“Is there ever a point where, you know, you regret it? All the lives you didn’t live just sort of staring at you from behind that wall of possibilities. I can’t imagine even being able to face them. All those potentials. Happy or not. Successful or not. I just…who wouldn’t want that? If I could choose anything it would to BE infinity. To grasp and feel every bone-shattering high, every misery steeped in blackened earth. To know…to finally know for yourself what the right path was. ”
“They tell you, the ones who have come before, the ones that survived the cage of history and were found buried underneath the dust of antiquity, but there’s nothing to it. Nothing surprising. Only age-old adages pressed, burned, and engraved in print ad infinitum. Hard to take all that seriously. That much of a consensus, never a good thing. In the blood, that’s where the truth is. Least that’s what I thought, it’s how I got here. The ones who never got a chance to write it all down. The dead, the dying, looked into all of them trying to find it, couldn’t get nothing. So I figure that leaves you.”
The old man says nothing. Only eyeing the armored and battered form in front of him, one eye closed to the glinting sun. Eventually he clears his throat, a light croaking filling the small stone room, years of bile stuck to an achy throat.
Surrounded by silence, he looks at the newly opened cell. A table sits beside a bed, one made of rotting reeds and soiled fabric that an eon ago may have been a blanket. On the table sits a book, once carefully, the cover worn to its boards with the ceaseless attention only a man who has nothing can offer.
He walks over and picks it up, the pages yellowed to the point of orange, brittle to the point of powder. Carefully he opens the book, the binding stretching under the strain of its contents. He strains his eyes to look at the pages, but a withered hand reaches out to his elbow, the cold of its touch causing him to stop.
He looks back see the ancient figure standing, one eye still closed in the comfort of the darkness. He expects the wrinkled hand to stop him, to pull the book from his hand and hide it, protect what he sacrificed so much for, but he doesn’t, he simply stares the gaze of an all-patient teacher.
The warrior looks back down at the book, the open pages staring up at him, vacant.
“I don’t-” he starts to speak, but doesn’t.
“Come. It’s time we saw the sun, don’t you think?”
The behemoth nods, watching as the shambling form of the man in front of him. The man’s silhouette bleeds into the prying sun of the outside. He sets the open book back down on the table and follows.