It lasted but a moment.
A last gasp of a warrior left dying on the battlefield. A single glistening raindrop, hung suspended amidst a rainstorm. A string pulled tight on a bow or instrument, the finger prepared to release and allow it to sing, or pull harder and snap it. A single second that stretched on into infinity. A moment was all it lasted.
A familiar voice I had never heard. A language I understood but did not know. Words that I could not hear, but still imparted meaning.
I was offered a choice, that in hindsight, was not a choice at all. The being I am could not have made any other decision, and I'm sure they knew that. The choice was part of a ritual, a formality decided upon before any thought or speck of me had come into existence. A choice.
I asked why, why this, why me, why now? I got the sense of a laugh in response. Not all of them would've laughed, would they? I will never know which one of them did it, but the laugh narrows it down a bit. Or, at least, I choose to think it does.
There was a sense of considering. Of measuring something to be put to use, examining a tool or weighing out flour to make bread. The item itself does not matter, only the purpose does. To them, there was no more to me than the use they could extract from me, the purpose they could put me towards.
I made my choice. It truly was no choice at all. There was no consideration, despite not being given any sense of impatience. It was automatic. Like the response to a call in a sailor's song or a prayer, the last step in a ritual. There truly was never any question.
The tension increased. I'd like to think I screamed, but there was nothing left of me to scream. My perception grew to the size of the moon, to the size of Gaia herself, and shrunk to the point of a pin, all at once. I was being torn apart and pressed together, seared and frozen, deafening sound and the silence of the dead. I immediately regretted my choice.
When my shattered being had pieced itself together, I hovered over my body. The world around me was distorted, tinted blue. Sounds warped and echoed like hearing underwater. My namesakes flapped among the field of the dead and dying, tearing at eyes, tongues, lips, innards.
I considered leaving. I considered soaring to the shattered moon, and never returning- but something tugged at me, bringing itself to my consciousness. A simple tool, learning its intended use. I willed myself in the direction, my body forming aerodynamically behind me, my wings bearing me towards my destination. I wondered if I would even fall if I stopped flapping, or change course if I turned around, or if some invisible force carried me onward to the purpose I had agreed to.
Strings reached out and tied me to the living world once again.
In all my bodies, in all my lives, there's a moment at the edge of sleep and consciousness, where I can feel those strings. A crow suspended, trapped in a vessel, tied with threads fine as spider's silk and strong as steel. I wonder if I was always a crow, and the awareness was always there, I simply didn't understand what to look for. I wonder whether the choice never truly changed me, and I had been as I am from the start. As far back as my memories reach, though, that is the wall I cannot breach.
That moment is where I end and start.