Outside, Looking In

By Moe Lane


None of them can see me as I crouch by the window. I know this, because they haven't come out to kill me.

I hate them - I hate you, probably - but they - and you - hate us, too. If I felt like laughing, I would - it's right for us to hate each other. You hate us because we remind you how far you can fall, and we hate you because you treat your state as a right, rather than the luckiest of circumstances. Go back far enough, find the right event to change, switch the target of a particular raid ... and it'd be me in there swilling ale telling stories about their particular celestial slavemaster, and it'd be you crouching in the dark swallowing your bile.

I can recite the details of the conflict, of course: you can even say it's bred into my bones. Not the least of the so-called 'Unbroken' Races' crimes is that they get to interpret everything in their own terms: my people do not even have our own name. 'Orc' is a Human word: it originally meant 'demon' - and that tells you everything that you need to know about purebred Humans. "It's ugly, short and smelly: it must be a creature of evil."

Well, we are - but, when it came to it, what choice did we have?

The oldest of us still whisper scraps of legends and languages, passed down through generations from our first ancestors. Snatches of songs, bits of stories, a name or two - but no prayers. Those were discarded with the end of hope. That hope must have died hard: for, after all, were they not valuable? They were their God's creations, with intrinsic worth and self-dignity. The forces of Good would not rest until such worthy souls were rescued, surely?

But rescue never came - and the stones of our homes/prisons almost reek of the stink of that betrayal. Of course, those feelings of shocked outrage faded, too: sucked down into the dark to die unlamented. In the end, there was nothing but the darkness and the collars and the breeding places (no, not pits. Pits are too hard to hose down afterwards). Every one of my people is descended from captives who were written off by their fellows ... and by those sanctimonious hypocrites who claim to be servants of their God. Either they lie, or else their God is a tyrant and slavemaster worse than any here on Earth.

We have all of this explained to us quite thoroughly, you see. Not all of us, of course: just the ones deemed smart or strong enough to serve. Gaining that privileged status is all we dare dream of - because it means that we can be half-free. Free to kick where once we were kicked, free to snatch food from others instead of having it snatched from us, free to amuse ourselves, instead of being the amusement of others. All we have to give up in exchange is any illusion that we were not damned from birth. A small price to pay for the privilege of almost standing tall for a few short decades before we are inevitably dragged into Hell.

The males, at least: the price paid by our females is so very, very different. If the look in their altered eyes is anything like the look in the Princess of Freedom, then I am glad that I was not born a woman.

So we serve Hell, and are no doubt served up in our turn - but at least we are not lied to, like our ancestors were lied to by those cold scions of their God. Demons make themselves clear: submit, or be destroyed. If Hell does not strike the blow, then our estranged cousins will. We horribly fascinate them, you see: they can see traces of themselves in our features, and the horror that this inevitably produces will soon be transmuted into sick rage. Rage at us for being so weak as to have ancestors that submitted to overwhelming force: would that they turned that rage towards their own forebears for letting it happen.

Every Orc knows this - and they also know that, for all of Heaven's prating about 'mercy' and 'love' and 'peace', there is no room at that table, no room in that inn, no place in the planned scheme of things for us. If Heaven were to win, the best that we could hope for - the very best - is the utter destruction of our race. We have so very little, but we will not let even that be taken from us simply because we are deemed an abomination by others. So we serve Hell, for they at least will let us continue as we are. Why should they not? They were the ones who put us there. With the death of hope comes at least a numbing of pain.

I look at the group again, through the window. Smug, self-satisfied, blithely unaware of their own chains, they have deliberately blinded themselves to the true nature of the universe, and actually imagine themselves to be free. I despise them with all my heart.

And I also wish with all my heart that Hell had raided some other damned village all those years ago, so that some cleaner version of me would be permitted to go in and partake in their illusion...


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