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SPOILER WARNING

(If you’ve read The Sundered, you’re good to go. Otherwise, head back to the short stories for safer fare.)

To say Gorish loved was like saying the black water hated humans: it was an easy given, and never changed.

He’d fallen in love with Harry the moment he saw him — a human toddler with big hazel eyes and nut-brown skin, a smiling and creative child with imagination big enough to justify humanity’s existence and none of the fear his owners (parents?) planned to instill.

It was all about fear, being humans. Now that Gorish had been so hurt by them, he understood why.

They had to be afraid of each other. The concept of harming your own self (the Sundered were one, always and forever, no matter what the humans had done to them) was so foreign as to be disbelieved even when they saw it in the human minds, but now, Gorish knew. He understood why they were all so afraid.

Using his weakening power to stay unseen, Gorish had watched Harry grow from childhood, determined to see the child bloom – and he was not disappointed. Harry discovered drawing, painting, and creating with his hands; Harry spun wild tales of flying boats and scavenging in the clouds; Harry was beautiful – and then it all came to an end.

Gorish wept when Harry’s wake-up call came in the form of his abusive grandfather. In that moment, when Harry’s dreams were mangled and the shackles of fear locked around his throat and wrists, Gorish’s own focus dimmed (as did all Sundered focus – what affected one affected all, always), and Gorish’s camouflaged failed. No longer unseen, he was found and claimed.

Away from Harry, bound, Gorish escaped the only way he could: death. Oh, humans had no idea what Motherwater really was, or what the Sundered really were, so “dying” was an effective if terrible escape. When a Sundered One died, the humans simply dumped the body into the water.

She cradled them when they came home.

They were born from her, spat out like droplets splashed from one common pond, and all were identical at the core. They were one, one being. Even though the humans’ heinous machine kept them separated, they were still one, and Motherwater was still home/lover/mother/creator/source. Most of the time, when Sundered bodies fell into the water, she revived them, and they were able to continue their broken life.

Most of the time. Not always. Sometimes, it was too much. Twelve Sundered Ones lay at the bottom of Motherwater near her secret heart, hidden away from light and the dangers of human awareness. Twelve with such wounds and injury, with so many deaths that not even their Mother could heal them, and they waited there for… what?

None of them knew. They waited, nevertheless, because Motherwater was unwilling to absorb them back into herself (only then would they be dead, even though they would not be gone).

Gorish thought of them often. He had nearly made thirteen.

He’d lost count of the times he’d “died” (five hundred and forty-two, Quimby supplied), but every time a Sundered One died, they lost something. Some skill or memory, some snip of intelligence, some ability to be themselves. Before the Hope fell, Gorish’s brain felt like a faulty electrical socket, working unreliably and always threatening to short out forever.

Hide, rest, Aakesh had urged him.

Not yet. Not yet. Gorish wanted to be the one to show Harry how to love the Sundered back.

There was no such thing as true argument among the Sundered. Gorish’s choice to seduce the Iskinder with true love (not sex, because the first one mattered and the second would just confuse him) affected them all, so that it was all their choice that Gorish would love this boy. Fear and anger and worry and hope and admiration and courage rippled through the entirety of the Sundered like a breeze on the skin of the water as Aakesh and Bakura argued over Gorish’s choice, but it changed nothing. It was analogous to making up one’s mind, judging pros and cons in one’s head. The Sundered were still one, through and through, no matter what the humans did to them.

Gorish’s choice mattered. He loved Harry Iskinder; he mourned Harry’s decision to stop creating, to stop drawing, to stop dreaming in favor of attempting to please his owners (parents, grandparents – what was the difference?). Driven by love, Gorish had flung himself into Aakesh’s last great plan, a plan four hundred years in the making, and he’d done it with joy.


When it was over and the Hope was destroyed (no more interference, no more unclear thoughts), Gorish regained most of what he’d lost. Not all — some things, the Sundered had lost forever  — but most.

His love for Harry remained.

Harry had saved the Sundered in the end (though he did not see it that way), and he suffered for it. Of course he did; he thought he’d seen his species die out. His alone-ness rippled through the Sundered as if his every sob were a rock thrown into placid water.

Aakesh claimed Harry and that meant they all claimed Harry (one was one was one) and Bakura hated Harry but Gorish loved him, and all these things prevented centuries of anger from boiling over onto the young man’s head. Harry was theirs, safe, never alone because alone was the worst hell in all the wide universe.  Yes, Harry felt alone, and yes, Harry felt shame (not his fault, the humans had destroyed themselves, but he could not see), but he was wrong.

Gorish had hope. Gorish knew: love makes whole. It just takes time.

“Paint something,” he whispered in Harry’s ear, and put a paintbrush in his hand.

Previous: Paint Something Next: Paint Something 2

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