It watched as they got together and tore themselves asunder. And everything in between.
It was a thing that was not there. It did not exist, at least not on the level of narrative. It had no part to play in any of their stories, nor would it ever. Their drama did not concern it, their failures did not harm it, their triumphs meant nothing to it. This left it in a rather unique position.
It could watch.
Such fascinating creatures. It did not recall exactly when it started observing them. It supposed that this is when it came into being in the first place. It did know that its first memory of them was a boardroom. Such an eclectic bunch of personalities. Color-coded outfit on one, a ridiculous hat on another, shadows surrounding a third. From the first, it seemed very odd to it that this bunch should be the bulwark of humanity. Though it was not human (indeed, it wasn't anything, so it was assured), it couldn't help but think that the thirteen figures inhabiting its proverbial birth chamber shared very little with their so-called wards.
See this one, it thought. Number… ten, it believed. Sitting quietly, only raising her voice once, when the vote was called. Observer watched her, and saw a thousand timelines spooled beneath her like earthworms beneath the thin crust of the soil. What did she have in common with the average person? It looked at her eyes, ancient with the knowledge numerous non-existing worlds, and saw very little that was human in them. Not anymore.
It looked further, to number four. If ten had the weight of years behind her, four had space. Observer could see distances spreading behind him, unwinding endlessly. This was a man who could walk anywhere, it could tell. Though the man himself didn't seem to realize it, there was something arrogant in his posture, in the way he seemed to throw his weight to fill every available space. When distances mean nothing to a person, Observer reflected, when one was always free to go where one willed, it was only natural that a certain sense of superiority would develop.
Then there was thirteen. Observer enjoyed this one most of all. Or perhaps it was only grim fascination.
It did not wonder why one meant only to watch should feel as it did.
It needed a name. Even those who did not exist needed a way to refer to themselves. So it was assured.
Observer would do.
Some time later, Observer watched the multi-version man pour himself a cup of weak coffee.
If it had first considered the inhabitants of its birthing chamber strange, it was only because Observer was not yet exposed to creatures of the man's ilk. As the man sniffed and frowned at the contents of his Styrofoam cup, his face shifted and twirled before Observer's keen gaze. The man's ordinary middle-aged features grew sharp and pointed, and his tired frown twisted into an unnatural toothy grin. His white lab coat was now a longcoat and his formerly bare head now bore a strange, wide-brimmed hat. Observer seemed to be the only one to notice this, as none of the cafeteria's other inhabitants made any sort of note of the man's sudden change. A moment passed, and the grinning man's head was now that of a grey owl, wide-eyed and bemused.
Starts with a C and ends with an F. I always start with a C and end with an F. Smash heads with a C and charm with an F. Science with C and death with an F.
Internal monologue. Peculiar. Observer watched all this with muted interest, as it seemed to always do. It had watched the man undergo this sort of transformation many times before. The man was not the only one of his type. Observer has watched the multi-versioned wander around the various sites it chose to watch, twisting and shifting between different forms without them or anyone else but Observer noticing. It seemed odd to Observer that creatures so strange could pass off as human not only to others but even to themselves. To it, they seemed anything but.
Everyone knows I'm C and an F. All that I am is C and an F. If I am not C and I am not F, then I am not C and I am not F.
Their names. They all seemed so fascinated with their names. Almost like they were not truly their own.
Dance in the rain with a C and an F. Eat the whole sky with a C and an F. I do all I do for the C and the F. FUCK ALL THE WORLD FOR THE C AND THE F-
Oh dear, here it went again. Not showing any outward agitation, The owl-headed multi-versioned finished his coffee and turned towards the pastry cabinet as the alarm went off. From the distance came the sounds of gunfire, as well as what sounded like a roar. The multi-versioned (now back to its tired middle-aged persona) did not seemed alarmed by any of this. Instead, he simply sighed, grabbed an errant blueberry muffin, and began walking towards the source of the noise, chewing absentmindedly.
AH. TIME TO GO TO WORK FOR THE C AND THE F. ENTERTAIN IN THE NAME OF THE-
There was a sudden spring to the man's steps. Observer was not surprised. Most of the creatures appeared to lack any real sense of self-preservation. This was, Observer supposed, because they had no true notion of self-interest. Their will belonged to those who imbued them with their names, and those hidden masters cared only for whatever entertainment and glory their namesakes could accomplish in their name. Slaves in all but name. Reality could be so very droll, Observer thought, never stopping to consider its sudden change of attitude. It was not yet time.
C AND THE F! BLOOD FOR THE C-
As the multi-versioned man vanished behind a corner, Observer was torn between pity and contempt for the creatures. They were puppets, it was true, and that alone was no reason to hate them, but Observer has seen all too often what happened to those who happened to get entangled with them in their strings. Their other selves clouded reality around them like a miasma, and sickly light of their masters' will tore at it, a diseased claw about the face of narrative.
AND JOY FOR THE F!
Observer listened as screams joined gunfire and roars, and shook its non-existing head.
What hope could humanity have with such an infection in its midst? Observer did not know. It only knew that it was glad it was not the same.
THAT IS THE NAME. ADD TWO MORE LETTERS AND THAT IS THE NAME!
Poor, wretched things. Observer was free to think its own thoughts.
The irony of this statement was lost on it.
Observer sat on the young woman's shoulder, looking as she did at the enormous, scarred man. He was busy removing bits of shrapnel from one grotesquely-muscled shoulder with one hand while chewing on what appeared to be a whole cow's head he was holding in the other. Observer turned its gaze to the woman and could not quite read the expression on her face. Hatred was there, clear as day, but it seemed to Observer that there was something false about it. The woman was not a multi-versioned in what it considered the classical definition of the term, but she shared some of their characteristics regardless. There was something poorly-defined about her, as if she existed in many worlds at the same time, and yet not really in any of them.
"You enjoying that?"
"Mmm. Good meat. Crunchy."
"Where's your sword?"
"Hmm? Stuck in something."
Observer has been watching the woman for a considerable amount of time now, and little about her truly made sense to it. Much like those in its birthing chamber, the woman had odd powers, and much like them she failed to realize how her possession of them distanced her from being truly human. Unlike them, however, this lack of perception did not seem to be internal. As if she was forced into being as she was by someone else. Perhaps this was so. Observer pitied her. The poor thing didn't even know what she was, not like it knew. Yes, Observer understood her so very perfectly.
"Mind if I take some pictures then? Might need them for later."
"Yeah, thought as much."
This again, Observer thought as it made itself more comfortable on the woman's shoulder. It had heard it so many times before. Observer did not pause to consider that it was now sitting on her shoulder, something it would never have done earlier in its poorly-defined lifetime. Sitting and thinking and pitying were for those who existed, and Observer did not. Truly it did not. Honest.
The woman turned her gaze away from the scarred man and rummaged a small pack she held at her shoulder, taking out a small camera. The scarred man turned to the woman for a moment, muttered something in a deep, guttural voice, and returned his attention to his still-bleeding meal. Observer watched as the comment momentarily filled the woman's mind, then passed over it, leaving nothing behind. She glanced at the man again, shrugged, then return to taking pictures.
Ah. This was the heart of Observer's trouble at understanding both the young woman and the scarred man. Ostensibly there was a history between them, a troubled past filled with hurt and failure, but neither them nor anyone else involved with them seemed to fully realize this. Oh, people acted as if they were aware of it, often mentioning it and pretending to base their decisions on it, but in truth it was as weightless as a leaf in a drunkard's dream. Observer enjoyed this metaphor. It thought it was clever.
"Right, I'm done here. You ready to head off, big guy?"
"Hrm. I see another cow there."
"God dammit A-"
Observer flew off. Words. Empty words, repeated ad-nausea. Cliched interactions and predictable outcomes. It was as if someone was not even trying very hard. Those two will never change as long as they continued to be used as they were. Their world will always be the same. It was almost enough to drive Observer to despair.
Or to drive someone, at least.
Observer was now high above, watching the blue orb beneath spin lazily as it drifted like an elderly whale in the black depths of space. All of those it watched before could not be seen from here. Observer found some comfort in that. From here, the world seemed almost free. Each spin could bring about something new to it, some new event or place or person who could change everything about it. It was a flimsy illusion, knowing what Observer knew, but one it relished regardless. Observer's time amid the people of this world changed it, it now realized.
It had grown to care about it. Though it still did not truly exist, it was now embroiled in the world's drama, was in some way a part of its grand narrative. Though the world will not change, though its various inhabitants will do everything in their power not to let it change, Observer knew it will keep watching it. Perhaps one day the invisible masters of this world's grand narrative will tire. Perhaps one day the people living it in will once more be free to make their own decision. Observer doubted it, but, as it remembered, it knew very little. It could be wrong. Perhaps one day this world will be truly born anew.
For now, all was perpetual stillbirth.
Observer paused at the sudden, unbearable drama contained in that last statement. This did not sound like something it would think. It was Observer, wasn't it? A non-existing being, a watcher. Why did it feel so strongly about any of this? Why did it care at all? All that time, it realized, it was passing judgement on those it saw. Pitying them for their lack of freedom, hating them for bearing the names of others, ridiculing them for their… their strings…
Horror filled Observer as it suddenly understood where all that came from. As it looked about its no longer non-existent form and saw the strings hanging from every limb.
Ah. It understood now. Observer has become Avatar. A mouthpiece, like all of the rest of them. An ironic demonstration.
Avatar understood this fully now, and it understood it had nothing to say about it either. Had nothing to say about anything. It was not its place.
As it opened its new mouth to speak, the only words to come out of it were-