The Land Called Myself
The pine forest was so far away from his home that he couldn’t even recognize the smell of anything. After a whole year of being away from it, he thought he’d have forgotten those old scents anyway, but even now he could tell this place was so different from his old home that he may as well have stepped foot into another world. But it didn’t matter. He didn’t like this place all that much more than his village, and would probably leave come next morning.
The more he moved, the less real it all felt. Every day it seemed he would wake, stand and march off to some other pointless piece of land. He hated the feeling of his feet planted on the ground, only carrying on so he could lift them as he walked to whichever place he’d end up next.
As he set out his camping supplies, he realised he was finally running low. When he thought about how much food he’d eaten over the past year, he chuckled. What a pointless activity.
The mat he laid down upon was uncomfortable, but made for a man, it was larger than his size. He enraptured himself in it, and tried sleeping. At least his dreams felt real while he was having them. In the waking world, he couldn’t be sure of anything at all.
He heard the rustle of a bear nearby.
It had been a long time since he had needed to kill an animal. A few bucks, a wolf, and a snake was all he’d slain. He didn’t know why he’d done that. As he heard the bear continue to search, he considered something he’d always dreamt of.
An axe couldn’t kill him. That he knew. But perhaps… a bear, with all its vigor, if it was to eat him… even he couldn’t understand how he’d live through that. Surely, if he was dissolved inside the belly of a great animal… then maybe he could finally dream for more than a few hours at a time.
The boy stood, revealing himself to the animal, but what he saw was not a bear. A knight clad in thin purple armor carrying little but a gallon of dark liquid came approaching his bed.
“You… who are you?”
The knight stepped forward to the boy, examining his face.
“Are you… going to kill me?”
“𝕀 𝕕𝕠𝕟’𝕥 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕟 𝕨𝕚𝕤𝕙 𝕥𝕠 𝕙𝕒𝕣𝕞 𝕪𝕠𝕦.”
“What… are you… you…” the boy’s mind forced him to remember the reverberating androgynous voice- the sound of metal as internal cords rubbed against it just under the words.
“𝕀 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕟𝕜 𝕪𝕠𝕦. 𝔸𝕟𝕕, 𝕚𝕗 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕚𝕤𝕙, 𝕥𝕠 𝕙𝕖𝕝𝕡 𝕪𝕠𝕦.”
“I don’t need helping…”
“𝕀’𝕧𝕖 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕝𝕠𝕠𝕜𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕪𝕠𝕦. 𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕤𝕒𝕧𝕖𝕕 𝕞𝕖, 𝕤𝕠 𝕀’𝕝𝕝 𝕤𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦.”
“Save me from what…? My bastard of a father is dead… what else is there to save me from?”
“𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕥𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕟𝕖𝕤𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕙𝕖𝕒𝕣𝕥.”
The boy stared down at a pinecone. “What stillness?”
“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕗𝕖𝕖𝕝 𝕟𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘. 𝕀 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕤𝕖𝕖 𝕚𝕥 𝕚𝕟 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕖𝕪𝕖𝕤. 𝔾𝕚𝕧𝕖𝕟 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕖𝕝𝕦𝕤𝕚𝕧𝕖𝕟𝕖𝕤𝕤, 𝕀 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕠𝕟𝕝𝕪 𝕒𝕤𝕤𝕦𝕞𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕞𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕓𝕖 𝕥𝕣𝕒𝕧𝕖𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕕𝕒𝕚𝕝𝕪. 𝕎𝕙𝕪 𝕚𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥? 𝔸𝕣𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕒𝕗𝕣𝕒𝕚𝕕 𝕠𝕗 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘?”
“Everyone’s afraid of something… for me it’s just… well, I don’t know what.” He tried to tell if the robot was joking or making a fool of him. “That’s not how I’d have explained it though. Who knows why I go where I go. I just move because my body tells me to.”
“𝕀𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕟𝕠𝕥 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪 𝕕𝕖𝕗𝕚𝕟𝕚𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕠𝕗 𝕗𝕖𝕒𝕣? 𝕋𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕟𝕥𝕣𝕠𝕝𝕝𝕖𝕕 𝕓𝕪 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕠𝕨𝕟 𝕤𝕖𝕟𝕤𝕖𝕤?”
“Suppose it is. Who am I to argue?”
“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕕𝕠𝕟’𝕥 𝕜𝕟𝕠𝕨 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤, 𝕓𝕦𝕥 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣 𝕨𝕒𝕪𝕤 𝕥𝕠 𝕝𝕚𝕧𝕖. 𝕆𝕟𝕖𝕤 𝕞𝕠𝕣𝕖 𝕡𝕖𝕒𝕔𝕖𝕗𝕦𝕝 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤.”
“And I guess you’d know all about that, huh.”
“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕕𝕠𝕟’𝕥 𝕜𝕟𝕠𝕨 𝕨𝕙𝕠 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕒𝕣𝕖.”
“…” the boy scowled. “Course I know who I am, I’m me. Anything else is superficial.” He stepped on a fallen tree and used it to gain height over the metallic soldier. “You’ve seen those people in town. They’re fake, right down to their hearts. Not an honest bone in their body. They cast their whole selves, their entire lives out of their stupid jobs or whoever they want to have kids with. And that’s all it is, really: a gamified system for reproduction. Out here, at least I know I’m me.”
“ℕ𝕠𝕥 𝕞𝕦𝕔𝕙 𝕠𝕗 𝕒 “𝕞𝕖” 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕕 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕥 𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣 𝕡𝕖𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖 𝕒𝕣𝕠𝕦𝕟𝕕.”
“Oh, yeah?” He mocked.
“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕙𝕒𝕥𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕤𝕖 𝕡𝕖𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖 𝕓𝕖𝕔𝕒𝕦𝕤𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕪’𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕖𝕣𝕣𝕚𝕓𝕝𝕖. ℕ𝕠𝕥 𝕓𝕖𝕔𝕒𝕦𝕤𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕪’𝕣𝕖 𝕡𝕖𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖. 𝕊𝕚𝕟𝕔𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕪’𝕣𝕖 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕧𝕖 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕜𝕟𝕠𝕨𝕟, 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕪’𝕧𝕖 𝕞𝕒𝕕𝕖 𝕚𝕥 𝕤𝕠 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕕𝕠𝕟’𝕥 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕥 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 “𝕙𝕦𝕞𝕒𝕟.” 𝕋𝕠 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕘𝕠𝕒𝕝, 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕧𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕠𝕦𝕥 𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕒𝕟 𝕒𝕟𝕚𝕞𝕒𝕝. 𝔹𝕦𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕒𝕟’𝕥 𝕤𝕒𝕪 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕪, 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕪𝕠𝕦?”
“I’m not getting beat and chopped up every day, I think that’s enough.”
“ℍ𝕠𝕨 𝕤𝕖𝕝𝕗𝕝𝕖𝕤𝕤. 𝕐𝕠𝕦’𝕕 𝕓𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕪 𝕚𝕗 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕛𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕦𝕡 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕕𝕚𝕖, 𝕨𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕𝕟’𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦? 𝕋𝕒𝕜𝕖 𝕒 𝕝𝕠𝕒𝕕 𝕠𝕗𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕝𝕕’𝕤 𝕤𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕𝕖𝕣𝕤?”
“…” the boy blinked. “…If I could, then yeah, I would die. I won’t be missing a damn thing in this place.”
“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕒 𝕝𝕚𝕥𝕥𝕝𝕖 𝕘𝕣𝕖𝕖𝕕𝕚𝕖𝕣.”
Troy sat on the log. “…Huh?”
“𝕄𝕪 𝕒𝕣𝕞… 𝕙𝕠𝕨 𝕞𝕦𝕔𝕙 𝕕𝕚𝕕 𝕚𝕥 𝕘𝕠 𝕗𝕠𝕣?”
“Merchant didn’t give it a second glance till I said it was from the machine who invaded town. After that I managed to shake him down for a year’s worth of supplies.”
“𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕’𝕧𝕖 𝕘𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕒𝕟𝕪𝕨𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥, 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕜𝕟𝕠𝕨. 𝔹𝕦𝕥 𝕚𝕟𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕒𝕕, 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕧𝕖 𝕛𝕦𝕤𝕥 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕣𝕖𝕕 𝕒𝕣𝕠𝕦𝕟𝕕 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕤𝕖 𝕓𝕒𝕣𝕣𝕖𝕟 𝕡𝕝𝕒𝕔𝕖𝕤, 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖𝕟’𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦?”
“Sure. I like it here. It’s quiet.”
“𝕃𝕚𝕗𝕖 𝕨𝕠𝕟’𝕥 𝕗𝕖𝕖𝕝 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕥 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕣𝕖𝕞𝕚𝕟𝕕 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕚𝕥 𝕚𝕤.”
“Again with the other people…”
“𝕐𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕤𝕔𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕕 𝕠𝕗 𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣 𝕡𝕖𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖. ℕ𝕠𝕥 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕀 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕓𝕝𝕒𝕞𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦, 𝕒𝕗𝕥𝕖𝕣 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘. 𝔹𝕦𝕥 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕒𝕟’𝕥 𝕞𝕒𝕜𝕖 𝕚𝕥 𝕠𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕚𝕣 𝕠𝕨𝕟.”
Troy groaned. As he stepped off the log, he walked up to his oversized bed and fell down on his back. “So whaddya want me to do, then?”
“𝔹𝕖𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕠𝕟𝕖. 𝕎𝕙𝕠 𝕕𝕠 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕟𝕒 𝕓𝕖, 𝕋𝕣𝕠𝕪?”
Troy snuggled up to the ground. “That’s dream talk. Not for the real world.”
“𝕎𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕟𝕧𝕚𝕔𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟, 𝕚𝕥 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕓𝕖.”
Troy stared at grass.
“𝕋𝕣𝕠𝕪. 𝕄𝕒𝕜𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣𝕤𝕖𝕝𝕗 𝕚𝕟𝕥𝕠 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖. 𝕋𝕙𝕖𝕟, 𝕨𝕙𝕖𝕟 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕤𝕖 𝕚𝕕𝕚𝕠𝕥𝕤 𝕗𝕣𝕠𝕞 𝕥𝕠𝕨𝕟 𝕨𝕚𝕟𝕕 𝕦𝕡 𝕕𝕖𝕒𝕕, 𝕗𝕣𝕠𝕞 𝕠𝕝𝕕 𝕒𝕘𝕖, 𝕠𝕣 𝕓𝕖𝕔𝕒𝕦𝕤𝕖 𝕠𝕗 𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕥𝕦𝕣𝕖𝕤 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕞𝕖… 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕝𝕕 𝕨𝕚𝕝𝕝 𝕓𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕞𝕦𝕔𝕙 𝕞𝕠𝕣𝕖 𝕗𝕦𝕝𝕝 𝕠𝕗 𝕡𝕖𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖. 𝔸𝕟𝕕 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕞𝕖𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕚𝕞𝕖, 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕞𝕖𝕖𝕥 𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣 𝕡𝕖𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖, 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕤𝕙𝕠𝕨 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕞 𝕨𝕙𝕠 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕟𝕒 𝕓𝕖. 𝕊𝕠𝕠𝕟 𝕖𝕟𝕠𝕦𝕘𝕙, 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕝𝕝 𝕓𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕤𝕠𝕟. 𝔸𝕟𝕕 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪 𝕝𝕚𝕗𝕖 𝕨𝕚𝕝𝕝 𝕓𝕖𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕒𝕜𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕠 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕗𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕒𝕤𝕚𝕖𝕤 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕤𝕠 𝕪𝕖𝕒𝕣𝕟 𝕗𝕠𝕣.”
Troy was silent.
“𝕊𝕠? 𝔻𝕠 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕟𝕒 𝕓𝕖, 𝕋𝕣𝕠𝕪?”
Troy murmured something.
“𝕊𝕡𝕖𝕒𝕜 𝕦𝕡 𝕟𝕠𝕨. 𝕐𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕘𝕠𝕒𝕝 𝕒𝕤𝕚𝕕𝕖, 𝕔𝕠𝕟𝕧𝕚𝕔𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟’𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕠𝕟𝕝𝕪 𝕨𝕒𝕪 𝕪𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕘𝕖𝕥𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖.”
“It’s not possible…”
“It’s not possible… what I wanna be, I guess… well… it’s not possible. Wouldn’t be. So, whatever.”
“𝕎𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕨𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖?”
“Well… strong, like you…. made of metal. Would feel nicer… and be a whole lot safer.”
Troy’s whispers floated down to the dirt as he spoke.
“Like I said, impossible. More importantly, hilarious. Do I just dream about… that, because you helped me all that time ago? It’s so strange, but I… I really do wish I could’ve been made like you were… no monster mother or bastard father to take my genes from… and no ugly human face either.”
“𝕀 𝕨𝕒𝕤 𝕞𝕒𝕕𝕖 𝕗𝕣𝕠𝕞 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕝𝕠𝕟𝕖𝕝𝕪 𝕕𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕞𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕟 𝕞𝕦𝕔𝕙 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦. 𝕋𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕕 𝕟𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕒𝕟𝕪𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕞𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕝𝕕. 𝕀 𝕤𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕𝕟’𝕥 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕟 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖. 𝕀 𝕥𝕠𝕠𝕜 𝕞𝕪 𝕙𝕒𝕣𝕧𝕖𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕕 𝕤𝕠𝕦𝕝 𝕗𝕣𝕠𝕞 𝕒 𝕧𝕒𝕞𝕡𝕚𝕣𝕚𝕔 𝕥𝕠𝕥𝕖𝕞 𝕦𝕤𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕓𝕝𝕠𝕠𝕕 𝕥𝕠 𝕠𝕗𝕗𝕖𝕣 𝕥𝕠 𝕒 𝕧𝕒𝕞𝕡𝕚𝕣𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕟𝕥. ℕ𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕚𝕟 𝕞𝕪 𝕝𝕚𝕗𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕤 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕤𝕚𝕓𝕝𝕖.”
“So what you’re saying is…”
“𝕃𝕖𝕥’𝕤 𝕘𝕖𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕨𝕒𝕟𝕥. 𝕋𝕙𝕖𝕟 𝕀’𝕝𝕝 𝕤𝕙𝕠𝕨 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕙𝕠𝕨 𝕕𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕞𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕝𝕕 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 𝕓𝕖.”
“You’ve gone mad…”
They opened their palm to him. “𝕋𝕒𝕜𝕖 𝕞𝕪 𝕙𝕒𝕟𝕕.”
The boy leaned up, sensing the grey clouds over him.
“I guess… it can’t hurt…”
He took their hand, and as he stood, felt a little bit more alive.
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