My beloved left very early this morning, hours before dawn. I was so overjoyed to see him last night I forgot to ask if he’d eaten. He told me later he made a show out of going about his usual prison routine (eating being a part of it) to fool the guards, who promptly fell asleep. That’s when he broke out and made his way to the cabin in the cover of darkness.
I’ve been fixing up the place and cleaning so that when the servants wake up no one will suspect someone else has been here. I fear for him being caught, and the harm he might do to anyone who attempts to lock him up once again. He’s hell bent on finding Zeke and this time, nothing will stop him.
Last night was magical, as it always is when we’re together. But last night was especially so, perhaps because we both felt it might be the last time we’ll see each other before the rumbling happens.
I had that girl-on-the-horse dream again. I sometimes have dreams of Ymir or Frieda when I’m alone, but only when Eren is asleep next to me that I see visions of this woman on a white horse. Not a woman, just a girl really. She’s riding a horse that’s going around and around in circles in the sand. With her blonde hair, blue eyes, decrepit headband, raggedy shift, and worn-out sandals, she always looks the same. She looks like me, but isn’t me. There are no chains about her, but she appears enslaved. Just by the expression on her face I know she’s utterly miserable, that she’s suffering having to sit on a horse that seems to circle for eternity. When I first saw that dream I tried to help her, to make the horse stop. I’m good with horses and should’ve been able to talk to it, to tell it to let its rider dismount. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t reach either of them. That was when Eren woke me up.
“Help her, Eren, she’s suffering… please, help her,” I’d been mumbling in my sleep, it seemed.
“Help who, Historia? Who should I help?” he’d asked. I told him about the dream, about me being unable to reach the girl but having this inexplicable feeling that he—and he alone– could.
We didn’t know what to make of this recurring dream, so we didn’t tell anyone. I’m hoping that someday I could actually watch as the girl gets off the horse with Eren’s help, and that her sorrowful face will finally break into a smile.
Eren has been gone for only a few hours but already I miss him so much it hurts. Being with him always feels like coming home. All my life I’ve felt lost and abandoned and unwanted, but in his arms it’s like finding a warm and safe place where you are loved and accepted and known. Yes, fully known, with all the vulnerability it requires. He knows me, every good and bad part of me, and loves me still. When we are together, I feel like everything falls into place. All these years I’ve been searching for a home, only to find out that it’s not a where but a who.
Last night I felt him loving me with every fibre of his being, and there’s nothing like it in the world. I consider myself the luckiest woman who has ever lived, because I’ve been loved by Eren Jaeger, thoroughly and completely. He often tells me I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to him, and he told me so again last night. The joy in my heart was such that I thought I’d burst from the abundance of it.
But at what price? What price do we have to pay for our happiness, this joy that we have together?
I asked him once, when did it all begin, this plan of destroying the entire world? He went all the way back to our first night at my country home, when he said he decided to love me, completely and without reservation. When you love someone, he said, their happiness becomes as—if not more—important than your own. “I would rather be dead than have you suffer the same fate as I have,” he’d said. “The very thought of you being devoured by your own child is beyond unthinkable to me.” I asked him why not, when I was willing to do whatever it takes to protect the island. He shot me a baleful glance and said, “Because it’s not gonna be just your kid. It’ll be mine, too. I would never wish that on our kid.”
All this was long before we decided to become pregnant.
One time I had a dream of my sister Frieda who seemed to be telling me to protect the world at the island’s expense. I mentioned this to Eren, who shook his head.
“Think of a mouse cornered by a snake,” he’d said as an analogy. “Either the mouse grows fangs and increases tenfold in size and kills the snake, or be devoured by it. In this case, the mouse is perfectly justified in killing the snake, for its own survival. The outside world is the snake, and Paradis is the mouse. It’s a kill-or-be-killed situation. There is no other option but to kill. It’s self-defense, Historia. Frieda may disagree, but from the island’s perspective we are absolutely justified in doing whatever it takes for self-preservation.”
Sometimes the Reiss part of me rears its ugly head and I would argue, pointlessly. “Pre-emptive strikes can hardly be called justified. Kill or be killed is a binary distinction,” I told Eren once. “Why can’t there be a middle ground? Binary distinctions are arbitrary, a mere construct, making them deficient by nature. A binary distinction undermines itself if we deconstruct it.”
He gave me a look and said, “So how do you propose to deconstruct it? What middle ground do you have in mind?”
“There has got to be a way for the partial rumbling plan to work,” I said, sounding lame and already defeated.
We’ve discussed the possibility of a partial rumbling time and again, but as the months went by his stance became more and more immovable.
“A partial rumbling is a half-assed solution,” he’d said. “Half-baked, stop-gap measures seldom work. We’ve studied world history, have we not? You and I both know that leaders have made the greatest mistakes when they settled for short-sighted fixes. In every instance, it’s the succeeding generations that have had to pay the price for these weak-willed ancestors’ boneheaded decisions. Can’t you see, Historia? The partial rumbling plan is merely offloading the Eldian Problem to the younger generations.”
We would argue for hours sometimes. When Eren finally told me he’d decided to proceed with a full rumbling, we’d spend our precious time together making love desperately, and then arguing the rest of the night. I’d vacillate between supporting him and taking Frieda’s stance.
During those times we’d always end up discussing morality. “From a moral perspective, we cannot destroy the world. It would make us less than human,” said the Reiss in me.
“You’re basing that statement on the supposition that there is such a thing as objective morality,” Eren countered. “Rational morality, absolute morality, natural morality…there are no such things. Throughout history, kings of men have come up with all kinds of moral systems, each one of them claiming to be universal. Don’t you see the irony here?”
“That means all moral systems are particular and subjective, serving a specific purpose for their creators and adherents. I understand as much,” I replied.
“Moral systems are used to create regimes to discipline and socialise human beings. In order to do that, they have to narrow people’s perspectives and limit their horizons. That’s what the Reiss moral system has done for more than a hundred years. It turned us into cattle, basically. You know how much I despise that.”
“But there has to be some kind of universal moral code that is the basis for all these disparate systems,” I argued. “Just like the way all human languages share an underlying grammatical structure, we human beings must share some innate set of moral code, or norms or values if you like, that tells us things such as genocide being unacceptable.”
“So you’re saying we are, as human beings, born with a certain disposition that makes us respond to moral situations in structurally similar ways?”
“Yes. I know it’s not very helpful, but if we can’t wrap our minds around that, and give up on our belief in a shared humanity, then we will fall into the trap of moral relativism.”
“It isn’t a trap, Historia. It’s all there is, with the pitfalls and shortcomings that come with it.”
“Taken to the extreme it’s equivalent to ‘anything goes’, that’s why I say it’s a trap,” I insisted. “Human beings are products of a complex and ongoing evolutionary process. This process is not the only one responsible for human essence, but it shapes into us certain characteristics that define us as human.”
“Isn’t that merely determinism?” he asked, skeptically.
“No, the process doesn’t determine, it merely constrains which set of behaviours are pro-social and pro-human progress, and what kinds of behaviour aren’t.”
“But then that would lead us back to the argument for the Greater Good. That’s what the entire Reiss moral system is based upon: sacrifice the few—us Eldians—for the sake of humankind. I reject that on a fundamental level.”
“As a species our best means of survival is to sacrifice for the greater good.”
“But that’s merely Tyranny of the Majority! You’re basically licensing cultural and political imperialism, the majority imposing their values on others. If that value system says minorities should be exterminated, then where does that put us? Even minorities have the right to exist!”
“The problem in this scenario is that we Eldians aren’t just any piddling minority. We cause harm by simply existing. We are not part of the problem. We are the problem.”
“For fuck’s sake, Historia! You sound exactly like Frieda! Whose side are you on, pray, tell?”
By then I realise he is right. Every time I have a dream of my sister I see her side of the story—the Reiss family’s side of the story—and I would fall into a pit of historical guilt and masochism and self-loathing. So Eren and I would argue, in circles.
After we became pregnant, he gave me a kind of ultimatum: “For the sake of our unborn child, Historia, I hope you’ll throw the Reiss moral system out the window.”
He was right, again.
As a soon-to-be-parent, I have big dreams for the baby inside me. But it’s not just our child. There are times when I make up fantasy scenarios for our friends, about what happens to them after Eren destroys the rest of the world. Without outside enemies plotting to exterminate us, they could have more options in life. Instead of taking up the sword and killing titans sent by the enemy, they could fulfill their dreams.
Mikasa could become a medical doctor if she wants to, following in the footsteps of Dr Grisha Jaeger. She does have everything it takes to become a surgeon: intelligence, manual dexterity, physical skills, extensive patience, adaptability and enthusiasm for learning new techniques. Good communication is also vital, but that can be taught and she has mad rapid learning skills.
Jean is astute, very clever, has high situational awareness, and this uncanny ability to see both sides of the story. During the times when Eren and Armin are on polar ends of a debate, it’s Jean who understands both their points of view and makes a fair judgement accordingly. He doesn’t have to be a soldier to become successful; he can be a businessman, lawyer, judge, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Armin I see as becoming our very first National University president. I’d very much like to build a system of higher education like they currently have in the continent. There’s no more perfect candidate as Minister for Education than him. But with his creativity and resourcefulness he can become anything really: professor, Prime Minister, adventurer.
Connie has always been a great athlete: he’s good at ball sports and all kinds of games. I’ve always dreamed of a national tournament on the island where athletes can compete and win medals and prizes, with the competitors coming from our schools with newly introduced athletics and health programs. Connie could become Minister for Sport.
Even for my former superiors I dream big dreams. Hange as Chief Scientist, or Minister for Science and Research, or Inventor Chief Executive Officer for a private firm. Hange is so brilliant they could be anything plus more. Levi could open up a tea shop, and a farm to raise the leaves, as he’s become very knowledgeable—indeed an expert—regarding the beverage. He wouldn’t have to fight anymore, and live out his days in peace and tranquility.
There’s a part of me that is fully aware I’m dreaming these pleasant dreams, having these mental exercises of a self-indulgent nature, as a means of justifying the full rumbling. It’s impossible to stomach the plan from a moral point of view, so I fill my mind with images of our precious friends living long and happy lives, to make myself feel better.
One time I shared my sunnily absurd fantasies with Eren, and he laughed and said I sounded like an ambitious hen determined to hatch a brood of overachieving chicks. I protested saying I just wanted to give our friends options in life, new choices, non-military careers if it’s what they wanted.
“I understand,” he replied, smiling. “I dream of them living long and happy lives, too, free of the need to have to constantly ward off invaders. And you know what? I’m gonna make it happen. For them. For our kid. For everyone on the island.” He’d have this faraway look in his eyes, full of determination, of dreams for a peaceful future, not for himself but for his loved ones.
But at what cost? That vexing question never goes away.
When I learned of Sasha’s death, a part of me died. I’ve had big dreams for Sasha, kind, funny, sweet, lovely Sasha. She’d been dating a talented Marleyan chef, and I’ve visualised her becoming head of a restaurant empire together with him. One time she and I talked about having a trainee program in the food service industry for orphan children who have come of age, the ones unqualified for military service. Sasha had been very enthusiastic about it, “We could give them a fair pay, plus room and board, while training them.” By ‘we’ she meant her and Nicolo, who had proposed to her, and which she happily accepted, of course. They planned to announce the engagement and hold the wedding after she returned from Liberio. She returned, but not in the way they had planned. I cannot even begin to describe how devastating Sasha’s death was for myself and Eren. But whatever grief we have is nothing compared to Nicolo’s.
Eren and I are to blame. Someone once told me that the road to perdition is paved with good intentions. Already we see our plan going awry. Already the cracks have begun to show. And yet Eren keeps moving forward, and I along with him.
I’ve always known Eren was special, that he was unlike any other titan shifter in our race’s two thousand years of history. Unlike other shifters who inevitably found themselves bound by the closest thing to a universal morality, Eren is capable of rejecting all previous notions of right and wrong, of good and bad, of ethics and moral systems. He is capable of turning every paradigm on its head. He sees the world not as it is, but as it should be. Instead of the universally-acclaimed idea of the island being the problem, perhaps it’s the world outside that’s the problem, he claimed. And so, while he was capable of it, he will eliminate the world before it succeeds in eliminating the island. Only he would have the audacity to do such a thing, and he plans to fix everything by the time our child is born.
For Eren, it was a tactical decision. “I’ve been dealt a rotten pack of cards,” he’d said, “My life is what it is. But your life and our kid’s life could be better. I’m gonna do everything I can for the two of you to have a better future.”
I thought I could find it in me to become fully evil (evil here defined as the opposite of the greatest good for the greatest number of people), to accept Eren’s belief that my self-preservation, as well as that of our child’s, is more important than the lives of all the people outside the island.
But as our baby grows inside me, as it kicks and moves and tells me it wants to be born very soon, all I feel is an intense guilt, an excruciating pain borne not out of physical discomfort but mental anguish.
How could I sit here and do nothing while other pregnant women like me will soon be crushed under the weight of the marauding wall titans? How can I call myself a mother when I know millions of infants, newborn babies free of sin and undeserving of any kind of suffering, are slaughtered for crimes they didn’t commit? How could I possibly live with myself?
I have tortured my mind with these questions day after day, ever since Eren told me of his plan. And yet I do nothing to stop him.
A queen in name only, that is what I am. It is but a facade. What I really am is Devil Woman. Humanity’s Worst Enemy. The bane of humankind. I’ve enabled Eren to destroy the world. I’m his Chief Enabler. As his partner I’m not merely a bystander, but his partner-in-crime.
I am the face of incomprehensible evil, and I cannot express in words the abject misery of knowing this truth. I might live, and so will my child, but the guilt and shame will surely gnaw at me and destroy me from the inside.
Eren, my beloved Eren. I know you suffer, too. You are suffering from the deepest, most vicious kind of pain, and yet you keep on moving forward, out of the immeasurable love you have for the people you care about. Soon the entire world outside of the island will be annihilated. I am at the pit of despair.
What have we done? Oh, Eren, what have we done?
Thank you so much for reading! Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. Your comments give me life and are a real source of encouragement. xoxo, hana
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