“The Highwayman: End of the Road” by Koren Shadmi
Well, it’s over. Closing with its eighth installment, this final chapter focuses on Lucas finally coming face to face with the beings responsible for his condition. For his immortality, his blessing and his curse. It’s an interesting direction for the story to take, especially given that in this last chapter he’s literally the last creature on Earth. The revelation about the grand purpose for his condition is, for Lucas at least, slightly underwhelming. He is not really a Chosen One. I mean, in some ways he is, but the purpose for why he was Chosen, for why he has the gifts he has, is much more passive than most Chosen One stories. Which makes a certain sense, in the end. The project as a whole has brought Lucas from being a very passive character to someone more active and then, at the end, returns him to his roots.
In some ways, the story for me has always been about peace. And the different ways that people think of it. Some see peace as something forced. Others as something given. Some see death as peace. Or family. Or something to fight for. Lucas’ quest has been for a certain kind of peace. A release from the pain and turmoil within him, at the very least. A respite from the hate and the violence that surrounds him, that defines him. Each chapter has weaved together but each of them, ultimately, have been vignettes, just scenes of Lucas and others trying to understand the magnitude of peace.
The work also comments a bit on the nature of people, of civilizations. This last section gives a glimpse of the cycles of rise and fall, implying while it’s not impossible to escape decline and entropy and hate and destruction, it’s also really fucking hard not to get caught in that. Humanity is dust, and nothing really remains but the memory of it, and Lucas is given a choice, an opportunity. And I feel that at many other times he would have accepted that gladly. And yet he’s lived so long that he has a different scope of vision, and when he is given his choice it’s finally with a full picture and explanation. His last illusions have been stripped away and he’s left to contemplate what’s left. Knowing the cycles of violence and pain that he’s experienced, it might be easy to assume what he’d do, but the story twists nicely, offering some lingering hope even at the end of the world. The hope that the end of the road really isn’t the end. That not all things end in tragedy. There is the sense that Lucas is ready to start over, to try something new, not to give up. It’s a rather striking way to end the story, because so much of it has been dominated by an almost fatalist feel, but here there’s something new, and in that new there really is no telling what might happen. A fascinating end to a complicated series!