My Father's Son

September 24, 2009
Part I

No trial, no temptation, no hardship, nor persecution, though drawn out for many years, is as difficult for a man to confront as the moment he must face his own identity. I predicate this assertion only on having experienced the former all of my life, and only now becoming aware of the latter. In fact, the one comfort man unwittingly finds when in the throes of life is that he has an excuse, for a time, to forget himself—to with all conviction tell himself that he is undeserving of the pain so unfairly inflicted upon him.

Yet in the absence of distracting difficulties, when one has the peace of mind to contemplate a coherent thought, one cannot help but to wonder about oneself. Sooner or later, in the midst of the quietude of meditation, the didactic sledgehammer will come crashing down, and one will come to discover one’s own nature and being. Then will be revealed the shocking truth that as verily as one can testify on Judgment Day to the appalling evils others have wrought, one is just as evil—just as much a slave to sin—as those humans one finds most malevolent and demoniacal. Just as all of us come from one man and one woman, all of us have the same basic nature of sin and selfishness. Evil has been distributed among us without individuality or preference or taste. If we were to wear our true natures on our faces, we would only have identity in chaos. There is one commonality among all peoples: one basic, sinister evil each person shares with the entire human race. For one who deeply contemplates it, this essential, undeniable truth causes much angst. As one will see, it has now even led me to my own death—looming just hours, or minutes, or moments, away—but still I obdurately resist departing the world without leaving behind some mark of my wretched self, despite the almost one hundred percent certainty that no one will ever find it, not to mention heed its meaning beyond that of a mere tale of one fragile fate.

My father was a gnarled figure, with sharp, austere features, rather like a knobbed, pliable tree bent over by prolonged exposure to the relentless wind. He had a haggard face with a salient, aquiline nose and deep, bony sockets, as if a fierce wind had suddenly blown away his flesh, only sparing his skull. These features would have suggested extreme infirmity, if it had not been for the lurid, protuberant eyes which flashed in all directions from the otherwise barren skeleton of his person. Indeed, had he been the plumpest, most ruddy-cheeked man on the face of the Earth, one could not be more sure he was alive than as when one took one glance at the fiery beam shot out from those incandescent eyes. As for my mother, I don’t remember her at all. Quite possibly my father’s features were strong enough to usurp any hold my mother ever had on the recesses of my memory.

My first coherent memory is of walking through a dark forest, following a tall figure in a black cape moving swiftly ahead of me. All around could be heard the maneuvering of creatures through the treetops in what must have been some serious kind of business. Occasionally, a bat would fly frighteningly close overhead. Leaves rustled and twigs crackled beneath my scampering feet. About every five yards I would stumble over a tree root or other obstruction to my path which I had failed to see in the pitch black night.

All around was the portentous wall of trees which the strength of the man’s spare figure seemed to push down as easily as if it had been some monstrous wall of water. The man in the black cape would turn around and cast a beam shot from his glowing eyes in my direction to make sure I was still following him. I remember thinking to myself that this was not comfortable; this was not normal. It could not be real. I wanted to go home, to warmth and to bed. Although I do not with clarity remember any such conditions, I am fairly certain that I once lived in a warm, loving home— and that in taking me away from it this man must have had some demoniacal, inscrutable design.

Sometime during this long, tortuous trek through the woods, I remember, by a sudden resolution of my defiant heart, sprinting away from the man in front of me through the surrounding tangled labyrinth of trees. After a time, though I was still running something of fear, terror, I don’t know what, I could hear neither footsteps nor any breath of physical exertion behind me. I felt with relief that I was free. Unexpectedly, and with no prior warning, I felt a cold chill run down my spine; then a clammy, bony hand grasped the circumference of my neck. I shrieked; in the next instant I was flung out onto the path from which I had so bravely escaped just minutes before. The same tall figure shrouded in that black, billowing cape loomed above me as I lay sprawled on the ground, completely at his mercy. In the glare of his ever-flashing eyes I could discern a long, heavy branch, with the thickness of a club, being drawn out from the concealment of the black cloak. Clasped in his spindly, gnarled fingers, the branch whipped down upon me as I watched helplessly and winced in fright. But only for a moment: a shock of pain flowed through me; then everything went black. The next thing I can recall is waking to twigs and rocks tearing at my skin as I was being dragged up the wooded trail. I suffered in silence the rest of the way. Some instinct warned me that this was not a place cry aloud.

In the early hours of a foggy, gray dawn, a dilapidated mansion on a completely desolate mountaintop towered above me. One of the most recurrent themes of my childhood is of the endless procession of things which seemed destined to be higher and more powerful than I, and which held me at their will as if by some spell out my control. Despite the vast expanse of this ramshackle house, I was only allotted a small garret room about five feet square. I slept on an old rug I had found when I first entered. I have no doubt that if my father, who I now reveal was my captor on the night I first described, had found it first, I should never have been permitted to keep it. As it was, I took all pains to constantly hide it from his sight.

During the day, I was forced to do all of the household chores, while my father glared at me, often from amid a plethora of whiskey bottles. Always in the back of my mind, and browbeating me into dispatching my chores with perfection, was the threat of the cellar: my personal prison where I was confined whenever I didn’t haul exactly five barrelfuls of wood home for the fire each day, my dinners didn’t fulfill the capricious cravings of my father on a particular night, or any of my unending efforts whatsoever were performed to an unsatisfactory degree. Such intimidation, though, would more often than not unnerve me and cause my hands to work clumsily, so that I botched up my work and was doomed to punishment merely because of the threat of it. It was a vicious cycle.

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phelpsn said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 6:09 am
This story was interesting and clearly done by an experienced writer. The discriptive words he used like"..foggy ,gray dawn, a dilapidated mansion..." These words keep a reader interested. The references to childhood keep the story's mood. " the reurrent themes of my childhood..seemed destined to be higher."
reader44545 said...
Oct. 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm
Way to much detail. I got bored after the 2nd sentence. Hope you try to improve it and make it more interesting.
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