I am Esud
I am Esud. A Zombie Uni. When you look at me, perhaps you turn your head in fear. Perhaps in disgust. My lifeless eyes and translucent skin, my clothing naught but tattered rags, perhaps there is something about me that makes you... uncomfortable. They say that Halloween is when the forests teem with the dead, with the undead, with those like me. As you tremble with fear of the unknown, you may wonder why they rise, why we rise, you may wonder what we seek. You may wonder no more.
I awoke one morning, one Halloween morning, with the breaking of the dawn. But whereas once I revelled in the oranges, the pinks and the golds, the accidental beauty that springs from this craggy world turning, turning and angling its gas-filled atmosphere into the influence of the sun, this morning, this one fateful morning, I did not care about the dawn. I did not revel nor marvel nor even bother to tip my face to the warming east. I opened my eyes as though seeing for the first time, and I found no beauty here.
I stood and stretched and kicked at the dried out twigs from which I would make my fires, but the fire had died out some time in the night. I kicked some more and merely stirred up the cold ashes, the sooty remainder of what was once so bright and cheerful. I knew that I would be warmed and cheered no more in this place.
I took a step and immediately felt the chains on my rear hooves pull tight; I could not move far in any direction. When did they get so short? I wondered to myself. Was I not working in the far fields just yesterday? Looking around, I noted the gardens, my home in which I had once gloried, now fallow and weedchoked. I noted the high stone walls that I had built myself, with my own efforts over many years, the walls with which I had surrounded my once beautiful paradise, and now wondered who was I keeping out? Or keeping in? As I shook my head with a mirthless whinny, my attention turned to my chains once more and I tested their weight with a hesitant kick, confounded by how thin they really were. I snorted and I stamped my hooves in frustration. I tried to step away again, with much more force, but the chains held fast, as chains are meant to do, no matter how insubstantial they might appear to be.
Sitting, slumping to the ground, my wings pressed hard against the cold stone wall, my face splashed into a scummy puddle. I made no move to raise my head. A weariness overtook my mind and I snorted derisively, sending ripples across the brackish water, unwittingly clearing its surface. I caught my reflection: my eyes stared back, flat and grey, as lifeless as the deeps of space, and I raised my head up slightly to peer deeper into the image. I took another look, a closer look at my own face, and I was shocked to see what I had become. A zombie. Yes, like you, I trembled at my appearance. I felt disgust. How long had I been this ambivalent being who stared, who now gaped, back at me? Stuck, frozen, in an inbetween world, neither fully alive nor fully dead; how long had I been this undead thing? How long automatic in my actions, moving from habit but receiving no pleasure and building the walls of my own prison? At that moment, I could have embraced what I had become, I could have given in to my self-imposed fate.
But I did not give in. I may have become a zombie from long habit but I was no zombie born. I am of the same breed as the mighty Maraquan Chargers, of Solarin and the Nightsteed. A light began to spark and to flicker to life in my eyes, the light that once shone from the center of an ancient and long dead sun; the iron that fortifies my blood once coursed across the welkin at the cold center of an unnamed comet; the spirit that animates me is the echo of a Uni battle cry that once reverberated across all of ancient Neopia, a force I can now feel in my bones. In my horn.
I stood up slowly, feeling the strength, the ferocious anima of my species, surging through my body, resolve building an excitement within me that I had not felt for a long time. I raised up high my curving horn, my head held proudly now, and felt the morning breeze stirring in my mane. The mounting sun shone through my horn, my horn now clear as glass as it hummed and surged with power, the sunlight refracting through my horn into all the colours of the rainbow and giving my garden prison one last wash of glimmering beauty. I was now too strong for such phantasmagoria, such tricks of light, and readied myself to bring my horn down upon my thin restraints. But no.
I could have knocked down the walls I had spent too long building, I could have coaxed the embers in the ashes of my fire back to life and destroyed the whole vision in a raging inferno. I could have easily sliced through the chains that bound me, but as the power, the fearsome Uni power, flowed back into me, I knew I did not need to. I raised my eyes and spread the wings upon my back. With a short leap into the air, the chains, the walls, the garden prison, all turned to dust, to ashes at my feet. As I pulled my strong wings through the air, I floated freely into the sky, toward the sun, the lamp of life.
I pulled harder yet with my newly-remembered wings, and marvelled to myself, How could I have forgotten that I can fly?. These ragged wings, so much in appearance like crumpled sheets of paper left out too long in the rain and sun, propelled me over the shade-filled forests, the soon to be haunted woods of Halloween. My legs rippled with the muscles long neglected, not yet atrophied, and I stampeded through cloudmists and to the upper reaches of the stratosphere. Another push and surge of wings and I was through and beyond this craggy planet's gas-filled atmosphere, allowing me to take my place amongst the stars. And, oh, the stars! Those constellations that I had spied, so far above me once, now close enough to touch. I spun and turned and nestled into my corner of the vault, wearing the cosmos around me like a spangled mantle. The stars: their light my light, their heat my heat, their fate my fate. I was finally home.
And you might ask, “But how? How do the dead, the undead, rise on Halloween?”
And I would answer, “I know not what magic does the deed, what alignment of the planets, what effort springs the latch on the faeriegate. What I know is that on that morning, that one fateful Halloween morning, I awoke as though from a long and vivid dream and realised that I need dream no more.”
And so even yet you may ask, “But where do the dead, the undead, where do they really go?”
And all I can say is, “Look to the stars. There will you see me, and perhaps, there too will you see yourself.”
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|Illusions of Grandeur: Part One|
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