The fighting is over: the torches put out, the citizens asleep. The pitchforks back in their bales of hay-- as if pretending that they weren't once something else, something so much uglier just hours before.
A piece of your conscience balks at the high horse you've seated yourself on. (click-append: "on.") [ (text-style: "italic")[And you weren't pretending as though you were loftier than this when you made Him?] It seems to say. (text-style: "italic")[All that talk of creation and life. Playing God.](click-append:"Playing God.")[
Stop waxing philosophical.]]
The moon is high and round overhead and you only have so many hours of that light left before they all wake up again, and your chance is lost. Dirty work at still hours in the driving rain.
(set: $eye=false) (set: $hand=false) (set:$heart=false)
The churchtower is rubble. The embers grew bored and died in smoke long ago, the pews now naked wooden ribs in neat rows beneath a roof torn away. You can still see where some of the handholds are in the sole piece of the building left standing. (click-append:"standing.")[ It used to be the tallest thing in town. Now? Not even half as high as the Livery building.]
Hm. (click-append:"Hm.")[ There's gotta be some piece of Him around here somewhere.]
To the West is the edge of the churchyard that borders the forest, dark and deep.
To the East is the graveyard, surprisingly less ruined than the rest of St. Agnes' Congregation of the Sacred Heart.
Further North, past the ashes, is the schoolhouse. You aren't sure what state it's in, if it escaped the destruction.
Where to look?
(if: $eye is true and $hand is true and $heart is true)[[[South.|Return to the Town.]]]The townsfolk avoided the forest like a plague. You spat on their fairytales and waved off hushed rumors as so much drivel. The forest is just that: a forest. Nothing more, nothing less.(click-append:"nothing less.")[(text-style: "italic")[
He always did like the forest. You took him here to teach him lots of words: "tree", "river", "swim", "careful". He smiled so big when you first let him splash, loud and unapologetic for what he was.]]
[[Look by the old oak tree.]]
[[Walk down to the brook.]]You go East, to the Graveyard.
Graves. (click-append:"Graves.")[ And graves.(click-append:"And graves.")[ And graves. (click-append:"And graves.")[ And graves. (click-append:"and graves.")[All sorts of people.]]]]
It's been a while since you came here. You know that the rumor around town was this is where you found the parts to make Him, but that's just silly. (click-append:"silly.") [ Anything dug up from here would be half-rotten away, and hardly serviceable. No, it was far easier to steal parts from bodies donated to science at the University the next town over. Better condition.]
Still, you did come here. Not for the reasons they think you did. You just... You have someone to pay respects to, just like everyone else. Contrary to popular belief you do hold some respect for the dead.
You glance around the rows of headstones.
[[Check the Mausoleum.]]
[[Check the back rows.]]
[[Check the graves next to the rubble.]]The schoolhouse slumps where it stands, creaky and dilapidated. The wood of the steps sags with the weight of gravity and time, the single-room and smudged chalkboard on one wall visible through the gap in the shuttered windows. The roof was probably serviceable until the storm blew in tonight, but that's a thing of the past at this point.(click-append:"the past at this point.")[(text-style: "italic")[
You could never take Him here to be educated. He looked like a grown man but he was a child in his own mind. You remember coming here to get picture books and making flashcards to teach Him letters and numbers. (click-append:"letters and numbers.")[
1, 2, 3. A, B, C. He soaked it in and asked for more. You were so surprised to see the joy in his eyes at any and all new information-- hungry for knowledge, thirsty for the world.] (Click-append:"the world.")[
And it was the people of the world that killed him.]]]
[[You don't see anything here.]]There's a gnarled old thing that holds court among the trees near the edge of the woods, close enough to the church you can see the outline of the ruins against the moonlight, far enough that they might have missed destroying a piece of him. If you measured the circumference and did some calculating you could estimate how old it is, but it doesn't take much mental math to estimate somewhere upwards of one hundred years.
(click-append:"one hundred years.")[ (text-style: "italic")
[He asked if he could live one hundred years, too. You didn't know. He hoped he would. So did you.]]
[[Look at the roots.]]There's a little trail in the dirt, like a ball rolled into the stream and the path stops. It must have been carried down-- you follow the brook along as it eddies around smooth stones and piles of fall leaves. (click-append:"fall leaves.")[
You know that this little flow of water is but a trifle compared to the rushing river it derives from-- the same river that supplies power to the local mill, that gives water to the fish and frogs, that roars and thundered with the clouds now, in the driving rain. (click-append:"rain.")[
(text-style: "italic")[He had watched just yesterday as it washed away a home built too close to the riverbank, had cried for hours after at the loss.(click-append:"the loss.") [
You? You didn't cry, because living so much life takes the punch out of tragedy.]]]]
[[What's that?|The Eye]]If anything fell from him, it would end up down here. The roots extend into branching brackets carpeted in moss and lichen, splitting, at the vee, smaller and smaller until they disappear into the forest floor below. Some of them go so far as to dip into the river. Toes in the water.
[[There, what's that?|The Eye]]Caught in the loose grip of two roots on the bank of the stream, a glistening, wet eyeball. There's still a nerve attached to the back of it.
(if: $heart is false and $hand is false)[Finally, a piece of him.] You bend down to pick it up. Much as you know you really should distance yourself more from your projects, a thought lingers in the back of your mind.(click-append:"your mind.")[ (text-style: "italic")[
The last time you saw this eye, it was looking at you. Pleading with you. Trying to understand why people hated Him so.
"Because people fear what they don't understand," You said, and squeezed His hand, "And when people fear, people hate."]]
He deserved so much more than what this world had to offer.
[[Circle back to the Church.|Look around.]]
(set: $eye=true)This is all you found of Him. All that's left. The vibrance and life you created, the person you brought into this world... reduced.(click-append:"reduced.")[
To an eye.(click-append:"an eye.")[
A heart.(click-append:"A heart.")[
A hand.(click-append:"A hand.")[
You sigh, and turn to the town's skyline.(click-append:"skyline.")[
So very, very small.
At the end of the row is the mausoleum, a standing monument for some grand old Ozymandias type who thought a big marble building meant having a legacy. (click-replace:"legacy.")[
You thought He might be your legacy-- artificial life, what had once been the provence of the Gods alone now in the hands of men. The townsfolk saw that dream dead.]]
You walk over and take a cursory glance around: nothing stands out.
[[Check the back rows.]]
[[Check the graves next to the rubble.]]You cast your eyes over to the long-neglected graves near the fence that marks the perimeter of the Churchyard. (click-append:"perimeter of the Churchyard.")[
Poor sods. No flowers left on those headstones-- they are either too old or too poor, or maybe had no connections at all left to mourn their passing.]
There's no way any piece of Him could have made it out there.
[[Check the Mausoleum.]]
[[Check the graves next to the rubble.]]You walk along the row nearest to the ruins of St. Agnes', looking for any sign of a piece of Him. There's a trail of bloodstained grass that looks promising.
It's not hard to follow it. (click-append:"follow it.")[ The trail is big-- about as broad as your palm-- and rolls between the headstones of the Howe family plot, listing to one side and stopping beneath a withered bouquet.(click-append:"bouquet.")[
His heart is off-grey and limp, pierced through with holes from so many pitchforks, leaking the last little bit of blood it has trapped in its chambers. (click-append:"chambers.")[ (text-style: "italic")[
You remember when it began beating for the first time-- the elation, the vindication!] (click-append:"vindication!")[
And now here it lies. You pick it up. It feels so heavy in your hand.
(set: $heart=true)The Schoolhouse is so far from where the fight happened, it seems unlikely that any piece of Him would have ended up at this distance. (click-append:"at this distance.")[ You must be at least fifty meters from what was once the steps of St. Agnes'.]
As you turn to try some other location, something catches your eye--(click-append:"something catches your eye--")[
There. Leaning against a ruined wall of the church, half-covered by an ashy iron cross, you pick out the shape of a few fingers. A palm. His hand.(click-append:"His hand.")[(text-style: "italic")[
You held His hand when He first awoke, blinking into the light of a brand new world and the soft glow of candles and lamps strewn about your lab. At first He couldn't make more than groaning noises, or crying-- a child, truly, and there was some sort of irony in that fact seeing as you were never very maternal in the first place.(click-append:"in the first place.")[
But He was yours, and you wouldn't have traded that for anything.]]]]
You take His hand, one last time.