-***Gears of War 2 Spoilers abound***-
I close my eyes and I see Maria. Not my beautiful smiling wife. Not the one that I fought through fourteen years of endless blood and guts to find. I see the Maria all my fighting, all my searching, all my hopes were rewarded with. The one that was an emaciated walking corpse that shuffled out of her prison of a holding tube. The one with dead eyes and welts from the lobotomy scars trailing across her once perfect skin. I can still remember the rotting smell she emanated as I held her, as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. My stomach still aches with the flip flopping of hope and despair. How all I was thinking was: just tell her that her Dominic came for her one more time and she'll wake up. But real life isn't like that. No matter how many times I said my name, her name, no comprehension dawned on her. Not even a scrap of understanding. But hadn't I come too far to lose her? It was too cruel for me to think that I would find her beyond our mental borders. Hadn't I lost enough already? My brother. My parents. My children. My fellow COG soldiers and Gears. Now my wife? I don't know what Marcus was doing while I tried to pull on that last remaining thin line of hope and happiness, as I tried to throw it around her and pull her back to me. He was probably watching on with that calm calculating stare of his. The one he always had when the worst had come and he was the first to accept it and start developing a new strategy. I remember asking him what I should do and my best friend, my brother not only in arms but an honest to God honorary Santiago, couldn't even answer me. I guess he didn't want to influence what was, and only could be, my decision.
I can hear snoring from the Gear in the bunk beside mine, and I wish I could sleep as deeply. But she's still there. In my head I can hear Marcus walk away and it's just me and Maria in that underground horror scene the Locust created. I don't know what labor they made her do. What they used to make her once strong body as fragile and thin as the bones that held her up. The lines of agony were frozen on her face, probably the last real emotion she felt before she mentally slipped into the dark. But I was with her at that moment, even if she wasn't with me. I knew she wasn't. Whatever had been my poor Maria was gone, and I hadn't been able to do anything to help her when she needed me most. No amount of time or patience would bring her back. Whatever the bastards had done to her, there was no undoing. For fuckssake Tai, the unkillable took his own head off with a shotgun after only a few hours of being subjected to their torture. Maria… I don't even know how long she had to suffer before she was reduced to that broken state. So I ended it. With a trembling hand I ended her suffering. I'll never forgive myself for everything I failed to accomplish, and how I was able to pull that trigger. But not everyone has the luxury of that choice. I know where she is now. Which is more than most people can say. Everyone has lost someone they love to the Locust since E-day, and the pain is the same in our battle heavy hearts. I haven't given myself time to mourn properly. Hatred and revenge keep my body moving long after I should have stopped. Now I finally realize, I'm the last of the Santiagos. I will never be an Uncle or a Grandfather. All those dreams have died. I may be one of the last humans alive to have held on to hope so desperately, and now my grip has failed. This war will end, one way or another, and the victors may not be ones who will remember me. But if they are, if we win, and I survive… I will grieve. I will build a monument with my bare hands if I have to for everyone I've lost, for the Carmines and their two boys will never come home, for Rojas' boy who won't remember his father, for anyone who has known the bitter tang of death on their tongue when it speaks the name of someone they knew who would live only in past tense and memories. I won't forget the fallen. I will never forget them.
The fight isn't over yet. As long as those Grubs keep popping out of the ground I'll be there, shoving a revved up Lancer in it's gut. The time hasn't come yet where I can allow myself the selfishness of grief. I'll fight because I have to. Because it's what I've always been good at. Because somewhere deep inside I know that's what she would have wanted. Because the moment I stop shooting I'll be as dead as she is. Because I'm not ready to give up. Because they're still out there.
Somehow I will fall asleep tonight, and somehow I will wake up tomorrow. But above all else, I will keep moving. I'll learn how. Just like Marcus.
Just like Marcus.
-Gears of War and all related characters are © Epic Games-