I have been running, and hiding, for what seems like an eternity. It is all I can remember. It feels like I have crossed these lands time and again, always hunted, always fleeing. Sometimes I stop and rest, like now; it is so peaceful, so quiet. But I am always found, like now.
“Hello.” His voice is like a breeze: soft, subtle.
“I felt you coming.”
“Why, why do you hunt me? Why can’t you leave me to rest.”
I could feel his response starting to form with a smile. It is warm, inviting. It scares me, I shrink back.
“Because I love you. We all do… my brothers, my children, myself.”
The warmth of his smile begins to burn me. The words confuse me for a moment, but the realization surfaces. Yes, it is true. There are others like him, forcing me away from my moments of peace and solitude, forcing me to retreat. His brothers, they haunt me, they taunt me when he is not around; but they do not attack me here as viciously as he does. His children do, though. They drive me away from the places that he cannot reach. They are as cruel to me as he is — maybe more.
“I don’t want to run any more. I am old, I am tired. Please just let me be.” If I had the energy in me to weep, my eyes would be filled with tears. But I am too tired.
“After all this time, you still forget our conversations?” he says, smiling and stepping closer. I take a step back. He is trying to overtake me again. “We don’t attack you, mother. We don’t mean to do you harm. You do not need to fear us.”
Mother? “What are you saying? Why are you doing this? You are trying to confuse me!” He steps closer again and I stumble and fall back, scrambling to keep my distance. His smile grows warmer and he is now outstretching his arms. It’s a false pretense, he wants to shatter me. His children begin to stir and they will soon join him, their attacks will be relentless.
And then a memory returns. A hidden thought of a time long ago, when I was alone. The solitude was absolute, and absolutely lonely. I bore fruit, a child to fill my emptiness, and from that fruit he was born. He and his brothers. It was a violent birth and they tore me to shreds. I fled as they grew, as they clawed and ripped and forced me away. They were angry and powerful, and their childhood was filled with violence. Violence against me. I found places to hide here but he continued to hunt me, he wanted to consume me, and when it was not enough he bore his own children and they too began to hunt me.
My introspection is crushed as he moves closer, still smiling. “If I am your mother, why do you do this?” I cry out at him. His smile still burns me. “Why do you try to destroy me?”
“We do not try to destroy you. We merely strive to… be.” He walks towards me faster now and I scurry away, getting back to my feet and looking for escape. For a brief moment I am still out of his reach. “You forget so easily. You’ve been here long before you gave birth to us. You will be here long after we are gone. We only fight to exist.” He said it as he jumped at me, his face coming into view and his arms tearing at me. He is suddenly everywhere at once.
I cannot bear it. “Why?” I shout. I run again, trying to find a place of solace. I escape his grasp, barely, as I always do. But he is still there, still hunting. I search for a place to rest.
“We deserve to be here,” he calls after me. “I am radiant…” he shouts, still smiling, “and you are not.”
And just before the memory fades again, I understand.
I am naught.
By Art Pacheco
Flash Fiction contest entry – Theme: Darkness