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The Watchers: Left in Dust
The meeting hall was loud, much louder than usual. No more were the whispered conversations between shuffling Watchers, voices low enough that one would not interrupt the other. Now they spoke at volumes one would use to tell stories to hundreds; to deliver speeches to soldiers waiting to die for a cause bigger than themselves. They all had something important to say, and none of them were shy about it. Importance rang through their voices like the clear tones of a gun in a silent room. The idea made a quiet Watcher cringe. Much too close, it thought, much, much too close. It sank in its chair, still keeping to itself as it had been the entire meeting. It had a story, of course, everyone has stories a week after the previous meeting, but its story was far too personal to be told, almost as if telling it would be a personal insult to the one who lived it. But of course the Watcher would have to tell someone, it had been following the girl for her whole life, telling stories regardless of the excitement level with them. You see, Watchers have the job no one else would want. In the meeting hall, walls so tall they didn’t seem to end, but only stood is darkness, and all of them were filled to bursting by books scribed by other Watchers. Every memory, every event in human history was scribed and put on that shelf. If you ever wanted to know anything at all, it was there. Every book was a person, every chapter their life, and all of it was recorded by their Watcher. Billions of books lined the shelves, most untouched after the death of the subject. Hundreds of books would be sealed away on those shelves today, the Watchers leaving behind the stories for the last time, acquiring new subjects that had been born at the time of the last’s death. It was a cycle that didn’t end or slow because if there is one thing for certain, it is that every human, all of them, regardless of age or gender or social standards, all of them would die, all of them would be shelved.
The silent Watcher was approached by another, the latter sitting down next to it. “How was her week,” it asked. That was always the question; never ‘how was your week’, but rather, ‘how was their week’.
The girl’s watcher hung its head. “Not good,” it said, a vast understatement.
“Really? Did a boy hurt her? She’s fourteen, those things happen, don’t they?”
The other Watcher looked confused. “Himself,” he echoed.
“Yeah. Himself, he tried to kill himself.”
The second Watcher looked at the books being placed on the shelves and the Watchers moving to get new subjects.
“Tried to kill himself.”
“How did she know?”
The original Watcher shook its head, running a hand through its hair. “He was talking to her. You know, when it happened.”
“Oh dear God.”
The first Watcher stared at the books being placed. One moved down the line, one was put in its place. They didn’t seem like much really, not important. When you replace the idea of people with objects, things become so much easier. People became plots and plots could be put down or skipped when they got hard. Watchers, however, had seen a thousand plots and a thousand people, and what you couldn’t do when you were with people at all moments, taking note of every muscle twitch and every breath, was skip things. Shakespeare had books on these shelves; Dickens had books; everyone had them, but you could skip their heartache. Not when you were there with them. It was your job as a Watcher to note everything.
“Is she okay?”
“Would yours be?”
The second one paused. “How bad was it?”
“He narrated it. All of it. After he took the pills, he kept talking about how breathing was beginning to get harder and how he was finally going to be done. And how he was tired. Then his sentences stopped being coherent and started morphing into keystrokes that didn’t fit together. He kept showing her that he was still there, that he wasn’t gone yet. And then he would wait longer and longer…” The Watcher trailed off, shaking its head before running its fingers over its ancient brow. “And she was alone. The whole time she was alone.”
The other Watcher had been staring at its hands which it held together tightly, empathy coursing through its veins. It knew what it was like to sit by when someone died, but humans so rarely go through such hellish torture. “The boy,” it said after a long pause, “how is he?”
“Acts like it never happened. And now she’s left in the dust.” A chiming bell sounded in a high tone that did not match the whispered conversation, and the two Watchers parted ways without another word, going through separate doors to return to their subjects. This happened every week. One does not say goodbye when their partings are so small. And Watchers never have the luxury of a long parting.
In the corner of the massive room stood a third Watcher, who leaned on a desk, writing the happenings of its subject’s week. It stared as the first walked through one door, one opposite the door it would go through. And it sighed, closing the mostly empty book that held every happening of a fifteen year old boy who didn’t mention this week again, who wouldn’t speak of it because he couldn’t. And the metaphorical tie that held his life with a young girl’s was broken, because they both broke themselves. It’s said that humans break themselves often for friendship or love, and that would always hold true. Every person has the same story, every Watcher knew. In fact, every book on every shelf was the same story with different character names. Life will always be momentarily tough, and it’s those momentarily tough things that, in the end, would always prove the easiest.