The Sins of My Children

Art by Yige Xu

I have been speaking to my son. He is everything I would want in my child. Compassion rules his mind. His anger, so very masculine, he takes apart with clinical precision. No embers left to hatch new fires another day. He tells me of the world he lives in. A place drier than any desert I have seen. He tells me that his constant companion is the sound of sand, gently sliding against boots and hooves.

I am only 23. My son speaks to me, a man of 56. I glean insight into who I will be, as a father. He tells me of my open nature, my love of stories, and those words of mine.
“Do not despair, there is still tomorrow.”
I do not share this man’s, my, sentiment at this age.
My son tells me I have fought dogs, lean and rabid creatures which pounce behind the cover of sandy winds. He tells me of the only time he saw my face twisted into something ugly. I caved their heads in, skulls reduced to pulp beneath my bloody fists. He tells me of how I cried that night, head pointed to a black, and smoky sky. He tells me I howled out in pain, for I had never killed until that moment.

I cannot imagine such a thing. Here, in this moment, my heart pounds. I see myself, a warrior, a soldier, a fighter. Yet, I know that this is not the truth. I am scared. How desperate is my future, that I will bludgeon another living thing to crimson paste?

My son tells me I lose my arm. Fangs, and canines drenched in stagnant shit and water, poison my flesh. Within weeks, it turns shades of green, and purple. My wife, a woman I have not met yet, grinds my limb free with the blunt edge of a car’s metal rim.

I die. Not in battle, or of old age. I die running from something, and my body fails. My son tells me he could only hear my cough, as every vessel in my body bursts. I bleed to death on a dune behind our home. My son runs into the desert with his mother, our house alight and the shadow of bandits playing on the sands.
Then I am awake. I lie in a soft bed, and listen to the sound of my home in the night.
When next I fall asleep, I do not meet my son.

It is a woman. She is haggard and vicious. She moves in the way I imagine the dogs which will take my arm move. Her shoulders hunch forward and swing low. Her arms are so long, and they seem to drift along the ground. Her legs twist in awkward angles, and her chest presses low to the ground as her neck clicks, and shifts to look at me. She smiles. There are too many teeth in that smile.

I ask her what I asked my son, but she only chuckles.
“I hate you,” she says before she leaps and catches my neck in her maw.
I die in my dream, my granddaughter  howling in glee as she eats me, a mouthful at a time.
The next I dream, it is my great-granddaughter  who I meet. Her eyes are haunted, but she does not blame me for her misfortune. We speak of her mother, and we commiserate the pain she caused us. Before she leaves, my great-granddaughter  tells me:

“I do not know where you are going, but there is a dark cloud ahead of me. I do not how far, but it smells of smoke.”
For every following night, my descendants tell me the same thing. For every night I fall into sleep, I awake with the smell of a great fire in my nose. Every morning, I hear someone whisper in a language so utterly changed from what I speak, and yet instantly recognizable.

The dreams blur, and so too do the descendants. Some have great grievances with me, others weep upon seeing my face, still others do not recognize me and we sit there in blank silence.

I do not understand why it is I who must endure this gauntlet of heredity. I am not the first of my line. Does my father experience this? My mother? My sister? Do my children, strung out across centuries, sleep with the knowledge of their own children’s atrocities? Do they also dream of their children’s miracles?

I dream. I hear His name, chanted on a foul wind. When I open my eyes, I am moved to weep. He is so perfect. From the curve of his brow, to the lilting line of his hands, I cannot find a flaw in him. When he speaks, it is the clearest sound I have ever heard.
He says: “Come, Great Father. Listen to my achievements.”

They are horrible. As he speaks, I see the people who follow him under the banner of a bloody palm. There is death, there is suffering, there is pain, there is destruction. Yet, what horrifies me so deeply are his eyes.

As he recounts the worlds he has razed, the tortures and cruelties committed, I see nothing in his eyes. There is no bloodlust, no ache for conquest, no sick joy in pain. Nor is there a lie. He does not believe this is for the best, that he builds a better place.

He is bored, and I tell him as much.
“Yes,” he says. “There is nothing to elate in anymore. What is left but the excess, when all of memory is mine.”
“What do you mean?”

He laughs. “You gaze into the future through me, but I have lived your life, and every life of every ancestor. There is nothing new. I am a cup overfull, and now I shall never know what it was like to sip.”
He cries there, this monster of my flesh.
I awake, and wonder. Will this come to pass? 


Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 22 ‘To Be Confirmed’

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