Saturday, 17 December 2016

Artel 18 - Goodbye's are Always Hardest when you Hold a Broken Heart

The sun was already rising fast as Millon followed a renewed Artel towards the edge of the village where the two horses they had been gifted were tied to a lone post. He once again carried his heavy pack, full of pots and pans and sleep sacks and other provisions that the townsfolk had given to them. Artel strode ahead, tall and proud once more, the hem of the dark green cloak Nanuka had given to him flicking out behind his receding heels. In the past few days he seemed to have formed a strange bond with Nanuka, almost like the bond of a mother and child. They had spent many hours together and when they spoke there was a tension between them that spoke of something neither of them shared with another. Millon had not asked what it was. It was a mildly curious thing, but he was far more concerned with his own feelings and troubles than that of the Knight who was forcing him to leave the first home he had ever known. He knew that Artel was right of course, but that didn't make it any easier.
He turned back to the small crowd of townsfolk that had gathered to see them off. Among them were Dina and Henn, the owners of the farm he had worked on for the past few months, and he offered them a small, sad wave. As his eyes roved over the crowd he realised that he knew most of these people, and that he liked them all, even the ones he had spent little time with. They had been nice, and kind, they had been fun and warm and welcoming. Some of them he had shared drinks with, some of them labour, and some of them only a few words, yet he felt as if they were all a valued part of his life that he would miss, each in their own small way.

His life would change again now, from this moment forwards everything would be different. The small interactions he had grown to love in the town he had begun to call his home would continue without him. He would be missed, perhaps, but only for a while, until their thoughts and hearts moved on to other people and things. They would all continue to be a part of that life that he loved, that life that he wanted to live, that he wanted to share, yet Millon would leave, locked out as if he had never been, unable to return, and unable to partake. The knowledge made his heart ache in a way he had never before experienced. In a sense this was the first time he had ever fallen in love, and so in a way this was the first time he had ever experienced a broken heart.

He had felt it in the few short days leading up to this moment, in the increasingly uncomfortable knot of emotion that seemed to have settled in his chest and in his stomach, almost like a panic, panic that there was nothing he could do, no way he could escape what was coming. He had felt it in the cold fizz of feeling that seemed to spark and throw itself around his body, making him want to jump and fidget and cry and scream and bang his fists on the table until someone heard him and told him he didn't have to go, that this didn't have to be the end. But it was the end, and Millon knew that, in the cold harsh way that all creatures know certain facts. As if he possessed within him a sixth sense, which in a sense he did. There were markers, pockets of knowledge, that were held within the inherited intelligence of the DNA from which his body was created, these pockets of knowledge came from nature, and nature had bestowed many gifts upon her children. And of course there was a life's worth of intelligence that had been weaving it's own encyclopedia guidebook inside his head since the moment he was born. He was not a stupid man, had never been a stupid man, he was simply the sort of man that did not fit into the world he had been born into. As such he had spent much of his life watching the strange interactions of the people around him, the ones he could never join because for some unknown reason he had been born without the ability to articulate them. But through his watching he had learned far more than he probably ever would have if he had in fact engaged with those subjects he studied. He learned the meaning for each and ever subtle movement of hand, wrist or finger. He learned the implied words behind a wink, or a slight downward nod, the flutter of an eyelash or the flare of a nostril. He became, in his own way, a silent, ungainly expert of how to read not just people but situations. And to his horror he could read this one all too well.

Over the past few days the townsfolk he had begun to call his friends had already begun the process of putting distance between themselves and him. They knew they would never see him again, and so they backed away, what point was there in putting in effort when there would never be a long term reward? It was incredibly logical, although these actions were not conscious actions, and Millon knew that if he confronted the townsfolk with this knowledge they would be confused and surprised and upset that he could think that of them. Yet it was only natural, and all creatures would show such behaviour in any similar situation. So Millon had had no choice but to accept as the last few days passed that these people were, in their own way, already beginning to forget him, and that that fact hurt him a whole lot more than it would ever hurt them.
Now as he stood looking out of the small crowd of assembled townsfolk he felt a pain as if some part of himself had been carved out and removed. The feeling echoed through every part of his body, making his throat constrict and his legs begin to shake. For a horrible moment he thought he might not be able to hold himself up, that he would collapse on the floor and dissolve into a puddle of mess in front of his collective audience. Tears sparked at the corners of his eyes, threatening to spill down his face and cascade onto the floor. He swallowed and gulped and blinked, doing his best to hold them back. He had a strong feeling that once they started he wouldn't be able to stop them, and he didn't want to be so undignified as to break down publicly at what for most would only be a little goodbye. A little goodbye. He envied them, the people stood there, he envied them their lack of care. Sure they had known him for a short while and some of them may even think they were sad to see him go, but none of them would be as upset as he was. None of them would feel this as deeply as he did, would hurt quite as badly, would feel quite as lonely, lost and incomplete afterwards. They would go back to their lives, move on with themselves, until all thoughts of him were mere background recollections. They had it so easy, so terribly, dreadfully easy.

Out of the corner of his eye Millon spotted Tella and his heart broke all over again. It shattered into a million tiny pieces littering the floor around him with broken shards that did not glisten in the sunlight but lay dark and oppressive like thick dust upon the floor. Tella. He had never gotten to tell her how much he liked her, how much he admired her, how much he longed to spend time with her and hold her in his arms. He thought of the feel of her soft hand in his, the sparkle of her green eyes, the tinkling chimes of her laugh. He would never again see, hear or feel those things, from this moment forward they would be gone from his life and his life would be all the emptier for it. A derelict ruin of what he had hoped would become a beautiful home. He had been so foolish to hope, he should have known, of course, that that hope would lead him only to an end of pain and silence and goodbye. Yet still he had let himself hope, dreaming of a life he could never have, so much so that he nearly convinced himself he had it. His eyes found hers across the crowd and he imagined himself moving towards her, parting the small crowd of townsfolk, walking up to her and taking her in his arms and kissing her gently, passionately. He imagined the soft feel of her pink lips, the taste of her mouth, the smell of her skin. But he did not move.
Behind him he heard the sound of horses hooves and Artel's voice calling his name, telling him to shoulder his pack and mount his horse. They didn't have time to waste.
Wasted time, what was wasted time? Time without that which made you happy, that had always been Millon's idea. But he knew that was not the accepted definition, and so had never spoken this thought aloud. He held Tella's gaze for a moment longer, wishing he could be the man that strode through the crowd to get her, instead of the man that waved a small hand and turned to follow his master.
His heart broke again as he turned and mounted his horse, accepting his fate with a grim resignation he hadn't known he possessed until that morning. As he began to trot away he looked back momentarily, his animal following Artel's without him even having to tell it to. The tears welled in his eyes and spilled out, leaking down his cheeks and blurring his vision, more and more and more of them, until he couldn't breathe and his chest heaved and his nose ran and he had to fight not to scream and moan and wail.

It's not fair. It's not fair. I don't want this. This is not what I want. It hurts. It hurts so much. Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.
But of course it didn't stop, and the cruel hand of time would push him further and further from this thing that he loved, until he was no more than a half-remembered fact of the past.

In front of him Artel trotted calmly along on his brown and white flecked mare, looking towards the mountains in the distance and wondering what they would find once they reached them.

No comments:

Post a Comment