Battle of the Eyes

Once there was a village of folk who poked one eye out soon after birth because they believed that two eyes bred dishonesty.  The one-eyed people also believed that a person could only serve one role or have only one face, as they called it.  Anyone caught with more than one face was executed on the spot in order to preserve their way of life.  A child who showed the face of an adult too soon was given no mercy.  Nor was a woman who also had the face of a man or a man the face of a woman.

And once there was a village of folk who believed in more than two eyes and actually grew another eye when they became adults.  The rite of passage was called The Awakening and involved a journey in the woods where another eye would emerge out of their forehead.  And it took them years to cope with all they could see because everything from the simplest thing that they took for granted as a child and the most familiar of people now looked entirely different, varied, and rich in appearances.  Even the simplest person among them had a thousand faces.  And the rich complexity of everything kept them in a state of wonder that provided them with a peaceful life.

The one-eyed people hated the people with three eyes because the awakened saw their one face as the mask that it was, suppressing their other faces in a way that damaged and hampered their consciousness.  The one-eyed people could not accept this so they attacked their village.  And the people with three eyes saw them as confused by their hunger for power and how they fought with themselves by making war with others.  Ultimately, the people with three-eyes lost as they were too distracted by all the visions they saw and spent too much time on possible strategies. 

The one-eyed people captured a few of the people with three eyes and killed the rest.  Those who survived had to poke out two of their eyes in order to stay alive.  But the survivors did not lose their more complicated vision because it had become a part of them in their mind.  But they pretended as if they could not see anything but one face anymore and never spoke of their visions in order to stay alive. 

One survivor asked the one-eyed people if eyes did not always deceive and if they should not poke out all eyes in order to see the truth.  And the one-eyed people could not think of any argument against this for they hated eyes in general.  And so they poked out their last eye and saw what the awakened survivors wanted them to see.  They saw themselves not searching for the truth as they said but confusing it with their search for power.  And they saw how they sacrificed the people with three eyes because they could not see themselves as fully as they lacked the courage to see within.  They saw how they made problems for themselves but killed other villages to solve them.

The one-eyed people begged the awakened survivors to take over and show them the way.  And they stopped poking the eyes out of children.  And the survivors took them into the woods and performed the ritual that showed them how to grow their third eye.

Father’s Wolves

Once there was an old man who was meaner than his pack of wolves.  He never met a kid he didn’t want to kick.  He saw everyone as a mouth to feed and so kept his distance with mean words and mean behavior when needed.  Still, he had a child by accident and out of fear for her life the mother left him but he kept the child.  And since it was his, he took him in and taught him to be tough for his own good.

Whenever he caught the boy playing with the wolf cubs he whipped both the boy and the cubs.  he had a pack of wolves and needed them tough to protect his possessions and to hunt and to survive the harsh winters.  He fed his boy, the wolves, and himself only enough to survive.  To be hungry was to be alive in his mind.  If the boy made mistakes around the house, he would froth at the mouth and then punish him so that he wouldn’t make those mistakes again.  One of his favorite punishments was making his boy more the woodpile from one side of the house to the other and back again.  And the boy hated his dad when he had to move the woodpile and wished he were never alive.

As soon as the boy was old enough, he ran away to find another place to live.  And he found a village where he learned a trade.  He met the kindest person he had even known and she taught him how to love.  And he learned to make friends.  And when he lost one in a tragic death he feared not to show how helpless he felt in the face of such loss and wept in front of everyone.  This was something he knew his father could never have done.  And precisely so, his father’s inability to show sadness and accept the vulnerabilities of life hardened him from the inside out and made his misery pour into anyone who knew him.

And with his wife and kids, they made the family he never had together.  And the home was a place of love not of punishment.  A place where anyone makes mistakes sometimes and the others help out instead of using it as an opportunity to hurt one’s family.  He saw the framework of the village interlacing each person into its fabric and providing as such as it could for all while always having some problem in the process of being mended.

As he got older, he thought of his dad alone in his hut in the woods and how the mean old man had destroyed any relationship with others in order to not feel weak.  He felt sorry for him so he went to see the mean old man one more time to see if he could change his mind.  But he didn’t tell anyone in his family about it.

The wolves in the pen looked famished.  The cabin was gloomier than he remembered.  His dad bullied his way out to meet him on the steps and did not welcome him in.  Father asked what he was doing there and in that mean voice and in those cold eyes, he thought his dad did not possibly recognize him.  But he did.  And he told him that he ran away once, and once was enough for him.  

He tried to tell him about his life but his father cared not for one word nor did he ask any questions about his family.  It seemed to him that his dad could not bear the thought of any happiness that he had found.  And his father said some mean things but his son did not fear this barking old man anymore.  He knew his father was trying to scare him off.  And his father grabbed a pail of scraps and told him to get out of his way.  That pail of scraps reminded him of how hungry he was growing up here.  And it angered him that this continued with the wolves.

The father went in the pen to feed the wolves but saw that his son was still standing there like an idiot.  He heard his son tell him that he was an old fool who confused toughness for strength and he was actually pushing everyone away because at heart he was a chicken who was afraid of love.

The son saw his father froth at the mouth.  And this made him think of the many times his dad punished him for his misery.  In a fit of anger, his dad slipped in the mud and hurt his leg so bad he couldn’t get up.  The wolves snarled closer.  The mean old man looked at his son with a confused expression.  And the son knew that his dad would rather suffer the consequences than ask him for help.  Before he could help his dad, the wolves lunged onto his father.  His son opened the gate and chased the wolves off with his sword but it was too late.  

The mean old man could not ask his son for help for his heart had already been carved out by a sick pride over his toughness.  And the wolves teared him limb from limb.  One last time, he moved the woodpile to a clearing on the other side of the cabin.  And he placed what was left of his father’s body and set it afire.  Somehow the burning felt like a return to his father’s natural element that was left to catch fire to anything within his reach instead of harnessing it for a better life.  And he returned to the warmth of the family and village who loved him as much as he loved them and taught his kids to place strength over mere toughness and to balance their worries with love.

The Spoiled Brat

Once there was a prince who was the most spoiled prince of all. When the king would not give him one thing that he wanted, it would be the first and last time because the prince did not know how spoiled he was since the king had spoiled him so completely.

But somehow the prince had a gut feeling that the king might say “no,” so he asked for his wish in front of the entire kingdom. And the one time the king put his foot down, it felt like an elephant’s foot stepping on a pampered pup and the audience witnessed his little beating heart pop out of his little spoiled puppy dog chest.

All the innocent prince had wanted was to house the poor and sick in their castle in order to care for them as a member of their own family. The kingdom heard the prince’s wish and cheered for his charity and felt his love in their hearts with his spoiled request.

This made the king so irate that he called his son a spoiled brat before all of his subjects and in that moment the king looked like the most spoiled brat of all to his entire kingdom. It was as if his own son had split him in half with a sharp diamond-edged sword. One half his self-image made by him wobbled at the other image of him made by his kingdom. Caught between the betrayal of his son and his kingdom and his own betrayal of them drove the king mad. The prince thereby ascended the throne and became a king who spoiled the poor and sick until they were neither anymore.

I wrote this tale because “spoiled” is such a loaded word. Call someone spoiled and it is extremely offensive. But it also has this boomerang effect. For example, parents who spoil their children seem to be prone to calling their children spoiled. Or politically-minded people seem to thrive on the idea that their opponents are the spoiled ones, while their opponents think the same of them. Spoiled people do not think they are spoiled but are quick to point out someone who is more spoiled than they. Lastly, the word can have a pleasurable connotation. When you spoil a child or a pet rotten and they exhibit spoiled behavior at you who spoiled them, you can get this feeling where anger at being taken for granted crosses its wires with your absolute devotion for what you love and the result fills the chest and flares the nostrils with a certain joyous mischief.

Blame’s Only Solution

Once there was a boy and a girl who went into the woods but only the boy returned.  The villagers went looking for the girl but only found her clothes drenched in blood.  And when they demanded that the boy tell them what had happened, he could not speak a word.  

Some of the villagers blamed the boy for killing the girl and demanded that he give up his life in return.

Other villagers blamed the boy’s parents for not raising him correctly and demanded that the parents pay the ultimate price for the endless sorrow of the girl’s parents.

And others blamed the girl for going into the woods with the boy and said she got what she deserved.

And some even blamed her parents for not teaching her better and thought they also deserved to go in the woods and never come back with their self-inflicted sadness.

One villager said that they all were to blame for this tragedy because they should’ve prevented the boy and girl from going into the woods in the first place.  But the rest of the villagers blamed him for blaming them for something that did not involve them or their children as they saw it.

And that night, suspicions grew so wildly that some villagers set fire to the homes of those they blamed.  And they in turn torched the homes of whoever they blamed. Eventually the entire village was on fire.

In the morning, the villagers were ready to kill each other when the missing girl stepped out of the woods.  

And they blamed her for destroying their village and so they knew they had to sacrifice her.  They decided it was best to sacrifice the boy as well for not talking, even though the boy pleaded that he did not talk for the very reason that he had seen them do this before.  

And after they burned them at the stake, the villagers rebuilt their homes together and lived in brief harmony until the next outburst of blame and it’s only solution.

The Trap of Time

Once there was a knight who found a labyrinth. As soon as he entered it, though, he exited it in an instant. He wondered what he could have missed because he had been told that this labyrinth was impossible to escape.

He turned around and went back in through the exit and turned corner after corner to find the entrance that he could not so easily find. Some corridors looked long but then felt short. And as soon as the walls seemed to be unfolding toward the entrance that had become the exit, they folded back in on him and made him feel like he was trapped in the smallest of cages.

In one cul-de-sac, he saw a child playing and unconcerned with being in the labyrinth at all. In another dead end, he saw an old knight who was skin and bones and was, like the child, unconcerned about the situation he found himself in. He wondered what cruel hand could have made such a trap.

Sometimes the ground felt soft and the walls seemed to wobble, but then he’d turn on his heels and the ground turned hard and the walls impregnable. He tried to follow a breeze but it would change direction. And the shadows were no help since they changed to fit his view. When he tried to mark a wall or the floor, they appeared where he was sure he had never been before.

The knight wished he had never thought of coming here. He should’ve listened when they told him it was impossible to leave. But exactly that notion of impossibility made it impossible for him to resist. So there he was, where he had always been. But he hadn’t thought enough about it, until he did, and went in through the exit to find the entrance only to get lost in time’s design instead.

Watery Windows

Once there was a hermit who had watery windows in her home.  Whatever she looked at through those windows had ripples flowing around it that told her everything she thought she needed to know.  The watery windows magnified anything small or far that she wished to see.   

One day, the hermit wondered if it was only she who saw the ripples in her watery windows, feared that it might be a curse forbidding her from leaving her home, and so she invited some people over.  But when she opened her door to let them in, there were no people at all, but a raging sea, instead, with treacherous currents and ominous waves. 

Her home was a ship and her sea legs wobbled at the realization that she had been out to sea so long that she was seeing ripples around everything. 

Back in her warm cabin, she pulled the shades over the windows. She made a pot of tea. And formed a cave with a blanket for her cat to purr in. Soon her mind came to a rest. And she became the calm in the eye of her storm.