I tried to stop them.
An entire world reduced to ash. The memory haunts me still. I would pray for death, but I’m immortal and cannot die.
I saw them coming when the universe was only a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth. Once, they’d been my companions. But when I tired of death I turned my back on them. I was troubled that they’d followed me and knew someday I’d have to stop them. But they were still far, and as the cosmos matured, I was caught up in caring for it, in helping it to thrive.
I was most fond of Earth. The humans, though quick to anger and capable of great evil, were nevertheless a noble race. Quirky and extravagant, yet I fell for them just the same. If I could have, I would have forfeited eternal life in exchange for theirs.
Again, I saw them coming, those demons of ice and fire, the Old Gods I thought I’d shaken so long ago, and again I did nothing. They were still a long ways off, and there was still so much left for me to do here. Humanity was evolving, and I had to help them grow, had to steer them clear of the path that would otherwise lead to their self-destruction.
Millennia passed. The universe ripened. Humanity reached its apex. I couldn’t have been more proud. Then I heard their raging shouts echo across space and time, the war cries of the Old Gods, and I knew I would have to stand up to them at last.
They came brandishing weapons and armor, the lust for death and chaos burning in their eyes. I stepped between them and the universe and said, “You will not pass.”
They looked first to me, then from one to the other, sneering as if enjoying a private joke at my expense.
“What are you doing?” their leader asked. His voice rolled across the stars like distant thunder. “You were once one of us. Why would you stop us now?”
“I’ve cared for this world since it was an infant. Please, leave us in peace.”
Centuries passed as we gazed into each other’s eyes. Then their leader threw back his head and laughed.
“You are a coward,” he said. “It is well that you left us.”
“Stop!” I shouted. “I won’t let you pass!”
Teeth bared, I flung myself at them. But they were too strong and numerous, and I was easily overpowered. They tossed me aside like a piece of flotsam, and that was when I heard their leader shout, “Burn it all!”
Men, women and children wailed as the End of Days arrived, as Earth was transformed into a celestial funeral pyre. And my former companions didn’t stop there. They marched through the universe, tearing everything down. I shouted after them, begged them to spare what little was left. But by the time they’d gone nothing remained, only a barren wasteland and I, its single surviving inhabitant.
I hung my head and wept. They’d salted everything, so that nothing like humanity would spring up again.
My children. My purpose.