Tuesday, January 11, 2005


the child, twenty-nine

'You know what it is,' said Stone. It was some days later, and he and Starr were standing together, watching the beauty of the sunset. 'It's the way we used to treat the people who came to rescue us.'

'In the dungeon?' said she.

'Yes.' He ran his fingers through his dark-blond hair. 'You see... People would come to us; they would tell us about the Master; they would tell us we could be free. They would show us the key, right there in their hands. They would even,' and his hands moved, demonstrating, 'unnlock the cell doors for us. Fling the doors open! Say to us: you see? You are free!'

He turned and looked at her. 'And you know what we would do, Starr-girl?' He leaned close, his hands again demonstrating. 'We would grab the cell doors, and we would slam them shut again. Locking ourselves back in. We would do that!'

'But you walked out...' said Starr.

'Yes... yes, I did. And I got the usual treatment for it, too.'

'Usual treatment?'

'Yeah. First the others called out to me: No! Come back! Don't do this!' He looked very uncomfortable as he again ran his fingers through his hair, . 'And then when I didn't turn and come back - that's when they started screaming at me. Ugly, ugly things, Starr. I don't want to tell you what they screamed at me, for going through that open door and leaving the dungeon behind.'

'What?' she asked. 'Curses?'

'Ohhhhhh, yeah. But I knew that was coming. That's what always happened, when one of us left. That's what we did to the ones who came to help us, too. We would curse at them. They were coming to set us free, and we would curse at them. And throw accusations at them too. You know. Things like: we like what we are! If you don't like what we are - then you hate us!'

He gave an awkward laugh. 'But you know what? At the same time, we would be yelling: we didn't choose this; it's not our fault. We're trapped! You're blaming us when we are trapped - you hate us!'

She glanced up at him sharply. 'But...'

'Ah - you're seeing it, aren't you, Starr? We were trying to have it both ways,' said he. 'On the one hand - proud. And yet on the other hand - victims. But always, always - that accusation of hate.'

And he fell silent. They stood for a long time in that silence, as the brilliance of the sunset began to fade off into twilight.

His hand sought hers, and held it tightly.

And then he added - softly, so softly, 'Sometimes... the one who came to rescue us, the one with the key in his hand... sometimes it was someone who used to be in the same dungeon with us, who used to be one of us. And oh! that would make us livid! Traitor, we would scream at him. Traitor, hater...'

He shivered, and she longed to be free to wrap her arms around him - not that the shivering had anything to do with the temperature, of course.

'You see what the problem is, Starr?' he asked at last. 'The problem is, that when I go back - that's going to be me. I'm going to be the one standing there with the key in my hand. And getting screamed at. And spit on. And hated. And accused...'

He sighed, and glanced at her at his side. 'And if you go along with me, Starr - it will be you as well.'

'Oh!' She hadn't thought of that. She thought of it now, thinking while the rim of the sun slowly disappeared below the distant rim of the earth.

'I know this, Stone,' she replied at last. 'I know the Master tells me often: do not be afraid.'

He turned to look at her under the pale starlight. 'Has it ever occurred to you, Starr, that if someone tells you not to be afraid - it's because there's a mighty big something out there for you to be afraid of?'

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