Born Again

Author’s note: This one is perhaps too subtle. As it is, I think import of the Creator’s terrible work is probably too easily missed. But I think explaining it might diminish the impact for those who get it. Let me know what you think.

The forest was ablaze with the green fire of spring. Everywhere the trees were exploding with tender new growth. In all their variety, leaves were turning their fresh faces to the warm lips of the sun to have the misty spray of morning dew that bathed them gently kissed away. From treetops to rocky hollows, blossoms of seemingly infinite size, shape, and hue were shaking off the evening slumber. Jewel-winged birds dripped among the branches, launched from tree to tree, and scattered carelessly about, adding vibrant chaos to the springy verdure, intermingling in the underbrush and crackling remains of winter’s reign that carpeted the forest floor. And from everywhere at once came the scoreless symphony that sang the incessant heartbeat of the wilds.

The Creator’s naked feet slipped softly from the loving grasp of the last phantasmic fingers of ground fog as He walked through the living canvas. The celebration of his artistry, of the life and world he had made, sung his praises as ever it did in the flashes of color and sound and life all around. But in spite of all the peace and self-satisfaction that He usually felt when He walked amidst his masterpiece, the Creator was troubled. It was not often that He was compelled to do anything — indeed, nothing could truly compel him at all, except for His own mind and heart. But both had been assaulted beyond all His expectation. And something had to be done.

So it was with heavy burdens upon His heart and mind that the Creator stepped from beneath the wind-whispering trees and up to the edge of an up-thrust jag of hard, bare stone to look down upon his most ambitious creations. Below Him was a spring-fed pool of perfect lucidity. On the far side of the pool, huddled at the edge of forest, were the objects of His interest and sorrow — at play, or so it seemed, as He had seen them so often before.

As He watched, a young male separated himself from the group of eight or nine creatures and took several tentative, hopping steps toward the pool, gave a high-pitched screech of affected ferocity and darted quickly back to the safety of the group. A second young male then went through the same motions, pushing himself with obvious fear even closer to the edge of the pool before scampering back to his peers.

This one-upmanship continued for three or four cycles before the first male finally made it up to the very edge of pool and the source of the creatures’ fear became clear. Loping somewhat timidly to the edge, the first male raised up and stretched out his arms in an effort to make himself look larger and more intimidating, then, with an ear-splitting shriek of mingled fear and bravado, dashed quicker than ever back to the now scattering group.

On other days, the Creator had stood in the same spot, watching the same remarkable show, and marveled with a smile at how terrified a creature could be of its own reflection in the water at its feet. But there was no humor left in the display for Him. The spectacle below was at the root of the atrocities that these simplistic creatures had visited on their kindred the night before. It was evidence of the fundamental something missing that had caused them to go so wrong; that caused the peace of the night before to be ripped to shreds, along with the bodies of this small band’s victims; that had left the sweet young grasses of the nearby meadow splashed with a deep crimson spray that was not the morning dew and that could not be so easily kissed away by the benevolent sun above.

Standing on his stony perch, the Creator reached out toward the unguided creatures now reemerging from the flanks of the forest. Like a painter before a near-perfect canvas adding the single stroke that makes all the difference, He ever-so-slightly touched his imperfect creations.

As He continued to watch, the creatures regrouped with a cacophony of chatter that quickly died away as the second young male once again broke away and forced himself to approach the glassy pool. Just as his compatriot had done, he hopped uncertainly up to the edge of the water, rose up with outstretched arms and opened his toothy mouth to scream his defiance of the beastly rival that challenged him from within the water. But the shriek died in the creature’s throat as he looked down at his reflection in obvious surprise.

As the group behind him broke out in astonished chatter, the young male began waving his outstretched arms in slow, exaggerated circles. His eyes fixed on the unaccountable image at his feet, he brought his hand up to his face, and traced its robust lines with one hairy finger. Finally, the creature knelt down upon the bank of the limpid pool, reached out and touched the lips of the image below him, erasing the suddenly familiar face with the ripples from his trembling hand.

And the Creator’s terrible work was done.

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