“It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends;
and it must be believed that solitude can quickly destroy reason.”
— Jules Verne
Did I know you were on your way when I built that fire? Perhaps.
What I recall most clearly is that it was a brilliant night. The highways of the skies were lit, as they had for three years, with the absence of mankind’s banishment of the dark. Honesty bids me say this to you: this planet has been inhabited by little children pretending to be big. A race that is as afraid of the dark as this one has been is ultimately — and deeply — afraid of itself.
Not that anyone has asked me.
What I also remember was that I had found this beautiful park, touched only by the fingers of nature, in the midst of a derelict city. Your city. I hauled my wagon into the brush, and I built a fire.
A truth I believe to be universal among sane beings is that you rarely find animosity at a campfire when the builder greets you with peace.
You came out of the darkness. I watched you step gracefully into the light, a beautiful creature. I guessed you to be sixteen. That you were still in one piece told me you were a host.
This confused me, because nearly every human that carried the Fell husked out after the first year. Their parasitic nature overwhelmed the hosts — those that didn’t die in battle with those who were immune.
What further confused me was, though the Fell certainly recognized me, you did not attack.
As beautiful, as frail as you appeared, the certainty came to me that the Fell within you was all that had kept you whole these past few years.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. You nodded. “Do you mean peace?” Again a nod. “Then sit with me and share what I have.”
You didn’t speak through the meal. I wondered if you were capable.
“Thank you… sir,” were the first words I heard you speak. Your voice carried me back to a sanity I thought I had outrun. A warming light, a meal, and the stars, after the fire died, brought us into an alliance both uneasy and perplexing.
I had to wonder why. It turned out I wasn’t the only one to wonder.
* * *
For the March Speculative Fiction Challenge, at D. Wallace Peach / Myths of the Mirror.