“So you’re friends with that boy. I thought you hated him.”
“He’s alright I guess. I actually really enjoy fishing.”
It was a lazy day and the afternoon air was muggy. Alistair had followed his grandpa on a visit to his hometown, leaving Mother tense and Gem listless. Unable to stand the stale air of the house, I fled to the hills where I met Crowman.
I was seeing Crowman less and less these days. I was too busy hanging out with Gem and Alistair. It occurred to me that I should feel guilty for neglecting my old friend in favour of a new one, but Crowman seemed to be above all of that.
“Friendship is a curious thing,” he mused. “It means so much yet absolutely nothing at all.”
He made many nonsensical comments such as these and I knew it was best not to question them. “Don’t you have friends?” I asked instead.
“I had one. Long ago for you, not long ago for me.”
Surely time was the same for everyone, but, once again, I did not question it.
“How long ago?”
“Hmm, far before your time. Before your father’s time, too. Say, your grandfather’s time. That sounds about right.” He chuckled like it was an inside joke.
“Well what happened to them?”
“Oh, he was a joker, simply a clown. He threw away everything he could have had for some lesser existence. And all the meanings he assigned to it. In the end all the meanings amounted to nothing more than dust in the ground. Gold dust, brushed over bones.”
The comfortable drawl I was used to was gone; each word was now short and clipped, like fingernails that hurt to play piano with. “But you know what was the most disgusting thing of all? He was so satisfied with it all. It was so damn revolting.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “You’re being weird. Can we talk about something else?”
“You are the one who asked. But I’ll bite. Something else, you say?” His eyes glinted under his hood. “Alright. How about human tragedies?”
“What does that mean?” This was going to be a bad topic, I could feel it.
“It means, in life, all humans win some, then they lose some. That is the human tragedy.”
“How is that a tragedy? Seems balanced to me.”
“After every triumph comes a defeat. After every joy comes sorrow. Stories are defined by their endings, no? The sweetness of success is always soured by the bitterness of failure.”
“But after failure is success,” I reasoned. “What if the story ends with a triumph?”
Crowman let out a laugh; a harsh laugh with no humour. “Humans cannot escape the fall. Even if they do, they can never escape the biggest fall of all: death. The ultimate bitter ending. That is why every human story is a tragedy.”
This was getting a little too much for me. “What a ridiculous thing to say,” I snapped.
Instantly, he rounded on me.
“And what would you know of life, hmm? You, who was born and will die as a mere consequence to the choices of a simpleton. What a pathetic existence.
“Ridiculous, you say? Then tell me, little miss, where I am wrong. Because every human I’ve seen has met their tragic endings eventually, or will in their future. You are no exception.”
Each word hit me like a lash. But the thing more terrifying than the heat in his voice was his eyes. His cold, empty eyes.
Empty, like death.
I don’t remember getting up but I was running, wiping tears from my face, back to Winterstead. I didn’t stop until I was back in my room. What felt like a prison now seemed like a sanctuary.
I did not have the courage to return to that hill after that. Not until far later, anyhow. By then I was too grown up to see hooded figures in the shades of tall trees, or so I thought.
That was the last I saw of Crowman for a long time.
2 thoughts on “4.4 Human Tragedies”
Uh, I don’t know how you did it, but reading this has brought me to tears. I think it’s just allowing me to process everything. Things are such a mess here in the US right now, so I think this chapter illuminated that for me. Brilliant writing. I needed these tears, it seems.
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Yeah things are pretty rough right now, and I’m glad this gave you a while to process. Thanks so much for reading. The simlit community at least helps us feel closer together.
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