Dedicated to Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, 1977.
One shot. Two. It startles me to realize that I even have any blood left. The ancient weapon in my brother’s hand cracks through the air louder than thunder.
I don’t know why this surprises me, in retrospect. In fact, it is almost amusing. Just moments before, I accused him of being “too good”: too ignorant and dogmatic for his own good. I always told him that my war would be a different sort of war. But here we are now. The great Avatar of the Earth and magic destroys his evil brother … a disciple of all the Old World’s evil: science and technology.
He kills me with a gun: a weapon given to him by our own magic-loving mother. The sweet and utter hypocrisy of it.
My blood is running out on the rocks. I can feel them crumbling around me as my enchanted projector short circuits, as though really looking at itself and me for the first time, and explodes. But I am far past that trivial detail now. I’m just watching thousands of years of blood, thousands of years of progress and hatred die again.
My brother thinks the cycle has ended. He thinks that the supposed millennia if idyllic peace will return to Montagar again. But it has never ended, and it never ends. While my brother played the beloved Faerie Prince, the favoured child of our dear departed Queen mother Delia, I’d always been hated. Anything different from Faerie and magic in Montagar and its other allied nations was hated … and me most of all.
Oh, I was tolerated. My mother was the Queen after all and she felt at least some familial duty, if not love, towards me. But that was all it was. Tolerance. While my brother played at being hero in our kingdom and other neighbouring nations, I saw things for how they really were.
I saw the petty politics and squabbling between nations. I saw resources and medicines being unequally distributed. There were also the hatreds that magic could not cure. I saw how they treated “the mutants”: the descendants of the peoples who lived in “the nations of technology.” Common propaganda had it that they were inherently stupid or pathetic at best, while greedy and monstrous at the very worst. We, however, believed in the age-old Myth of Magic: that we came from light and airy elemental things beyond humankind.
Of course, that was a lie: though it took me sometime to fully realize it. We were “mutants” ourselves: descendants of the same people we vilified and current believers in a culturally and politically expedient lie.
Still, we could have been merciful: if only in a condescending manner. We could have been more “tolerant.” We could have actually helped them with the powers and resources that were so fortunate to have developed.
Yet no one would. Everyone blamed their ancestors for the destruction of the world: the Old World that we now despised so much. My own mother told me to leave them alone: that science and technology were the evils they unleashed and they were simply paying the price for their folly. Starving, malformed children were paying the price for the supposed sins of ancestors dead millennia ago and this was somehow acceptable. They were “bad people I shouldn’t trouble myself with,” were her more exact words.
But I saw what she really said. I was already a shame enough being more the way I was. It was bad enough that I was darker and uglier than any Faerie that had been born in generations. It was even worse that I was delving into my real nature: building things that didn’t cost the personal energies of magic. A few animals died in experiments which I made to improve life in the lands beyond ours: those areas without the resources they were being denied. I was told that what I was doing was perverse and wrong and that I should stop with my tinkering, my digging into the past … and my journeys into the Badlands.
But what was it about me that made me delve? Why was I born the way I was? What was my purpose in existing at all? I tried to get our kind to benefit those who could not help themselves before there was a sympathy in me, something I could not name then, until …
During one of my excavations in the Badlands, I found what looked like a glass scrying frame. After some time, I’d learned quite a few languages of the Old World. Inside of this artifact–this device–was a story. It was a story a man wrote about a rich and powerful society that subjugated and ignored a class of people beneath it. Over time, these elite grew into an ignorant and passive race while the others, their workers and outcasts, were forced to live underground and become monsters and demons in order to survive.
It was then, reading the writing on that flickering screen from a dead world, that I understood that this man was talking about us.
We had become the indolent, the elite, the Eloi while the workers, the outcasts, the “mutants” were the Morlocks. But I saw how a man with a Machine beyond Time: a paragon of Science changed all of this. The rest of the story was fragmented and corrupted, but I knew what would unite all the peoples on this Earth.
Because I knew, now, what I finally was.
They laughed at me when I told them I had the means to make a better world through “the Machine.” My mother denounced me in front of our subjects: falling fearfully back on the myth of our “magical” pre-human origin. I realized now, more than ever, that I was not like her or my brother. I realized, like the Morlocks of that tale, that I would have to reform this world myself: even if I had to make it reform.
I waited until my mother died until I made my bid for the throne. In hindsight, it was a foolish gesture. I had neither the political backing nor the popular support that I needed to gain and keep the throne I coveted: especially from a people that hated me so much. But it was just as much my right as it was my brother’s and I was not going to let him take it from me without a fight.
Avatar and I fought a potent and destructive mystical duel for this power. But my brother, even then hypocritical, embraced his magic out of anger and nearly destroyed me. I was banished, but I vowed revenge: on all of them. I vowed to my lovers, those Faerie that saw my vision, that I took with me, that we would one day raise our children in a powerful and enlightened dynasty over the pristine lands of our Faerie hypocrite oppressors.
Science destroyed the world and Science would remake it. And I made my army of Morlocks. I found the ancient rallying moving-pictures of the past. My body continued to deteriorate and rot by my magicks and the polluted energies of the Badlands–my Empire that others derisively call Scortch–but soon I would destroy my enemies and bring order to this world.
But all I’ve brought is myself laid out on this black slab of rock: a sacrifice to both the horrors of the past and my own hubris. I can see my last lover flying away, her Faerie wings taking her and the child we made together somewhere beyond my sight.
My son … the wise men said he would be born “a mutant.” He would be born like all the other stillborn and monsters I’ve disposed of. I admit … taking Avatar’s beloved Elinore away from him, turning her on him and warping her spirit was only a shadow of what he cost me. But then I think about all of the people I’ve killed, all the lovers I slaughtered, and my children …
I really look at what I’ve done. Avatar is a hypocrite and cowardly champion for a decadent and uncaring shallow race, but did I make the lives of my fellow mutants any better? Did I show them the beauty of the Old World: of medicine, and artificial food markets, and the leisure to know poetry? Or have I just given them tanks and fighter-planes and stillborn dreams?
I think my brother gave me my wish. As I’m lying here, I remember the times I wished I’d never been born … even when I thought my real purpose was to bring Science back into the world: just as it was for my brother to embody the excellence of what Magic is. Maybe that is why I killed my mutant children: because they reminded me of all my disappointments, all the whispers behind my back, all the rejections, and all of my failures. They reminded me of myself.
I hated them because I hate myself.
But the child the maiden carries away … Maybe he will accept himself where I could not. Maybe he won’t let hate and bitterness consume him. He would not let the hatred and bile that destroyed a dead Old World devour his soul.
The broken projector’s lens flickers on my equally shattered form: as though preserving my fallen body in a tattered shroud of black, white, and grey light. I finally see in a clarity that all the lost colours in the world did not give me.
Yes. Perhaps he … and my brother’s children will succeed where we failed. I think I feel myself smiling as the cliff under me crumbles and I fall. I keep falling: looking up at the sky and my last child as the merciful dark finally takes me to where I was always going to be.