Grim Avatar

Original

I looked over the world with a heavy heart.

I didn’t really, of course. Out of the eyes of every insect, every bird and squirrel, and even every human, I saw nearly everything. Secrets weren’t safe from me unless they were safe from life itself. Or . . . unlife.

I looked out from the eyes of the zombies as well. Oceans of mindless undead. Something had to be done. It would break millennia of nonintervention, but the human race was at risk. And as unpleasant as that species could be, I had plans for them.

In the moment I’d spent thinking about that, I’d touched hundreds of thousands of souls with an intimacy they’d never known. In the moment of their death, I knew them more closely than their mother, their lover, than themselves. So many, so fast, and so few were left.

Well. First things first. I would need an avatar. I looked through the multitudes again, and found her. A young one, a little girl. She had a soul like a bent, rusty nail. Life had beaten her over and over, and sometimes she’d bent under the blows or corroded under the constant stress. But she was still made of iron underneath the damage that was done to her, still strong, hard, sharp. Growing up among so much death sometimes forged such extraordinary people.

She’d been bitten, but that was okay. I didn’t need her life. As I laid a metaphorical hand on her soul, her eyes opened. They always saw something different, their soul drawing from their personal experiences to represent the concept of me.

“Gr-grandma?” Her voice wavered. The men around her looked at each other, confused.

“She must be delirious,” her father said. “Her grandmother’s been dead for decades.” The older man – a doctor, once – just nodded. I’d seen the look in his dull eyes before.  He had seen enough. He was close to choosing weakness over strength, seeking the easy way out.

I negated her question. Her mind manifested it as her grandmother shaking her head, in a grandmotherly way. “You are dying. But you want to protect your older brother. You want to protect your father. You even want to protect the coward that wanted to kill you and leave you behind. You want people to stop hurting.”

She nodded, tears spilling over. The virus ate at her nerves, and she felt it as a web of fire and pain vibrating throughout her body. “You are going to die. I will not interfere with the pain and death in the world, but I can create a haven where people can begin to live again. To do it, I must inhabit you and act through you. All I need is . . . ”

I didn’t have a chance to finish, not communicating at the achingly slow pace of human thought. I felt her acceptance intensely. I knew she didn’t believe me, but I could tell she’d sell her very soul just to take the risk I might deliver.

Luckily for her, I didn’t offer that deal. Her life vanished, and a tiny fragment of what I was flowed in to replace it. Her soul remained, a catalyst and a vessel and a silent judge, lest I break my word. Her body stood up from the bed, at once weak and strong, alive and dead, the kind of thing legends were born from.

I turned the small head to look into her father’s eyes, and spoke through it.

“You and I, we have a lot of work to do.”

Author: Ash Ericsson

I'm not real.

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