The two of us and the ties that bind\n\n(forever and ever [[amen|religion]])
Our hands closing together in the elevator.\n\nWe'd been on the highest floor of the building, and that elevator ride down - \n\n[[we didn't waste a minute.]]
Ah.\n\nThe rocket story.\n\n[[The biggest death count either of us ever had.]]\n\n[[Meteors seem to be a theme, with us.]]
and standing desperate in the toilet cubicle, you pressing me against the wall, as we tried to make up for everything we’d just learned we'd lost [[-|--]]
Fall or fly?
A feeling of weightlessness, airlessness, no responsibilities on my shoulders.\n\nJust cool autumn air and the most perfect person I'd ever seen winking at me from the opposite side of the room, eyes glancing upwards as we found silence in the crowd.\n\nThe first time we touched.\n\nOverflowing with freedom, and independence.\n\n[[Remember me the same, won't you?]]
So this is it, then?\n\nI suppose...\n\nVictory.\n\n[[This must be all there is.]]\n\n//You// [[must be all there is.]]
You were our captain, and [[(this one's on me)]] I'd gotten you a little drunk.\n\n[[We were on top of the central control panel.]]\n\n...this really wasn't one of our prouder moments, and to be honest, [[I'd really rather not recall it|are.]].
Something I do rarely, but it certainly has happened.\n\nThere //have// been one or two times you've [[disappointed|disappointment]] me, you know. Everything happens [[in turn|returns]].
Do you remember how we became new, in bodies so aged?
A lot of my deaths have an inexplicable fondness for cold.\n\nI can't even drink anything with ice in it, now.\n\nIce has never done me any favours.
Our eyes meet, and you have to bow down your head to meet mine, forehead to forehead, you're so tall this time around.\n\n[[I take a deep breath, and I smile.]]
Well, except [[caves]]. Fuck caves.
I could pull [[statistics]] from the air - after all, I [[never forget|memory]] (to the extent we can remember anything, constantly, with [[certainty]]) the deaths, the causes, the result - to support my conclusions, but you hardly need me to argue my case, do you?\n
I //do// still long for you - I don't think I know how not to, after all this. \n\nYou'll always be a part of me.\n\n[[It's time for me to find every other piece.]]
Having difficulty reaching the ending(/s)?\n\nThe 'main' narrative - set in the present time, with minimal tangents - is colour-coded in gold.
When I first saw you as a member of royalty - elbows braced on golden armrests, fingers steepled before you, a fur-lined cloak tossed over your hunched shoulders, sitting in an arched throne, the way you commanded the attention of the court around you - well, you quite took my breath away.\n\n(not to say you don't always, every time I find you again)\n\nThat sort of responsibility settles upon your shoulders so easily.\n\nThank you for finding me a position in your court, that time. \n\nAnd it was a pity about the [[revolution|respect]] that left me dead in the castle kitchen and you under a guillotine a week later.\n\nRevolutions never work out in our favour, do they?
[[But now that we're here]],
You were...very prolific. Mid-thirties, outspoken, [[charismatic|magnetism]], extremely photogenic. I don't know if things would have been any different if you hadn't...\n\nif you hadn't //sparkled// on television. You were radiant.\n\n[[You accrued followers whenever you opened your mouth.]]
I have had quite a lot of [[low-ranked|ranking]] siblings. Any that don't like you are immediately blacklisted.\n\nHigher-ranked siblings are rare.\n\n(it's not that you're hard to like. [[Please don't think that|magnetism]])
Back, I suppose, when I thought of you as a person.\n\n[[More than the lost extension of myself -|sped2]]
One day, I'd like it if you could look at me with pride.\n\nLike I had [[accomplished something]] (something more than finding you again).\n\n
This is the end of every cycle. \n\nNo more chances. No more next time arounds. No more next times, because we claim this and then we are granted [[oblivion]].\n\n“I’m a bit scared,” one of us mutters, but I haven’t been able to distinguish [[between us]] for aeons. \n\nNo more chances. No more next time arounds. No more next times, because we claim this and then we are granted [[oblivion]].\n\nIs this what all those lives were for?\n\nThis //must// be the [[reward]] for all those deaths.\n
I'd say you've always been defined by a penchant for giving other people orders.\n\nYou described it for me once, the appeal, the power of it all, tracing out patterns on the skin of my stomach (patterns that I remembered, and had myself tattooed with the next time around; but I don't know if you ever recognised them) as we watched the sunrise from a mound of wrinkled sheets.\n\nAs if sparks were bubbling up in your stomach and rising up your throat and when you spoke they alighted on the people around you and filled them with the energy burning up within you and - \n\nI don't actually remember the rest. Your fingertips were ticklish.
I can honestly say that the crash was one of my top ten favourite endings, regardless.\n\nWe were together, we were married, we were going on our honeymoon. How could things have become any more [[perfect?|perfection]]
One of your constant defining traits, I believe.\n\nWhen we were younger, your compassion was something that I half hoped would overflow onto me.\n\nThen I aged and realised we'd never succeed if we were both [[good people|morality]].\n\nThen //you// aged and decided to change our roles.\n\nBy now we haven't had roles to play in centuries. Our identities have become much too fluid for that.
Forewarned is forearmed, after all.
If it wasn't for the existence of right now, right here, I wouldn't believe in 'safe'.\n\nBut [[this is it|are.]] The safety we were promised.
(did I ever thank you for [[that]]?)
Thank you for making me who I am today.\n\nThank you for //everything//.\n\nWe won't meet again.\n\nI hope we both live the lives we've always deserved.\n\nAnd I hope you live a long, happy, loved life.\n\nTwo //new// lives, born in an instant[[.|..]]\n
Remember that? The time when we found it in ourselves to run away, not even adults, because we were so [[certain|certainty]]? And we spent our lives (our very short, very momentary lives) tip-toeing and sidling across streets, hiding our faces and laughing when we thought we were [[safe]]?\n\nI can remember that as one of the [[clearest|memory]], I think.
I suppose if we refuse to acknowledge our pasts, we'll never move any further.\n\nFine.\n\nI don't quite understand how it happened. You tried to explain it to me the next time around - when the memories were strongest - but I was only a kid. I didn't understand a word of it.\n\nAll I know was we were somewhere we weren't meant to be (no, that's not right, //I// was somewhere I wasn't meant to be. You had [[every right|authority]]). \n\nYou were directing the attention that //should// have been on the ship [[elsewhere.]]
Courage.\n\nYou think, after all this time, of course you're brave. Of course you're determined. Of course you're courageous.\n\nI do not think I feel courageous now.\n\n(I think I am scared)\n
Every life is like putting on new [[clothes]] that have always fitted.\n\nWe have been everything, everywhere, [[always]].
Perfection is you and me as the world spins around us.\n\nIt can do what it wants. [[End|always]]. Begin anew.\n\nAs long as I have [[you.|this moment in time]]\n\n
We //were// married, once.\n\nI can only remember it ever happening once, when the [[stars]] aligned so [[perfectly|perfection]] for us, when we abandoned everything and stole those few moments.\n\nYou were [[dressed|clothes]] so finely.\n\nThat [[night|nights]] was - well, that's between the [[two of us]]. \n\nPity about the plane [[crash]]. I was looking forwards to the [[honeymoon]].
I don't suppose I really think about the rest of the world very often.\n\nIt seems to do its thing with or without us, more consistent than we've ever been, more successful than we ever could be.\n\nI've been all over it, but I've never really travelled. Never really explored. Just chased you, all across the globe.\n\nMaybe that's something we could do [[this time around|normal]]. We've got the time, and it would be meaningless without you.
//You stopped packing for a moment and glanced up at me through your hair.\n\n"Stop apologising," you ordered. "Love means never having to say you're sorry."\n\nI snorted at that, I'm sorry to say. Not one of my more tactful moments. "If we never apologised, one might think we meant it."\n\nYou smiled. Sauntered across the room to me, put your hands under my chin, lifted my face to meet your eyes. "I'm not sorry for last time," you whispered.\n\n"Well, last time //was// my fault."\n\nYou considered. "True," you acknowledged, and then you decided we //should// keep apologising, because the unavoidable fact is that when we've been doing this as long as we have, we //do// fuck up.//\n\nI won't apologise now.
There is no constant, no consistency.\n\nYou and I are always someone different, whenever we are made [[new|every]].\n\nOn the //outside//, of course, I mean. You've never [[changed|change]] in all the time I've known you. Not in a way that might matter.\n\nThat's perfect, [[isn't it|doubt]]?
Screaming is one of those immediately recognisable things.\n\nNo matter where we are, when we are, who we are, I will always recognise your voice raised in fear, or panic, or pain.\n\nIt is not as useful an ability as it might seem.
The face you wear now is closest to...\n\nthe person you were when I died two hours after our first date. You were haunted by memories of the person you thought I might become, recollections of me that changed and turned me [[purer|purity]], more innocent and [[good|morality]] than I could ever hope to be.\n\nYou grew older, [[married|wedding]] and had children and died old and loved, still fixated on a faded, idealised me.
Champagne on a balcony under the [[stars]] at our wedding.\n\nI never //could// hold my [[alcohol]].\n\nAnd you were [[dressed|clothes]] so finely, too. [[I'm sorry]].
You never responded. It must have been the wrong name. \n\nPlease don’t hate me for that. There have been so many, and even if it is easy to fall into a new identity sometimes I can get confused.\n\nI’m sorry I couldn’t call you back [[to me]].
There somehow doesn't seem to be enough here. \n\nNot enough here, right now, even though we have [[earned]] [[this moment in time]] so many times over.\n\n(The look in your [[eyes]] is the same. Where is it? Is this it?)\n\n(Is this how we finish?)\n\nNo clouds breaking, a noticeable lack of [[angelic choruses|religion]]...\n\nWhere is the world, begging for our forgiveness?
and coming out ten minutes later, promising to find you next time around – because perhaps we had convinced ourselves that we really //were// in love with [[someone else]].\n\nor perhaps we were just so used to making sacrifices by that point that we never even considered staying [[together]]
Although you really should have known better.\n\nAlthough //I// really should have known better, too.\n\nThis one was on both of us, all things considered. \n\nBut I'll happily take that blame if it helps you.\n\nIt's what I've been doing for a [[long time now.]]
"A signal," you said tipsily, as I tried to clean my [[vomit|champagne]] out of your [[wedding clothes|wedding]].\n\n"Eh?" I said, working on one of the stains.\n\n"For next time, so I can be sure it's you."\n\n"Please, don't start that again," I'd said. "We're done. We've won."\n\nWe hadn't, but it [[took a day|crash]] to realise it.
Our anger at one another, when it comes, is terrifying.\n\nBecause it's closer to [[disappointment]] than anything else.
I forget whose idea it was.\nProbably yours.\n\n[[Ah, that's right.|signal]] I remember now.\n
//Parting is such sweet sorrow//, I [[believe|studied]] he wrote.\n\nBullshit. It's misery. Every time.
Never, ever doubt that.
We've always assumed that if we worked at it long enough, we'd get our happy ending.\n\nAnd after that?\n\n"We'd be done," you said, exhaling a cloud of smoke and passing over the joint.\n\n"Finished?"\n\n"There'd be nothing left of us, after we claim victory."\n\n"Oblivion?"\n\n"Freedom."\n\nI couldn't quite imagine losing you - and myself - forever. But something about it, nonetheless, sounded perfect. \n\n"I wouldn't mind that," I said, "as long as you were with me."\n\nThat made you laugh.\n\nThe alternative - back to more endless, repeated failure, but without the promise of a [[reward]] - we didn't talk about.
There have been someone elses. Now and then.\n\nBut it was never our fault, we say. I thought they were //you//, we say, every time. You're the only one, we say, and they just seemed so //you//.\n\nWe never question those excuses, because the alternative is [[unspeakable|wait]].
Victory:\n\nWe live out our last lives, finally get [[married|wedding]] normally, grow old normally, die together in natural and normal ways.\n\n[[We win.]]
My unexpected, inexplicable reluctance to cover the distance between us now\n\n(and is it me reflecting myself onto you, or do you have the same hesitation)\n\nIs it that I never [[allowed]] myself to think this would happen, one day?\n\nOr is it that I never bothered to think of what I would do when it did?\n\nMy next required action [[is obvious]].
Well, if you really want to know.\n\nI'm sure there's a reason why you've forgotten, though, you know. Maybe you were embarrassed, or ashamed. \n\nMaybe you did just forget about it. \n\n[[I doubt it.]]
You'd seen the first face as a child. They revealed themselves to you, one-by-one, constantly, every year of your life. You'd been haunted by the faces.\n\nThe faces, and an overwhelming, unplacable feeling.\n\nDevotion.\n\n[[So you had started to paint the faces.]]
Right now, you're wearing jeans and a t-shirt and a fashionable chequered [[scarf]] and you look every bit as wonderful as you did the day we were [[married|wedding]], or as you did dressed in the fashions of the Imperial Court back in the tenth century, or shirtless and sweaty, or in full armour -\n\nWhat I'm trying to say is that you look wonderful.\n\nYou //always// look wonderful.
Yes, I suppose you've won that one.
I remember the sound of alarms. Screaming.\n\nThe smell of burning.\n\nYou were angry at me, and it wasn't the [[usual|rage]] kind. It was genuine rage.\n\nYou knew it wouldn't help, but it made you feel better as the knowledge of your failure grew in your mind.\n\nI tried to catch you as you fell, I swear. I don't know what help it would have done, but I did try.\n\n[[I mustn't have done enough|war]].
And you would know to [[wait]] for me next time.\n\nDid I ever tell you that I [[knew]]?
We died, together, in a [[cave|caves]] once; do you remember when we found each other old and tired, just in time for you to hold [[my hand|old hand]] as I died?
The people that I've been, calling out constantly.\n\nAsking for vengeance, hope, a justification for why their lives had to end so miserably.\n\nDemanding //you//.\n\nConstantly crowding any idea I have of who //I// am.\n\n(no, not who I am - who I could be, given time and opportunity that will never arrive)
(Confession: I especially enjoyed being in the Spartan army with you\n\nthe uniform made your legs especially fetching)\n\n(to be honest I've always enjoyed the sight of you in uniforms)
Do you remember the [[feeling|yours]] of that old, papery skin clasped so tight in your fingers, and the way my body seemed to only be born when [[we touched]]?
And here we are.\n\nNew. Alive. Finished. Together.\n\nVictorious.\n\nI'm yours, and this world is ours.\n\nLike it always has been.\n\nWe are taking the reins of our own lives.\n\nOur world, for once. For the last time.\n\n[[I'm glad I can be here with you.]]\n\n
You always did have a [[tendency|characteristics]] to find yourself in roles of authority, didn't you? [[CEOs|CEO]], [[royalty|royal]], captains of [[ships]] and [[spaceships|rocket]], [[commanders]] of [[armies]]. Always in charge, always instilled with social power. Always so [[respected|respect]].
Our romance spans longer than eternity. \n\nEvery life, worthy of its own story, and every story, compiling to form a narrative the basis of our universe - \n\nAnd here we are, an illuminated sunny day, friends and family nearby, as the potential of life together stretches ahead. \n\nThe path it could - will - form makes the most delicate, elegant, radiant, blissful loops and whorls as it meanders through our last [[chance]].\n\nIs this how we can claim the victory in our [[war]] against the world?
[img[http://fishingforbirdie.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/reins400.png]]\n\nReins is more of a word labyrinth than a game or a story; it's a wandering through the easily-distracted mind of something that's been alive for a very, very long time.\n\nIt's messy. There are dead ends and an actual end (or maybe more than one), and playing through to completion will probably involve copious usage of the back button.\n\nThere are stories hidden here. Conversations. Confessions. Doubts, and certainties, and a certain sense of finality.\n\nI hope you enjoy/enjoyed. \n\nThis is version 2.0: \n\nCover art and extra passages have been added.\nThe central path has been expanded, and bookmark functionality has been added to allow the reader to jump back to the main path at any point.\nNearly every passage has been rewritten to some extent.\n\nThe original Reins can be played <html><a href="http://philome.la/Canti_aka_Stars/reins">here</a></html>.\n\nReins (v2.0) contains over 9,000 words and over 200 passages.\nIt is based on an original short story //Rein// by the author.\nCover art is by the author, inspired by Rodin's 'The Cathedral'.\n
I'll remember you the way you looked when we first met.\n\nBefore all this started.\n\n[[Before you became an unattainable, unreachable, distant dream.|sped]]\n
Do you remember?\n\nHow I fell to my knees, put my hands beneath your chin, raised your face and pressed [[my lips against yours]], as my family, kin, friends, [[cheered for your death]]?
(I suppose the stars must have thrown you off; we hadn't been up there for a while and the constellations were surprisingly foreign.\n\nI'm sorry; I'm not bitter, but sinking in the [[water|cold]] and staring up at the moon through a layer of ice, wondering if it was you dragging me down, is still one of the most terrifying memories I hold)
And then there I was, blood soaking into my shoes, just barely more than a kid with - \n\nI never understood, you know? Not at all.\n\nThat was the one life that I never worked out what was going on. It took another time around and hindsight to become clear.\n\nWhich left me lost in that life for fifty years of emptiness, loneliness, and terror. \n\n[[And afterwards I swore that was all behind me.|this moment in time]]
Other people.\n\nThere's something I don't think about. [[Not ever.]]\n\nAre they all spinning around like we are? Just as [[lost]] as us?\n\nThey can't be. No-one would ever get anything done; nothing would ever be accomplished. \n\nGoodness knows I've never accomplished anything worthwhile, trapped in a [[world]] as limited as this.
You were worth all of this. Every moment.\n\nThank you for being here with me[[.]]
The words are so foreign. Just to think. How will you and I be changed?\n\nThe changes we experience over a hundred thousand lifetimes are nothing compared to how [[waking up next to you|Runaways]] for just one week straight, lying beside you in bed, can change the person I’ve [[been forced]] to [[become]].\n
Not that you're the only one to have troubles, of course.\n\nIt comes to both of us in turn.\n\nThe sort of thing we've been through, added to certain environments, can result in...a lack of stability.\n\nUsually it's only one of us, and together, we get through it. Only once was it the both of us, and that time around...didn't end well.
Preferences are like [[tendencies|characteristics]]. Sometimes they consistently hold true, and sometimes we lose and gather them like the easiest thing in the world.\n\n[[Fire|fire]], [[caves]], and the [[cold]], though. I'll never like them.
You were a CEO. I can't remember the company any more.\n\nI was an intern - coffee runs, print jobs; the usual.\n\nWe met for the first time at my departure, when I was moving overseas with my parents.\n\nOur reflections meeting eyes in the elevator, going down to the basement carpark.\n\nYou were changing the world from your business desk.\n\n[[You didn't come with me.]]\n
Sometimes one of us must be instilled with the responsibility to make decisions for the other.\n\nI do my [[best|my mistakes]], and I presume you do too.\n\nEven if you don't - didn't - it evens out.\n\nIt all [[comes back around in the end|returns]], after all.
You never appreciated nature as much as [[I did]].\n\nRemember that one morning when I was perfectly [[happy]] to lie in sun and grass all day and [[doze]] by your side?\n\n(I'll admit there was certainly more than one morning like that, but bear with me; I'll get more specific).\n\nYou said the grass was scratchy and uncomfortable, and something about it made you uneasy.\n\nWith hindsight I can admit you were [[right|you're right]] but I can honestly say I wasn't expecting what happened [[next|come to life]].\n\n
I don't have much faith in [[religion|your religion]]. I don't believe there's any great purpose for you, or for me.\n\nI choose not to think that the lives you and I have been through were set up intentionally by some greater force.\n\nIf I were to learn that they had, I don't know if I'd be grateful...or furious.\n\nI don't believe in [[goodness or in badness|morality]]. \n\nI believe in you, and through believing in you, I find cause to believe in myself. That's my brand of [[faith]].
I am standing in a hall full of faces.\n\n//My// faces.\n\nI don't recognise all of them, but enough to know they're me. They must all be me. Every single one of them.\n\n[[A dark hallway, people kneeling at every portrait, little shrines and offerings and painting after painting of every person I'd ever been.]]
I can't believe you still wear scarves after 1927. We were standing right there.\n\nSome of these memories can't help but affect every life afterwards.\n\nIt looks great on you, [[though.|body]]
(I am made anew every time I find you)\n(complete, finished, whole)
Nothing good ever happens in [[caves|this moment in time]].
Every step. Every heartbeat. Every breath. \n\n//You. You. You.// Coming closer.
I love [[learning]] your [[new bodies]].\nIt is a rare [[delight]] far too many never experience.
(and I think, very faintly, very secretly, to myself, [[should]] be [[obvious|be obvious]].)
After I was crowned, your older [[servants]] took me aside, down into the depths of my new castle to show me the gallery you had kept. The tribute to your dead children. \n\nThey told me of your descent into madness after losing them, regaled me with tales of your once great [[mercy]] and [[compassion]] before the plague.\n\nI understood. Did I ever tell you that?\n\nSo better that it be me than anyone else.\n\nAnd (after all) it was a [[fair exchange]].
(They said that you'd always treated them well, which didn't surprise me\n\nyou'd taken [[your turn]] at their lot in life before)
The daylight is bright and [[safe]] as the world comes to a pause about us.\n\n[[I've never felt so lost|sneak up]].
Well, except for my son that time he got high (without my blessing, I note) and shot you, but he was sorry about it and with you as a parent that’s less likely to happen, don’t you [[think?|maybe]]
You stood in front of them on your weak, starved legs, and as they argued you held yourself in your own thin arms and shook.\n\nI wanted to stand next to you, help you stay upright, whisper false reassurances into your ear and promise you that I'd come find you.\n\nBut my legs were useless after our escape attempt, and I was left slumped to the ground in a heap. \n\nYou wouldn't look at me.\n\nI had to help you. Somehow, [[I had to.]]
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Mundane.\n\nAustralia. Autumn. A grassy park. Sunlight.\n\n//This// would appear to be the location of our [[happy ending|missing]].
[[Liberation.]]
People are always drawn to you.\n\nThey orbit around you, never coming close enough to touch.\n\n(People other than [[me|learning]], that is.)\n\nFor some reason, that just makes it more difficult to believe how close you are now.
Not to suggest I disapprove.\n\nWe've earned the right to cheat.
Innocence is a concept we clung to for far longer than made any sense.\n\nPerhaps we thought that when we lost our innoncence, we would be deemed - [[by something, someone, the universe itself|religion]] - no longer deserving of further chances. We would simply vanish from one another.\n\nThat was back when we thought we were being watched, when we thought there was someone or something out there that we had to impress in order to try again.\n\n//That// was an illusion we gave up a very [[long time ago|lost]].\n\n
You'd come out of nowhere only a few years earlier, someone with no interesting history to their name, and said that you'd seen the faces of god.\n\nYou were glorious on the television, in the newspapers, face shining with enlightenment.\n\n//I// would have believed you [[(but I was a skeptic)]].
[[(I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared)]]
Killing is easy when you've learned to regard life with as little respect as we have.\n\nLife becomes cheap, and the death of others becomes worthless.\n\n(dying, though)\n(dying still hurts. Every time. Once for yours, and once for mine)
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So we spend our time waiting, and sometimes we lose patience (but we never call it that), and sometimes we make mistakes.\n\nBut we have our chances.\n\nOne chance, every life, to steal our minutes [[together|two of us]].
It's not as though I don't want to.\n\nI do love you, I do, with a fierce ache that demands nothing but to be kept burning. \n\nI have nothing to ask of you, and you of me, as long as we can wrap ourselves around each other. \n\nThe thrill of [[physical contact]] has never grown old.
[[Faith might just be the only thing keeping me together right now.|this moment in time]]
You'd like her. She sparkles when she laughs, and she laughs like a horse.\n\nDefinitely one of my [[top ten|ranking]] favourite [[siblings]].
We are good at children, aren’t we? [[Not together|parents' day]], maybe, not often, but quite a few, over the years, and none of them have ever ended up [[too badly]].
I have watched you go so many times. \n\nI have let you go, and I have refused, and I have seen you torn from my hands or mine from yours, and I have felt you die in my arms or looked into your face as I died in yours, and once or twice we have even turned our backs on each other refusing to believe this could actually be it, making so many sacrifices we refused opportunity automatically when it [[arrived|parents' day]].\n\nBut this, we both know, is [[it|war]].
[[In a thousand years from now|time]] we stole less than a handful of moments as we watched the world burn away.\n\nThe feeling of your skin against mine and the gasps of putrid dying breath we extracted as the earth grew tired.\n\nEyes on yours, the closest we'd ever been, our blaze of glory as the world went out.
One of us isn't a romantic at heart. I forget which.\n\nIt just doesn't come naturally, and we have to work at it, because it's clear that the other is. Hopelessly. Desperately.\n\nAnd you don't want to let them down, because, after all this [[time]], letting them down is letting it all go to waste.\n\nSo we work our hardest to be a person the other person can still strive towards.\n\n(at least that's how I see it.)
Various sicknesses are one of our more repeated downfalls. I feel as though it's even between us, though I seem to be the one more often rendered less capable because of it.\n\nBut you always take such good care of me, don't you? [[Thank you for that|compassion]].
After all, better me than anyone else, [[right]]?
Not even in those lives that involved copious and constant imbibing of alcoholic drinks.\n\nI'd always approach it hopefully. You'd always find it hilarious.\n\nI'd end with finding it messy. Every time.
I don't judge my mistakes in terms of how //I// feel about them; it's what I've done wrong in your eyes that worries me.\n\nOnly once, can I remember, have you been truly [[angry|rage]] at the decisions I have made.\n\nYou were...[[unwell|mental health]], and I thought that when you spoke I heard you telling me what you wanted me to do.\n\nAsking me to do it for you.\n\nIt took 'til the next time around, finding you and waltzing up and announcing my presence full of confidence, delight, excitement [[-|---]]\n
It was, I suppose, a few decades ago from our current time. There are still reports of it, you know? People who still remember. People who were //involved//.\n\nSometimes it's so easy to forget that [[other people move on]].\n\nBut I want you to know that. It hasn't been forgotten. [[There are records.]]
We've sacrificed so much for each-other.\n\nOur expectations so high, our mutual dependency so great. We can't handle our opinion of one another being changed.\n\nAnd it's terrifying, because - what if you're too disappointed? What if //I// am?\n\nWhat if this is it? What if we've stopped loving one another?\n\n[[We never have.]] Not yet.
I remember that time clearly. It was one of the few times I was in a position of authority above you.\n\nWe were never meant to meet. You were hired by my mother, and you crept around when I was asleep or out. If it wasn't for that hot night I woke up and you were sweeping my floor - \n\nWell, that [[night|nights]] was a close draw, but we came through alright.
You used to tell me that I couldn't sleep my life away. I guess I ended up proving that wrong.\n\nThank you for visiting me every day. I didn't wake up, but you made the right [[decision]].
A reincarnation romance reunion.\n
But I spend too much time chasing you to be anything more.
[[About Reins]]\n[[About the author]]\n[[Advice]]
I'd like to have a nice word for it. Your 'following'. Your 'adoring public'.\n\nBut that wasn't what it was.\n\nYou'd started a [[cult]].
(I will admit to wondering as I sunk: you'd piloted spaceships; how could you not steer one ship?\n\nbut that's an unfair expectation; you know I've lost more skills than some people learn in a lifetime\n\nstill, you //told// me to get some rest, and you said you could [[manage the ship]] for a few hours at night.)\n\n
I spent weeks planning it, you know.\n\nSomehow finding a city in the world that we'd really, truly never been to before (a cruel twist of fate that we found ourselves there the next time around, but decades earlier and [[lost in the alleys|Runaways]]).\n\nWorking out how to make something new that wasn't new to us at all (more like falling into easy, old routines).\n\nTrying to find a way we could be sure.\n\nThe plan might have [[failed|crash]], but I swear I never did.
Right now, a grin is starting to [[spread over my face]].\n\nMy sister looks confused.
Although, thinking it over now, perhaps you //did// pay me back on the round straight after that - even though you've said it wasn't your intention - \n\nwhen I was a child and you were thirty-seven, and you patted me on the head and told me (light-hearted, jokingly) to wait eight years with a spark in your eye and an earnest note in your voice that said waiting hurt you as much as it hurt me.\n\nI said your [[name]] as you walked away.
<<silently>>\n<<set $freedom_idea = "no">>\n<<endsilently>>It’s been a hundred thousand [[lifetimes|time]], and [[here]] [[you]] are, standing with a crowd of [[friends]] in a sunlit [[park|nature]], laughing until you see me.\n\n[[In this moment, the world is glowing|intro]].
The author of Reins can be contacted at canti.canti@rocketmail.com.
[[We're done.|You are waiting for me to make up my mind.]]
Touching every inch of your skin.\n\nHands in hair, fingers down spine, thumbs brushing across your closed eyelids.\n\nMemorising every moment, all over again.\n\nThat way, I always carry you with me.
(like I am always trying to do, and I have never been so close as right now, but)\n\nand we both come to a slow, gentle pause, at the same time, faces only a few inches [[apart.]]\n
and then seeing you in a name in the newspaper the next week\n\nand never telling anyone about it.\n\n
The respect you garner tends to lead in two opposing directions.\n\nEither it's immediate, and comes with absolute loyalty and devotion, or it eventually destroys you with loathing.\n\nThat's the cause of all the executions, deposals, and tribunals you've been through, I suppose. It's so easy to [[disappoint|disappointment]] some people.\n\n(but you know you'll always have me on your side)
Eyes meeting, an instant awareness, a momentary pause for consideration - \n\na quiet, hurried sneak away from our families [[-]]
You shook my hand. Enthusiastically. You did it to everyone on their first visit.\n\nI didn't recognise you.\n\nI walked inside and I saw them. [[Your life's work.]]\n\n
I’ve been driven to kill you out of [[mercy]] twice – no, four times - no, [[seven times]].\n
Dead inside.\n\n(no, I don't have any sorts of beliefs about the eyes being the gateway to the soul etc., but I whole-heartedly believe that is what I saw)
My //own// life.\nMy own world, for once.\nLike it never has been before.\n\n \nFor the first time. \nThe last time.\n\n[[One last chance.|.]]
We have a hundred thousand lives weighing on our shoulders, waiting for us to get here. Waiting for the payoff they have earned.\n\nYour breath is [[warm|fire]] on my face.\n\nSo this is it, [[then]]. This //must// be it.
Do you remember – you may have tried to forget; I certainly have – the time we met at a parents’ day, at a primary school?\n\nPerhaps our [[memories|memory]] were weaker then than they are now.\n\nPerhaps we thought we’d waited [[long enough|innocent mistake]].
"Wipe that stupid grin off your face," you said, towering over me in my little desk, slapping your wooden ruler against your hand with a //thwak//.\n\nI didn't.\n\n"It's me," I said.\n\n"What?"\n\n"It's //me//."\n\nYou thought I was a precocious (read: infuriating) kid.\n\nIt took me a week to [[convince]] you.
-End-
Nevertheless, in the long run, we break more or less even.\n\nI [[fuck up|my mistakes]], you [[fuck up|your mistakes]], we make [[amends]].\n\nIt can take a very long time, but we've not been undone yet.
There has never been any doubt.\n\nI've never doubted you, not once.\n\n(sometimes, I'll admit, I've [[wished|pride]] some things of you. \n\nBut I'll never let myself think that way for too long.\n\nThis is what we have. All we have. Who we are.\n\nWhere would we be if we allowed ourselves to doubt?)
(Could there have been moments when neither of us ever remembered?\n\nPerhaps, but then - I wouldn't be able to reflect on them now, would I?)\n\n(I wonder how many non-existent lives we've had)\n\n[[(But then, they wouldn't be us.)]]
I find - well, no.\n\nI found the stars satisfyingly consistent in all our lives for the longest time.\n\nThey were reassuring. Finding the old, comforting patterns, admiring the slow and steady changes \n\n(perhaps I was projecting; seeing the way they changed and stayed the same and clinging so desperately to that metaphor)\n\nUntil we were in them, and the [[rocket]] was burning.
The way our over-arching memory seems to work:\n\nMost of the time it's both of us, [[simultaneously|convince]].\n\nOtherwise, if one of us remembers, the other usually will in time.\n\nThere have only been a few times neither of us remembers [[until]] the moment we died.\n\nThey were my least favourite.\n\n
We've [[earned]] our happy [[ending|victory]], by now.\n\nHands extended, my fingertips press against [[yours]].
You'd think we would have this part down-pat by now.\n\nA shiver along the spine that says //any moment now//, I'll be complete.\n\nA growing sense of confidence, and the suspense, the tension in the air: immediate recognition.\n\nBut we misread signals or we say this can't be it, not just now, we haven't [[earned|war]] it yet (even though we have; we //must// have).\n\nThat doesn't make it any less wondrous that in the whole world we'll always find each other again, no matter how [[brief|time]].
>[[I take your hand in mine, and I squeeze it tight.|ted]]\n\n><<if $freedom_idea eq "yes">>[[We take a step back, nod at one another, and walk onwards, in opposite directions, alone.|sed]]<<endif>>
Sometimes I convince myself that I can see everything in your eyes. \n\nI wish I could say something [[romantic|bullshit]], like "I know I've found you every time I see your eyes." Tell you your eyes never change, and that's how I'll find you.\n\n[[But we both know that's not true.]]
[[(thank you thank you thank you)]]
I don't especially [[like|preferences]] being warm. It [[reminds|memory]] me of fires, and I have very few [[proud|my pride]] or good memories involving fires.\nBetter than the [[cold]], though, and anything is better than the cold.
The ways you have killed me:\n\nPhysically? Countless.\n\nOther ways you have killed me:\n\nWhen [[you walk away]]. \n\nWhen [[I walk away]], and you call after me.
For the time before, when you slaughtered me (accidentally? of course by accident) in a light-hearted tussle, and we had seen each-other only when we had removed our masks (or had it removed for me) and I was dying on a splintered table.\n\n[[A fair exchange.|are normal.]]
No, I rescind that offer.\n\nYou've got your private memories, and I have mine.\n\nWe have to treasure the things that are realy, truly, solely our own, because they're what keeps us here.\n
We do have the most minutest of changes every time.\n\nThat's why I haven't given up hope yet.\n\n(I'll never give up my [[faith]] in you, I swear.)
(the //failure// of losing you again)
Do you really want me to expand on that?\n\nThere's a //reason// you don't already know it, [[you know.]]
You usually are right. \n\nI assume it's because you tend to expect the worst, more often than [[I ever do|come to life]].\n\n
Reins (v2.0)
You know, I might still be able to think of a time you've never paid me back for - \n\none of the times we met on a battlefield, and as I walked away to my duty and honour you raised one hand from the bloodied ground and held it up, shaking, at my back, and begged me to come back, begged me to look at you, vowed to pay me back and laughed – a choked, gargling laugh – whispering "[[next time round]]".
The world is not pleasant.\n \nWith all the time we've spent, we've learned that quickly.\n\nSo we try not to [[change]], and instead we're left bent and broken.
I suppose I look most like the body I fell into that time we lived out a [[rebellion]], the year I provoked my village to rage against the cruel injustice of our tyrant [[ruler|authority]], fought our way through the capital, broke into the castle, [[slew|killing]] the guards and knights; \n\nand then I saw you, and the sword fell from my hand.
Back when this started, I used to pretend I was the merciful one.\n\nThen I decided to pretend //you// were the merciful one.\n\nI suppose I learnt my lesson several times over, both times.\n\nEven now I find myself unable to shake free from some of these delusions.\n\nUnable to look at the two of us afresh, and acknowledge what we've become.
I think, you know, when we started this - although I remember very little of my origin - I was once a religious person.\n\nBut it's easy to lose faith in that sort of thing, when you're in the situation we are.\n\nAdd to that my [[most uncomfortable memory]] and, well, there's not much space for religion within me any more.\n
[[The tiniest inkling of an idea is making itself heard - against my will - in my mind]]\n\n[[and I tell myself I'm wrong with all my heart.|be obvious]]
The two of us have become the final outcome of a struggle spanning a hundred thousand lifetimes.\n\nWe are the victors: in this instant we achieve what countless others before us [[died|killing]] for.\n\nAnd we are so [[normal]].
There are birds singing and [[friends]] looking bewildered and embarrassed as we fall into [[physical contact|greeting]] with the comfort and calmness of aeons.\n\nWe have been fighting for so long, and now, it seems, we have found [[it.|are.]]
I certainly don't want to give the impression that I spend all my time constantly misunderstanding you while you always completely understand me.\n\nThere have been times - \ntimes - \n\nI still don't know what you could have done, but I know what you did do wasn't right.\n\nIt //hurt//.
Normally, we recognise one-another at the same time.\n\nSometimes, one of us is a little slow on the uptake.\n\nUsually, you.\n\nConvincing you became easier when you invented our little [[ritual|greeting]].
When you were [[ill]] and dying anyway; when we were waiting to be [[sold]]; when you could feel yourself [[losing your mind|mental health]] and you begged me in half-slurred, half-whispered mutterings.\n\nWhen they were dragging you away and you were [[screaming]] for me.\n\nI don't especially like to think about those times.\n\nAnd goodness knows every blow I gave you you [[gave me in turn|returns]].\n
I wasn't expecting Day of the Triffids, alright?\n\nI didn't remember that movie being so gory.\n\nI kept your [[finger|war]].
<<silently>>\n<<set $freedom_idea = "yes">>\n<<endsilently>>[[Something I haven't thought about in years. Decades. Centuries.]] \n//Millenia//.
You //glowed//.\n\nYou built a centre, and they came. No-one knew what happened in there, but your radiance overflowed onto everyone who entered.\n\n[[People would sell their houses to get into that building.]]
Certainty. What an obscure concept.\n\nThere's only ever been one //real// certainty, and now that's gone too.\n\nThe ground beneath me has vanished.\n\n[[Only one question left.]]
I always study history, every time I have the opportunity to study, to learn, to read. Most of what I study I [[remember|memory]], working towards the goal of finding myself [[familiar]] with every time period we lose ourselves in. \n\nI have [[studied]] it in a hundred lifetimes, and I know beyond doubt that this, where and when we find ourselves, is a snapshot of seventy years of [[safety|safe]].
I read.\n\nIt's one of my strengths, wherever we go.\n\nI read and I [[learn|normal]]. \n\nBooks, scrolls, files, rocks.\n\nAt first it was because I was trying to find us a loophole. Somewhere we could be [[safe]].\n\nNow it's just so that I can get my bearings as fast as possible.\n\n(I wonder if any of those skills will be necessary any more?)
We've come to the same conclusion.\n\nWe always had to. After all this time, it's impossible for us to think that differently.\n\n[[>]]
I've learned to rank things.\n\nIt's the best way I've found to keep my mind clear.\n\nI try not to rank the moments that involve you, though.\n\nUsually it's family members. Deaths. Sometimes it's [[nights]]. [[Reunions|reunions]].\n\nIt's hard to rank reunions. They're all [[perfect|perfection]].
Certain tendencies never change.\n\nThey make it easier for me to recognise you, even if I do [[make mistakes|my mistakes]] sometimes (and so do [[you|your mistakes]])(and sometimes [[both of us|parents' day]].
(after all, who could I be, without you to define myself against?)
I followed you in the newspapers, on the TV.\n\nYou didn't have time to reply to my letters.\n\n[[I was proud of you.|pride]]\n
- and you had looked up at me with those [[eyes|eye]] and told me it was never your words I heard. It hadn't been you talking. It had been your illness.\n\nI think that killed the both of us.
That doesn't surprise me.\n\nYou've been an engineer on a [[spaceship|rocket]], after all.\n\nUniversity should be a breeze.\n\nIt almost feels like [[cheating]].
And here [[I|me]] am, with my [[sister]], and we are secure and [[warm|fire]] and [[certain|certainty]] and more lost than we’ve ever [[been|missing]].
//Purity//.\n\nPlease.\n\nI don't know why you try to maintain some of these appearances. The two of us lost any such [[innocence]] a long, long time ago.\n\nI could be more [[specific|locations]], if you like.
I don't know where you end or I begin any more.\n\n[[We've melted into one another.|reward]]
After all these deaths, you start to wonder.\n\nDid I bring this on myself? Of course I did.\n\nDo I deserve this? Of course I don't.\n\nAnd your wondering wanders astray and you begin to never expect anything to change.\n\nUp to ten minutes ago, my eternal existence was laid out in fear and pain and suffering and staggered breaths while I waited to see you again - \n\nand now -
For a greater chance at success next time around, I have watched you [[leave]] countless times over. \n\nStared at your back as you staggered away, were taken away, led away, walked yourself away head held up proudly.\n\n(not to say you were always the one doing the [[abandoning]])\n\n(and I suppose that 'greater chance' - well - \nit seems the time for next time around is gone.)
You are all there [[ever]] is.
I don't think I even know how to be happy without you [[any more.]]
The nights we spend together tend to be greater than the days.\n\nPerhaps because we are safer, or because we think we are [[safer|safe]].\n\nWrapped up in each other, left alone in the dark without the rest of the [[world]].\n\nYou and me, huddled [[together|perfection]].
Without a choice, I stood again, and picked my sword from the floor, and with one [[merciful stroke]] took your head [[off]]?
[[Every time|war]] I kill you, I //do// try to do it with [[mercy|seven times]], which is more than can be said [[for you]].
Except to wonder if they might be you.\n\nThey [[usually|parents' day]] aren't.
The revolution would have raised itself with or without me.\nBut as it was, it raised itself with me, and we stood at opposite sides of your court and [[recognised one another|rebel recognition]].
You have a tendency to laugh at me when I talk about my own [[pride]].\n\nI'll never change, though, in the hope that I might be able to [[change]] just that one thing about you.\n\n(I refuse to give up whatever it is I still have left)
And I’m sorry you had to attend my funeral three days later. \n\nThat wasn’t fair. I was so young [[that time round]], so desperate to please.
(do you remember? Do you remember when I was trapped, and we desperately, hopelessly pressed against the glass, inches thick, imagining your hand against mine as the water rose? Do you remember waiting the twenty-four hours until my air was gone, and my pitifully begging you to stay with me?\n\nmaking you [[watch]]?)
[[You are waiting for me to make up my mind.]]
You'd think I would have stopped judging by appearance by now, but some things seem to never change. \n\nI guess that's why I make mistakes. Why [[we|parents' day]], sometimes, //both// make mistakes. It's certainly why we invented our [[greeting]].\n
[[(except, perhaps, right now)|so long]]
Only a moment to stare.\n\nThen the screams.\n\nYou were of a high enough status, or, at least, high-profile enough for it to be called an assassination.\n\nA sniper from a high window.\n\nI wish it had been //your// [[scream|screaming]]. I would have recognised you, and even if you'd gone on ahead of me -\n\n[[well, at least everything would have made sense to me, that way.]]
You are a university student, you tell me in whispers. You’re studying [[engineering]].\n\nI am studying [[history]].\n\nWe are the same age. At the same stage of our lives. Walking down the same paths we always do, when we have the opportunity.\n\nThis is a normal world, and we [[are normal.]]
We move our faces together, go to press our lips together, a slight smile on your face as I have to stand up on my toes to [[reach you]]\n
There must be many delights in this world that no-one but us has ever - //could// ever - experience.\n\n[[Reuniting|spread over my face]]. Being new again.\n\n[[The delight of finding you again.|failure]]
No, not our last chance.\n\nOur chances are exhausted. Our attempts are finished. One last round, and then we bow.\n\nOne last dance, then?
It wasn't one of my top one hundred kisses, I'll admit. Too bloody.\nBut you were glorious. You've always been glorious.\nI'm sorry about what I did [[next|cheered for your death]].
So I raised my hand and I pretended that your refusal to look at me was you granting me permission.\n\nI'd make it up to you, I promised myself.\n\n[[I suppose I never did.|returns]]\n
You've surrounded yourself with friends. I'm glad. You always have [[drawn|magnetism]] people towards you. \n\nThey [[look|judging by appearance]]...friendly.\n\nThey also look extremely confused by the two of us.\n
[[After all, we've won.]]
I'm not sure if 'good' and 'evil' even exist for the two of us any more.\n\nI'll admit it seems like overselling the role we play in the world to say that we've transcended those sorts of terms.\n\nIn fact, it's completely inaccurate. You and I have never changed the world in any meaningful way. We try to meet, we fail, we start again. We're trapped by the world's rules as much as anyone else is.\n\nSo not transcend. It's more that our world has shrunk down to just the [[two of us]] to the degree that I can't find it in me to care any more about what the rest of it is.\n\nYou're my world, and I'm your [[satellite.|magnetism]]
Whatever sacrifices I must make to drive us onwards.\n\nAnd now here we [[are|are.]], at the place I've been pushing towards all this time.
I had incited an entire country to rebellion, and I took it [[upon myself]] to pay for what I had done to you. To finish what I was doing to you.
This has to be it. There's no room for uncertainty.\n\nBut I can't escape these thoughts that tell me - \n\nnot to hold myself back, certainly not that. No part of my body is preaching restraint. No part of me wants to spend another instant away from you, but\n\n(//is this it?// The darkest whispers I've never heard before)\n\nTo lie on grassy fields, cut out the world, and bathe in the sunlight for the next seventy years of bliss. To raise [[kids]], [[maybe]].
Just you and me, genuinely, arm in arm, growing [[old]] together.\n\n[[Growing old together.]]\n
and walking our separate ways, going back to our own separate families and children and loved - 'loved'? - ones\n\nand knowing this was a reprieve or a sacrifice for our families or a loss or a win\n\n[[and then]]
These sorts of [[moments|reunions]] aren't meant to sneak up on us like this.\n\nWithout fanfare, without a slowly sneaking sense of suspicion, without any sort of [[climactic build-up|lost]].\n\nWe're not meant to just...run into one-another. That's not how this works. Not how it's ever worked before.\n
But as it was, I ran from the gallery to find a crowd bleeding out of the estate and you bleeding out over the concrete walkway.\n\nHalf your head was gone, but you were choking out your dying breaths, and amidst the pink haze in your eyes something must have become clear to you.\n\nOne of your glistening, bloodied hands reached out towards me, and your mouth gaped in a grin, because //you knew me//.\n\n[[But I didn't know you.]]
Making amends the next time around is my favourite part.\n\nWell, that and [[reuniting|greeting]], of course.\n\nTiny moments that, up to now, have been making all of these deaths worthwhile.\n\nThere won't be any more of those now.
Perhaps we simply both made innocent mistakes, had stared into a stranger’s eyes long enough to convince ourselves that I had found you again, that you had found me.\n\n(maybe we'd thought //that// was our victory)\n\nIt was [[too long ago|time]] and I've forgotten.\n\nI remember what happened [[next]], though.\n
Sometimes I feel as though I've lost track of our time. \nOther times every minute [[rests|weight]] on my shoulders and I feel as though I must creep across the earth, old and tired and feeble.\n\nRight [[here]], right [[now|this moment in time]], I am [[new]] again.
I had been hired as an investigative journalist. The media just couldn't crack you; you'd be on the news every week, preaching your message - death, resurrection, and faces, all of the faces of god.\n\n(no-one ever saw those faces. No-one outside that building.)\n\nI can't remember half the things you would say. But I remember how much I longed to have that much [[certainty]] in my life, that much purpose.\n\n(it was one of the lives where every day I was falling deeper into a bottomless pit of meaninglessness and loss)\n(because I'd lost you and it was one of the times I couldn't [[remember|memory]] I'd lost you)\n[[(which meant I'd lost myself)]]
This finale has just fallen into our hands.\n\nA hundred thousand identities scream at me to [[claim what they've worked for]], died for, waited for for [[so long]].\n\n(//Screaming// in my ears to claim the happiness I've never had the opportunity - the [[courage]] - to lay claim to before).
We move slowly, symmetrically, settled into these new glowing [[rhythms|greeting]] that we have for aeons. Fingertips sliding, we press palms.\n\nYoung hands. Young skin.\n\n(I can't quite believe I'll be able to watch you age as I do)\n\n([[Growing old together.]])
And of course your eyes change. Could you imagine having the same eyes in every one of the hundred thousand faces you've had?\n\nAnd there's no recognisable look in your eyes. Eyes are just eyes; they don't portray a lonesome, aching soul. They portray eyes.\n\nBut you should know that I //do// think they're very attractive eyes. All of your eyes have been, and are.\n\n[[The|you]] ones you have [[right now|this moment in time]] are quite nice, too.