the last few lines of his song. Each word is heavier than the last, an increasingly painful measure of emotions spilling over.
“What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here…”
The air falls softly around the man at his last word, who sits clutching himself tightly, as if he would fall apart if he let go, a thought that ticks around his mind for quite some time. A thought that burns his mind and muscles, sealing them in place for fear of what else could come. The man does not move.
The sun sets and he does not move, not at the howl of the wolfos, not at the sudden light that filters in around him, not at the dangerous creak of the tree’s branch and the phantom sound of clinking chains, not at any of it. The man simply shutters and begs silently for reprieve. He wonders if he hasn’t done enough for the world, given enough for the world, lost enough for the world. He wonders if it will ever be enough. He does not know, his voice lost as well as his spirit, pull out and cut open like a twisted sacrifice, if he will ever remember the embrace of life before. If he will ever remember how life used to be.
He murmurs, words catching tongue once more, and simply repeats the only thing he can remember from those days long gone by.
“I wish I was special…”
Lowering his head, he sighs, taking in his memories. They are not beautiful by any means, but they are his, and he loves them for what they are: a glimpse to his past self, a self who wouldn’t feel so lost in these familiar woods. He grabs his tunic and tugs at the emerald fabric, as if pulling it away would erase the memories that followed the fabric. It is not a careless pull, it’s a calculated one, and although he knows it won’t change a thing, he can’t help but wish, wish that he was young and dumb and, most importantly, not special. The tunic tears, a horrid riiiiip of the fabric, and he stares. He stares but does not see. He cannot see the damage he has done to the one thing he had left from before, before all of it happened. He stares down but all he sees is white, pure white tunic, and a silver shine, and he shutters, preparing for the worst when he raises his head.
But all is calm around him, and the man deflates, defeated in reality by his own memory. The man stands, still holding the part of his tunic that he has torn away. He stands in the soft, glittering light and ponders. Ponders who he was and who he has become. With a small shake of the head, he decides it does not matter, and that it time to leave, only this time, he will not return again. Never again will he sit at this stump and wish for the person who is no longer here. Never again will he sit here, a place moonlight cannot touch. Never again will he sit here and wonder why. He tells himself it simply cannot happen, and that is that, but his heart betrays him. His heart knows where home is, and where home will always be.
He drops the bit of cloth and grabs his pack and sword, and turns, not taking a second to look at the stump. Simply walks away, thumps and the occasional clink becoming a song and dance once more, and with a soft hum under his breath, he leaves.