It was cold metal that my arms found, not the characteristic warmth every person is accustomed to. Nonetheless, grip tightening, I pulled until my shoulder popped back out. Pulled until it was free. Pulled until the metal cut into my skin. I pulled until I felt resistance. Not from my body, that would never stop me, but the one in my embrace. Creaking joints pushed weakly at my uninjured shoulder, and my reluctance was evident, but I was forced into release by a sharp finger prodding my injury.
Blank eyes met mine, and my hand rose to the face I hadn’t seen in what felt like eternity. A smile, an old friend, and a pained breath.
I remember marching down empty roads. I remember feeling wind in my hair, wild movements amplifying determination. I remember fighting the bad side-by-side, rescuing all and then some. I remember the training, cool days and warm days, welcome rain and beloved snow. Dripping wet and still going on, freezing cold but still moving. I remember fighting for a black-and-white cause. I remember good and evil.
Then I remember the operation. I see the tools, hear the monitors, feel my own tears as the body was pulled apart in front of my eyes. I feel the relief as reconstruction was finished, as successful as promised. It was concurrent to a rudimentary field operation, but it was successful nonetheless. Horror wasn’t the right word, but neither was thankfulness. Disbelief wasn’t quite right either. The first sign of movement made me smile, but the second sign dropped it. The third sign brought me against a wall. The fourth stopped breath. The fifth ended with gasping and a clang. The only thing I remember seeing was a rock with a name.
But we fixed it. A few keys and a monitor, small flashing lights and endlessly tangled cords. Binary coding was a second language, and grey was introduced. I was standing in front of the stone, flowers in my hands, flowers on the ground, shrivelling and dying, lying and crying. The sound of my voice wasn’t enough to warrant forgiveness, light going dark, grey expanding into spectrum. Try as I might, we weren’t the same. Years later and we were different still, but with metal and fur coming together we were as unstoppable as ever. Forever too dangerous, even to each other as we grew distant but ever closer in our efforts to eliminate what we were told was black, but what we saw was grey.
We hated each other for what we’d become. Words were spoken and fists were thrown. Teeth were bared and pneumatics had hissed. It tried to crush me and I tried to tear it apart. But when we were on the field, we had each other’s backs. We had to. We wouldn’t settle for someone else doing it. We couldn’t. We knew each other too well, hated each other so much that it wouldn’t be the same. The desire was too strong. We wanted to take everything out on each other. The frustration, the hatred, the anger, the sadness- everything. Death was our job, but it was also our sanctuary. We loved to hate it. We ruined lives and ourselves in the process.
Pulling it out of the wreckage is something I regret to this day. The scars it left on my body, the bruises that eventually faded, the broken bones that healed too slow- all of it. I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t. I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take before the computer gave out. How long it would’ve taken for someone to find it. If they would get there in time. I knew I should’ve left, but my body wouldn’t let me. The dog couldn’t do it. It barked binary and searched desperately for it. The dog forgot that computers didn’t feel. It didn’t understand loyalty. It didn’t understand empathy. And the dog didn’t know. But it figured it out real quick when metal hands wrapped around its throat and it let me take the wheel.
It happened when black-and-white was no longer solid. When our perception was no longer concrete. When one-or-the-other was no longer a choice. When grey was introduced. But it opened our eyes. New knowledge that we didn’t think existed. New power that we never thought we had. New questions, questions that challenged everything we had ever stood for. Questions we never thought to ask, questions that rebuilt our views, questions that twisted us against one another.
I guess it was ultimately my fault. I let them do it. But it let that happen. It let them turn me. I guess it was both our faults; we pulled ourselves away from each other. But that’s on the list of things I’ll never admit. As long a list as it is, it grows longer with each battle faced, each body passed, each breath taken near it. Each faked smile, each pretend scream, all in the faces of our enemies. The pretend heroism, just for show, is a leech on our souls. How can one so grey pretend to be one so pure?
Each save is never whole. Grey is hard to see in- different shades for different people, different surroundings for different battles. Always similar, but never the same. So many variations the computer can’t keep up. So many not even the dog has seen. Never boring, but always frustrating. Always here, but never there. So many perceptions, and none quite alike to what I see. In a world where grey is the only color, definition is temporary and experience never ends. Knowledge is fleeting but powerful. Foresight is hatred and hindsight is regret. Intelligence is destruction if used correctly. Every scar is evidence of darkness, but every word is evidence of light. Confusion is forever, perception is limited. Life is grey.
It gets under your skin like a splinter, and sometimes not even a needle can pull it out.