I'm a Jedi.
As I stand at attention, brooding over the setting of the suns, I idly wonder how a single word can have such an impact on me. I wonder at the way it conjures up conflict within my soul as both bitterness and serenity grapple with each other for ultimate supremacy.
I also wonder at the irony of the glittering luminaries before me, leading one another on a giggling chase, seemingly oblivious to their imminent deaths. Their beauty is all the more heartbreaking as darkness looms ever nearer, anxious to engulf their shimmering light and confine it into its murky depths.
My hands, sweaty with the dirt and grime of this planet I detest, are firmly clasped behind my back, completing the fa?ade of control that I am determined to project, a fa?ade that would crumble were I to lose the restraint that I violently impose upon my limbs. My emotions, however, are rebellious, and will not submit to such repression.
Which, of course, is nothing new.
Were he here with me on this unyielding rock ledge, gazing across the desolation of the Jundland Wastes, Master Obi-Wan would tell me to be mindful of my thoughts. He would tell me to meditate in order to clear my mind and quiet its roaring cacophony. Perhaps I should. Perhaps, were I to recite the Jedi Code?
There it is again. That word.
It calls to mind honor, glory?everything that is noble and good, all enveloped in the warm embrace of the Light Side of the Force.
Happiness steals over me, as it always does when thoughts of the Force and my place within it come to me. All my life I have been immersed in its love, a love reminiscent of a warm cloak in the depths of space. I remember the way it shielded me from harm long before I was old enough to understand its import. The way I was its tawny-headed prince, and it was my luminous playmate. The way it whispered to me at all hours, filling the world with gleaming white. The way it comforted me when no one else was around to do so.
I wonder at its current silence?
I won't look back. There's no need. If I must persist in wallowing in this self-inflicted agony, I can find more than enough pain to sate me in the memory of last night, when the blanket was rudely yanked away. When suddenly, it wasn't the warm glow of the Light Side that enveloped me. It was something infinitely darker, more menacing. It fed like a rancor upon the fear that I have always possessed, but never acknowledged.
Will I ever see you again?
My right shoulder gives an involuntary spasm, which I quickly suppress. I bite back the sob that strains to break free of my lips, and I blink away the bitter tears that always pool in my eyes when I think of her. The fear whose icy fingers have gripped me since boyhood returns yet again to claim me as its own.
Don't look back?
Somehow, I have always been afraid of losing her. When I left her, a boy of nine, I couldn't shake the horrible feeling that something would happen to keep me from returning to her.
No, I wasn't afraid. I was certain that I would never see her again, or that, when I did, it would be too late. I knew that as surely as I knew that the suns would come up every morning, and that it would never rain on my home world. It was a premonition; I realize that now. And when it finally came to fruition, and all that I loved had deserted me, I was granted the strength to avenge myself against the things responsible for my agony.
Fear is the path to the Dark Side?
The Dark Side. That is the Force that I touched last night. My emotions abruptly shift again, yanking me from fear to lust, as I remember the exhilaration of having sheer power, complete and unadulterated, coursing through my veins and rendering itself at my beck and call. A power that sprung from a Force that was cold in its fury, and glittering in its majesty.
Though even now my conscience hastens to inform me that I did far more than touch it.
You used it, Ani?
Yes, I suppose I did. But when I found her in that hellish tent with her wrists lashed to a primitive beam - frail, emaciated, and completely alone?
Even as a hoarse scream of pain and fury escapes my lips to reverberate across the empty desert, another tremor is born in my shoulder, and it will not be silenced. Instead, it makes its electric way down my forearm, across my elbow, and into my fist.
Instead of being calmly linked behind me, my hands are now tense coils at my sides. It is well that I am alone. I resign myself to the familiar emotions and force myself to remember how I held her limp body to me as she took her last shuddering breath.
When she died, and in my arms, no less - the very arms that were supposed to save her from her untimely end - it was then that I knew true impotence. It was then that I felt completely powerless. It was then that it flooded me, and before I knew it, I was drowning in its bitter embrace. It filled the void that was the world after she left me, and gave me an anchor - something besides fear to hold on to.
Fear leads to anger?
"Anger." What a pitifully trite word. As if anger could begin to describe the way my muscles began to convulse, the way my teeth began to clench and unclench in unison with my fists, the way my breathing grew ragged, the way that it was suddenly molten lava, and not blood, that flowed through my constricted veins. The way that, before I knew it, my lightsaber was not only in my hand, it was ignited and humming in a sinister fashion as my stormy eyes hunted for revenge, and found it.
Anger leads to hate?
"Hate." It wasn't a simple matter of hate. Oh, it was far more than that. It was being alone with a whole herd of the demons responsible for her death. It was having my sense of justice ruthlessly slighted by leering monsters. It was smiling in malicious glee as I beheaded the first Tusken Raider. And the next. And the next?
Hate leads to suffering?
I feel my lips twist into a feral grin. Oh, yes, they suffered. I made them suffer. I made them cringe before me, begging for mercy, only to be ruthlessly forced into the inexorable grip of death at the hands of my implacable lightsaber.
And they deserved every bit of it. A more wretched specimen of vermin I have never been suffered to look upon in my life. They torture and kill without reason, without pity?without remorse.
Now my entire body is trembling with my rage, and a cold sweat breaks out on my forehead as I fiercely pull my composure back into place. The fact that I possess this capacity - difficult though it may be to exercise - is what separates me from the animals. The Tuskens.
For though they also possess a rage, it is a mindless one, one that they direct against the entire universe without discrimination. It was a service to the galaxy to exterminate them.
Undoubtedly, they deserved it.
But you didn't have to kill the children, Ani. You didn't have to kill them.
I shake my head emphatically, trying to shunt away the piercing accusations of what remains of my battered conscience even as I recognize the truth of its charges. After I had killed my first Tusken Raider, something more than "anger" or "hate" was motivating me to continue in my frenzied slaughter. It was an intoxicating sense of power that bordered on euphoria, a power that pervaded all of my senses and left in my mouth the bittersweet taste of the blood I was spilling. The thrill of being able to kill with impunity, and the need to satisfy a craving that belonged to a Force far more compelling than my own whims, controlled my actions after that point.
And so I continued. I didn't stop until I was surrounded by dozens of corpses whose putrid stench pervaded the air. But now?
Now that the fury, the mindless rage that gave me my strength has deserted me, and I am free from the clutches of whatever demon possessed me, cool reason is returning to me. And now?I can see their faces.
The panic-stricken expressions of the children that were at play before the onslaught began. The fiercely protective stances of the women that melted into a hopelessness expressed through every pore of their being. The bravado of the men that gave way to sheer terror as they trembled before my blade.
Such visages will haunt me for the rest of my life.
One of the suns has set, and the other is well on its way. For the only time in the day, Tatooine is truly beautiful. But its beauty is but another fa?ade. Some are inspired to poetry by the crimson hues created with the sparkling decent of its golden orbs; I look at the scarlet colors and see blood. Fire.
I'm a Jedi.
And yet I'm not. No Jedi worth his lightsaber would have - could have - mercilessly exterminated an entire camp of sentient beings the way I did last night.
Their compassion makes them weak.
I ignore the other voice that resides within me, invading my quiet introspection with its evil insinuations. I know now that nothing, no one, can absolve me of what I have done. Last night, I was standing at a great precipice. I chose to jump, and now true innocence is lost to me forever. With that knowledge burdening me, the only thing keeping my tortured soul from dissipating into the chaos of the Dark Side is?her.
Oh, my angel. All that I have left in the world resides within those luminous eyes. Even now I sense her distress. She is afraid for me, alone in the harsh wasteland that is Tatooine with the night swiftly approaching. She is afraid of what I might do to myself in my current state of mind. She wishes me to let go of whatever is haunting me and return to the homestead, to her, where I will be safe. She is seriously considering disregarding both my stated wish to be alone and her own safety to come looking for me.
By the keeper of the stars, I love her. And more. I can't imagine life without her. If I should ever lose her?Force help the galaxy. She is my only remaining anchor to goodness and light now.
You haven't learned anything, Anakin.
I crumble to the rocky ground with a sigh of disgust. Much as it pains me to admit it at this moment, my master is right. My eyes again well up with tears as the implications of what I have done finally become clear to me. The actions that I took last night were a betrayal of everything I have learned and know to be honorable.
And all for naught. My mother is dead. And buried. No amount of bloodshed will ever nullify that fact. In my bumbling attempt to avenge the atrocity of her murder, I have only succeeded in creating another one, one far more glaring. A deep shame fills me, heating the teardrops as they make their salty way down my face, and I wonder if I will ever learn.
It is night now. Though the light of the suns was all-encompassing not an hour ago, now only the slightest hint of vermilion colors the horizon to indicate that it was ever there. The heat has also dissipated, leaving chill winds in its wake.
With a start, I realize that my angel is becoming frantic. I must go. I rise from the rock face, wrapping my coarse robe tightly around my lean frame, and I feel my strength slowly beginning to return to me.
The Force is speaking to me again, comforting me in my anguish as if years had not passed since I was its wide-eyed playmate.
As I make my precarious way to the homestead, I realize that I will learn. I must. Somewhere deep within me, there still resides the capacity to do good. Perhaps, someday, the good that I will accomplish will be enough to outweigh the heinous crimes that I have committed.
That you have yet to commit.
An involuntary shudder passes through me as I once again feel an ominous sense of foreboding that tells me the worst is yet to come. I must thrust away these perverse feelings that threaten to overwhelm me and lead me off captive to the Dark Side. I must get down to the business of doing good, of saving lives?of living up to what it means to be a Jedi. I must redeem myself before this baseless hatred costs me everything I love.
I know I'm better than this.
Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.