I dreamed up this story the other week and thought I’d share it here to get some thoughts from folks. I’m still pondering the nature of this world, and how this story will unfold, but I do like this first scene.
My name is Sollen, and I am an Introspector. I wish to all the gods above that I wasn’t.
My story begins as a cliche fairy story. You see, the Kingdom into which I was born always had an Introspector. This person, born with a mark placed there by the heavens, was able to see the systems people put into place.
What I saw, always, were the cracks in what people built. I saw marriages falling apart, even before the wedding. I saw partnerships between the closest of friends descend into bitterness and rivalry. I saw the most noble of government endeavors become rotted with corruption. No foundation was whole. It seemed everything around me was crumbling.
It was awful. My earliest memories are seeing the marKings of decay on my mother. I was too young to know what they were, and had yet to be checked for the mark so I had no one to guide me. But as an adult I now realize what they meant. The link between my mother and unborn sister was broken. So weak, in fact, that my sister would never be born. She died as she emerged from my mother, and my mother would perish with her. If those were your first memories, it would be hard enough, but then I saw what my mother’s death did to my father. The bonds of love and caring which I’d seen in my family became a woven mesh of cracks. Six months later my father disappeared. It hurt, but I knew it was coming. I’d seen it in him.
I grew up with the family of my mother’s sister. They fed me, clothed me, and tolerated me. But I never again saw the bonds of love which had so illuminated my parents. Being able to see how unloving people are to one another will do strange things to your spirit.
At twelve the children of my village were checked for the mark. Our old Introspector had died at the age of forty, taKing his own life. I suppose then that I should have realized that the life of an Introspector would not be joyous. During the inspection I was found to bear the mark, which caused an gasp to whisper through my former neighbors. My aunt and uncle were paid such a large a sum of money they couldn’t help but beam at their good fortune. Already I saw the crack of jealously a greed growing on the connection between them. The scribes of the King’s Order then whisked me away to their mammoth libraries to be trained to fill my new role. I never saw my village again.
The first thing I learned in my training was literally beaten into me, I was never to touch another human being. Ever. Whenever I would forget this rule, by brushing against the hands of a food server or bumping into someone in the hallway, my tutors would hit my body with sticks until I was nothing but bruises. The beatings hurt, but my tutors were not unkind, they explained to me the dangers any human contact could have for an Introspector. “When we begin to train your spirit, young one, touching a person could overwhelm your mind. You would burn from within and be lost to madness.” That’s the second lesson I learned in my training, the cracks I’d seen since I was child were dangerous. Dangerous for me, and for others.
So why would the Kingdom want someone who could fill the role of Introspector if it was so dangerous? Because Introspectors served as the chief advisor to our kings. We saw through diplomatic niceties and informed our liege of other nation’s true intentions. We revealed the true hearts of flattering ministers so the King would know who he could trust. We even watched the health of the royal marriage, lest the kingdom be left without an heir. It was heady work, standing by the King day after day, privy to the kingdoms greatest secrets.
I hated every minute of it. Imagine never being able to have human contact. Imagine the burden of seeing the hidden thoughts and intentions of every person and organization with which you ever come into contact. Imagine people watching everything you did, to the point where ever choosing one food vendor over another could ruin someone’s livelihood. I was alone.
So after ten years I did what no other Introspector before me had done, I took the right of retirement. I’d been alone in my Aunt and Uncle’s home. I’d been alone as I was trained as a child. I lived alone at the very heart of the Kingdom. So when I retired I decided to make being alone my choice. I moved far to the north and lived in a small homestead, all myself. For eight years I enjoyed the pleasure of solitude, with not a single reminder of my curse to haunt me.
Until he showed up.
I’d just come back from gathering water for my daily washing when I found him standing by my small hut. When he saw me he fell to his face in homage.
“It’s you! I’ve searched so long, and now I’ve found you at last.”
I’d not used my voice much since I retired, so it took me a moment to find it. “What do you want?” I wasn’t happy to see someone in my yard.
“Oh holy one,” the man breathed. “I want you to heal me!”
In spite of myself, when the man made mention of needing to be healed I looked down and saw him. Sure enough, the angry red cracks of illness formed a web across his entire being. The man didn’t have long to live. But it didn’t change anything.
“I can’t heal you. You’ve wasted your time. Go home.”
I turned and began to walk past him, but the man grabbed my robe and forced me to halt.
“No! No, I know you can! The masters lied to you. If you touch my illness you can command it healed. I’ve studied the old histories, and searched out books long thought destroyed. I know what you are, I know who you are. You can heal me! Please, holy one, don’t ignore my plea.”
I don’t know if it was the pleading in the man’s voice or my years of solitude, but as I looked again at the man with my Introspector’s vision a surge of compassion filled me.
God’s forgive me. I touched him.