219 - breakers
ain pounded on the windows as the two men inside huddled next to a small fire. A kettle was just starting to boil over when the younger of the two pulled it from the fire. He poured the hot water in a waiting pot, and prepared tea for the other man and himself.
The other man sat cross-legged and made no motion as the cup of tea was placed in front of him. His blank eyes stared forward, not shifting their focus in the slightest as the man serving the tea sat back down across from him.
The younger man sipped at his own cup, which was still piping hot. Sitting in silence, he listened to the rain and the crackling in the fireplace. He wondered if the old man would ever address him. Perhaps this was all part of a test. Still, he felt the urge to say something.
"If you wait too long, your tea will grow cold quick in weather like this," he said. The old man reached out his hands, taking hold of the small teacup. He brought it to his mouth in a slow motion, pausing at the last possible moment.
"In my condition, it's better to be safe than sorry," he said. "I can tolerate a little lukewarm tea if it means I don't lose another of my senses." He at last took a sip of the beverage. "It's good," he concluded, taking another sip.
The younger man was frustrated that the room once again returned to silence. He knew the delicacy of the situation, and saw no means to force the issue. He simply kept drinking tea himself.
"Do you know why I stopped believing?" the old man suddenly asked, setting down his cup.
"I wasn't aware that you had stopped," answered the young man. "I just thought you retired." He tried to conceal his shock at someone so esteemed within their cause flippantly dismissing it.
"Well, I know something's out there. I don't need to believe in that. No blind orphan becomes a famed marksman without some sort of otherworldly intercession. I felt that calling for as long as I can remember," the old man clarified.
"I suppose the thing I had to believe in was that it was for good. That my actions were being guided by something that in the end would help light triumph over darkness. In my early years, that's what I believed. But now, I consider any good I did a mere coincidence."
"Why?" the young man asked, growing more distraught at how the conversation was playing out.
"All it took was one missed shot," the old man began, pausing, attempting to recall a painful thing. "I shouldn't say 'missed.' The shot was precisely on target, hitting a person that my mind's eye told me was certainly evil. I had no doubt."
He shifted his position slightly, no longer comfortable. "In truth, I had slain one of my closest friends. An ally I had made when we were both just kids on the streets. He was fighting alongside us in our cause. That was the day I quit."
The young man considered the story, surprised that he had never heard anything of it before. "Maybe he really was on the side of evil, and no one was yet aware?" he suggested.
"Spare me. I have looked at that day from every angle, there's nothing more that you can offer me. Suppose you're right. So what? I still can no longer trust my own judgement, my own feelings. On that day, I somehow felt as if I were blinded anew, for the very first time," the old man said, growing stern.
"That's why, no matter how many people like you come to try and persuade me, I vowed to never take up arms again. Do I make myself clear?" he said.
The young man sighed. "I guess I had better be going."