Willow’s last stand

Prologue: The old man

In my dream, I am an old man living alone in the middle of nowhere. I’ve managed to carve out an existence for myself, cut off almost completely from a world that no longer makes sense, where the balance, rules and fair play I was raised to believe in no longer exist outside my questionable memory.

I occasionally wonder if I’m the only one who does remember those days, and even doubt my own mind often, but I rarely think about it anymore. The people I once loved are gone, but cruel irony has conspired to leave me standing. I was great, once, if memory serves. Not powerful, necessarily, but an influence in some circle of reference I’ve never defined in musing. Once in a while, my old man catches himself imagining that someone still remembers his work, but he brushes the thought away like dust. It doesn’t matter.

In my alternate reality, I have become handy at survival, harnessing solar power, running a clean well and raising rabbits as both company and protein. Lettuce grows in a box under a sunny window and there’s an apple tree in my back yard. It’s enough for me and the bunnies.

I have succeeded in jumping the grid, but at the price of my identity and any connection to the world more than 50 yards from my door. I am not wanted by the Law, but neither am I welcome in “proper” society. It’s all a little vague, but my dreamscape surrounds me and is not concerned with a constructed narrative about my journey to the place where I am – at last – alone.

Except for my End. This I have thought about many times. In fact, no sojourn to the world of this dream neglects to visit my demise.

It goes something like this: A small band of desperate young people arrives at my doorstep. Against my better judgment, I let them enter instead of dropping them cold before they fully leave the road, as I’ve done before when prying eyes threaten my solitary world. They need something from me, something I am unable to refuse to try and give, even though I know I will not succeed. I am exposed, and must confront everything from which I have chosen to hide myself.

The world’s reception to my return is not positive – it happens that I am more well-remembered than I’d imagined, and my presence is not welcome. I know I am a toothless old wolf, barely able to growl, and certainly without a bite left in my raggedy head. But I have stepped on to the path and there’s no turning back, so forward I go.

On the way out my door for the last time, I turn the rabbits loose and burn down the house. I won’t be needing it any longer, but it’s mine and not for squatters to overtake. It is a great act of selfishness, but I am an old man and it’s my prerogative.

It doesn’t take long for my previously undefined Enemies to find me and the weary travelers. They are sleek and fat, well-armed in anticipation of our meeting. They surround us and jeer at me, but I can tell they’re a little afraid, that they think I might have a trick or two up my sleeve.

I don’t.

They pick me off easily and I die in the road, the kicked-up dust settling in my open mouth and eyes, drying my tears for the last time. I have effected no change, given no help or hope; but I knew this would be the outcome when I threw down the match.

I was never saving myself for anything, just waiting for my time.