Gray: The Pursuit of the Truth | Teen Ink

Gray: The Pursuit of the Truth

January 10, 2022
By nconner2022, Greenland, New Hampshire
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nconner2022, Greenland, New Hampshire
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Author's note:

I have an alternate ending for this story that is still in progress! This is the final piece I turned in for my English class. 

The author's comments:

I wrote this story based on Natalie Chavez's song Hero n Villain Duet! Go give it a listen, you can find it on Youtube.

What defines a villain?

One who is quick to vile tendencies. 

The one who chooses violence as the only means to an end. 

A person who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, evil.

At least that's what I thought before

They became the villain.

I became the villain.

Amidst the piles of destruction and chaos is where our hero finds our villain. Enormous blackstone walls mark the arena they will stand in. The light of fires refract the opalescence of the obsidian rock. There they stand, hunched over, a hand desperately grabbing the collar of their shirt. They wonder how it is that they lost the ability to breathe. The ability to live.

“What are you doing my dear?” The hero speaks up, yet their voice struggles to stand. “Aren’t you tired? Come home with me. We can finally rest.”

“What are you doing here? These fires are not an invitation. Leave me be, your games no longer control me.” Malice coats their words, fragments staggered like the falling rain.

“Games? What are you talking about?” The hero’s sincerity tastes like bile in their throat.

“You don’t get to show up now... you don’t get to play the hero! Abdicate your throne. I see you there lounging in your chair, thinking you’re above me.” Their eyes reflected daggers as they finally turned to face our hero. “Look at you, you are so pathetic, pretending that you love me.” As they spoke, the villain straightened their spine and rolled back their shoulders. A huff of air leaves their mouth, releasing the tension they kept on their shoulders. 

The hero walks closer to the villain. “How long have we known each other? It feels like it has been a lifetime. We know each other. So you should know that what I say is true. I will admit that I can not do things halfway. If I am here to save you, that is what I’ll do. If I tell you that I am here to stay, then forever that will reign true.”

They hold out their hand with a small yet hopeful smile. This is not their villain.

“Take my hand, think of me as your dutiful knight.”

“But you do not come wearing shining armor. You mistake duty with promises.”

“Is duty not a promise?”

“Stop… stop doing that!” The villain stutters before regaining themselves. “You still think you’re a hero! And you know what the worst part is? The people will believe you. Posters, news reports, you name it. You will be complimented for just walking down the street. Is that it? You’ve come so far just for their praise.” The disappointment in their tone hurts more than any physical wound.

“You think that you are a villain, but I know you’re not. Your brain is clouded. Your anger is weighing you down. I know your heart; it is good, it is human.”

“My heart is broken! My heart is dying!” They raised their voice, but only the hero could hear the cracks. “What about the lonely little kid that was abandoned? How could you leave me with my monsters?”

“I’m sorry!” The plea, desperate and broken, was all that came out in response. Two words seldom carry an appropriate apology, but at this moment, the hero could not articulate everything their heart yearned to accomplish. Memories of sunlit summers and winter winds, fingers intertwined, laughter so pure that their chests hurt trying to contain happiness. Hope flickered in their eyes, a wish that seemed so far out of reach. 

“Sorry! You’re sorry?” Heavy breaths interrupted the flow of their disbelief. “Sorry won’t cut it. I deserve more than a pitiful apology. Bandaids can not heal bullet wounds. These scars have stood the test of time. They are a constant reminder of how you left me.” 

The villain took a moment to stare at the ground, “You never came back for me.” Their voice was softer, anger could no longer mask their pain. Slowly, they lifted their head to look at the hero. “Why do you insist on preventing this world from burning when you never came to save mine?” There it was. The humanity. The tremble in their words, in their limbs that gave way to the truth. 


“You have every right to be upset. You were betrayed, left to fend for yourself. They hurt you.” The hero’s attempt at consolation did little in the way of comfort. They watched as the villain’s eyes sharpened once again with threatening rage. 

“You must include yourself in that list then! For you know nothing of the horrors I went through. What I experienced is my cross to bear and the world shall watch as I carry it to my grave.”

“Look at the wreckage you have caused! The destruction you have left in your wake benefits no one-”

“Here comes the hero complex,” the villain sneers, cutting them off. 

The hero continues in spite of their petulance, “I guarantee you that this will not end your suffering. Please just come home with me. I know I am late. I know that I do not deserve your sympathy, but I am here now. You deserve safety.” 

Two humans stand, facing one another. Physically, they are sturdy, neither one backing down. Internally, one is on their knees begging for forgiveness; craving a love that remained dormant for years. The other is tired, but stubbornly they cling onto the one idea that they have left. Two pairs of eyes meet and for a moment they recognize the familiar colors of their relationship. The soft, beautiful hues of the person they cherished. 

I hope you understand.

I hope you understand.

“There is no turning back for me, I know my story.” They exhale and it feels like they are gasping for air. “I AM THE VILLAIN! This is my doing and my undoing. Time is no saint but it is my ally. Weeds will grow where you stand, for nothing else could grow in footprints burdened with such glorious purpose.” 

Now it was the hero’s turn to cave in to their emotions. No longer could they stand their friend’s insistence on villainy or the blatant ignorance of words that were meant to help them. “You can call yourself a villain all you want. I know it's a disguise! Your mannerisms betray you; you can not hide from me, I know you.” Their last three words slid heavily off of their tongue. 

“Lies, lies, nothing but lies. Do you even hear yourself? If you know me then I know you. I can see it, the way you twist my words like yarn.”

“Come on, you know that’s not true. I’m just trying to help you, let me help you!”

“You are not my hero.” Their words are firm and steadfast. A moment passes before the villain shakes their head and begins chuckling into their hands. They laugh with their entire body, rising and falling like the ocean’s tide. “How could you possibly save me? Save this? You don’t know what it feels like to have your world slowly crumble around you. What else could I have done with the cards that I have been dealt?” As they speak they throw their hands out to the sides, as if asking the world to bring the oncoming storm. Turning their body, they face away from their old friend. Instead their eyes trace the ground and the wall in front of them. Memorizing the details, ignoring the memories.

Our hero lets out a sigh and exhaustion ripples through their muscles. The water’s tranquil surface distorted by the smallest rock. They walk up to the person opposing them and gently take one of their hands in their own. It is our villain’s instinct to flinch, but they do not pull away. They watch silently as their hand is examined. A hand covered in dirt, nicked with scars, bruised along the knuckles. They know that their hands are not in the best condition, but with this kind of focused attention they are able to truly acknowledge the scars. 

Two hands move to cup the one. A small form of embrace, the epiphany that comes from understanding. Our hero looks up once again to meet the eyes of their friend. They are parlyzed with the fear that comes from finally being perceived. 

Softly, our hero speaks, “You are not the villain, as I am not the hero. We are human, we should allow ourselves to be that at the very least.” 

“Well it seems like both of our plans have fallen through.” The response is despondent and the freedom from another's grasp has never felt so heavy. They take a couple steps back, not wanting to lose sight of the other, before turning around and disappearing into the billowing smoke and smoldering ash of the fires that they let burn out. 

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