Birthing . . . . Forgetting
(a short story)*
Michael Derzak Adzema
This is a place, a warm, enclosed place. It is in a forest near an ocean. A cottage is here; it has a thatched roof. The air here is humid, very moist indeed. It is so wet that you can hear drops plopping into the pine needles that cover the earth.
But that is the only sound there is. For this place is impeccable in its quietness.
It is also rather dark here. Even on bright, clear days in the outside world, so much of the sun is blocked that within the forest is eternal dusk. It is dark here . . . so quiet . . . warm, and humid.
Now, a little way from the cottage, in a very deep part of the forest, there is a tiny, sleeping little boy. Protected by giant ferns and bushes which surround and grow over him, he has been sleeping, like a bear, for a long time. This entire time, however, he has been growing larger and larger, nourished, as he is, directly by the earth. For this little boy is Mother Earth’s own little child, her young son. And like a forest mushroom he is connected directly to her and shares freely in her benevolence.
Being joined to her he shares also in her vitality. On many occasions, during his long time here, he has merged with his Mother’s spirit . . . they have shared in the common delights of the Earth. Often have they soared together to the far corners of the globe and reveled in the most beautiful and exotic places. Amidst cascading waterfalls in lush, tropical forests—they would join with a rushing stream in its exuberant dash; they would glory in its effusiveness.
At other times they shared the silent blissfulness of an ocean’s deep, the majesty of an exalted mountain. They soared and played midst imperial peaks; they danced and sported in the fragrant meadows of the world.
And they were warmed and soothed always by a springtime sun.
Very, very happy the boy has been. Bounding, twirling, and playing with no thought of a morrow. The bond that is between them is a love that has no source in either. It is there, ever present, flowing back and forth like waves lapping on a beach . . . effortlessly, lazily. The joy that the boy feels seems, on occasion, almost too much to be contained. He feels that the world is his for the taking, and that no thing is out of his power.
An unending time it seems that the boy has known in such a magnificent way. But lately there have been signs of a change. A feeling has been growing in the boy of something ominous on the horizon.
What the child does not know is that he will be leaving this place and his Mother to begin a new kind of existence—very different from what he has known. His Mother and the other Entities, however, do know this. One day they decide it is time to inform the little child about the future that awaits him. Hardly too soon either, for the unfamiliar tones that have infused his world of late have taken on an intensity, in their oppressiveness, as to be cause for some alarm.
“What is this heavy weight I’m feeling, Mother?”
“Yes, it is time that you should know, my son. For not very long from now you will begin a journey that will take you away from me and all you have known here. You will have a new kind of living, quite unlike this one.”
Never before had his Mother talked like this. Astonished, the boy wishes he hadn’t asked. “What are you saying, Mother!? I don’t want to go anywhere!”
“Now, now, my child,” interrupts the Mother.
“But, Mother, I don’t want to leave this place . . . I don’t want to leave you ever! Must I go? I don’t want to go!”
“Yes, my dear one, it is understandable, even expected, that you do not want to leave us here. Many before you have taken the journey that you will soon take. They felt the same way that you do now. I must tell you, however, that once, a long time ago, it was you yourself who chose to go on this journey. You do not remember this now. But you will, once again.”
The boy is speechless. There is no reason to doubt his Mother’s words. In the realm he has known there is no such thing as deceit. All things capable of being understood are openly shared. Thus, the boy does not even know what it is to doubt. He can only marvel at what she has said.
“Well, where is this place that I must journey to, Mother?”
“Listen, carefully, my child. Try to take this with you wherever you go, for it will be of great use to you: Where you will be journeying to is exactly where you are right now.”
She pauses to let her words take hold, then continues when, by his silence, she knows that he has heard her. “I realize how confusing that may sound to you, but you must accept it and try always to remember it. Etch it deeply inside of you, and though you may seem to forget, still, some part of you will never fail to remind you . . . eventually.
“You see, my son, it is not a question of where you are journeying to, but where you will be journeying at. To that the answer is that you will travel in the Realms of Soma. There you must stay for a while.”
“But why, Mother? I am so happy here. I want to be with you always.”
“I will be with you always—though you may not see me and may even forget me.”
“I will never forget you!” interrupts the boy.
His Mother smiles, then continues, “You must journey because your love is not yet complete. You say you are happy now with me. This long and wonderful, sunny time we have soared together and shared delights. Yet not once did you notice your Sister who was here with us always. Neither did you see your Brother or your Father. You can not even imagine the joy you could have shared with them. And there is much else here that you do not know or see. Your joy will be more complete when you are able to share in more of the love that surrounds you and which you do not yet see—a love that is beyond anything that you can now know or even imagine. That is why, long ago, you chose this journey which you will travel. And that is why you must leave this place and me now.”
The boy feels that they are wonderful and strange words that are spoken to him. They come to him like a memory of something long ago, until he has the strange feeling that he does not know if they are coming from outside of him, or from inside of him, or at the same time, or what! Still, he can not help feeling sad at leaving his Mother; he can not help but be fearful at the thought of going to a strange new place—a World of Soma.
The boy does not know what his Mother means about a Sister, a Brother, and a Father. But he does know that these words cause an aching and longing inside of him that is irrepressible and that somehow feels very, very good though it hurts at the same time. This feeling tells him that he wants the strange things of which his Mother speaks. So right then he decides that he will make this journey at whatever cost. “After all,” he reasons, “Mother has promised that I will be back with her when it is all over. What do I have to lose?”
A strength is born then and wells up within him. He says, “I will make the journey, Mother. I will learn what I must. And I will return again, then, to you. For I wish to know the joy of which you speak; I wish to be able to share with you even greater love and happiness than we have known. I will go . . . and I want to go!”
His Mother smiles lovingly, looking at the boy, and leaves him at just that moment. A sweet, golden glowingness is all that remains of her presence. Immediately the child feels a sense of loss, a strange new feeling for him. He begins to wonder at the decision he has made.
With his Mother now gone, the oppressiveness returns with greater intensity. Though the sun is shining and there is beauty all around, he can feel or see none of it. Completely absorbed, he is, with the future that awaits him, with the trials and events he may have to endure. Again he notices the strange sensation in him that he is remembering things that he can’t recall ever knowing.
As the oppressiveness increases, the boy grows weak and begins to feel faint. He lets himself down on a bed of fresh moss. Suddenly, he is no longer where he was. He can hear a mysterious, yet somehow familiar, gentle voice. “Here is your life,” it says. “Learn from it. Grow in it. There is much you can do here.” As these words are being spoken, he can see before him, as though up through the surface of a pond, what appears to be a human family in the central room of a cottage.
He sees a little girl, two boys, a woman, and a man. It is eveningtime, he can tell. There is much talking and activity amongst the children. He can sense a kind of warmth, love, and caring in these children and that makes him feel good, and not as sad about leaving his Mother. He realizes they are to be his sister and brothers and becomes anxious to be with them.
But then the boy notices the man, who would seem to be the children’s father. He is sitting in a beat-up, overstuffed chair, piled high with pillows; and he is reading a newspaper. There is a rigidity in the battered features of the man’s face that actually scares the child. Abruptly, he loses his desire to be there. He starts to turn away. But something impels him to look again. Then he sees tiredness that is in the face also. So weary the father looks, surprisingly then, so sad. The boy reaches deeper. His heart quivers when he touches the sadness in the man’s soul. There is a heartache and hopelessness deep inside . . . mixed with a determination to do what is “right” despite everything. He sees a fear and pain there also inside . . . and he understands. The boy can not bear to look any longer. Agonizing, he tears himself from the heart-wrenching sight.
He focuses his attention on the woman, who is no doubt the mother. She is working in the kitchen. Humming and singing a tune, she seems quite happy. This attracts the boy very much as it brightens his mood. He peers closer. Then he notices her clothing, which are rather old and worn, tattered on the edges. A part of her dress has fallen off one shoulder, revealing a bit of strap of a shabby slip. Half around, the hem of her faded flower-print dress is hanging down. Finally her shoes, pummeled and ancient-looking, are split open on the sides; her feet are spilling out.
Confused as to why this cheerful, lovely woman would express herself so shabbily, the boy attends to her more closely as she works. In doing so he is struck by her large, languishing eyes, which would otherwise have been entrancing. He sees also that the corners of her mouth are turned down, just a bit. There are lines of worry in this young mother’s brow. The boy realizes that she, too, is unhappy inside. It is as if she is trying to be cheerful though some things are very wrong. He sinks more deeply into her and feels then the dim hope, lingering amidst the ruins of a joy long since passed away.
The boy is sad at the fading of this joy and wishes he could do something about it. But he feels helpless wanting to fight something that has already occurred. He can feel the misery that surrounds, on all sides, that ray of hope inside her. And he can sense the determination that lies below it. Once again the boy questions his decision to journey in the Realms of Flesh.
Continuing to watch the scene, however, he observes that the man is now in the kitchen with his wife and they are talking. He can not make out words, but it is obvious that the woman is becoming upset. Suddenly, then, she is crying and the words are coming quite loudly.
“No, we never do anything. That’s all I ever do is sit in this house. You never want to go out; you never want to do anything!”
“And just what is it you want?” yells the father. “We’ve got children; you’re their mother. Who the hell’s supposed to take care of them while we’re out gallavantin’ around!?”
“That’s not it and you know it. You always bring that up. You don’t want to do anything . . . the kids are just an excuse. All you do is work, eat, and sleep. And I’m supposed to sit here at home, cook your meals, clean your damn house. We don’t even talk anymore. You eat, then you dig yourself a hole inside a your heaped-up chair and cover yourself over with that damn newspaper.”
The woman stops her yelling and pauses. She continues more quietly, now weeping. “I don’t want my life to be like this. I really don’t. It wasn’t like this before we were married. We’d go into town; we’d have friends; we’d dance . . . we’d do things! It’s been so long since I’ve been out of this stinkin’ house that I don’t even remember what it’s like out there.”
“So what in hell did you expect from marriage anyway! Dammit! I gotta bring in money; it’s your job to care for the house and kids. D’ja wanna be a silly schoolgirl all your life!? I work darn hard to buy the things we need—this house, even those dishes you’re washing.”
“Damn it!” she screams in frustration, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. “Take your dishes,” as she throws one, then two more plates, and they go crashing to the floor, shattering to pieces. Trembling and sobbing, she reaches for a stack of them. “I don’t want this kind of life!” she shrieks. But before she can smash them also, they are wrested from her hands by her husband. He places them quickly on the kitchen table, out of reach. She grabs the sugar bowl, then a butter dish, but these also are taken from her before they can be thrown. Trying a few more times—one or two dishes fall to the floor and smash in the scuffle—she gives up in futility.
Slumping into a chair, the mother continues crying, holding her face in her hands. The father, who at first had been angry, and then had turned mute and worried-looking as he tried to save the dishes, is now sunken into himself. He lowers himself into a chair, across the table from his wife.
The boy is himself now weeping bitterly at the scene. He is torn apart seeing these two miserable creatures. “Reach out to her,” he implores, though they can not hear him. “Please touch, make contact! Do not be separate!” For he can not understand this display of distances between people—a thing unknown to him in his realm. Trapped alone in their own little hells, it seems to him. He watches, then, as the man silently mounts the stairs to lie down in the bedroom. His wife remains, weeping piteous tears in the kitchen.
The boy tears himself from the scene. Still sobbing, he curses the World of Flesh. That world to him is just pain and horror—very different from what he’s known. It had tortured him with frustration in perceiving the faint light that had remained flickering inside even these most beleaguered and pathetic of souls, yet with no chance for it to come out. He had wished desperately to help these people, to somehow extricate them from the horror which they had accepted in its sameness. He can not understand how he can learn love in such a world of pain and separateness.
These thoughts run through him as he weeps convulsively. Only after a long time, and even then reluctantly, does the boy allow himself to arise from his pity and venture to see any more.
Once again there is a scene. But now it seems a much happier one. He can see the mother, now with a baby in her arms. He knows somehow that the infant will be himself. Some kind of party appears to be in progress . . . taking place in what seems a rather rustic kind of house. The women are scurrying about a coal stove, making the preparations for what would seem to be a small feast. The immense oaken table in the dining room is covered in an aged but immaculate white lace, upon which has been laid out delicately flowered chinaware.
The men are in an adjacent room playing cards. The air there is permeated with the smell of cigar smoke and the boisterous sounds of laughter as they kid, tease, and joke with one another in the mellow glow of an unending supply of beer.
The children are everywhere, and are underfoot in the kitchen. One particular group of youngsters is in the dining room fooling with an old, banged-up radio. They jump and dance and clap their hands as they are constantly switching channels to hear one tune or another.
Back in the kitchen, while some of the women work about the stove, others drink from china coffee cups, sitting in straight-back wooden chairs or on a large overstuffed couch which lies along one wall. Still others are busy around the table—fixing, mixing, cutting, and dicing. There is no lack of merriment amongst the women either; all is prepared in an atmosphere gushing with the sounds of their laughter, funny-making, and gossiping.
The entire house, in fact, is rather noisy with all these goings-on. The little boy watching is thrilled through in seeing so much liveliness. He senses that they are all delighted to be together.
Then he focuses again on the mother with the baby who is he. They are in the kitchen with the women. Unlike the rest, however, the mother is not involved in all the talk and rustling about. She is sitting on the sofa with the infant in her arms, making all kinds of faces and funny noises. Completely oblivious, she seems, to everything that is going on around her. The youngster in her arms is clucking and giggling madly as his toes are tweaked and his little belly is tickled by his mother’s blubbering on him with her lips. Every time she bends over to blow into his belly, the little baby reaches up for a handful of her hair and pulls and flails about ecstatically. The boy can feel such glee in the baby that, once again, he feels impatient and wishes to be there.
While he is still feeling this, a totally different scene appears. Words fail in describing all that he then sees as, one scene following another, he watches alternately in awe, terror, glee, and fear . . . for a long time. He sees huge amounts of hurt and horror; yet he also sees instances of real love and purest joy. It is all quite different from the easy sameness he has known. He can not help but be in conflict as he alternately wants to go, then doesn’t.
No longer is his resolve as sound as when he spoke to his Mother. Wondering aloud, then, if he can change his mind about the journey, he hears again that kind voice, which he realizes had been helping with occasional comments as the panorama had been unfolding. “It is for you to decide,” it says now. The boy, knowing that it is his decision and that he can turn away if he wishes, then also knows that he can not refuse it. Deep inside he realizes that in avoiding the adventure he would miss out on something truly beautiful which he saw in the lifetime that was spread before him. He remembers the love, there, as a shimmering jewel at the depths of a darkened sea; and instantly he is reminded of something that his Mother had said to him, though it is not as clear now. He knows that he can not turn away from the lifetime without discovering the love that he saw there. Though he has known happiness and love with his Mother, he can not shake the feeling that the love he saw in the World of Soma is somehow different, if not greater, and that there is more that he must learn about it all. He knows that experiencing and having that love inside of him would make all the other things worth it. Once again his resolve to journey in the Realm of Flesh returns, stronger even than before.
No sooner does he realize these things than he is aware of an oppressiveness which is now both of body and mind. He feels fainter as each moment passes. Objects go hazy and lose their shape before the boy’s eyes when, abruptly, he finds himself back in the forest, beneath the enveloping ferns.
But things have changed drastically here! No longer does the boy feel protected and sustained by the forest environment. On the contrary, it is excruciatingly stuffy. The air is not damp and crisp but hot and stifling. And the undergrowth—which had shielded him formerly—has now grown to surround him so densely that he can hardly move. His nostrils are seared with a putrid odor; and he notices that the lilacs, whose sweet fragrance had served him so much pleasure previously, have rotted on the bushes around him. The boy’s head begins to throb in reaction to the waterdrops falling on him from above. They too have changed, becoming acrid and smelly like the breath of a stagnant, polluted pond, in contrast to the clear refreshing dewdrops which they had once appeared to be.
The boy is disgusted and dismayed by this change of events. In an almost unconscious, violent reaction born of revulsion, he tears himself with an effort from his slimy bonds and from his connection to his Mother, the Earth.
He stands for a moment, just a single moment, amidst the havoc and disarray of foliage which had been his sustenance. He begins to run. On through the forest he charges, his revulsion more powerful than his exhaustion of mind. He does not know where he is going; his running is almost instinctive. He finds himself scrambling downhill now. The going is tortuous through the denseness of tree and brush. His nostrils and skin are continually assaulted by a myriad of burning odors and acid moisture.
The boy remembers being in this same forest before, several times with his Mother. He had thought it quite pleasant then. Fragrant, cool, colorful. The terrain is the same, but it is now as if everything about is thrown with a different light. The mushrooms have become toadstools. The trees do not offer shade. Instead they compel an eerie, horrifying gloominess. And the deer, rabbits, and other cuddly forest creatures have been replaced or transformed. Now thick snakes cling to branches and strike at him as he passes. Monstrous beasts that are reminiscent of grizzlies and gorillas rumble about. Off to his sides he can see them cutting tunnels in the underbrush as they go. They loom up at him also, slunkered in the limbs of trees about him. They are massive, and the boy is awash in paralyzing fear as it occurs to him that they could easily crush him to half his size. With great will he forces himself to increase the pace of his running.
Suddenly, then, he bursts through an outer wall of foliage and is blasted by a glaringly bright sunlight. The boy realizes he is on a beach, the ocean before him. No relief, however. His world has become an eerie, frightening contradiction; its only consistency is in its intensity. For despite the brightness of the day, the waves are crashing, pounding into the shore, pushed by a wind of hurricane force. They rush up nearly to the forest’s edge.
Before the boy can react to this Nature gone berserk, he finds himself caught up in one gigantic wave which draws him under, pounding him with surf and sand on all sides and tumbling him about. He feels himself being tugged across the grit and slime and out to sea. A gasp of horror escapes his mouth, to be replaced by a throatful of burning seawater. Not breathing, his lungs aching, the assaults of sensation, one upon the other, are reaching a peak that is bordering on insanity. Never has the boy known such intensity of feeling. It is as if his every nerve is panicking in the desperate urgency of the situation.
Then the world becomes darker to him as he feels himself being dragged deeper and deeper, to depths unthinkable, and beyond even them until he no longer feels the sea around him. Rather, he seems to be far, far underground.
The boy can not move and seems to be contained, on all sides, by something very strong yet elastic. It is severely close. The boy sweats and struggles as he tries to get enough air and to stay comfortable in the enclosed place.
He wonders where his Mother is and why she is allowing this to happen to him. Completely forgetting, in his desperation, all that had transpired between them in the previous happy times, the boy curses his Mother. His oath is of little consequence as it begins to feel as if the weight of the entire world is upon him. He begins to wonder if he is dying.
The sensations are so excruciating that he begins to think that the only way to end it is to die. However, just as that thought occurs to him, the boy has a flash of an instance of one sunny day in a meadow with his Mother, and he knows that he doesn’t want to die, that he must live so that he can be with her once again.
The boy suffers in this manner for a long time. More so—as the space he is in continues getting smaller. He keeps wishing that he could die to end it, knowing nonetheless that somehow he must hang on—though minutes seem like eternities—if he is ever to realize again that wonderful joy which has just so recently been removed from him.
He struggles for air, for it seems there is not enough. He wants to panic, but he can not move to do so. His guts feel like they want to explode; and he keeps envisioning himself as the center of an incredible detonation, the likes of which the world has never known, which would blow up the entire world and most of the Universe. This scene is replayed in the boy’s mind over and over. Alternately, it provides him a slight sense of relief, filing off, as it does, the razor edges of his rage; but then it makes the pain all the more unbearable as it accentuates the hopelessness of his condition.
Eventually he can no longer even remember his Mother and the time that was before. All he can focus on is that he must live, for some reason or other, that his hanging on is the most important thing in the world. Outside of this resolve all the boy knows is pain, all he can remember is pain—as everything else is sucked from his being.
He continues pulling for air, though he is by now quite exhausted. He wants to rest, ever so badly, but he knows that to do so would be to die. So he works at getting air. Mightily the boy struggles as his body aches with the effort. Mercifully, then, he loses consciousness for periods of time. And he alternates between states of hideous nightmares and of a waking horror.
Finally one day, at a point at which the boy no longer remembers who he is nor whether he is dead or alive, there is a change. Formerly his space was simply getting smaller. Now there is a kind of grumblingness in his surroundings. A clearer awareness once more returns to him as he takes notice of this new event. Without warning, something shoots through him like a thunderbolt. His body convulses with the shock. Again it fires through him, then later again.
He feels that he is being awarded his last chance at being alive. Somehow he knows that he must find the strength, from somewhere, to make it, though he is not exactly sure what “making it” means. Despite this emergency awareness, he is not able to summon any more energy from his ravaged and wasted body. The boy feels that it is all over but to die.
However just at that moment, when surely all seems lost, he senses a sunny glow inside of his belly. It is in stark contrast to the hideous darkness that has become his whole world and all he can ever remember at this point. From this radiant spot comes, at first, a trickle of energy, which flows up to his brain and casts a light in his mind, brightening his awareness just a bit. Then this trickle increases and begins surging to his mind in the shape, once again, of images of devastating destruction and explosions. Though his body is racked with exhaustion, he is oblivious to the pain as he moves in the throes of this newfound energy.
Delirious with the images he is seeing of cataclysmic disruption, he begins to leer and hate. His desire for destruction and annihilation of the entire Universe and everyone in it pours out of him and washes through every corner of his being. He sees himself, with the world, in billions of tiny pieces scattered over all of space. He wishes to tear at his insides as he imagines himself ripping into his guts with knives, slashing and tearing and tossing the pieces to speed away into the Universe.
The lightninglike jolts increase in intensity and frequency. With every one he becomes more and more hateful and delirious; he laughs fitfully and outrageously, spitting in the face of death. The pain finally reaches such intensity that he truly does not know whether he has died or is still alive, or the difference between pleasure and pain, as his ecstasy merges with his searing electrical agony. And just at that moment it happens. His world does explode . . . (and he blacks out).
The boy has no idea how long he’s been asleep. Though it’s been only moments, it seems it could as easily have been an eternity. He still aches all over, but now there is a difference. No longer is it a tight enclosed place; on the contrary, there seems an immensity of space around him and he can move freely, though it hurts to do so.
The other most obvious thing about this different place is its incredible brightness. The light sears his eyeballs despite his attempts to cover them. Then he realizes he is shivering. A steel freezing wind whistles around him and chills him through. His recent ordeal has roughened his body so that it is as if every nerve—both inside and on the surface—is exposed. Thus even the shuddering, which he can not stop, is causing him pain.
He is thoroughly exhausted and raw. Barely able to even move, he does manage to roll over, slightly, in his agony. In so doing he notices the surface he is on. Armor hard and chrome cold, it is all just too much. Once again, then, he blacks out.
When the boy awakens, he finds that his surroundings have changed again. Now his world is cluttered—with forms and objects, and figures of people too. But he can not make anything out. His vision is blurred, out-of-focus, and everything is darker now.
The boy tries to make sense out of it all, and it occurs to him that it might be some kind of jungle or forest that he is in, and that it must be nighttime. Then he realizes that he is still lying on a hard surface. He tries to raise himself but finds that he is tied down; he can not move. He has the terrifying thought that it might be some sort of stone slab to which he is strapped.
The boy’s vision clears then, just a little, and he views the figures around him as moving in what might be some sort of dance. They are dressed all in white and wear ghastly white masks which cover completely any human features they might possess. A whining sound or eerie singing is in the background. The dancers seem to be carrying branches from trees, one in each hand, which they twirl about them, alternately high overhead and then on the ground, making patterns in the dirt as they move. At times the participants seem to duel with the branches as in mock combat, and then to twirl away from each other.
This scene goes on for some time. The boy, in his utter weariness, begins to drift off. Just then again, between the cracks of consciousness and unconsciousness, the glimmering of a sunny place comes through to him . . . though he can not see it clearly and does not truly remember it. A longing envelops him, however, which he can not shake off. And indeed he does not wish to, for even in its painfulness it is still the sweetest thing he knows.
The boy wants something ever so badly but does not know what it is. All he can make of it is that something is terribly wrong. Inside he feels a flickering glow and a faintly remembered sweetness. Outside are darkness and frightening masks.
“It is not supposed to be this way,” he screams. “Something is missing!” And the longing returns with aching force. Still, he continues screaming out his last remaining truth. Over and over he shouts the words, reddening himself, expending again the tiny bit of energy that accrued, in the vain hope that someone will hear. But it becomes obvious that from the figures around him there is little chance of consolation. It seems his screaming is entirely unheard, or else that it does not carry across some unseen barrier between them. At any rate, they go about their actions completely oblivious to him.
Just as he pauses to regain the energy to continue protesting these injustices—and, with all his soul in it, he would have gone on—he notices that the dancing has changed. Now they are approaching the slab on which he is lying. But hardly to soothe him. One after another their branches are whipped down onto him. All over his body, from his face even to the bottoms of his feet, the whipping continues.
To his already raw body, this is an incredible assault. The burning pain pushes even the thought of protest from the boy’s mind. The figures pour what feels like saltwater over his devastated skin. It gets into his eyes and burns there in an especially excruciating way.
Finally, the boy discovers there is still another torture to endure. Though at this point he is totally blind, still he can feel the presence near him of one particularly reprehensible figure. The child hears everything go gradually very quiet as the whining slows, then stops, and shuffling noises impart to him that the other participants are backing away from the slab on which he lies. The only sound remaining, then, is one rather distinct and ominous hiss of breathing which is very close.
Then he can feel it. Cold steel on his raw naked skin. He feels the knife slice open his guts as it slashes a diagonal across his belly. The pain sears upward through his brain. His mind panics as it seems he is having, all at the same time, every thought that could be had, and every feeling. He feels another diagonal rip through his skin to form what must be looking something like an X. Finally, in what is truly the last straw for him, he feels the point of the blade enter the center of his guts. Plunging downward at first, then being gradually turned when the wide-bladed knife is well inside.
The boy can no longer hang on. The glow is now completely extinguished. He gives up all protest and any longing he had known . . . any hope of sunshine, or any memories of how he’s grown. One could say that he has died for, in a way, he has. Erased of all tracings, he is now but a void—a pathetic blank vastness in a pitifully fragile shell. No longer is he child of Mother Earth; he has entered the World of Flesh.