the lamb and the knife
Beside one another, around one another, different partners and different steps but always, always dancing.
The connection was instantaneous when we first met. Small and shivering in a sea that threatened to swallow us if we did not stay afloat, our minds made the first tentative steps of a routine and the dance began. They pulled us from the water in unison, thick blankets draped across our shoulders. People spoke around us, to us, both familiar and strange, but we were unable to focus on anything but each other; a shared fascination derived from the sudden and powerful realisation that we were not alone in the world. We reflected upon one another like a looking glass that night, so shiny and new, full of possibility and potential and hope.
Friendship was not as easy a shell to slip into as our initial connection was, and the glamour faded quickly. The bond remained between us, crackling with energy, but we still could not see whether we were drawn into this dance as allies or enemies. However, as we opened our minds and our hearts to more of our brothers and sisters, it appeared the decision was out of our hands. Our parts in the dance, which were soft and silent and hesitant until then, began to pick up in speed.
It was not long before we began to spin and slip out of time with the steps that were expected of us. Our dancing around one another had changed, from the feather-light tread of friendship to the deep, reverberating clap of passion and power. The intensity was frightening and its meaning obscure, but we were young and curious enough that the motive and consequences simply did not matter to us. For we had made a deal - with ourselves, with one another, with the world. We had made a deal.
...and we were prepared to offer all.
We arrive in Westchester as rabbits.
Rabbits, frozen in fear as we find ourselves caught in the blinding headlights of the upcoming war. We have already lost two of our kind to Shaw, and the prospect of training our remaining progeny to fight that monster is a notion both terrifying and necessary. It goes without saying that we need to be prepared to face this threat or we will lose everything we have built, but this does not stop the panic from dwelling at the very bottom of our quick-beating hearts.
For in war, there are sacrifices. We already know that we will offer our all to stop the forces that threaten our safety, our freedom and our lives, and it is not a question of whether or not we will make the final sacrifice, but whether that sacrifice will be enough.
In the end, it seems, it does not matter whether or not we will win the war. We have always intended to raise our offerings regardless of how they are met. We train vigorously, to the point where we are almost always pushing ourselves and our abilities. The children adapt rather well to the changes and even better to the higher standard of living the mansion provides. This place, this reprieve, it is a gift for them. But as our eyes meet across the room we know that this gift has been given to us for a price; paid with the blood of men and women who will never again walk this earth.
They were the lambs, and we were the knives that took them.
The clapping is still loud and clear, to the point where it has intensified into the rhythmic beating of drums to accompany our steps. Training has forced us to put aside everything else, including our continuous search fo the meaning behind this dance. Despite the distance, the connection thrums between us; electric, intense, and very, very dangerous. We cannot lose sight of what we are doing here, with these children. We cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. If we do...
If we do, we will lose sight of ourselves. It will be a curse rather than a blessing, to the point where everything we touch will carry the taint. Our paths will one day diverge and when they do, everything we turned to gold will become dust. Every happy memory will become painful. Every step in the dance that leads us away from one another will be heart-wrenching.
We speak these words to one another, these warnings, until we know them by heart. There is no way this can end but badly. We know this. We... we know—
Our lips touch. Once, twice, more.
It is not enough.
It will never be enough.
Our bodies collide and it is in that moment, that beautiful, staggering, glorious moment where we both cry out together that the meaning of this dance, this connection becomes clear. The warnings fade to black and anything and everything in our way crumbles under the intensity of the harmony rising between us. We are together. We are finally together.
The sunlight filters in through the window some time later, its rays reaching down to kiss us where we sleep. Our bodies shine like gold where we are touching and have been touched. The world moves around us, the children train and we ourselves hone our bodies, our minds, our skills as we test our very limits and our potential.
There is a war coming, and now we are prepared.
We arrived in Westchester as rabbits.
We leave as lions.
Brave, strong, together.
The ability of the helmet to completely block out the thoughts of others will be so strong, so absolute that it will surprise us both. It will be in that moment, cut off from the very connection that defined ourselves, that we will falter, lose our footing and fall.
No longer will we be in perfect sync with one another. My thoughts will be hidden from you and your steps, your actions, will be part of a routine I have not practiced for. I will raise my defences in the exact moment you raise your final offering to the sky and all I will be able to do is stare when your skin sheds and the overwhelming blue of the ocean turns to red in heartache and rage as you fall, sacrificed, spent, to the ground. I will no longer be in my right mind, for I will have no mind to spare. It will blow away with the changing wind the very moment I turn to see my lamb cut by the wayward blade of the knife I have become.
I will pull the metal from you, but it will be too late.
I will leave you, and it will be too late.
You will offer many things that day. You will offer those men their lives as you sacrifice yourself for them. You will offer yourself reassurances that you are walking the correct steps in this dance and that I am the one who is forsaken. You will offer me the chance to be a better man with only a single question on your lips.
Will it ever be enough?
I am sorry, my friend, but it will not.
Beside one another, around one another, different partners and different steps but always, always dancing. We have danced as acquaintances, allies, friends, partners and now, enemies. The lamb and the knife, two things that sacrifice and were sacrificed far before their time, stand on their opposing sides with their damaged hopes held high.
What they always neglect to tell you is that the lamb and the knife loved one another, once.