"It's the way of our people." But what happens when those ways hurt those we love?
|Tears flowing down his face, he begged between sobs. “It killed my sister and both my brothers! Now it’s taken my father! Must it have you, too?” His hands trembled as he spread them to plead. “Why, Mother? Why?”
She hung her head, wet cheeks glistening in the setting sun. “It is the way of our people, my Son. The way of our kind. It is what I must do.”
“Must?? No, Mother, you are free to do whatever you want!” Instantly ashamed for shouting, he attempted composure. “No one is demanding you do anything, Mother. Least of all worship something that kills!”
The slap rang loud in the still twilight air, and the fire in the Mother’s eyes matched that on the Son’s cheek. “You have no right to speak ill of our god!”
“Not ‘our’ god,” he said with forced calm. “Your god, if you wish. I refuse to adore a destroyer!” He waited for another blow.
Instead, it was her words that hit and stung. “Then you are a traitor!” She flung her arm out in a wide circle. “Look around you. You have lived a blessed and abundant life. You never wanted for food or shelter. Yet, after a lifetime of benefits, you turn your back on your benefactor?”
“Benefits? Mother, open your eyes! Open your mind!” He strode to the edge of the veranda and gazed out at the country. “The earth grows us food, the rain gives us water, and the forest gives us a home.” He turned back and his composure cracked.
“All your god gives us is death! One by one, all who worship your Star of the Night die! My family - OUR family, Mother, is gone! Everyone I could love is dead. Nothing was gained - they are just not here any more. Mother, you are all I have left. Am I supposed to stand here and let some nebulous deity rip my heart and life to shreds, and feel blessed by it?” He sank to his knees, sobbing with grief.
She walked to him, cradled his face in her hands, and tenderly lifted his eyes to meet hers. “I knew this day would come, Son. It does for all our people.”
Slowly she turned and walked a step, then another. Looking into the night’s darkness as it snuffed out the waning light of dusk, she saw only painful memories. “It was about this same season many turns ago. I left with my brother for the night’s worship. He and I were the only ones left.” Her voice broke. “I came home alone.”
Facing her last living child, she forced herself to speak. “That night, I stopped going to worship. I would raise a family and continue the line the more might serve our Star. But I vowed that, when I was no longer needed to care for my family, I would resume. Last night, when your Father ... was taken, I ... I reaffirmed my vow. He is our Star of the Night, and to worship is the way of our kind. I can do no less.”
“I would have hoped for more, Mother!” His heart was cold as stone as he rose to stand firm. Acceptance of futility put the night’s chill into his face and voice. “If your label is traitor, then I will wear it with pride. I reject your ways, your worship, and your god.” He paused, then continued in a hoarse whisper devoid of remorse. “And if it is the only way, then I must reject you too.”
Her face showed no effect other than a single tear escaping her outward calm. She looked back across the night, staring at a single point of brilliance. Her calm did not quite reach her voice. “It is dark, and the Star is calling. I must ... I ... will ... go now.” She turned, took two hesitant steps, and paused. Gazing out at the Star of her destiny, she said only “Goodbye, Son”, and left. Only a tear stain on the floor marked her passing.
He did not watch her go, but willed himself to remain still. As her steps faded into the darkness, the silence was complete, save for his whisper. “Goodbye, Mother. I love you.”
They sat on the porch, father and child, enjoying the quiet of a cool spring night. The street lamp illuminated them, like a shining star against the velvet black of night.
“Daddy,” asked the child, “why do all the moths fly around the light?”
“I don’t know,” replied the father. “It’s just the way they are. The way of their kind, I guess.”
The child walked over to examine a fallen flyer and gently picked it up. “I wonder if anyone misses them when they’re gone.”