Tank Man | By Georgia L

I never realised how hard the fall would be. Others had tried to warn me, to help me prepare. But it’s more painful than I imagined.

Waiting, watching. Waiting for some kind of release. Watching my purpose come apart around me, piece by corrupted piece. Existence itself slowly drooping like a withering flower, ever so gently ripping gaping holes in my universe.

The fact that I can’t stop it, or even move, makes the fall all the more terrifying. Falling backwards, pinned by the pressure, having to watch the apocalyptic destruction of Heaven with dark and regretful eyes. I’m so used to being powerful that this knocks the wind out of me. My weakness. My vulnerability. A brand-new feeling of fear. I’ve never had anything to fear before, a privilege that I didn’t realise I had until now.

I, and everyone around me, used to be flawless. Perfect bodies accompanied by perfect spirits existing in a perfect universe. But soon enough, His idea of perfection changed, and everything became twisted. Broken. Flawed. The ground we walked on changed, the homes we lived in became dust.

He was most powerful spirit ever to exist, and the oldest. He had been here since the beginning of everything, and this was the destruction of everything.

My back hits the earth, and the pain of thousands of years of existence crashes down onto me, filling the lungs that I don’t know I had and clouding the brain that feels heavier every second I lie on this planet. Moving is impossible, at least until the sky is dark and freckled with the stars that I’m so used to seeing below me. The worst part is seeing the shooting stars and knowing they’re my brothers and sisters hurtling to the earth. This isn’t their fault. I want to scream, but all that escapes me is a quiet whimper that sends stabs of pain through this thing the humans call a body. This isn’t their fault.

The gentle cushion of my wings slowly dissipates, and I’m left lying on concrete, wishing my existence would cease as quickly as breath snuffs out a candle. Heaven has ceased to exist, and I am full of fear.

But then my remaining senses finally light up. I finally hear the conundrum about me. I finally smell the blood-soaked earth. Panic and chaos, screaming and shouting, smoke bombs and tanks. I finally understand where I am. Beijing. Tiananmen Square. 1989.

Only the downfall of perfection could allow what I see before me to happen. Only complete and utter corruption could cause this. Death is everywhere. It has infected everyone. No one in this place will walk away, not unless this nightmarish brutality stops. I’ve never cried before, but by God do I cry now. All these people, deserving of a beautiful and happy ever after, but with no Heaven left to go to.

The sound of fear is everywhere. Pounding feet, desperate screams and the sobs of those who have already accepted their deaths. These people used to look small and pathetic to me, but now, stood here amongst them, I realise I am exactly where I need to be. The only reason these creatures turn against each other is fear, this thing that I finally understand. But being fearful isn’t equal to being weak. These humans that live through fear every day are stronger than I have ever been.

The advancing tanks will crush everyone who remains. Dead, alive, young, old, they don’t care who they kill anymore. They’re too scared to see what they’re doing is wrong.

While everyone around me runs, I stand my ground. I cannot let this happen. I at least have to give those who are not ready to die a chance to flee. The tanks stop. Crush me, if you will. But please, just leave them alone.

I can’t put my emotions into words. For the first time in eternity, I’m feeling. And I don’t know how to express it.

My hand stretches out in a gesture of power and defiance. A gesture of no.

And suddenly, I am fearless. For everyone on this planet, I am fearless. Instead of heavenly fearlessness, when you have no need to feel fear, this is the kind of fearlessness you feel when protecting people. When rushing into the road to save an oblivious child. When giving your life for someone who deserves the rest of theirs.

Compared to these people, I have so much of my life behind me. But them? They have yet to accomplish so much. They have their whole existence ahead of them. Me? I’ve already lived mine a million times over. Since the fall of Him, what else can I do with this new-found mortality? I am willing to lay my life down, for them. For the people already dead, for the people I’m trying to protect from death. For as many as I can. Isn’t that what I was created for? To protect? To be fearless for those who can’t?

They called me the Tank Man. Once everything was over, once everyone had been mourned, my legacy would continue. The actions of a lonely angel, newly mortal, trying to make themselves worthy of the existence bestowed upon them. Letting their fear drive them to be fearless, and hoping that the actions of one could save the lives of a million.

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