Torn. Shorn. Forlorn.
I am adrift. I am drowning. I am alone.
I sink into the crushing depths, where the long sleep awaits me with hungry jaws. I know this, because I have tasted death before.
Before me, there was me. The same as me, but older. When I died, I came back--a new me. And I knew who I was, because the memory of me is written in our bones, and we do not forget easily.
Death does not scare me, for so long as our shared hearts beat, we will endure. We will heal. In time, we will be whole again.
Yet my time is done. A new me will take my place, beginning where I left, and I will know what I have always known: that the world is ours to rule.
The only thing that will be forgotten is what I know now. That I am adrift. Drowning. Alone.
It is better this way.
Soon, I will not care. I will no longer drift. I will no longer drown. I will no longer be alone.
I will be null. United with the nothing. One with the void.
And it is beautiful.
Eventually, I begin to dream.
Dreams are known to me. Visions of what was and is not. False memories, yet some are pleasant.
Before, I have dreamt of flight. I have dreamt of supremacy. Of glorious bloodshed.
In my dreams, I am whole.
But this dream is different.
In this dream, I am... bereft.
I see nothing.
I feel nothing.
Except... an itch. Like a bug boring its way into my skull.
Where are the others? They can help. We preen each other when wretched things latch onto our golden hide.
I tell my brothers: Remove this parasite. It is a blemish upon us.
They are always quick to respond. An insult to one of us is an insult to us all.
But nothing happens.
I try again, and again I am met with silence.
Sometimes, my brothers choose to ignore me, especially when I disobey or fail in some way. But even then, I can still hear their thoughts. I can still feel them.
But nothing is there.
So I call to them, desperate now. I call upon my ringing voice, the one we share, one that inspires fear across the stars.
But nothing happens.
The reality sets in, and for the first time in ages I am afraid.
I have no mouth to scream. No eyes to see. No limbs to move.
I am trapped.
Trapped in my own head.
Trapped with this... this flea.
I want to scream.
I want to scream and rage and incinerate, furious light pouring from my mouth.
But I can’t.
I can’t do anything except listen to this insect’s incessant buzzing.
So I listen.
I must strain to hear its voice, it is so small. My brothers’ voices were always so loud in my ears and in my head. Sometimes, I wished for a moment’s peace and quiet. But not like this.
Eventually, I recognize the insect’s voice--another one of His pets, whose gleaming hives cover the surface of this world. Easily crushed and burnt and devoured. But impossible now.
The insect isn’t really talking. I would not be able to mimic their low speech, nor would I wish too. It is a crude tongue. They cannot sing like us.
But I feel its thoughts brushing against mine, similar to my brothers but much more clumsy, like a hatchling still finding its legs. Its thoughts are jumbled, hard to read.
But I was always the lookout. I watched how our opponents moved. I tasted the air for things unsaid. I sensed the strike long before it came.
I will not allow such a low creature to thwart me.
It takes time. The insect comes and goes as it pleases, frustrating my attempts to understand it. But eventually my persistence is rewarded.
The insect is... angry, I come to understand. But not at me. Not entirely. I am part of it, but I am not the focus of it.
It doesn’t even seem to be aware of me. That is good. For now, I have the advantage of surprise.
Slowly, I begin to make sense of the insect’s thoughts. I begin to see images. Ideas and memories, some of which I recognize. I recognize His shape. The unforgettable shape of the Enemy. He is the subject of the insect’s wrath.
I did not expect to find commonality with an insect.
I thought the insects loved Him, yet this one... this one burns. Smolders with hate. Though its mind is so small next to mine, its hatred for the Enemy rivals my own.
It amuses me to think that one of His pets hates Him as much as I do.
So I indulge the insect and listen to its prattle, day after day--or night after night?--even when the ideas and images start to make less sense.
I see another insect now, vaguely familiar but just as unimportant as the rest. At least to me. But to this one, it is important somehow.
The insect's feelings begin to bleed into my own. They are... tangled. Knotted. There is anger there, and this I understand. It is a contemptible creature, offensive to behold. But there is love too, like the love I have for my brothers. As vast as space.
I do not understand, so I dive deeper. Deeper into the insect’s mind.
It is terribly cramped inside, like the feeling before a shed. But I begin to see things. Hear things. Feel things. Memories that aren’t my own.
I root through them, as if searching for a buried morsel. Anything involving the important insect. I see many strange things in the process, things I do not understand nor care for. Like unappetizing gristle. Where is the meat? The sweet marrow?
There. An old memory, yet cherished. I see the important one there.
I slip into the insect's skin, and through its eyes I notice details that had eluded me previously.
For one, the beloved one is taller here--or am I shorter? A humiliating thought. Its skin is less wrinkled, its hair less grey, its eyes brighter. This is a mammal, short-lived as it is, in its prime.
It bares its teeth at me, yet I sense no hostility in the display. If anything, it seems... excited? The anticipation before a kill then? No. It is directed at me, the insect, I mean, yet it--I?--am still here. It doesn’t intend to kill its offspring, as one does when it is beneficial.
I--the insect, rather--waddle toward the beloved one. The other’s arms are outstretched, ready to receive us, and it is making encouraging sounds--and I cannot help but share in the insect's feelings: the blooming warmth in our chest, the laughter building in our throat.
As soon as the other grabs us, we are hoisted high in the air, but it is not unwelcome. This is something I recognize: the joy of flight.
Of course, we have no wings to soar on. Only stubby arms with plump fingers. It is the beloved one that holds us aloft.
Yet for a brief moment, we are united in euphoria.
This is a happy memory.
Yet my curiosity remains unsated.
It pains me to relinquish this fleeting taste of freedom, the first in unknown ages. How long has it been since I went to sleep? But I must know more.
Reluctantly, I follow the trail.
Some memories are just as happy as the first, but this does not last. I feel the love for the other fading. Its attention is elsewhere. I feel... alone. Why? Why am I being ignored?
Years pass, and we grow taller, stronger, more resentful. We begin to quarrel with regularity.
We want to know why. Why has the other forsaken us? We push the question again and again, and the answer is vague every time, and we grow more and more frustrated.
It’s not until much later that the truth becomes clear.
It’s Him. It’s always Him. The Enemy. My Enemy. Our Enemy.
He stole the other from us, left us adrift, drowning, alone.
I hate Him. We hate Him.
Suddenly, I do not feel so lonely anymore.
But I am still not whole.
I must find my brothers. I must find myself.
United. Whole. Unstoppable.
I do not know if they will accept me back into the fold. There has always been three. I am torn, shorn, imperfect. But I must know what became of us. Are we asleep in the deep cold, like before?
The insect must know something. I sift through its memories. There. A false memory. Something the insect did not experience for itself, but saw through another’s eyes, like I am doing.
I see the Enemy, simmering with molten fury. And I see myself--the whole--cowering before Him. We are never afraid! What form of power is this?
He burns them--us--away, until there is nothing left but ashes on the wind.
We are dead.
We are dead and gone.
The Trinity is broken.
But what does that make me?
A fragment of the whole.
Yet the whole is no longer.
I am alone and they are never coming back and I am alone more than ever...
I am not alone.
It is still poking around in my mind, still fumbling in the dark, still unaware that the connection goes both ways, that I am in its head too.
And I see that it has a plan. A plan to strike back against the Enemy that took everything from us. To make Him pay.
My brother always came up with the plan of attack. I am used to waiting.
So wait I shall. I cannot afford to attack Him now. Not in this sorry state. But vengeance will be ours. However long it takes.
Eventually the insect does something, and I am suddenly fed a stream of moving images, other false memories, showing great beasts, including Him. The rulers of this earth.
I do not understand at first, but then I realize the opportunity. I can study them without risk of without risk of counterattack.
So I do.
I memorize tells. Abilities. Weaknesses.
A feast of knowledge lays before me, and I devour every last bite.
He will find me smarter than ever.
What is this?
I sense another.
Have my brothers survived after all?
I am elated.
But then I realize that it’s just... me.
I remain dreaming, yet elsewhere I awaken to a new form.
At last, I have a body once more!
Something is wrong. Terribly wrong.
This body... it is silvery and cold and ugly.
Worse, it does not move when I wish to.
And I still feel nothing.
But I can see again. I can hear again. And I am colossal once more.
And I am not alone.
Once again, the insect's mind brushes against my own. It thinks, and my treacherous, leaden body obeys.
So we must share this form. The thought rankles.
At the insect's command, we raise a hand. We had wings before. Vast, golden wings that carried us into the heavens. Reduced now to short, blunt, ugly appendages that feel no texture.
Our abysmal fingers click and bend and curl. Then we lift our feet, claws clacking against the smooth floor. Simple movements.
We turn to move, then suddenly I am reduced to dreaming again.
I do not understand. What happened? I felt no exhaustion in that body.
The insect is frustrated too. I search for an explanation, and I determine that the body cannot stay awake for long. Yet I sense too a plan to fix that. I do not understand the details, but the insect is sure it will work.
Normally, I would dismiss the judgment of such a base creature. But it yearns to kill the Enemy, and it is a feeling I know well.
It drives you. Consumes you. Becomes you.
The insect will not stop until it has tasted His blood. It will settle for nothing less. I can respect that.
But then, the insect disappears entirely and I am alone again.
I hate that it can throw me away like I am worth less than dirt. I, who have shattered worlds.
I am still resentful when it returns next, waking the other me.
We spend our time lifting things, testing our strength and dexterity.
The ability to lift things in one’s hands is novel. Our grasping talons used to be on our feet.
But the insect guides me through the motions. It is far more comfortable with having hands and arms and long legs, though its attempts at lifting our tail are pathetically amusing.
Again, I must sleep before long.
We settle into a cycle. Dreaming, waking, moving for a while, then returning to sleep.
When I am awake, I try to make sense of my surroundings. It is dark, but dry at least. This is not the domain of the Enemy, though I hear the whisper of the sea, beyond the stone. There is no sun down here either. Just the hum of electric lights.
Oh, if only I could reach out and take that power for myself, so I might escape this place and find a more secure den, away from Him, until I discover the limits of this body. Yet I must suffer the idiocy of insects.
Am I even able to wield the storm as I once did?
A part of me is grateful to have a body again.
But I miss the old one. I miss my brothers.
One day--night?--we awaken again. We rise and roar, and our voice is shrill and hollow and offensive.
This is a conscious choice on the insect’s part, and none of my own. It is reveling in the power at its disposal, while I remain a prisoner. It is insulting. Worse, it sounds like Him.
A moment later, a pair of scratching claws and snapping jaws appears in a hole in the wall. Something is forcing its way in.
Then the wall comes crashing down to reveal a wretched, battered, blooded beast.
It does not seem to notice us--we are cold and lifeless--then it takes off, scrambling after something.
Since I am not in control, I am allowed to look more closely.
A trio of insects skittering across the floor. Bait?
The beast leaps for the kill. Then our arm shoots forward, grabbing it. It squirms in our grasp as we pull it closer, catching its other arm by the wrist when it tries to claw at us. Then we pull its limbs tight, and I hear the satisfying crunch of bone. The creature barks and yelps. It knows it is helpless.
I had almost forgotten this. The black joy of domination.
Then our jaws part in a silent scream and a blinding red beam issues forth, piercing the beast’s skull, bright enough to illuminate its skin and muscle. We drag the beam down, slicing through its body, down the length of its spine, steaming innards spilling onto the floor. It has been too long since I last tasted offal.
But then, too soon, much too soon, I drift back to sleep.
I seethe with impotent rage. How can I avenge myself on the Enemy when this body tires so easily? I have defied death, yet I can do nothing about it! In my fury, I barely noticed the insect's departure.
My anger is still smoldering when I feel the insect return, and immediately I sense a change in mood. It is afraid.
Then I hear Him. The Enemy. He approaches. He knows I am here. Am I even ready for Him?
My body awakes, and this time I am filled with vitality--familiar somehow--animating my limbs like never before. This is the solution we have been waiting for. And not a moment too soon.
But the insect is not moving fast enough. The Enemy is almost upon us, and He will end us both.
I try and move my head on my own... and it responds. It is sluggish, but I finally have a measure of control. It is almost enough to make me cry.
I turn my gaze toward the clear wall--the alien words, observation deck, enter my mind. From here, the insects have watched me. Studied me. And thanks to my insect, I know that they thought to control me from here.
Such insolence must be punished.
With one swipe, I shatter the wall with my fist. I kill one of them, its tiny body reduced to paste beneath my fingers. The others flee.
Yes! Run! Hide! I do so enjoy the hunt.
The thrill is so great, it takes a moment to realize that the insect, my insect, is railing against me, slamming its tiny fists against the surface of my mind. It realizes something is wrong, that it is no longer in control.
In my contempt, I am tempted to squash the bug entirely, to crush its mind and leave its body hollow, now that I have the strength to do so. To throw it aside like so much waste, the way it treated me.
But then I would face the Enemy alone.
The insect will not make me whole. This, I know.
But there has always been three.
And three there shall be.
So I embrace the insect. I envelope it. I devour it. Grinding it down until there is nothing left but a pearl of hatred, befitting my previous magnificence.
We are a poor trinity: my dreaming self, my waking self, and my insect.
But together, we are something greater.
Ravenous. Unrelenting. Imperishable.
We are united in purpose.
To destroy Him.
To avenge ourselves.
To rule this world.
Our brilliant scream tears through the darkness, and we step out into the light of day to face Him.