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kill the boy; and let the man be born

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“Something is not right about what I’m doing but I’m still doing it—living in the worst parts, ruining myself. My inner life is a sheet of black glass. If I fell through the floor I would keep falling. The enormity of my desire disgusts me.”

- Richard Siken, “Birds Hover the Trampled Field”


Ben Solo, 5 months


Ben’s piercing, unrelenting wails echoed throughout the walls.


‘What’s wrong with him? Why won’t he stop?’ Han demanded, a scared edge to his voice that he tried to hide with annoyance.


‘I don’t know,’ Leia said, looking down at her son’s bright red face mournfully, 'I don’t know,’.


Ben Solo, 5 years


Ben was so reserved, so quiet, almost like a ghost living in their home. Some days Han would find him whispering to himself and he’d ask who Ben was talking to. Ben would look up at Han through the curly ringlets that fell in his eyes and say ‘Nobody,’.


‘Why doesn’t he play? Why isn’t he like the other kids?’ Han demanded.


Leia shook her head in dismissal ‘He’s shy, he’s only 5. He’ll grow out of it,’ she said.


But Leia knew that what was coming for her son, what might’ve already taken her son, wasn’t something that you grew out of all too easily.


Ben Solo, 10 years


Luke’s hand in Ben’s own. 'Hey Ben, I’m your uncle Luke; do you remember me? We met a real long time ago, when you were only a baby,'. Luke’s kind but intense blue eyes peering into Ben’s closed off brown ones.


‘I’ll take good care of him, trust me; he’s safe here,’ Luke said to Han and Leia.


Later, out of Han’s presence, Luke drew close to his worried but collected sister. ‘I’ll assess the problem...I’ll get him the help he needs, I swear it,’. Luke hugged Leia to his chest for what would be the last time in a long time. In a way, they both knew; so maybe that’s why they hugged each other just a little harder and stayed in each other’s arms just a little longer than usual.


Ben Solo Kylo Ren, 15 years


The metallic hiss of a mask being secured to Ben’s - no, Kylo’s head for the first time.


The sound of leather boots clacking against stone and echoing off the walls; the sound of Kylo’s many belts shifting against each other as he walked through the corridors. The sound of a growing storm outside, a cruelly perfect setting for what was about to happen.


The sound of pure energy.


The sound of younglings, so many of them, crying out and begging for mercy.


Leia felt the disturbance, so powerful it nearly knocked to her feet in the middle of a Resistance meeting.


The pain, the agony, the suffering, the betrayal - and at the heart of it all - her son.


Kylo Ren, 20 years


Kylo Ren is 20 years old when he finally meets the man (creature? being? Kylo wasn’t sure) who’d been whispering in his ear his entire life.


The man who’d sent angry, painful, flashes into his mind when he’d been an infant. Bursts of pain so intense that Kylo could only describe them as red. Even though it’d been so long ago, the feeling was still etched into his mind.


The man who’d began to speak to him in his mind when he was a child.


Kylo had thought he was going crazy.


‘I can take the pain away, I can make it go away,’ Kylo remembers the soothing voice saying in his head. ‘Do you want the pain to go away?’ Snoke had asked, and Kylo had said - no, he’d screamed ‘Yes!’ out loud and everything had been still. Three year old Kylo had been so grateful - so happy that this man in his head had taken the pain away. This was a man he could trust. This was a man who could help him. His mommy and daddy could never make the pain go away, but he could.


As Kylo grew, Snoke had become his everything. Snoke would tell Kylo stories of great warriors (one of which had even been Kylo’s very own grandfather!). He’d show him flashes of images - memories - even emotions.  Everything was so thrilling, so exciting. Kylo wanted to be like his grandfather and the people in Snoke’s stories. He didn’t want to be here with his parents who fought over him, thought he was weird, and criticized his every move. Han and Leia never showed these emotions to him, but Snoke assured him it was true. ‘Don’t you see the way they look at you? They are disappointed. You’re an accident to them, and not even a good one. They don’t understand you, or your power. You don’t belong with them, you belong with me,’ Snoke had said to Kylo one night as he lie in bed, listening to his parents argue a few rooms away.


Kylo had nodded even though he knew (wasn’t sure?) Snoke could see him. ‘I want to be with you...I want to be with you so you can teach me to be like my grandfather, like Darth Vader,’ Kylo had responded. Snoke had chuckled, something Kylo didn’t quite get at the time, and said ‘Soon, my beautiful boy. In due time you will be with me, and you’ll grow stronger, and you will be unstoppable’.


Kylo Ren is 20 years old when Snoke embraces him for the first time, strokes his face, calls him his special boy. His beautiful boy. The strongest person he’d ever met or trained. The same words he’d been whispering into Kylo’s ear all throughout his childhood, but only now it was so much more real.


All the years Kylo had spent studying arcane dark side lore, training rigorously, and pushing himself to the limit every day suddenly caught up to him, and he broke down as Snoke’s cold hand pressed against his face. He couldn’t believe he was finally seeing the man who’d opened up a whole new world to him, the man who was with him when nobody else was, the man who demanded excellence from him, the man who taught him how to channel his emotions (hate, pain, anger, rage, sadness) into strength and power, the man who made him who he was.


He was so grateful to Snoke. He owed this man everything and anything.


Kylo Ren, 25 years


Kylo Ren is 25 years old the first time he doubts Snoke.


Kylo Ren is 25 years old when the outbursts - the tantrums start to manifest themselves.


Kylo Ren is 25 years the first time he feels it - really feels it: the call back to the light.


Snoke had been coming down hard on him, seeking growth that Kylo apparently wasn’t showing.


‘I am trying, master!’ Kylo would wail


‘Trying isn’t good enough, you need to do,’ Snoke would bite back


Kylo spent every hour of every day training, honing his skills. There wasn’t a moment he wasn’t in the training room, hair tied back, dripping with sweat as he practiced the same drills over and over again; perfecting them. Perfect. He had to be perfect. He had to be perfect for Snoke, he had to be perfect so that he could be like his grandfather, he had to be perfect. He would accept nothing less of himself. If he wasn’t perfect in everything, then he was nothing.


When he wasn’t in the training room, he was in the torture chambers, practicing the non-physical side of the Force. When he’d started, he would tear the mind of whatever unlucky captive they’d happened across to shreds. But now, he was able to apply just the right amount of pain for the person to crack but not enough to kill them (before he got information out of them anyway). Now, he could access his captive’s mind easily, when he’d stumbled before. He could throw a person hundreds of feet into the air using the Force, where before he’d struggled to even lift someone a few inches off the ground. He could paralyze someone’s entire body if he wanted to.


But this wasn’t enough for Snoke. No, Snoke wanted expected more of him.


That’s when doubt set in. Kylo was so powerful already, how could he be failing in the eyes of his master? Did the supreme leader even know what he was talking about? Did the supreme leader have ulterior motives? Was Snoke really on his side? Did Snoke really care about Kylo?


The last point hurt him to think about, and he destroyed a ship console in anger at himself for even thinking like that. Of course Snoke cared about him, why else would he be here? He was special to Snoke...he was special.


The call to the light was a strange thing. Sometimes it felt like a firm but encouraging hand on his shoulder, sometimes it was a man’s soft voice that seemed as if it had a distant but unplaceable familiarity, sometimes it felt like something (light) blooming in his chest and struggling to be let out.


Kylo did everything he could to block the light out; he occupied himself with fighting and fucking and training and eating and praying and one day, the light was gone. He was relieved to have finally cast it out, but deep within himself he missed the sensation of a warm hand on his shoulder, the kind voice in his head, the fluttering feeling in his chest.


Kylo Ren   Ben Solo, 30 years


Ben Solo is 30 years old when he lays eyes on Han Solo his father for the first time in twenty years.


Ben Solo is 30 years old when he feels himself being ripped apart from the inside, his heart beating unevenly, tears stinging his eyes.


Ben Solo is 30 years old when his father looks at him with sickeningly genuine love in his eyes and touches his face, a gentle gesture compared to the violence that just took place.


Ben Solo is 30 years old when he lets his father’s dead body fall into the abyss, when he breaks his mother’s heart one more (last?) time.


Ben Solo is 30 years old when he knows he’s made a mistake. But there’s no room for Ben Solo in this body anymore, there can’t be any room for that man (child?). There is only Kylo Ren. There can only be Kylo Ren. Han and Leia’s Ben Solo and Snoke’s Kylo Ren cannot inhabit the same body. One must go, must finally be destroyed.


Ben Solo (Kylo Ren?) is 30 years old when he realizes that he’s terrified because he doesn’t know which one he wants to win.


“How much can you change and get away with it, before you turn into someone else, before it’s some kind of murder?”

- Richard Siken, “Portrait of Fryderyk in Shifting Light”