• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,103 Views, 268 Comments

Walk Where There Is No Path - theOwtcast

When everything you’ve ever known goes against everything you believe in, can leaving help you live with yourself?

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A Grain of Sand to Tip the Scale

I could understand Pharynx’s frustration. Being the oldest brother, he’d always felt responsible for his younger siblings, even more after our brother Mandible had died of starvation and our sisters Venom and Costa had gotten killed on duty. All three of them had been decent fighters, and there were times when I believed that Pharynx wondered how the youngest and meekest one of his siblings had managed to survive when the other three hadn’t. I wouldn’t blame him if he sometimes wished I had died in place of any of them, but still he never gave up sticking up for me whenever I needed help, which, considering my pacifist nature, was pretty much all the time. I'd always been grateful for that, even if his attitude was getting on my nerves.

Though he’d never admit it, I bet that he had to make sacrifices for keeping me safe - for example, the fact that Chrysalis had never assigned him a mate to produce eggs with. Unlike most other species, changelings didn’t have the luxury of deciding whether or not they want children, who they want them with, and having them as and when they choose. We had to earn it through distinguished service and loyalty to the hive, and only the most worthy changelings got to produce offspring - but only as ordered by the Queen. The only reason I could think of why Pharynx had never earned that privilege while many lesser changelings had was because he had such a lousy brother. I was pretty sure that part of his frustration stemmed from that, and while I wished there was a way I could help him, somehow I never believed anything I might do - even pretending to become like other changelings - would have made any difference. Besides, I wasn’t ready to give up my principles!

As much as I would have preferred to stay in my burrow, I knew I’d get punished if I didn’t fulfill my duties for the day, so I grabbed a towel to dry myself of the water that was still dripping from me, and returned to where I’d left the broom. I’d forgotten there was a puddle there too now - blast those two bullies, I wished I could make them clean up the mess they’d made! But it didn’t work like that in the hive, and I was still the one expected to clean the puddle. I went to get a rag, and just as I was on my way back to where I’d left off, I was approached by a hatchery guard.

“Are you Thorax?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Chrysalis sent me to find you. There’s a mess in the hatchery that needs to get cleaned up.”

“Uh, sure, I’ll be there in a few minutes, just after I-”

“I think she meant now,” he interrupted me.

I swallowed a lump in my throat, looking at him worriedly. Chrysalis enjoyed punishing me, but she rarely made specific demands regarding what I should clean and when. Why would she? I was assigned to low-security areas - nowhere near the throne room, hatchery, or any other parts of the hive she may be found in - so why did she want me specifically? It couldn’t have been anything I’d done there; I hadn’t been in the hatchery for years, and anything I might have done wrong would have been discovered and dealt with long ago!

“Are you coming already?” The guard was getting impatient.

I nodded and we got underway.

Upon arriving in the hatchery, I was relieved to find that Chrysalis had left. There was no concern about the possibility of her being in disguise. She never did that in the hive, not even to catch her subjects off guard so she could punish them for… well, anything really. I wasn’t in trouble this time after all, otherwise she would have been here, I was sure of it! In all my life she’d never missed a chance to watch me - or anyling else - suffer for our mistakes!

The guard led me to a pile of broken eggs. Such a sight was normally no big deal here, but there was something odd about this one. I came closer and realized the eggs hadn’t hatched - they’d been smashed.

“What happened here?” I asked with growing concern.

“What does it look like? Chrysalis smashed them, is what happened,” the guard replied.

“But why?”

I couldn’t believe it! Why would she destroy something created at her own demand?

“To punish their mother,” the guard informed me matter-of-factly.

“I don’t understand!” I really didn’t!

“Coxa was sent to infiltrate Trottingham and got discovered before even getting close to the city, and if that wasn’t enough, she revealed identities of two other infiltrators in exchange for reduced sentence! Can you believe it? She can’t really expect spending less time in a pony prison will do her any good when she returns to the hive! And she will return - Chrysalis will make sure of it! Our soldiers are already on the way there to keep an eye on her until she gets out. Even better if they figure out how to bypass the containment spells and bring her back sooner.”

The destroyed eggs were starting to make more sense now. But the hatchery guards were normally the ones expected to clean it. Why did Chrysalis want me to do it now?

The guard must have noticed my puzzlement.

“Not sure why this is suddenly your job? Chrysalis thought you might not, so she told me to tell you that maybe seeing the smashed eggs would teach you a lesson.”

Of course. Keep disobeying me, and this will be you.

“Right… I’d better start cleaning,” I said despondently, and the guard returned to his post.

The rest of the day passed with routine work. After finishing the unhappy task in the hatchery, I returned to my normal duties, which I was able to complete in time despite the delay, and without any more complications. But I couldn’t get my mind off the broken eggs.

Shortly after curfew, I returned to my burrow, the image of the eggs still fresh in my mind. I knew it would keep me awake well into the night, possibly even until morning!

How could anyone be so cruel? How much hatred must there be in their hearts to even think of such a thing? How much anger to act upon it? How much delusion in their minds to see nothing wrong with it? I could understand wanting to punish someone for breaking the law and disobeying orders, but those eggs were innocent! Why did they have to pay the price for their mother’s mistake? The changelings that would have hatched from them might have grown to become valuable members of the hive by Chrysalis’ standards! Now they would never have the chance! And despite my misgivings about what their lives would probably have turned out to be like, their destruction pained me deeply!

I couldn’t help but cry.

I was still sobbing when Pharynx returned from his shift. He just rolled his eyes at me and curled up to sleep. I was grateful he hadn’t said anything. He must have thought I was still under impressions from the incident earlier today, or maybe from his ranting that had followed! Of course, it could just as well be that he’d known about the eggs and decided to not go into the matter.

As I watched him sleep, a heavy realization started to sink in: I couldn’t stay here anymore! I could no longer stand remaining in a society where hatred was the foundation of all things and kindness was given no chance to grow! I could spill my guts trying to spread friendship here and it would all be in vain! It didn’t even matter that I’d get punished for leaving - that was bound to happen sooner or later even if I stayed! Better to die as I was than to lose myself while still living!

I’m sorry, Pharynx. You did your best with me and I’m grateful. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, one day, you’ll understand.

And, whatever happens, know this: I’ve always cared about you.

Casting him one last farewell glance, I took a deep breath and walked away.