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Have you ever stood in the middle of room that's crowded full of people, and felt utterly alone in the Universe?
Have you ever watched a mother comfort her tyke after he fell and skinned his knee, or looked on as couples cuddled together while listening to the harpers play, and felt a heavy emotional lump swell in your throat as you realized that there was no one left in the world that cared whether you lived or died?
Have you ever thought that no matter how painful it might be to die, it couldn't hurt a fraction as much as the lonely ache that haunted your every waking moment?
Head down, eyes ahead, Mykhalin did his best to ignore the couples gathered in the dining hall to listen to an impromptu performance as he made his way to a very late breakfast. Sleeping, until all slept out, was fast becoming his preferred way of escape from the lonely reality that was now his life. Grabbing a couple of meatrolls and a hunk of cheese, he fled that sea of happiness for the solitude of the riverside path.
Passing under the bridge, the unmistakable cackling of his redheaded roommate pealed across the fountained main quad, sending a chill of dread through Mykhalin. Hilanuck and Tolrypen -- Huck and Tryp -- were nice enough, he supposed, but Piyer made him extremely uncomfortable for reasons he could and couldn't understand. To his surprise, Piyer showed an unexpected amount of kindness and gentility with the Weyrhold's animals, but only whenever he thought that no one was watching. On the other hand, the boy was rude, crude, obscene, a slob, bossy beyond belief, quite probably a dim glow in the sanity department, kept insisting on calling him Mykie!, and acting as if they were best friends. Mykhalin didn't want his friendship, and he didn't need to watch his roommates' friendship in action -- all three weyrbrats being life-long friend from Monaco Bay Weyrhold.
All of Mykhalin's friends and family were dead, and his roommates were just painful reminders of that. As was everyone else in the Weyrhold, for that matter. Mothers and their babies, fathers and their sons, husbands and wives watching their children at play, girls flirting with boys, and boyfriends embracing their girlfriends, it all reminded him of Murtrem Hold. It made him feel empty and alone and aching inside.
The dragons reminded him of Murtrem too. Bitterly so. Dragons who failed to do their duty. Unapologetic dragonriders who showed up a day late to clean up the pieces of Mykhalin's shattered world.
He'd watched it all, seen it in all its gory detail as he stood transfixed at the window. Mykhalin had heard old Aunties call little kids evil and wicked when they'd play pranks on them, but they were wrong. The children were bad, but they weren't evil or wicked. That day, Mykhalin had seen what he now felt was the true measure of evilness. Thread had killed unblinkingly, without guilt or remorse; murdering the old and the young, the good and the bad, friend and foe alike. He'd heard the voice of Thread, its serpentine hiss as it proclaimed its victory over its victims, and seen how it moved upon the earth. If he lived to be a thousand-million-billion Turns old, he doubted if he'd ever know a day or a night when those memories didn't return to haunt him.
His throat too tightly restricted with emotion, he gave up on eating, stuffed the food and his hands into his pockets, and turned into the main road that lead south to the Central Valley. The stables and pastures were as far south as he'd dared venture before. He was soon past them, and into a lightly forested area were farming fields had been staked out. Back near the cliffs, where several stone cottages and outbuildings were taking shape, men were hard at work. Mykhalin looked away, focusing on the path beneath his feet, as there too he found more reminders of home.
A half-hour's walk beyond that, he came to the hanging bridge. The valley was narrowed here by some ancient landslide, forcing the road to the opposite shore. So narrow was the valley, that the bridge had to cross the river diagonally to reach a wide enough spot to resume the road. The river, being a fast moving rapids at this point, prevented them from building midstream piers, so the bridge was suspended on thick rope cables from massive timbers set into cuts in the cliff faces. Gates, attached to the ends of the bridge itself, kept animals from wandering onto it.
The engineering was impressive to Mykhalin, but the bridge itself was rather scary for it swayed and shifted unnervingly underfoot as he stepped out onto the span. Upstream, the Weyrhold's buildings were out of sight around a bend. Downstream, the rapids continued for a few dragonlengths before petering out as the river swung widely to the west, merging with a smaller stream that was fed by a series of waterfalls in the stepped back hillside that blocked his view to the south.
Leaning over the flimsy railing, he stared down into the rapids, watching intently as the water lunged and tumbled over the current-polished stones, bubbling up in foaming mushrooms where ridges ever-so-slightly retarded the river's speed. It would be easy to drop down into those frigid waters, he mused. And death by drowning wasn't too painful -- he'd almost done it once when he was young. The panic was the worst part, but if you struck your head on the rocks on your way in, you wouldn't even have that to worry about. "And it's not like anyone would miss me," he thought aloud.
He felt like crying, but the tears wouldn't come. He'd cried himself out a hundred times over, and yet the ache and need to cry hadn't abated in the least in the past five sevendays.
Sitting down on the edge of the bridge's deck, Mykhalin draped his arms over the bottom crossbeam of the railing, and stared unseeingly out into the river. For an hour or more he sat there, mind racing, entertaining the notion of ending his life there and then in those waters. The idea of ending the ache of loneliness in his heart, and being free of the guilt of having survived when none of his friends or family had, was a very appealing one. But the fear of doing it, and of what, if anything, lay beyond the bridge called death which no one crosses twice made his blood run cold and drained away his resolve to embrace that out.
Pulling himself to his feet, Mykhalin gave the rapids a final, longing regard before turning and starting back for the Weyrhold. His resolve to live was tenuous at best, yet it was stronger than when he'd started his explorations.
~*~ THE END ~*~
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Last Modified: 22-Feb-2011 at 20:46 CST