”Sometimes we‘re consigned to death before it is our time to die."
by Peter Bogdasarian
Youth is painful when you do not understand the world around you.
Playing, in the empty lot, the rain a mournful companion, alone at age six. The grey men have taken Mother away, for the cards.
I have them now, and I flip from one card to the next, curved, scythe-like script scrolling through my head - words never spoken on television or written in a book, concepts not created by the Company. Too young to understand the freedom then, too old to escape now.
The van comes for me, and I stand, hoping that they have brought back Mother. I want a family again.
The doors open, and the sick ones are there, their flesh bound with hooks, their faces pierced with nails. They take me...
Standing in a cathedral, hordes of the diseased around me, ranks of cannoneers and cannon - which determines which? Mother stands before me, her body interwoven with her new child, the gun has replaced me in her heart.
She looks at me, but it is not what I once knew, it is not what I want from her.
”Steel or Lead?•
I shrink back at the question, my pitiful voice failing, how can I answer, what does she ask? I stammer questions as I backpedal, but she merely follows.
”Steel or Lead?•
I choose steel, because I want my Mother to survive, to be strong, unlike Father...
I am within a box. There is no escape, no way out. It presses, holds, confines and binds me - nowhere to go. Pressing against it, I find that it has been nailed shut - did Mother put me here? Have I been bad?
New words come to me, and they promise me my freedom. All I must do is speak them, swear by them and sell myself to them. These words, they are His. He offers them to me, and I take them. What else can I do?
The casket shivers and shatters, the ground erupts, and I stand in a graveyard. Headstones surround me, but my own is cracked and broken, sunken to the ground.
I look at the nearby plots, curious to find out where I am. Father‘s name is there, carved in stone, the date of his disappearance etched on the headstone.
I dig at the grave with my bare hands, scooping the earth up and throwing it over my shoulder until I strike the casket with my bleeding nails. I tear at the lid, prying at it until it breaks open.
Father is there, dressed in his white doctor‘s lab coat, his tools tucked into the pockets. I shake him and talk to him, asking him to help me. He does not listen. He never did.
I want something to remember him by, so I take the surgeon‘s tools from his pockets and hold them in my hands, afraid to cut myself...
Walking through the graveyard, I pass a crow. It calls to me, and I walk towards it, the tools glinting in my hands. As I approach, it lifts off the tombstone and flies to my shoulder, seizing me in cruel talons.
I lash out at it before I can think, striking with my father‘s tools, assaulting the beast that holds me. As I stab it with them, I find myself staring into its eyes. It does not cry out as the blades bite it, does not savage me, does not abandon me. Instead it is happy for the attention.
I watch as the sharp edges cut it as they are swallowed into the flesh. It takes Father‘s tools into its own body, hugging them there inside it, keeping them warm.
Within a day, its talons have fallen out and been replaced by scalpels, its wings are feathered with razors, its beak is a rib cracker. Only its amber eyes remain unchanged...
When the end comes, it is swift. The graveyard splits and cracks like a rotten fruit smashing onto the pavement, and I emerge like a worm back into the world. They take my hand again and show me to the morgue.