Today I am a father. A stern, proud man. I wear simple clothes, field clothes. My son works the plow behind me as I work the horse. The horse is young and stubborn. So is the son. The sun's heat is stubborn as well, but it is very old. Older than me. Older even than the earth, and just as silent.
My son grows tired from the heat. I wipe the sweat from my brow and suggest we take a break. Half the field is tilled.
We take refuge under the shade of a large tree at the edge of the field. The horse grazes as we unpack our lunch. The chorus mutters and stirs, and across the field a boy with a crooked nose and a scarred face approaches. He is almost a man now, strong and lean and hungry from running. He's been running for a long time. Running away. Running from his past, towards the future I'm preparing.
He sees us, the horse. He crouches low. I see him behind us, but I don't look. My son looks, but doesn't see. The man edges closer as we begin to eat.
They are laughing at me, mocking, heckling. They ask why I bother. It's futile, they say. Give it up. There's no point.
I've heard it before. The point--the point is clear, but not to them. They only know what they see. They've forgotten time. Not me, I remember what's coming. Justice. Peace. Revenge. No revenge. Only balance. Only duty. Only revenge for ashes and dust, and death, and shards of--!
laughing at me, mocking, heckling. My son asks me what's the matter. Nothing's the matter. My hand is clutching at my chest, remembering the pain I've never felt. No--I'm in pain, now. It's my heart. My heart is weak, though I deny it even to myself. Working to death. Not that it matters. Nothing matters. Nothing's the matter.
Nothing's the matter, I say. The voices boo and hiss. The boy with the crooked nose is almost upon us. He sees the food, draws his rusted sword, and springs.
My son is fast; he hears and turns, misses the edge by inches. Goes for the hoe. Clever--he just manages to block a second cut. The thief is clumsy and slow, but aggressive, and my son is inexperienced. The chorus starts shouting, trying to distract me. That stopped working long ago. I move back, stumble, just a little. Just enough. My son sees and turns, very slightly. Moves to protect me. Just enough for the thief to get under his guard and run him through. I stop, watch my son fall. Tears flow from my eyes. I run at the thief, armed with nothing but rage, curses and death threats and lamentations streaming from my lips. My eyes are so blurred with tears they don't see the sword that cuts me down, makes a gash half through my side. The horse smells the blood and bolts, whinnying fiercely. I lie bleeding in the dirt long enough to see the thief gather up the remains of our food and follow the horse, back to the house. I only had one son; my wife and daughters will fall easily. The boy with the broken nose is hungry now, but my pantry will feed him well tonight and give him rations for weeks to come, and my horse will speed him on his way. The chorus starts cheering again, vicious. Sarcastic applause fills the air that no one breathes.
The darkness closes in again, and again I wait.