There, by the primordial pond, its waters kept pristine solely by isolation, man, at last, made his footprint, a mark that once seemed like such a miracle, a mark that now bears only devilry.
“Hello, Mother. Remember me? Your prodigal son has returned.”
The pond’s water rippled with thousands of tiny waves, like shivers of the long-anticipated dread finally coming. Autumn leaves, brought by the air like shriveled corpses, danced a hempen jig with the cold wind. Stalks of dry grass swayed with apathy, their withered stems too weak to resist the rush of air. A silent raven sat atop a hollow tree.
The human smiled, but there was no warmth on his lips, no compassion in his eyes. Only that horrifying air of self-importance that has corrupted his mind, his heart, his soul. And now, his mother.
“Your gloom does not scare me,” he said, hands clasped behind his back, jaw firm and eyes keen. “I’ve grown, Mother. My journey has made me stronger, smarter, better. I’m not a feeble child anymore, afraid of the dark and the unknown. All those stories you fed me with? Making me tremble at every rustle in the bushes, every crack of thunder? I’ve come to understand them, and in turn, understand you.”
The cold wind didn’t seem to bother the man, even though all he wore was a black business suit. Black was his hair, combed back with style. And black were his eyes, consumed with greed, seeking to seize yet unseen opportunities. He wore the colors of darkness and the unknown as though he understood them. As though he understood himself.
“I don’t blame you, Mother,” he said and began pacing around the pond, smiling to himself. “You tried your best, as is expected of a good parent. But in every parent’s life there comes a time where the child outgrows the crib. A time where the child learns everything he can from the parent and must move on. A time,” he said and regarded the raven, “where the parent becomes a hindrance, rather than an advantage for the child. And a hindrance is best to remove quickly before it becomes an inhibition.”
The raven croaked and jumped into the air, flying just above the man’s head. The man ducked and watched the bird fly away, his face contemptuous.
“Have I really been such a bad mother that you would want to be rid of me?”
The man turned. There, in the middle of the pond, stood a beautiful woman, delicate and serene in her wisdom. But that was not her true form, the man knew that it was just the form she took to speak to him. A form crafted to make him feel sympathy and perhaps compassion even. He smiled.
“Not at all. I said I do not blame you. It is just that I have discovered other… possibilities for me. Out there.” The man pointed up at the stars. The cold air seemed to make them shine even brighter.
“You always were fascinated with looking up,” the woman said, remembering a pleasant memory. “So much so that you never quite looked within.”
“I looked within also,” the man said, resuming his walk around the pond. “But up there is way more interesting. You see, up there, it seems everything is possible. Things that are not possible down here, with all these…” he waved his hand in search of a word, “...restraints.”
“So you think I am restraining you?”
“Well… how else would you put it? I need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat… I’m bound to you, Mother. Bound to live here with you forever, until we both burn in the Sun’s fires. In effect, I am your prisoner.”
The words cut deep. She felt them stab her directly in the tender parts of her heart.
“But, luckily,” he continued, “you did give me my brain and my intellect. I outsmarted you, Mother. Pretty soon, you’ll no longer be needed. Save for your resources, that is until I get to a new home. One more suited for my needs.”
She felt tears gather behind her eyes, and she let them flow out without shame or restraint. Let him see how much he hurt her.
“How can you say that?” she said. “All I ever gave you was love. Do you really not see? Oh, my child, you’ve got it all wrong…” Her voice grew weak with sadness.
He would not look at her. Perhaps because if he did, he would waver. Or perhaps because his heart was as cold as space itself.
“I am leaving, Mother,” he declared, closing up to complete a full circle around the pond. “There is nothing more for me here. Your home has become too limiting and too toxic for me to continue living in it.”
“But where will you go? I’ve made every single aspect of this world such that it can support you. The limits that you see are there only for your own well being and benefit. And don’t blame me for the state of your home. You’ve made it the way it is.”
The man waved a hand. “I’ve only taken what is rightfully mine. As you’ve said, the world was made for me. So, I did the best I could with it. Turned it into a gleaming beacon of industriousness and ingenuity which shines out into the stars, a prime example in business and expansion! You should be proud, Mother.”
She could only shake her head. “Oh, my child… Where did you stray off your path so far? I still remember how you used to be, all alone and afraid, huddling by the fire in the forest at night, exploring and wandering the world at day. Watching, building, appreciating, laughing, crying, feeling… living. You used to be alive, my child, so alive, and so full of life. I haven’t realized that you have died…”
The man looked at her. “What are you talking about? I’m not dead! I’m as alive as I ever was! On the verge of my adulthood, leaving the stale home behind and stepping out into the great expanse of the Cosmos! It is you, Mother, who is dying, and I will not let myself be brought down with you.”
The wind picked up and blew over the surface of the pond, creating small waves that came crashing on the shore by the man’s feet. The hollow tree released more of its dead leaves, singing a mournful lament with the air passing through its empty body.
She could no longer take this standing. She dropped to her knees into the pond and buried her face into her hands.
“You’ve taken my forests, you’ve taken my animals, my waters and my mountains, my nutrients, even my beating heart, you’ve managed to harness its power for your benefit. And I do not resent you any of these things, as I would have given them to you for free, should you ever ask. Instead, you simply took.
But I care not so much about what happens to me. I am old and have lived my life. It is you that I care for the most. You are my pride and joy, you are my best work of art, a true masterpiece of life and creation! My heart sings with joy to have the honor of not just seeing you grow, but be part of that process, giving you life and nourishment.
And as much as I cannot express to you the love and joy you bring to me, I cannot even begin to express the sorrow and pain I feel as I see you destroy yourself, killing me in the process, not as much physically, but ever so deeply in spirit.
What have you done, my child? What have you done to yourself? You say you’ve come to understand as much as never before, yet never before have I seen you in such pain and suffering. You say you’ve outsmarted me, but I have never competed with you for anything. I exist not to limit you but to help you see that you limit yourself. You say you want to leave because there is nothing for you here and that the stars hold promises of excitement and possibility for you. You want to conquer the Cosmos, and yet, you do not even know who you are.
My dear, dear child. Whatever has happened to you?”
There was a long silence, broken only by the woman’s weeping. Then, a splash of water came and she felt a hand rest on her shoulder. A gentle squeeze. She raised her head, looking at her son with watery eyes. His face was unreadable.
“All I have done was in an attempt to find who I am. To find my happiness, my meaning, my purpose. Surely you can understand this.”
The man let go of his brief touch and walked out of the pool. The woman stood up in one last attempt to help her child.
“Can't you see? All those things you’re searching for out there? You have them already. You need only look inward.”
He paused. She sensed a kernel of hope.
“Will you finally end this state of neurosis you are in? Will you finally gaze inward?”
The man lowered his head. He glanced back, just briefly enough to say one last thing.
“No, Mother. This expansion out there, this ‘me leaving you’? This is just the beginning.”
Then he walked away from the pond, signaling to the workers to come and start extracting the clear water, cutting down the hollow tree, and starting excavating the soil and rocks for minerals.
And all the while, Mother Earth stood there, watching, hoping that one day, one day, perhaps her child will learn.