Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Highly Bearable Fetteredness of Being

A not particularly imaginative allegory-type-whatsit about this, that, and the other thing.

A young woman was enjoying her third day of a solitary hike through the vast rainforests of the Amazon basin. Lined with thick tree roots and scattered with loose stones, the overgrown trail widened broadly in places and narrowed to only a few inches in others. Above her, the dense canopy of trees filtered the harsh tropical sun, but did little to fend off the stifling humidity.

Gnats, mosquitoes, and large stinging things battered relentlessly at her sweat-drenched face. Spiders ambled across her heavy backpack and skittered up the back of her aching neck. But she didn’t care. She felt great. She was doing this, on her own, surviving by her own strength, pressing on despite her pain and discomfort and the voice in her head that told her to turn around and get her ass home. She felt completely free, like she was the only person on Earth.

After wandering for hours along the endless path, she glimpsed golden sunlight up ahead breaking through the thick ceiling of leaves . The light seemed to focus and condense itself on one particularly elegant Kapok tree at the edge of a small clearing. The effect was mesmerising; she felt herself pulled to that beautiful tree, which stood about one hundred metres from the trail.

Her amazement at the quality of light turned to pale shock when she saw that there was a man sitting at the base of the Kapok tree. He was very white, and completely naked except for a pair of dirty and tattered shorts. His hands were bound behind his back and he was blindfolded, but there was no mistaking the look on his face: pure ecstasy.

‘Oh my god, let me help you,’ the woman gasped, finally gaining control of herself and running up to the man. ‘What happened? Who did this to you?’ She crouched beside him and shrugged off her pack.

The man’s odd smile broadened at the sound of her voice and he turned his face in her direction. The movement made the light around his face shimmer disarmingly; for the first time, the woman wondered if she were dreaming.

‘My brother did this,’ was his reply.

‘Your br…but why??’ she whispered in return, ‘Here, let me take off that blindfold…’

The man’s smile quickly disappeared.

‘No!’ he boomed. ‘Don’t touch that. I finally have my freedom; I won’t have it taken away by you!’

The woman recoiled at this harsh rejoinder. ‘Fff…freedom?’ she questioned, very quietly. ‘But it looks like you need help. I don’t understand.’

‘No,’ he replied, ‘I don’t imagine you do.’ And then he was quiet again.

‘Care to…explain it to me?’ she answered back, slowly standing and backing away from him. Somewhere deep inside, she felt the faint stirrings of anger. Who the hell was this guy, what the hell was going on, and why did she feel like he was judging her in some way she didn’t understand?

‘You said your brother did this to you…’ she prompted. The man remained impassive.

She tried again. ‘How long have you been here?’ No answer. ‘Where is your brother now?’

At this, he smiled even more broadly. ‘Why, he’s just over there,’ he replied, nodding directly ahead and loudly adding, ‘the fool.’

The woman heard a bitter grunt behind her. She spun on her heels to face another man with bound hands, evidently this man’s twin brother, sitting at the base of a second Kapok only a few metres away. The second man’s eyes were not blindfolded; instead, his chest was tightly wrapped in black rope.

He hadn’t been there before.

As she felt the strength drain from her legs, she sank to her knees between the two trees.

‘What the hell is this?’ she wondered out loud, looking from the first man to the second and back again. ‘We’re in the middle of the goddamn rainforest. I mean, I’ve been walking for days. How long have you two been here? WHY are you here? It couldn’t have been either of you who did this—both of you are tied up.’

The men didn’t answer.

‘What’s going on?’ she repeated quietly.

Finally the second brother cleared his throat. ‘I think a better question is why are you here?’ he asked. She looked at him with clear puzzlement, so he pressed on. ‘I mean to say, how is it that a woman is out alone in the middle of the forest, by herself with no companion? I’ve never seen anything like it.’ He ended with a tinge of disapproval.

Confused by the man’s tone and the odd change of subject, the woman shook her head and said, ‘I…I’m out here on a hiking expedition…it’s something I’ve wanted to do forever…’ she trailed off, unsure why she was even answering him.

‘But why?’ asked the man, openly scorning her now. ‘Why in the world would you want to be here, with the bugs and the snakes and the many other killing dangers, when you should be at home with your family, taking care of your children or, if you have none, of your nieces and nephews?’ With this he raised his eyebrows meaningfully, like a teacher reprimanding a naughty pupil.

The woman could only stare at him, her mouth agape. ‘My children?’ she finally managed, ‘Nieces and nephews?’

She pushed herself to her feet once again and quickly collected her knapsack. Her pack back on, she stood between the strange men. ‘You two are clearly nuts,’ she announced. ‘Obviously, you want to be here, so I’ll be on my way. Do you want me to mention that you’re out here when I get to the next village? Maybe the villagers will send someone, if that’s what you want.’

Both men turned away as though she hadn’t even spoken. ‘Fine,’ she said, and started back to the trail.

She heard one of the men stir behind her, then say matter-of-factly, ‘You can walk all the forests of all the worlds, but you will never know freedom, woman.’ She knew, somehow, that it was the first man who had said it.

‘Leave her,’ came the voice of the second brother. ‘Clearly, she’s more of a fool than even you are.’

At this, the small serpent of anger that had been wending its way through her belly unleashed itself. She stopped, shaking, and turned to face the brothers. ‘You loony old bastards!’ she bellowed, ‘How dare you?’ As though cowering at her rage, the sky grew dim above her.

‘Me? A fool? Ha…Yes. Driven crazy by grief, perhaps, for the heartless murder of my children,’ said the first brother. The woman stopped in her tracks, thrown off by the strange non-sequitur.

‘Your children?’ she asked. ‘What?’

‘You cry for your murdered children, brother, and I’ll cry for mine,’ shouted the second brother. ‘True, your ways were less…straightforward…than mine. But the result was the same, was it not?’

The woman was now completely baffled. Just as she was about to storm over and demand they apologize to her, the first brother let out an ungodly howl.

‘The result the same!?’ he screeched. ‘I acted in self-defence. Your children stormed my home, murdered my family, stole my money, and laughed in my face. What was I supposed to do, turn the other cheek?’

‘Isn’t that your very creed, fool?’ sneered the second brother. ‘Anyways, what does it matter now? They’re all dead. And death is glory. Except in the case of your murdering children.’

The woman was growing more confused by the moment. ‘But why?’ she hollered. ‘Why did your children murder his family and he murder yours? Why did this all start?’

At this both men finally acknowledged her presence. ‘Why?’ mocked the second brother in a high-pitched voice. ‘Why? Why? Why? This is the question of the weak and the feeble-minded,’ he scowled. To this his brother added, ‘Anyway, isn’t it obvious? We kill because they killed first.’ They looked at each other and nodded in agreement.

‘But…’ began the woman weakly, ‘…that doesn’t make sense…’ She was cut off by brother number one.

‘…In any case, nothing matters but this: the victory is mine,’ continued the first brother, his face glowing in triumph.

‘Ha!’ yelped brother number two, ‘You are more of an ass than I thought, you ignorant fool. Can’t you see that you are bound and trapped? You cannot escape the depths of your own evil.’

‘My evil?’ shot back the first brother. ‘I sit here in freedom while your heartless breast is held together by the dark ignorant bonds of your own hate. I will live in eternal glory while your damned soul sloshes about in the shit of dinosaurs and Neanderthals and…and other fictional beasts,’ he stammered, seemingly unable to think of other fictional beasts to add to his list.

‘Unicorns?’ offered his brother.

Idiot. Unicorns are not fictional beasts,’ came the reply. ‘You will wallow in the offal of imaginary beasts until the great holy boot finally crushes you into oblivion.’

The woman was utterly baffled.

‘No!’ shouted the second brother in return. ‘I will swim in the sweet meat of God’s own mangoes, suckling heaven’s honey from enormous womanless breasts and lolling about on an infinite hammock of peace!’

The woman put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes.

‘You, on the other hand, will simply be dead,’ continued brother number two. ‘Dead, gone, forgotten, as though you never were.’

‘Okay,’ interrupted the woman. ‘This is getting ridiculous. Who are you two crackpots and why are you here, interrupting my lifelong dream with your childish ranting?’

At this the first brother clambered to his feet, taking a stern step toward her. She hadn’t realized how very tall he was. He moved confidently despite his bonds.

‘Woman,’ he boomed, his voice strangely amplified in the now-silent forest. The sky grew darker still and a hot, wet wind lifted her hair from her shoulders. ‘You just don’t see, do you? I am blindfolded, but I see more clearly than you ever will. It’s true, my brother and I are bound. We have chosen this captivity for thousands of years. But still we have more freedom than you will ever know. Because in our bondage, we have been made free.’

She fell back, astonished by his utter malarkey conviction.

‘It is true that my brother and I hate each other,’ the man continued. ‘But for you we reserve a worse fate than hate. To us, you hardly even exist. You’re just a stupid, stupid creature with no soul. Here for our use, to help us along the path or leave us, as we decide. If you had any sense, you would hang yourself from this tree, for death is the only freedom from your fate.’

‘But you said I have no soul,’ replied the woman slowly, a strange new strength rising in her heart. ‘So how would death be freedom for me?’

‘Freedom from being an abomination,’ he replied, and sat back down.

‘You’re right brother,’ began the second brother. ‘But you too are an abomination. You’re such a fool that you can’t even see your own bonds.’

‘Oh I see my bonds,’ the first man responded. ‘But my bonds don’t matter. It’s more satisfying to see yours. I will lie here for a thousand years watching you suffer, and after that, a thousand more.’

As the hot wind howled and the trees shook around them, the brothers continued to argue. The woman shifted her pack and prepared to leave. She realized that nothing she said to these brothers mattered. But what they said to her, and about her, mattered even less.

She turned and headed for her wild trail, stopping only once, to tighten her bootlaces.

9 Comments:

Blogger Gizzy said...

Holy crap, that's some gooooooooooooood writin'! Why the Hell is that in a blog and not in a book, whyioughtta???

Gizzy

2:42 PM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

Holy crap, someone actually read it!

I like how you capitalized 'Hell'...

I'm a geek.

Thanks, though :^)

5:54 PM  
Blogger jackp said...

hmmm...

you see gizzy...the internet is kinda like jazz...free music.....whyioughtta can freely write on it...not have to wait for someone's validation...to publish it...

it's free! upload...upload...publish later...why not?

yeah...keep them coming...don't lose them....

6:46 PM  
Blogger jackp said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:09 PM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

This comment is from J.Mel. (we don't use real names here), who wanted to post a comment but, as he said, 'me computor dunce':

"Very nice writing - wish I was smart enough to get it, but I think it had something to do with the fact that we are all a bunch of fucking idiots for not being able to find ways to get along - am I on the right track?

The problem of course is that some idiots are bigger idiots then other idiots, and people who are lesser idiots then others sometimes do things that are idiotic and dangerous because of the mere existence of the bigger idiots and the lessor idiot's frustration, and because the bigger idiots are so idiotic that it is impossible not to be offended, and impossible for the bigger idiot not to push the buttons of the smaller idiot.

In your story, the biggest idiot of all was the woman, for trying to figure out the unfigureoutable"

*end quote*

Can I mention that 'unfigureoutable' is officially my new favourite word?

2:20 PM  
Blogger ni_de_montreal said...

brill.

you rock, s.

it's nice to see folks who are in the arena of their chosen and likely gifted profession... did you ever consider those writing comps- short novels with publishing prizes, but hitch is you have to write the book in a weekend? there's one for US-residing new authors in which you can apparently win a publishing contract and $100,000. nice eh?

anyway, contests aside, i'm lucky to read this. is fine.

2:24 PM  
Blogger jackp said...

you should see what whyioughtta can do to a person's resume!...miracles...

6:21 PM  
Blogger angrycandy said...

and communication plans! and other writing related thingies! also very much liked the story but really wanted more on what she was wearing...i suggest you rewrite it in your style blog with all the appropriate outfits and accessories...

5:00 PM  
Blogger jackp said...

hehe...

can we have more stories please?

11:04 PM  

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