As an immortal, I like to think I make wise decisions. I’ve been around this life a long while now and experience can be a wonderful teacher. Of course, as a younger man, I made many foolish mistakes …
“You ever gone cow tipping?” The eldest of the group asked me. The lot of them had smirks on their faces that implied they were up to no good, but I needed to establish myself as alpha. I needed to impress Mihan. We had only dated a couple of times and were still in that stage of being unsure of each other. I was probably second guessing myself in retrospect, as she was the first true love of my life, but at the time nothing mattered more than letting her know she was with an alpha.
“Of course I have.” I replied nonchalantly. “That’s so five years ago.” I added for extra emphasis on how hip and cool I was compared to the other teenagers.
“Alright, city. Fair enough, but have you ever gone bull grabbing?” He called me ‘city’ as they were aware of my time spent with Master Cho. Some treated me with fear, others with respect, others still with ridicule and derision.
“Bull grabbing? You’re making stuff up now.” I replied. The group of them laughed.
“Noooo, it’s a real thing. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it. It’s so right now.” the leader said, elbowing a younger kid beside who couldn’t keep from laughing. I didn’t believe a word they were saying and looked to Mihan for confirmation, but she was staring shyly at the ground.
“Alright.” I replied, a slight anger to my voice. “When and where?”
“Tonight.” the eldest replied without hesitation.” Baker’s Field, night fall.” With that, they dispersed, the eldest lingering a look at me that cast daggers, implying that if I was a no show, my credibility to the other teens in our encampment would be ruined. I held his gaze calmly, never blinking, never looking away.
Mihan and I spent the rest of the dwindling afternoon enjoying a picnic, trying to get to know each other a little better.
I wish I could remember the names of the boys in that group, or even what Mihan and I had talked about that day, but it was all so long ago to the point of feeling like another lifetime.
I do remember that night, however.
They all sat on a low, wooden fence overlooking a grassy pasture. The moons were full that evening with a clear hint of Amarr III in the northern night sky. Mihan and I walked towards them, hand in hand. I didn’t smile. I didn’t frown. My heart was pounding fast. I was scared. Scared of not impressing them and thereby not impressing Mihan; scared of not being able to pull off whatever this event was, scared of losing face in front of her friends.
“You ready to do this, city?” he said.
“Don’t see anyone else here up for it.” I replied.
“Nah, this is old news to us. Still, you’re kinda cool and it’s fun hanging with you.” He smiled, a natural mix of sincerity and sarcasm balanced to perfection. He pointed across the field, amidst the sleeping herd, towards a male. It’s horns were dulled, but it was still a huge beast.
I gulped, hopefully without anyone noticing, and started over the fence.
It was amazing how quiet the night could be when you were holding your breath. There were no insects chirping invisibly, no breeze in the air. There was only the smell of animal dung and the sight of large cows all around me.
I snuck up behind the bull in a sidestep, angling towards it carefully. Its tail swatted at unseen flies and it appeared to be fast asleep. I could feel the heat coming from it as I lowered myself down, reaching out my hand, keeping my body as close to the animal as possible.
With a deep breath I closed my eyes and squeezed it by the nutsack as hard as I could.
The beast awoke with a fright, mooing an angry and terrifying sound, immediately kicking out with its hind legs. I was fortunate to have been so close to its body – had that kick connected at its apex, I would’ve more than likely been killed instantly.
Instead, I was launched through the air to the distance of about fifteen feet, already feeling the bruising on my body from where it had kicked me. Comically, and not without luck, I managed to land on my feet, running.
I headed straight for the wooden fence where my new friends waited. I didn’t look back. I didn’t need to. I could hear the beast in pursuit.
The group cheered me on, telling me to run faster, that the bull was catching up, all between fits of laughter that caused some of them to fall off the fence while others had to stop yelling to simply wipe the tears away from their eyes or hold their stomachs from the pain of laughing so hard and so much.
I just kept running at them, not slowing down in the least, even as I made it to the fence. I could see the sudden look of fear on the face of the eldest, as he jumped to the side, falling off the fence backwards, landing on the back of his head, as I dove over the fence, rolling as I hit the ground, though my shoulder hit hard and I wasn’t able to recover to a standing position.
A deafening thud hit the fence followed by a sound of frustration as the bull stomped back and forth trying to get to me, to us.
More laughter ensued, but this time I felt a friendly arm around my shoulder. It was the eldest. With his other arm he was massaging his head. He was smiling at me from ear to ear.
“There’s no such thing as bull grabbing is there.” I said rhetorically.
“There is now.” he replied with a wink and new round of laughter burst out from the group. “You’re alright, Roc. You’re definitely alright.” he said, patting me on the shoulder, as he and the others split off towards a different path. Only Mihan and I remained.
I turned towards her, wondering if she had been worried about me, or if she was proud of me, a wide smile on my face. It abruptly disappeared when I saw her stern look of disapproval.
“You’re an idiot.” she said.
“What?” I replied with mock innocence. It broke her demeanour, melting her into a smile which translated into a warm hug. Our first hug.
She was right, though. I had been an idiot. What a sad tale my life could’ve been if that night had gone differently. When young, we all feel impervious to death. As someone who has died several times, I’ve come to appreciate life that much more.
As I sat high above the planet, waiting for the coordinates for the orbital strike below, I couldn’t help but wonder what Mihan would’ve had to say about it all. Was I still an idiot? Was I showing a blatant disregard for life? Or would she have said anything at all?
Knowing her, she probably would’ve told me it’s not my fault that she was killed.
At that moment, the console came alive with ground coordinates. The time to strike had come.
She was right, though my heart still had a hard time accepting it. It wasn’t my fault she was murdered in cold blood. It was the Amarr’s.
As I held down the trigger to the weapons systems I was at peace within myself.