In the stories, one can find a place filled with a world of horror and macabre. Often times, such villainy is thwarted by the acts of brave men and women. These heroes often come in at the very last moment, when near all hope is lost. At the last moment, they are there to bring order back to chaos, to bring peace back to the world. In these moments of self sacrifice, of penance without question, the shadows of the world are pushed back once again so that the sunlight of happy endings can radiate on the populace until the next great evil emerges. Sadly, this is not the state of the world in which we live in.
It is true that the world we all know so well is filled with uncounted horrors. Such travesties as great wars, famine, disease, and of course, evil men are well documented throughout our history; but what of the heroes? What of the ones who put the name of justice above all else, even their own lives, to defend this world against the ominous shade of those who would rather feed on fear and weakness? Far too often there is a cry in the streets, a cry from the alley way that goes unanswered. There is a villain, a monster, one of evil intention, and there is always a victim. Yet, in so many times of need, a hero is yet to be found. The victim takes on what ever this villainous foe has to offer, and then…nothing. The world continues to go on, perhaps a bit darker than it was before, but none-the-less unaffected.
I myself once had the chance to play hero, but like so many before me, I let the fear of that unknown horror climb over me, and at the final moment, when my intervention would have changed the course of events, I hesitated. Until the day I die, I will never forget the screams, the blood, or her eyes. It was her eyes that caused me to take pen to paper and to write this down. Staring into those pools of agony, those eyes that beseeched me for help, I wavered. It was her eyes that first made me take notice of her a day before the horror I would witness…and do nothing to prevent.
It was a warm spring day, not unlike many April mornings I woke up to. The sounds of the ocean could be heard easily from my own bedroom window. The scent of the sea breeze would always do me well to wake me from any overcast slumber still forcing itself into my waking hours. Of course, now, the same smell that made me feel alive makes me wretch with disgust, not only of my memories, but of myself as well.
It was that morning that I saw her for the first time. I did not know her name, and it breaks my heart to know that I will probably never be strong enough to find out what it was, but for all intents and purposes, let us call her Dismay, for whenever I think of her, I can only think of the hopelessness of mankind. I saw her in what I would call the most perfect of beauty. Her hair was tinted dark, brown, and wavy, well past her shoulders. The sundress she wore flirted with the sea breeze almost making the day seem brighter. Her smile seemed to express that even if a dark cloud managed to hide the sun, her lips would kiss it away. Yet, it was her eyes that told me all I would need to know of her. She had such hope and love in those eyes.
The ancient Japanese often said that the eyes were the window to the soul. If that is true, her eyes told me that within her, humanity had hope, that as long as people like her existed, the shadows of the world would always have someone to challenge them. Thinking back on those eyes now, clouded over, dead, I realize that it does not matter if there is someone to hold back the shadows. As I have proven, given time, the shadows shall prevail.
I spent most of that afternoon watching for her to return. I figured that eventually I would see her walking my street once again, heading back to whatever direction she had come from, but as the hours ticked away, and the light of day began to fade, I began to fear I would never again get a chance to see such beauty in nature again. For some reason, deep inside, I knew that if I did not see her again this day, I would never again get the chance.
By the time I finally had the courage to leave my home, the sun was well past the coast line and the first vestiges of night sky began to overcome the horizon. I walked into the dusk, the final bits of day fleeting away far too quickly. I wish I could look back and understand why I had done what I had done. If I had stayed at home instead of follow her trail into the unknown, my sleep would be uninterrupted, my nightmares would be dreams, and my hope…my hope might just still be intact.
How I knew where to go, I believe is entirely due to fate. I am not a man who believes in simple coincidence, at least, not anymore. The sand from the beach blew over the streets here like a semi-desert, coating everything in a fine grain. I was only a mile or so away from the ocean at this point. I could feel its presence, and for the first time in all my life, it overwhelmed me. Call it a premonition if you must, but as I said, coincidence simply does not seem to exist. The ocean became a menacing presence, an all consuming creature. There was no controlling it, for it was chaos in its most perfect design. I listened to the crashing of the waves as if they were the calls from hell itself. I quickened my pace and pulled myself away from the direction of the place that once called me with intrigue and wonder rather than sorrow and fear.
Time passed and dusk turned to darkened night. The stars and moon hid behind heavy clouds as if they did not wish to see the horrors of man in its darkest hours. It was as if their beauty was too much to be tainted by such horrid things. I found myself in a section of this old village I had never been to before, and god willing, I will never return to it again.
As I turned a corner, I came across the silhouette of a woman, heavily bathed in shadows. She must not have noticed me, for she stood perfectly still. I let myself remain in the shadows, entirely content with merely watching. It did not seem natural that such a woman as this should be out in a dark alley at such an hour. It did not occur to me just how wrong this scenario truly looked until a few moments later. That was when I saw the second shadow creep out from the darkness. And it was still moments before I realized that second figure had seen me as well.
In certain cases such as this, cowardice can be just as awarding and bravery. For if I had chosen to run, to go screaming into the night as my instincts told me to, someone of stronger stuff than myself might have come to make things happen differently than they did. I could live with cowardice. If I had been a braver man, I would have approached that second shadow, perhaps raised my voice to make it realize it was no longer the only force here in these alleys. I could have stood my ground and pushed away the shadows just as I knew this woman would have done, had she not been taken by surprise.
All reasoning left my mind when I saw the knife that the second shadow had produced. The world around me simply fell apart. The alley ways, the beach front, the sand in the street, it all vanished to me. In a split second, all that existed what that blade staring strangely at me, as if it was calling me to it. Without understanding what I was doing, I found myself slowly coming closer to the knife until I was mere footsteps away from the man holding it.
Windows to the soul, that’s what the Japanese called them…eyes that is. I saw into this mans soul and I felt like crying out in terror. I looked into the eyes of a monster, I looked into the very window to hell, and it changed me forever. Did it make me better for what I saw? How I wish that was the case. I fear that it has made me worse than an evil man. It made me a fearful man, one too afraid to stop an evil act and one too afraid to run from it either. My horror grew by the moment as the world itself began to reform around me. Air returned to my lungs and instead of coming to my senses, instead of knocking the knife from the mans hands, I continued to stand there staring at it.
Dismay, as I call her now had fear in her face as well, but not in her eyes. Those still flashed with power that I knew I would never hold. She had will that was strong as a titan, but if only she had been granted their strength as well! The one with the knife forced her to her knees and she fell with a grunt. I could see tears running down her face, yet I knew that these tears were not from fright or sadness, they were of frustration. This woman knew that she was not made helpless by her will. She had bravery in her smile, and spirit that I could only dream of having.
I still wonder how such a simple creature such as myself could have extinguishes so much love and light, for when the man with the knife handed the blade over to me, I saw her eyes darken. She knew that I was not the same as her. She knew that I was no hero as she clearly was.
“Take her life, or I’ll take yours,” was all he had said as he handed me the knife. Christ! Even this man of the shadows, this horrible creature from the dark knew that my righteousness was lacking. As I slid the blade across her throat, and felt the blood flow over my hands, she never once cried out. Her bravery held till the very last moment. It felt as if time itself had stopped, and for a moment, I thought a man such as myself could never be able to end a life such as hers. I imagined her standing up, neck sealing by itself, and taking the knife from me. Surly if there was a God in this world that stood for decency, a miracle would have been preformed. But no, time sped up, and I saw her limp form crumple to the street as if she never existed in the first place. Her windows were now shaded and locked for all time.
I looked up at the man in the shadows and saw his smile. I felt as if I screamed, but the fact that I am not in a prison somewhere right now must inform me that I remained silent. I thank whatever praise of God I can that I seem not to have memory of my journey back home, for after I saw the last of her life drain from her body, my own mind seems to cloud over into shadows as well.
That night, I witnessed firsthand what horrors man is capable of, and I finally understand how it can exist so freely in a world such as this. There are no great monsters of our time, no Dracula’s, no wolf men, no Frankenstein creatures, no evil spirits roaming the streets looking for their next victim. All one must do is simply look into the very fabric of mankind to see the true awfulness that resides inside our own souls. We are the monsters we fear at night, we are the true evil behind the black shadows, and we are the betrayers of light. At least, I know that it is true of me. There are no heroes anymore…for we are the destroyers of our own hope.