Childlike, we humans believe that the ability to destroy makes us powerful. One of the memories that have always stuck with me was one when I was in Elementary School, and I watched one of my classmates stomp a snail to death. One thing I discovered very young was that to point out there was a living creature of any sort to the other was to sign its death warrant. The human young I grew up with was at war with the world around them. As they grew older they only grew more aggressive and more cruel.
Sometimes, very late, between the rising of the moon and the rising of the sun, in the darkness where no stars can be seen because there is too much light, we have killed that too, I sometimes am alone and I wonder how we got here, to this point of living. I still feel like the same small child, surrounded by other children, who only want to destroy other living things.
The time between the rising of the moon and the rising of the sun, and forget about me calling this day or night or morning or the wee hours, I can watch human activity and wonder what other purpose does it serve other than to kill? We may claim that we cannot live without cars and trucks, but when did we ever consider those creature who are on foot, and those who fly? Cruelty could at least be noticed and railed against, but mindless indifference, the same kind you see in drivers and passengers in cars and trucks, is a cultural thing. Small mammals are in our way. They are roadkill. Deer are killed more often by cars than guns. Birds are merely large insects. Our path over the river and through the woods leaves bodies lying to rot in the sun, and we never wonder if we might have just left some animal wounded, to be finished off by the next person, who will swerve far too late.
If you’ve never stopped anywhere on a highway and looked under a bridge you’ll discover that there are those people who believe that the underside of a bridge is one vast dumping ground. The people who are brave enough, or stupid enough, to fish in the small creeks and streams leave their own deltas behind. Plastic bottles, diapers, snack wrappers, and all sorts of trash are left behind, to be swept into the water by rain or wind, and the next set of litterbugs will pull fish from the water that have no choice but to live in a world polluted by plastics. We do have a choice. What choice we have made is quite clear; we simply do not care.
Bridges are also those places where people dump old appliances, blown tires, and pets. Living pets and dead pets are discarded at bridges, and people also dump dead deer here, and household garbage. Out of sight is out of mind, if they had one, and no one really claims the detritus of their own lives. We have thrown it away. It is not ours anymore. Once we can no longer see the problem then the problem has to be taken up by someone else.
The lack of sleep plays with my mind, like a deep drug, like possession, like a second skin that needs constant tugging and pulling up, lest I trip and fall. I feel it, again, the dream I have at odd times, infrequent yet alluring. I carry a weapon on my right leg, a sitting knife it is called, because men of my tribe sit with our right leg always foot down on the floor, the knife in a sheath. It’s as cultural as spitting gum out of the window, and means as much. The knife is a heavy thing, not a throwing knife, not a hunting knife to be used on prey, no, it’s a hacking thing, for fistfights with blades. But they are heavy and unbalanced things, like men who fight with chairs or drinking mugs. It’s a tradition that is only dangerous to ourselves. You can’t carry a knife like that to war.
We wear the skins of animals, for it is cold here, and it is more important to be able to hunt than to kill other people. But as of late, there are more people to kill, the people who live downriver from us have been coming into our territory, displaced by other people downriver from them, and some suggest we move north…
It never occurs to us, them, anyone, that we all could get together and talk about what we need and why we need it, and what can be done to prevent war, for we cannot do that among ourselves. We drink hard, and we allow slights to fester, and we fight with our knives that are bad weapons, and we tell our young that the strangers from downriver of us will be our slaves if they come here, and that seems to be a much better alternative to working it out and allowing their young to live in peace.
So we go to war, the mass of us, the mob of us, on foot to raid the camp of the people we call strangers, and we walk down the river bank at dawn to surprise them, but they have come for us, too. There are many times our number, a wide band of warriors armed with shield and swords and they are stretched over the entire river, hundreds of them, maybe a thousand, and we are fewer than fifty.
Some run. They throw their weapons down and they are cut down as we throw our spears at them, killing our own again, because we’re like that and it defines who we are, but there are so very many of those who seek to kill us we know that we can live for just so long before the end and it is very near.
A pervious lifetime? Perhaps. Maybe just a dream, really. But does it matter if we die, or our children die, by the blade or if they die, and we die, poisoned by our own waste, and our own inability to know that life is connected by life, not by death?