One for the Many
By Chaos Blackwing
Staring out of the window at the night beyond, the young man had a pained look on his face, one of resigned sadness.
“It’s started, hasn’t it?” he asked the one crouching in the shadows behind him.
“Yes, it has.” The inhuman though familiar voice responded.
Sighing, the man once more asked the question he’d asked countless times, even though he knew the answer by heart, staring out the window all the while, and trying not to think of what was happening beyond it.
“Was there really no other way?”
As the individual stood up from it’s crouched position, it’s form unfolded until a body straight from a nightmare was revealed. Monster, beast... werewolf. More than anything though, the man thought of the other as ‘friend’, having known him for years.
The werewolf silently padded up to the man, gently placing a massive hand on one of his shoulders, as he leaned forward to look out the window as well. His voice level though tinged with sorrow, he responded.
“No, there was not. We tried, you know as well as anyone that we tried, but ultimately our hand was forced. Them or Us, one race or the planet and everything on it. I’m sorry.”
Reaching a hand up, the man laid it over the furred one, never breaking his gaze out into the night even as a silent tear rolled down his cheek at the thought of so much death, so much loss.
“What happens now?”
Gently squeezing the shoulder, the wolf’s voice was outwardly steady, though the man, having known him for so long, was able to detect that the fearsome creature was only just holding his emotions in check. Had he looked back and up, he would have seen that he was not the only one with misty eyes.
“Now... now mankind dies. Small pockets, those who are able to live in a world without advanced technology will be allowed to survive so that the race will avoid extinction, but for most, this night, and the day that follows, will be their last.”
Looking down at the cluster of lights at the base of the mountain, the main had to ask, even as he feared he already knew the answer.
The silence from behind was all the answer he needed, and another tear ran down the man’s cheek, thinking of those that would be no-more come morning. Though a loner by inclination, he’d still visited the small town often enough to have several acquaintances there, people he’d enjoyed the company of.
The other questions answered, the man finally asked the one that had been sitting on his mind the entire time, so much more insignificant compared to what was happening, yet infinitely more important in it’s own way.
“And me? What is my fate, on the day humanity dies?”
Again a squeeze of the shoulder, though on both sides now, as the were laid his free hand on the other side.
“That is up to you. You are not the only one who has shown a willingness to adapt to the world around you, rather than seek to control it. Not the only one to face those of us who live in the shadows of the modern world and hold out a hand of friendship, rather than anger, and you, and those like you, will have a choice.”
Even as he stared forward, the man’s attention was on the one behind him, and the words that rumbled through his body due to the close proximity.
“What choice would that be?”
A pause, silent and yet significant was the reply, as though the wolf was gathering his courage for what he would say next.
“To live alongside those you have befriended, a simpler life, working with the world, rather than against it. Or... or you could choose death, to die tonight alongside your race.”
Put like that, the choice seemed simple, and yet the wolf wasn’t done.
“Before you answer, keep in mind, if you choose life you will spend the rest of your life alone in a very real sense. What’s left of humanity will be scattered across the globe, and it’s very likely that you will live, and die, without every seeing another human. You will have the company of others like myself, will have the choice to live as we do as much as you can, but never again will you meet, speak to, or know another of your race.”
Again a silent pause, as though the wolf was waiting for the man to digest what he’d just been told, before he continued.
“You will also have to deal with the fact that you are alive, that you were allowed to choose, while everyone else you have known, the vast majority of humanity, was given no choice, and died as a result. To spend the rest of your life with that burden, knowing that you are alive while everyone else is dead, is likely to be a heavy burden to bear.”
The man was silent as he thought over what his friend had just told him, the choice he’d been presented with, and the consequences of each. To live, knowing that he was one of the very few of his race that remained, knowing that he had survived when others had not... or to die, to join humanity in it’s effective extinction.
As he thought over the heavy choice he’d been presented with, a thought flickered in his mind.
“If you’re here, and offering the choice, does that mean- ?”
A heavy silence was his only response, yet it told him everything. His friend was willing to take such a task on his own shoulders, to present the options to him directly, even if he could have passed it on to another, knowing what it could mean, what he would have to do.
It was this, ultimately, that allowed the man to make his decision. It would be hard he was sure, and he had no doubts that a great many sleepless nights awaited him, but with a friend like this, he was sure he’d manage to make it through. Gently reaching up, he picked up the hands covering his shoulders, removing them and allowing him to turn around and face the wolf behind him. Looking up into the golden eyes, his words were simple, yet significant for both of them.
“There will be enough death tonight, I don’t see any reason to add another to it, do you?” Scratching his head a bit in embarrassment, the man continued. “I uh... imagine I’ll need a little help though, what with the food and all. I may be okay for some things on my own, but transitioning to having to find, grow, and prepare my own food will take some getting used to.”
When he heard the first part of the man’s response, it was as though a great weight had been lifted off of the werewolf’s shoulders. He would not have to do the unthinkable for his friend. As the man continued, the relief was replaced with humor, and the wolf chuckled at the words as he patted the man on the shoulder, smiling down at him.
“That my friend is something that I and others in the area will be more than happy to help you with. We know things might be rough, but we’ll do everything we can to make sure you don’t regret your choice. But enough of such maudlin thoughts, the moon is full, and the night wonderful, let us enjoy it and put such worries off for another time.”
Stopping to grab his coat, the man followed his friend into the cool night air, and the sounds of nature that surrounded his house. Mourning for what was lost could be delayed, for now, there was a beautiful night sky to admire, winding paths through the trees to walk, and a friend to enjoy both with.
(Inspired by another story, 'Sliding Time', by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann, wherein a race tasked with guiding and protecting the life of their planet was forced to kill one of the races they had guided to sentience, in order to protect the balance and health of the rest of the planet, and the thought of 'What would that have been like, to be there as it happened?')