The third episode of my series Goblins & Vikings in America is out now on Amazon and Smashwords.
What was it? Heaviness on the rampage. Gone now. No, displaced: heaviness internalized and descended, like swallowing too many rocks. Although that heaviness had always been there. Put the kitten in the bag, don’t get scratched. Put the baby in the bag, don’t listen to his cries. Fill the bag with rocks. Throw the bag in the river and watch it sink. The clawing stops. The crying fades away, suffocated by the softly flowing water. What’s life like on the bottom of the riverbed? Mother didn’t say a word. Hush now. She hugged him and rocked him as best as she could. He was a man-sized boy, an immature workhorse. People mistook his age. The heaviness, the rampaging heaviness, was gone. He stopped for a moment. The noise stopped. Red men and green men, Agata, Kaspar and Dvalinn—they were all gone. Whatever happens, keep moving. Don’t look back. His mother hugged him and it must have been like hugging a monstrous baby. Remember the story of God’s justice, the woman who turned into a pillar of salt. Swing the left leg forward, bend the knee; follow with the right. The rigid, useless right. He started moving again, but what time was it? How old was he? He moved with purpose but without destination. Life was a log split in two by the blade of an axe, the free cleaved from the unfree. I’ll never see you again, my beautiful boy, so pretend I’ve turned to salt and whenever you taste salt, think of me. Pretend, not know. You know the truth and pretend to keep the truth away. Keep my face regularly in your thoughts and in your prayers. Pray, my son. Trust God. He swung his left leg forward, bent the knee and followed with the right. So many years gone by, limp and unfree time, yet still he remembered her face. Still, he prayed. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. So many years gone by, limp and unfree, and suddenly, here in this strange land, the chains were gone and he was free. His breath and the passing branches sounded like the rattling of chains. Perhaps his breath was his chains? He rejected the thought. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. The goblins had trespassed against him. Could he forgive them? Were they, too, God’s creatures? He’d killed countless of them. He hoped he wasn’t walking in a circle. If he was, he might return to the lake. If the goblins caught him, they might put him in a cage. At least that would solve the problem of where. It was a free man’s problem: where. In a cage, where is limited, and when the unfree man is let out, it is with a new where already given to him, pasted to his naked back by the sting of the whip. He goes where he is commanded. There is calm and security in this, in cages. Why would I, who bought you, kill you, if I can make you work until by your labour you reimburse your own cost? And, once I have broken even, why would I not try to turn a profit? He remembered the man’s voice as well as his mother’s face. He wanted to forget. But why would God, who made him, kill him, when He could make him suffer until by his suffering he could redeem the sin of the man and woman in the garden? All around, the night deepened, passing like an infinite volume of softly flowing water. He craved to sink his teeth into an apple, past its skin and into its flesh until juice ran down his chin. He was unburdened by rocks. He was free. He was drowning, but he could learn to swim. His clawing would carry him to the surface, his cries would not fade away. The unfree man is safe from making a wrong choice as a blind man is safe from seeing wickedness, and castrates feel no sexual temptation, but free men must always choose from which tree they take their fruit. A good choice depends on knowledge. Carrying out that choice requires a strong will, so lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. There is no evil in a cage except disobedience. Slavery is the substitution of submission for morality. Man replaces God. By which he knew suddenly the direction in which he was to move. He knew his where. Toward the future, away from the past. Always away from the past. Liquid ran down his chin but it wasn’t the juice of a freshly bitten apple. It was sweat. It tasted like salt. Mother, we will meet but not today because it isn’t yet my time to die. The remembered face smiled. It hadn’t turned to salt. It had rotted like all flesh rots, but the soul is not flesh. The soul rose to paradise, to a time before the fall of man, for God makes all men free so that they may move perpetually forward. Their reward: eternity in a perfect past, with Him. Although the fever may have been setting in and his newly-found freedom was daunting, Drudge laughed hard enough to make the axe in his hand tremble and shake off his fears. They fell to the ground like cobwebs.