There was only ever the two of them.
There were others of course, but they were all too…
Too old mostly. Too removed. Too aloof. Too different.
They had no one else, and without each other they would have been odd in every sense imaginable.
Loneliness and the desire for companionship brought them together. There was a thrill of excitement that they shared upon discovering each other. Suddenly the games they played opened up into something far bigger than they had ever managed in the bubble of their solitude.
Play, and the game in hand, was all there was. They lost themselves in their shared endeavours, throwing themselves into the moment and losing all else. These were the rules of engagement from the very off, and as the years passed, they became far more than habit and routine. They were the rituals of the religion of their friendship. This was their belief system. What they had went beyond words and rational thought.
They just were.
They were by no means inseparable, they did however share something unique and as the years passed it became more and more valuable. They were tied together by a land they shared and ruled over and neither of them ever considered a coup. Not once did they seriously entertain the possibility that they might overthrow their companion and take everything. That was not the deal and that was not how any of it worked.
There was more than contentment between them. Far more. There was fun, excitement and a purpose that if not shared then at least understood. As they grew older, there was a comfort between them. They did not judge and were not judged. A peace that was not to be found elsewhere.
Perhaps all things must come to an end, or the possibility of an ending was the test. The friends had been tested before, but those tests had been weak and rudimentary. Easy to shrug off or ignore. As it was, the world barely intruded. Instead, the friends made forays into the world when required. They did as they saw fit and exercised a control few others knew possible.
They knew they were different, and in their difference they were special. They came to realise that it was their difference that had brought them together and allowed their friendship to bloom and flourish. Their improbable friendship somehow made them all the more special.
Then she came along.
They both had urges and desires. They were driven by them. At times, these had been aligned. Until this moment, they had an unwritten understanding. An instant etiquette, one of them stepping back and inviting the other to go first. Neither kept count. There was no score, but they both intuited a balance and a sense of fairness that headed off any sniff of conflict.
She changed all of that.
She too was special.
She was too special.
But neither of them were to know that. Nothing could prepare them for her, just as the world had not been prepared for them.
In some ways she was the same as them, but in one important way she was different.
On the day they both first encountered her it became obvious that they had both seen her before. A word did not pass between them, but they knew all the same, and this knowing was unwelcome. It carried with it a dark uncertainty, a new and dangerous territory that neither of them had ever wanted to traverse.
They were dangerous. That much had been obvious from the off. But then everyone was dangerous. They, each and every one of them, carried inside a monster. Most denied that monster and they failed to live as a result. Others molly-coddled the thing and made it soft. These two embraced the monster and were at one with it in a way few could master. It was what made them so special.
It was also what made her special.
She walked into their lives and she came between them. Her very existence divided them. They knew it from the off, but sadly they denied it. She used this. She used them against themselves. She was the key that unlocked their friendship. She undid them and watched them fall apart.
The world was never the same again.
The world that they had shared.
Now it was hers and their rules no longer applied.
Blinded, all they saw was her and so change crept up upon them and by the time they understood what was really happening, it was all but done.
They wanted her.
They wanted what they could not have and they were willing to do anything. Sacrifice everything. It was only a matter of time before they turned on each other in the mistaken belief that the other was the impediment to what they now desired the most in all of the world.
She smiled and watched as the chaos seeped in and destroyed them and everything they had.
Together, they stood a chance against her. Together they were strong. She gave the lie to their friendship and the lie spread until there was only confusion and the confusion angered their monsters. Their anger was a mask for their fear and this grew into a hatred that would only be sated with one conclusion.
The complete annihilation of the other.
They could have parted ways before the damage was done, but they knew that was never an option. She was the only option and she came at a price. Neither of them ever stopped to consider what the true price was. Only one thing mattered and that was her. They ceased to care about anything else, and in so doing, they ceased to be.
One day, they went out into the world and as they ventured forth, they realised there was no going back and nothing to go back for. That the next time they encountered each other they would play a game for the first and last time and that was the game of death.
They were well versed in death. It was what they were about. Now they were alone. Forever separated and changed.
Somehow, they both knew that they had been played at their own game and out manoeuvred by her, but there was no going back. They could think of nothing other than her. She was their prize. They believed in her with the entirety of their being and everything else burnt away like tissue paper and blew away in the winds of their desire.
In life, there are seldom clean and tidy endings. Even death brings with it a mess of confusion. The friends never saw each other again, and neither did they see her. Having got what she had come for, she slipped away in the night in search of more fools who would be seduced by her very presence.
Often, the former friends would veer dangerously close to an encounter, but some sense drove them away again. Not a survival instinct. They now craved death, for there was nothing left to live for other than the ghost of her and a fading belief that she would be theirs in the end. No, neither of them could countenance an encounter for it would be their undoing. They would see the truth of their compromised existence and what it was that they had wilfully lost, and so they drifted on the tides of the world, taking lives on a whim and barely allowing themselves to feel anymore.
Feeble, empty and pained, they were too weak to reconcile themselves with the only friend they had in the world.