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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

And Grow Up To Dream Again

“What I want to be?” Skitch eyed the demigod warily. “You mean as an archetype?”

“That’s right. There’s two basic directions I can see you going in... you could keep your head down, graduate with a B average, get a job as a clerk in a Diarian pharmaceuticals company, and spend your life staying out of trouble and providing for your wife and children.”

“That doesn’t sound very archetypal,” Skitch said.

“You’d be really surprised.”

“What’s my other option?”

“Well,” Warp said, “you could be a hero.”

“Oh.” Skitch looked down. “I always used to want to be a hero,” he said in a sad voice, more to himself than to Warp.

“If you don’t mind me asking... why did you stop?”

“I don’t know,” Skitch said slowly. “I’m not even sure I really did. It just--started seeming like a childish dream somehow. And it slipped out of the front part of my mind, that’s all. I don’t know if I still want to be a hero or not. It doesn’t seem like it works very well. Khyrisse and Tarrin and all their friends are heroes. But no one ever appreciates it, and it never seems to make them happy.”

“Do you think they’d be happier if they weren’t heroes?” Warp asked.

Skitch thought about that. “Probably not,” he said. “My mother was just a small-town waitress, and her life sucked just as bad. I’m just not even sure being a hero helps anything. I think about everything I did with the Rat Pack last year... nothing’s better than it was. It’s completely unfair. Odn never got in any trouble for his stupid King of the Kings thing at all. Ebreth had to go to Hell even though he’s a good guy, and Ariath got out even though she’s evil. Alphred and Ember were heroic, and now they’re dead. Omeria and all her turdy friends got a country and a gazillion dollars, and I’m having trouble paying my rent.” Skitch kicked a pebble. “About the only thing we did that really mattered was kill Aelwyn and save the Parises from the Remnant, and if they weren’t all too stubborn to change their stupid name, they wouldn’t have needed saving. A lot of innocent people suffered and died over that. Just because Asinus and stupid Caimen couldn’t suck it up and call themselves Caimen and Asinus Smith. So we saved them. Well, maybe there were better things we could have been doing with our time.”

“You sound like you’ve made your choice then.”

“No,” said Skitch. “I sound like I’m mad at the choices. I’d like to spend my life working to make the world a better place. That doesn’t seem to be one of my options on Ataniel.”

“Look, nothing’s going to land in your lap on a silver platter,” said Warp. “Even in the three-color comics your world gets destroyed sometimes. Shit happens. But there’s always something you can do to make things better, if you’re willing to keep trying.”

Skitch pressed his hands into his eyes. “I want to try,” he said. “I want to keep trying. But how much can you keep expecting us all to sacrifice, just for the privilege of trying?”

“This is the Hotel,” Warp said. “Everything’s a sacrifice if that’s the way you’re going to be looking at it. So in your case... do you want to sacrifice the part of you that could have been safe to try to make a difference, or the part of you that could have been a hero to have security?”

Skitch folded his arms and looked down. He thought of the bad cops in Dyaromn, the nightmares that had been following him ever since his encounter with them. Skitch said the one thing he was still confident of: “I never want to stand there watching something unfair happen to someone ever again.”

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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