Letter to Tya
Science-Fiction / 6500 words
PREFACE: I announced a dystopian piece for this week, but I changed my plans! I decided to submit “The Human Dilemma” to some magazines. So instead, I am offering you this other story—one of my personal favorites! Hope you’ll enjoy it. And while I’m here, I should mention that I’ve pushed back the launch of my novel to May 11—but I’ll tell you all about that next week.
I make no apologies for the things that I have done. I seek not forgiveness, nor even redemption. You have been in this world a few hours only, my sweet little Tya, and all I wish is for you to understand.
By the time you read this, you will likely have heard many stories about me. But this, my love, is the truth.
It can be summed up thusly: I was involved in three wars. I was a victim of the first, a soldier in the second, and I started the third.
I was born fifty-six years ago on Bernice, to Garlen Sylusiewicz and Perla al’Haffir. Father was a renowned robotician of syrin descent, while mother had enjoyed a successful—albeit brief—career as a mydlon performer. She renounced the limelight when she became pregnant, preferring to focus on parenthood, although one could tell from her often absent gaze that she longed for her old life. I’ve never admitted this to anyone before, but I always felt some guilt because of this, as if I were somehow responsible for her choice and for keeping her away from that which she loved the most.
My childhood was a happy and fairly uneventful one. Thanks to my parents’ wealth and fame, I attended the best schools on the planet. I had many friends in those days, friends I could truly trust and depend on. One of these was Shadrach Belyr. The echo sculptor, yes. He and I grew up together, exploring the depths of the Twinning Caves in our spare time—where Drach first manifested his unique talent—and getting ourselves into all sorts of trouble, as one might expect from kids our age.
I had dreams, of course, dreams of adventure and grandeur. I thought of becoming a space explorer. Does this make you smile? It was no joke to me, however, as I was very serious about it for many years. Until my dreams were crushed.
I was thirteen when I first sensed the mounting tension in the streets. Even at home, though father and mother would smile at me and avoid discussing serious matters, I could feel an unfamiliar tinge of wrongness in their voices and gestures. Something was troubling them, along with every other adult on Bernice.
It was Drach who uncovered the truth. While snooping in the affairs of his father, who worked for the local government, he found documents. We did not fully comprehend these at the time, but they spoke of anger, strikes, and revolts. Those words we knew.
Soon, the news was all over the media: unhappy citizens were voicing their discontent throughout the Pyrean Empire. This period of civil unrest lasted a few weeks. It then shifted to riots and other forms of violence which would eventually lead to the Gzery-Nimskin War.
But I am not writing to lecture you on this historical event of which you most likely already know more than I. The only reason I mention it is because my father decided to get involved. Note the choice of words. He was not forcibly enrolled, as so many others were—and as he might have been expected to be, considering his very specific area of expertise. No. He believed in the government and yearned for a return to the old peaceful days. He felt that, with his knowledge, he could be useful and contribute to a quicker resolution of the conflict. That some had been forced into the military bothered him tremendously, but he chose to ignore his feelings on the matter, hoping that his involvement may shorten the war and thus render further forced recruitments unnecessary. I suppose one could call him either naïve or arrogant—possibly a bit of both. Me, I thought of him as courageous. I still do.
Two months after he left, and a mere two days since our last communication with him, mother received a very official notification informing her that father had been killed.
That was it. Straight and to the point. No details, no apologies, no consideration whatsoever for our grief. As if the letter had been typed by a robot—which is somewhat ironic in retrospect.
This made me angry. Did these people have no feelings?
The first seeds of rebellion had been sown.
The following years were difficult.
The war ended with the rise of a new Emperor, and mother decided we should move to some other world, where the memories would not hurt so much. I would miss Drach—and my other friends—but I did not argue.
With father gone, I had to work to pay the bills. To be honest, it was not really necessary as we had been granted a very generous monthly pension from the government. However, it was that same government that I held responsible for father’s death. Not to mention their total lack of tact in their very formal letter which, in a sense, was even worse. Neither of us wanted their money. We could not send it back either, so mother put it aside.
I held a number of small jobs, from apprentice woodworker to hotel clerk, to cashier, to waiter... As I grew older, I found myself more and more often in government-related positions: postal clerk, tax collector, Embassy receptionist... This was not on purpose. It just happened. However, it gave me a unique perspective on the inner workings of the Empire and the corruption which afflicted it.
Then one day, I met Retz.
Mother and I had been living on Gamurra, where I was now an assistant to a high-ranked government official. After a scandal broke involving several senators, a crisis counselor was brought in.
The man was six feet tall with dark penetrating eyes and a nasty scar under his right eye. Everyone would fall quiet whenever he entered a room. There was something about him that induced respect...
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it was not respect, it was fear. But Tya, my dear Tya, I must tell you that meeting Retz was perhaps the one most instructive and enriching experience of my life—even though I only understood its full significance many years later. And one of the lessons I learned was that fear is respect.
Through him, I learned many other things as well. Among which, the art of managing a crisis. The things he could do fascinated me just as much as the man himself. And he never shied away from using extreme measures when necessary.
Before I could fully comprehend the extent to which he had impacted my life, he was gone, his mission completed. I never saw him again, but I often thought of the way he handled things and of the words he used. Whenever I’d find myself in a difficult position, I’d take a break and ask myself: what would Retz do?
It even saved my life on a couple of occasions.
By the time I turned eighteen, I finally had a stable job with a steady income. We were not rich, but we were doing well enough. My mother was also working. Since she had given up playing mydlon, she started teaching it. Her classes were popular, which gave her a sense of purpose.
We lived in a small apartment near the docks. Although our standing had improved, our neighbors were still struggling. I was constantly reminded of the precarious conditions that most had to endure, of the elusive nature of security, and of the fragility of men’s resolve. I was acutely aware that our own fate could change at any moment, for I had witnessed too many rises and falls to still entertain any illusions on that matter.
I think it was around this time that I became involved in social programs. My heart would sink every time I saw homeless people in the streets begging for help. So I decided to help in my own way.
Epiphany was dedicated to helping the community through a variety of missions. Some members would collect food, others financial donations... I volunteered in the housing project, as I thought my work in the government might be of use in that department.
You must be surprised to read about this, I suppose. History does not like to remember positive things about those it labels as monsters. Maybe you don’t believe it to be true. I can’t blame you. I’ll admit to having told many lies in my life, but I would not lie to you. Not here, not now, not ever. Besides, there are records of this. So if you don’t trust me, go to Gamurra. You will find evidence there.
Those were very busy days for me. When I was not at work, I was at Epiphany. I’d often get home late, too exhausted to talk. I’d just eat and sleep. Then the cycle would start over at dawn.
It was a dreary life, but I realize now that it was on design. At least, on a subconscious level. It kept my mind from thinking about anything else than what it was doing at any given moment. Although I was exposed to inequalities on a daily basis, I did not want to really think about it. Because I knew that if I did, it would make me sick to my stomach. There was nothing I could do about it, so it was best to drown myself in work and forget. And in some ways, Epiphany was a form of redemption. I felt guilty that I worked in the government and yet was so powerless to make any actual changes.
Ironic to speak of redemption at such an early stage of my story. I was so naïve at the time. I did not yet know what sin was, let alone what it felt like to yearn for true redemption.
One winter night—I remember it quite vividly—there was an explosion at a warehouse where some homeless had been housed while we worked on finding them a more permanent shelter. Fifty-six of them died, while the other twenty-three were severely injured.
There had been resentment for years about those men and women who, most often through no fault of their own, had found themselves outcasts and abandoned by society. I had even heard such talk from colleagues at work.
An investigation revealed that not only had the explosion been criminal, but also that it had been caused by members of law enforcement. There was a lengthy trial but, in the end, the culprits were simply assigned to desk duty and suffered a small decrease in salary. The public was outraged. Government officials did nothing. After a while, things settled down and the guilty officers were quietly reinstated.
Though historians have offered numerous theories on the topic, I like to think that this incident was the initial spark that led, years later, to the civil war.
Becoming Dervak Anath’s assistant probably was the best thing that ever happened to me. As an emissary for the Empire, he would take me everywhere with him. This allowed me to travel to many worlds. This experience truly opened my eyes.
I knew things were bad on Gamurra, but I did not realize just how corrupt and ill the entire system had become. My home planet was a fairly accurate reflection of the overall conditions.
Our missions would also often take us outside of the Empire. One case in particular that remains etched in my mind was the time when we visited Gzer.
When Dervak had mentioned our destination, I’d felt apprehensive. In my eyes, they were in great part responsible for the death of my father. I tried to pull out of the assignment, but Anath would have none of it. He claimed there was no one else that he would rather take with him, so I reluctantly relented.
The Gzer are an odd race. Not only because of their lizard-like appearance, which can be quite unsettling, but also—and more importantly—because of their manners and customs.
One can never know what one of them truly thinks, as it is considered very rude in their society to be honest. They have, by necessity, become masters at lying. Some have argued that it is easy to understand them as they tend to simply say the opposite of what they mean. For having dealt with them frequently, I can assure you that it is not quite that simple. If they say that they would like to take a walk with you, it could indeed mean that they would rather stay indoor to chat. But it could also mean that they’d rather see you dead than be seen anywhere near you.
As you might have guessed, dealing with them was a nightmare. Dervak, however, proved just as good at double-talk.
Those, too, were instructive experiences. I’ve mentioned before how I became an expert liar... it did not happen in a vacuum. I learned from the best.
While we were on Gzer, there was an incident.
A member of the Tzark class had followed us into a vrann, a restaurant. As soon as we sat down, it started to curse at us. Knowing that they never meant what they said, we assumed they were being polite and cursed back. We hadn’t noticed the reactions around us, as our attention had been focused on that one individual, but others were becoming increasingly agitated.
Gzer society is complex, and what we did not know at the time is that the Tzark are outcasts, considered an abomination by others. Why, you ask? Because, unlike the vast majority of the Gzer, this minority did speak their mind. And they hated offworlders with a passion. The cursing was very real, and our responses were making our verbal aggressor even more aggressive.
The witnesses were upset for many reasons. The presence of a Tzark, for one, was an aberration. But the worst of it was that the only proper response to such an indecent attack, in their eyes, would have been silence and ignorance. Our words, per se, did not shock them, as we were not Tzark, so they knew we did not mean them, but the mere fact that we had answered was enough to anger them.
I only understood all this later. At the time, I was just startled. I could sense that something was off, but had no clue what. Nor did I have much time to guess, as things quickly escalated.
The Tzark suddenly lifted his arm and punched Dervak in the face. Repeatedly. I jumped out of my chair and pushed the assailant away from my bleeding mentor. I saw him draw a weapon and my blood boiled. Before I could think, I grabbed his hand and tried to take the gun from him. We struggled for a moment, and suddenly a blast came out of the weapon. The Tzark fell to the ground. Dead.
There was silence in the vrann as all the lizard patrons stared at me. The authorities arrived just about then.
As diplomats from the Pyrean Empire, we were not held long. In fact, we were offered apologies (in the form of stern reprimands) and advised to never interact with a Tzark in the future (that is to say, we were told to “talk nonstop if you see one again”). They also urged us to always be rude to strangers... which meant deceitful. Yes, I know, that sounds like they were saying what they meant. But you must remember that, to them, deceit is politeness.
That night, when I was alone in my bed, with the lights turned off, I cried. I felt soiled and broken.
I hope you never experience taking another person’s life, my Tya. It is a traumatic experience that can have devastating psychological repercussions. It certainly changed me in ways I could not even comprehend at the time. Some say that the first time is the hardest, that it gets easier every time you take a life again... Sadly, I can attest to the truth of that.
But I was young and inexperienced back then. The realization of what I’d done only struck me when I was lying there in the dark. I struggled with that trauma for years... though the crimes I later committed did make it easier to cope, until it eventually became just one small mental scar among so many others.
Back on Gamurra, things were fast devolving. Because of a large influx of immigrants—fleeing wars and poverty in other parts of the empire—unemployment had soared. In turn, this intensified restlessness and anger. Those who feared things they did not understand grew bolder. The hatred in their hearts, that had festered for years, was voiced through violence.
Protests turned into riots. Riots turned into conflict. Before we knew it, the planet was plunged into civil war.
As a member of the government, I was automatically drafted into the army, without a damn say, and ordered to go into the streets and use lethal force against our own people.
Instead of trying to understand them, instead of healing the pain and desperation, we added to the chaos by crushing their spirits and their bodies.
I did what I was asked, but I hated every minute of it.
Though I’ll admit that it became easier when one day I came home to find the door broken down and my mother dead. They had eviscerated her, as if she were a pig. I was in such a rage that day that I slaughtered everyone that I found in the halls.
My mother was the most loving person I had ever known. She would never have hurt a fly. Her fate was punishment for her association with me. As a soldier, I had become the enemy. They never forgave my mother for that... As if she’d had anything to do with it.
Well, if they wanted to act like monsters, I would treat them as such.
It did not last, of course. It was anger that blinded me, that turned me into that same monster that my neighbors had become.
That, too, was a valuable lesson. Horror begets horror. And once you start down that path, it can be very difficult to pull out. Things tend to spiral out of control.
And they did. Things got much worse before they got any better.
But I will not bore you with the details. History books are full of them. I’m not writing this to pretend like those events did not happen. While History does often tend to rewrite itself, it takes a lot of time for that to happen. This war is recent enough that you can trust what you’ve read about it. Those writings have not yet been tainted by the political correctness of governmental institutions.
As you know, the madness lasted over a year. Though I came to my senses before that and decided to escape the hell that Gamurra had become... Yes, you’ve read that right. I deserted.
Can you blame me? I did not want to kill anymore, and I most definitely did not want to be killed either. What other option did I have? Unlike my father, I had not chosen that life. Nor was I the only one to flee. I went with some of my comrades in arms.
The irony here is that without this moment in my life, none of what followed would have been possible. For these men that I went with would later become my followers, my saints, my soldiers.
By now, I was 25, on the run, without a job, without money... I had lost everything. The friends I had traveled with were not quite friends yet. So we parted ways, each trying to survive as best we could, little knowing that someday our paths would cross again.
Because I was a deserter, I had to hide from the very government I had once worked for. This gave me an edge, though, as I had a good understanding of how the system functioned. I moved to the fringes of the empire, assumed a new name, and took on small menial jobs that would keep me under the radar.
It was also during those years that, by necessity, I began a life of crime. Nothing as grandiose as some would have you believe. At first, it was just little things. It started with fake ID cards to go with the new name. That took me into certain shady circles where I made connections that would later become quite useful.
The wages I earned were meager, so I soon started using those contacts to increase my income. Like selling them items I’d steal from stalls or, after my skills improved, from bags and purses while their owners were looking away.
I said I would tell you no lies, so I must admit that I enjoyed it. It was an exhilarating experience. Not so much the stealing itself, but rather the actions that led to it. This, too, was a form of deception, as much as Gzer speech was. Knowing that I could take something with no one noticing it was oddly comforting.
Then, one day, I met Tya.
Did that make you laugh? I hope it did. I like to think of you amused by what I write. So much of it is dark and depressing that a bit of light can only do good to the soul, yes?
You must have guessed of course that this Tya was the woman you were named after. Your grandmother. She, too, was a lovely person. In fact, she reminded me very much of my own mother.
I might shock you though when I reveal where and how we met. Or perhaps it will make you laugh again... one can hope!
On that memorable day, I had decided to go to the beach. I needed a break from the dull routine of my life. So I rented a room at a cheap resort, then went out for a swim.
When I returned, I found that someone had broken into my room and rummaged through my things. They had found my stash of money and taken a few valuables as well. I was pissed.
As any law-abiding citizen would (the irony, I know!) I immediately reported the theft to the personnel. The manager was very apologetic but informed me that I wasn’t the first victim. Consequently, they had increased security. Most notably, they had added cameras in the halls across from every door. He invited me to watch the footage with him.
What we saw was a woman with long gray hair, clearly in her sixties, picking the lock, entering, then coming back out with my stuff. She was identified as one Tya Rander, a retired nurse who lived in a house nearby.
The manager offered to call the authorities, but I declined, stating that I would not press charges if I could talk to the woman. Maybe we could work things out and avoid her unnecessary strain. He gave me an odd look but agreed, though he warned that he’d have to take action at some point, because of her previous thefts.
To cut a long story short, I went to Tya’s house and we had a nice little chat. I warned her that the authorities would be coming for her, and she thanked me by returning my belongings.
I suppose I should explain that, in those circles, there were ways to recognize each other. This was vital for our survival. We needed to know who was one of us, and who was not. Needless to say, I made her understand right away that I was in. It made the rest go much more smoothly.
She truly was a lovely woman.
The one question I’ve perhaps been asked the most in my life, is how did the rebellion start? It always baffles me, as this is likely the part of my story that has been the most thoroughly documented. I would be tempted to skip this entirely and refer you to the history books instead. However, this is my life story and it would feel very odd to omit these important events.
In truth, it started with a raid.
I was now into my thirties and had dropped my day job as I’d reached a point where I was earning more from my criminal activities. I had branched out into arms dealing, which was a much more lucrative business than petty theft.
The world I lived on, which was called Wyumihn, was somewhat isolated from the empire—which was the reason I, and most of my fellow crooks, had moved there in the first place. Over the years, the underworld spread through all layers of society, to the point where the local economy became entirely dependent on our activities. It was corruption again, but a form of corruption that I found easier to accept and condone than the more insidious and hypocritical form I had been complicit with in my previous life. We were corrupt, yes, but at least we did not pretend that we were not.
It was around this time that some of my former comrades in arms started to show up. News of our growth had reached them, and they had come seeking fame and wealth.
Such expansion had a dizzying effect on us, myself included. We felt powerful and invincible. But it also blinded us. Had we given it more thought, we would have realized that expansion also draws attention. And attention was exactly what we had all gone there to avoid.
And so it was that, one day, irritated with our growth, the Pyrean Empire came knocking.
It was sudden. It was brutal.
Warships suddenly appeared in the sky and, before we knew it, there were thousands of troops on the ground. Recordings blared warnings that civilians should stay home, that any found in the streets would be arrested and that any who resisted arrest would be shot dead on the spot. They had a job to do and they would waste no time doing it.
Resistance there was. And bloodshed there was. But not all of it ours. We had weapons, too, and were not willing to give up without a fight. For most of us, capture would have meant lifetime sentences or even the death penalty. We had nothing to lose. Better to die fighting than to leave our fate in the hands of a government that we no longer recognized as legitimate.
That, perhaps more than anything else, was the single most important revelation that came out of that whole mess. We had been so caught up in our everyday outlaw activities, that we never really gave much thought to the bigger picture. It’s ironic, because had they left us alone, we’d probably still be leading those same little pathetic lives.
They had caught us by surprise, but we had the advantage of terrain. We knew the planet by heart. And we had fortified hideouts, which we used to our benefit.
Within twenty-four hours, they had officially taken over the planet and turned it into a more integral part of the empire. There were official reports to that effect, claiming total victory over the opposition. They even started opening tourist attractions—the gall!
The reality is that we were still there and fighting like our lives depended on it—because they did. But we had become, through an odd twist of fate, a force of resistance... one that the local population—many of whom were our friends, our families, our lovers—was actually rooting for.
There was no love for Pyra on our world.
The occupation—that’s what we called it, because that’s what it was—lasted two years. Those were perhaps the most difficult ones of my life. Two years filled with strife, hunger, stress, blood, rage... There was little respite. But we gave back as much as we received. Every time they would destroy one of our hideouts, we would blow up one of their highest-profile buildings. Every time they killed one of ours, we would kill one of theirs. We never relented.
On a more positive note, it was during these dark days that I saw Tya again... and met your mother. She likes to say it was love at first sight. It wasn’t. Your mother is a romantic. She likes fantasy. She often makes up stories in her head. I think it was a coping mechanism, especially at the time, a way to escape the harsh reality of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong. I thought Lussi was pretty, and I enjoyed being around her. But I had no place then for love in my heart, even less so time for it. It truly was the last thing on my mind. Though I guess, deep inside, perhaps things had been set into motion. But it was only much later that I understood how I felt about her. Yes, much later.
Tya, because of her background as a nurse, had come to help with our wounded. Lussi was her assistant... despite her tendency to faint at the sight of blood! Did you know that about your mother? Still, she was a trooper. She had no more love for the Emperor than any of us did, so she wanted to help any way she could.
The status quo was ended when we overtook the main Pyrean military base and their embassy on the same day. It was a momentous victory that was later called a “liberation” by the locals.
This essentially gave us back control of the planet.
There still were many obstacles to deal with, of course, such as the enemy soldiers that outnumbered us, or the high probability of seeing more of them brought over. But in those two dreadful years, our leaders had had time to think about all that and had come up with solutions.
We had scientists in our team who had created a virus that allowed us to block all outgoing communications. Once in the control center, they hacked into the system to ground all the ships. As for the soldiers, a series of high-pitched frequencies were sent through their communication devices. These were designed to knock them unconscious. We would then send teams to their locations—which we could obtain from the trackers on their uniforms—so they could be stripped of their weapons and thrown into cells.
Within a few hours, it was over.
The next step was to deal with the Pyrean government.
A message was sent, announcing our takeover of the planet and our declaration of independence. Pyra was warned that any attack against us would lead to the execution of the prisoners; that the only acceptable response would be their recognition of our status as an independent nation; that if such recognition was made, publicly, all prisoners would be safely released.
If you think that was a reckless move, Tya, I agree.
By the time all this was happening, I had moved up the ladders of hierarchy and was finding myself, once again, a member of the government. After the message to Pyra was sent, they started forming a more official structure. As a result, I was given the frivolous title of “minister of the people”... as if ministers should be anything but.
Many came to Wyumihn then, to join our “noble cause” (their words, not mine!) They had heard of the war—who hadn’t?—and wanted to be a part of anything daring enough to stand against the mighty Pyra.
But, as was to be expected, Pyra did not take to any of this kindly.
I think part of me already knew what was to come, and what would need to be done. I never talked about it, because even to me it felt insane and unrealistic. But I was also convinced that nothing else would work... we would never be safe if we did not take more extreme measures.
There was no way Pyra would give in to our demands. I think we all knew it, on some level. Except maybe our leaders who lived in a fantasy world. I guess it will be no surprise to you that your mother liked them.
What was bound to happen happened three days later. More ships arrived. More troops descended on us. Our leaders had claimed that we’d execute our prisoners if Pyra attacked, but that was just a bluff. Besides, how would we have been able to do that when we’d have to run for our lives?
How could we possibly take on an empire as powerful as Pyra? It was pure folly.
By the time the second wave of Pyrean soldiers had arrived, a plan had formed in my head. When our leaders were killed, I found myself in an unexpected position of leadership, a position that allowed me to set my plan into motion on a bigger scale than what I had first envisioned.
If we stayed on Wyumihn, we would be forced back underground for who knows how many more years. We would fall into a never-ending cycle of terror and death.
No. The only way out was, literally, out.
We still had control of some of the ships. The window of opportunity would not last long. We’d have to move fast. So I gave quick instructions and by nightfall we had spread our numbers in twenty ships without rising any alarms—they were hunting for us in the streets, never expecting us to go for the stars.
That planet had been our home for a long time, but we were not really attached to it. We took with us those who mattered: families, friends, lovers. And then we were gone.
But that was only the first part of my plan.
Pyra would hunt us anywhere we went. Because we were deserters, criminals, rebels. There would be no peace for us. Unless...
We could have left the empire and settled on some new uninhabited world. Maybe someone else would have led us in this fashion. But I was in charge now, and that was not what I wanted.
All my life I had been hurt, manipulated, or hunted by the Pyrean government. All my life I had been witness to their corruption and utter disdain for the people. All my life I had suffered under the tyranny of the Emperor. I’d had enough. There would be no more of that.
It was time to take the fight to them.
There were two more phases to my plan.
First, we became pirates. We’d hit Pyrean ships when and where they least expected it. We’d steal cargoes and kill their men. No quarters. I wanted them to fear us. To fear me. Yes, I’ll admit it, I wanted my name to ring in their ears, to hurt their brains. I didn’t care about fame, but I cared about bringing dread into their hearts.
Var Danek! The scourge of a thousand worlds!
In this, I succeeded. Reports of our attacks spread like wildfire. Some cursed my name, others praised it. The latter were the oppressed, many of whom would join us whenever the opportunity arose.
The goal of this phase was threefold. To grow in numbers; to gather more weapons and ships; to ensure our notoriety.
But my endgame was in the last phase.
After five years of pirating, we started striking planets. We had grown enough by then that we could take on even large armies. Everywhere we went, we sowed destruction and death. We would spare civilians, but we showed no mercy for those bearing weapons or wearing military outfits.
Each planet we took, we would leave under the guard of a sizable force. I’d name a temporary governor—one of my former comrades from the civil war—to oversee local matters and, more importantly, recruit more men to help fight.
I’ll admit it... I purposefully cultivated an aura of mysticism. It was not my doing, at first. Because of my actions and of my growing army, and the fear my name struck in the hearts of men, some venerated me. It still feels odd to say it, but I suppose it is part of human nature to deify those who seem powerful, elusive, inaccessible... I quickly realized how I could use this to my advantage. That was when I began to encourage such behavior, and even fed it with made-up lore—with the help of your mother! Lussi, because of her vivid imagination, turned out quite good at crafting this godlike version of me. But I’ll let her tell you all about that.
Speaking of your mother, it was around this time that I realized my feelings for her. I think she disliked the man I was then, but she still loved the one I had been and fantasized over the one I could become. For that reason, she agreed to marry me.
But I digress...
Having people believe I was a god made it easier to recruit. Much, much easier. It felt like we were unstoppable. I think the Emperor may have believed that as well, because I started receiving invitations to parley. But I had no interest in what he had to say. I had my plan and would stick to it, no matter what. There was no other way.
And that way was a simple one... though overall it required more than a decade to build up to and to set into motion.
We were going to invade Pyra itself, and I would take the throne.
I have been called many things. A messiah, a monster, a liberator, a tyrant... some of those terms are accurate, others preposterous, but all of them are more revealing of the persons who speak them than of my person.
As you know, we took Pyra after a long and bloody war. Atrocities were committed on civilians. Men were decapitated, women raped, children burned... I did not condone those actions. But the fervor of the pious can lead to such horrors. It was the price to pay for my manipulations. I had not foreseen this darker turn of events. Again, I had been blinded by my obsession.
Sometimes I wonder about my choices. I wanted to liberate the empire from tyranny, but I realize now that I simply replaced it with zealous fanatics that are, in essence, just as corrupt—albeit in a different fashion. A corruption of the mind, if you will. But it is like a disease that spreads faster than I can control. I don’t think I am a monster, but I do believe that I have created one that will devour the empire until it is no more... and for this, I mourn. For this will be my legacy, struck by infamy.
I’ve always wondered if, aside from my parents’ cleverness, I had not inherited something darker, more obscure, from my distant syrin ancestors.
It has been six years now since I’ve taken the throne, and I have little time left to live. Doctors can no longer do anything. My illness has spread, much like the illness that sickens the empire. I feel it is a fitting punishment for my crimes.
I wrote earlier that I make no apologies for the things that I have done, that I seek not forgiveness, nor even redemption... I meant it. For you are here now, my sweet little Tya, and that is all that matters.
My only regret is that I will never know you. I will not see you grow. I will not be able to hold you in my arms and tell you how much I love you. You could have been my redemption. Perhaps you already are, in a way. Because, somehow, despite all that I have done, I was able to bring some beauty and some love into this world...
I only wish that could be my legacy.
Want to read more of my Science-Fiction stories? Check out these titles, if you haven’t already:
If you enjoyed this story, please feel free to forward it to your friends or to share it on social media.
And don’t forget to like by clicking the little heart below this post ;)
Text (c) 2022 by Alex S. Garcia.
Header: royalty-free stock images, edited by me.
Want to read more free stuff?
Sign up to Refind for a large selection of nonfiction (and some fiction.)
For free genre stories, click on the banner below.