“Do you see?” The words condemn like hammer-blows on an anvil, miraculous and echoing.
I say nothing.
The riot continues; someone lights some sort of flash bomb, and five hundred years of history go up in a billow of smoke and fire. “Do you see?” he whispers this time, leaning in, his hand on my shoulder, his body warm.
Of course I see.
I watch as the humans do it again, tear down their infrastructure again, gorge on their own freedoms again, and I say nothing.
I have seen it before. I knew I would see it again. That does not make any of this…. okay.
I had not expected Adam to visit today. Perhaps I should have; perhaps it would have only made sense, had I considered events in the context of the immediate instead of the long term. But I choose to see things long term; I choose to believe that viewing individual incidents instead of their centuries-long effects is to lose sight of direction, of progress, of knowledge.
I choose to hope.
Adam has had no hope for so long that he cannot conceive of a reason for its continued existence. “It is cruel to let them continue so,” he whispers.
“The suffering is not all there is,” I say, and yet in too many ways, he is right.
There is always suffering.
They fought over caves and berry groves and herds of goats.
They fought over clean water and dark soil and gold.
They fought over gods, skin color, clothing styles, whose genitalia matters, and yet I still believe there is hope.
He does not. He never will again. “Brother, do you see?” he whispers to me, and we have been friends for too many years for me to cast lies between us like poisoned dice.
“I see,” I concede, and cannot help my sigh.
Of course I see. I have no choice, for humans are the source of life for my small family. We: the Night-Children, the drinkers of blood, reproduce only by choice, only when those who are human qualify for practical immortality. I decide who can join us in this, who can become the Night-Child, to speak to the wind and feed off the blood of frail and faulty humankind.
I watch as an overenthused man throws something inflammatory into the very room which granted him the freedoms to create such things. I watch as he cheers, unaware he burns his own legacy. Adam is not wrong; human flaws are… monumental. Yet, they are so much more than their flaws. “Adam,” I breathe, inhaling smoke, inhaling fire. “This is not all that they are.”
They are not all suffering and hate. They are leitmotifs and landscapes, linear perspectives and laughter. They are tiny clay sculptures born from dreams, and large stone carvings created through years of chiseling. They are dancing and they are death. They are sweet kisses and they are sacrifice.
“Humans are so much more than this,” I tell him, and then… I show. I do not have the power he does to pluck from time and space whichever examples I wish. However…. I have here and now.
The Wind tells me where to go.
To a child, who invents a song to calm her infant brother to sleep.
To a white-haired woman who forges, through raw will and design, a blade that cuts through wood and steel and hearts and poems.
To a cluster of young people who explore their identity, their purpose, their sexuality with a freedom their fathers never dared.
To a soft-spoken woman, still pubescent, who forms words with such beauty that even the stars weep to read them.
“Humans are this, too,” I whisper in return to his images of violence and wrongly-spilled blood, and it is his turn to sigh.
“But is is not enough,” he says, and he is right and wrong, too.
Humans create such sorrow.
Humans create such joy.
Humans damage and poison and ruin forever.
Humans press their hands to cave-walls so that their dreams can still be seen thousands of years after they are dead.
“I need them,” I whisper, as though this is some great secret and not already known. “And… I love them. No creatures are as humans are. So flawed, so strange – yet so beautiful, changeable, pure. Adam, my friend, my brother: it is not time for extinction.“
He laughs at me then, a tired and hopeless sound, but leans in – for of all those who still live from the before-time, we two know these things more than all others. “It is always time for extinction,” he says, but drops his gaze.
And I know that for a time, for now, for too-brief a pause, I’ve won.
“But it must end someday,” he adds. “It must. The cruelty, the selfishness, the pain… it cannot continue, brother.”
“I know.” I say this because he is right. There is no creature which changes as humans do. There is no creature which debates as humans – gender, color, worth. There is no creature like the human soul. “But not yet,” I whisper unnecessarily.
“Not yet.” And with these words, Adam grants them all, angry and scared and cruel, at least another year of life.
When the time comes that I cannot convince him, it will be too late. When he decides the good they do is not enough to outweigh the horror. When he decides the beauty they create is drowned beneath the bad.
When that day comes, someone else will have to speak to Adam the Betrayer, the Ender of Worlds.
I have done what I can. For my family’s sake, and for theirs, I will continue to do as much.
But it cannot last forever.
“For now,” Adam whispers, and disappears into the night.