Saturday, October 01, 2005

My Mother

My mother used to tell me about a story from the old country. It was a scary story, a story meant to make the younger of her 14 kids afraid to go out at night. I was afraid.

It went something like this:

"In the old country there was a time before electricity had come to the village, when twilight was the end of the day and you had to run home before it got so dark that you couldn't see at night. Oh, I suppose sometimes the moon was out, but not very often in the old country. Mostly it got foggy and dark very early and very quickly.

"Now I always ran home at twilight as quickly as I could, even when I was as old as sixteen, and of course I was scared. But one time I forgot how dark it was getting while I was playing with a rubber ball against the school wall. And it got dark. And I had to get home. We were told that there was a beast that would catch all the children outside at night, but I didn't believe it - it was just a story - but even still it would get pretty dark and it would get pretty scary. I still had to find my way home in the dark.

"So I started walking. Slowly at first, then a little faster, and soon I found that I was running! I guess I really was scared. And BAM! I was knocked down and was on the ground. When I opened my eyes there were these red eyes staring at me. I couldn't see anything but those red eyes. But the beast could see me. It looked me up and down and I could hear lip-smacking noises. Now I was so scared I couldn't move. I closed my eyes and fainted. When I awoke a policeman from the village stopped with his torch and saw me.

"I told him about the beast, and how I didn't see it except for its eyes, when it was right upon me. The policeman told me that what I had just seen was not a beast, but a man. A man that was more beast than man, maybe, but still a man. And he helped me home. My father knew that this beast/man was a freak, a genetic mutation of a man. Barely still human. But he could see in the darkness, could see for miles ahead.

"And that's how it came to be that your older brother Samuel was born and is able to see at night. He's a more advanced, more evolved human than you are. He is a great man, destined to greatness, because he can see in the dark. He and his children and his children's children will one day rule the world.

"You all are the product of your father, a lazy shiftless good-for-nothing man who never made a decent living in his life and none of you will ever amount to anything. You're all idiots."

And so I grew up afraid of the dark, and all because evolution had given a special advantage to my older brother. Now of course, with streetlights and all, I do go out at night. But I always remember to carry my torch with me. Just in case.

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