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Chapter Nineteen: Gray
It is strange.
It is completely and utterly strange.
Though he himself is bright and colored . . .
He can only see the world in black and white.
The Avatar State.
The defensive mechanism.
Something that has saved his life more times than he can remember.
Yet at the same time . . .
Something that has ruined his life more times than he can remember.
He can still recall the striking landscapes, everything painted in black or white. Black? Ignore. White? Destroy. As if the colors can tell him what to do.
He can never control it.
And he knows it.
He will forever be tormented.
What if one day he activates the Avatar State without meaning to?
Well, of course, he never means it, but—when he goes into the Avatar State, it was because he was in danger.
But if he's angry—
If he's upset—
If I show any emotion beyond happiness, I glow.
He is shuddering, his hands wracked with spasms.
"I can't do it anymore," he whispers. "I can't. I just—I just can't."
He closes his eyes, and forever imprinted on the lids is that flash of landscape, that sprawl of contrasting, striking colors.
The black all around him.
And a few figures of white.
The darkness all about him.
And the piercing white of the Sandbenders' ship.
He cannot take the white.
He must destroy it.
He lifts his arm and slices.
A single slice.
The white removes, shatters into a thousand bright, shimmering pieces, flickers pitifully, and disappears into shadow.
Into the world of mist and fog.
And the only thing that saves her is he cannot see her, cannot see her white, cannot see the light that draws his anger and hate like a moth to a candle.
If it were the other way around—if the evil was black, and if the rest was white—maybe he could control it.
But amid the darkness, the white hurts him. It pains him. It burns him in its agony, and he cannot take it, and he cannot understand, and he cannot help but destroy what threatens to destroy him.
She wonders why I am. I know she is. He glances at the map in his hands. The Serpent's Pass . . . Well, we'll head there soon enough.
He can't let himself do that again.
What if she makes me angry, and I enter the Avatar State? What—should she live in fear of me? He gasps in pain, staring at the bloodied, raw knuckles on his left hand, the fingernails of his right rimmed scarlet. He brings the injured hand to his mouth.
I can't ever love her.
I can't hurt her.
And if I love her—I'll hurt her.
The Avatar State doesn't care.
The Avatar State doesn't understand the difference between an angry friend and a threat.
It sees in black and white.
It never sees in gray.
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