Before There Were Chains
Before there were chains, there was freedom.
No one told him what to do or where to go, so he climbed out of his stone-egg, descended the rock and breathed the night air, and he was alive.
Before there was the Sun, there was the moon.
Its silver face greeted his birth in silence, and it made no promises and offered no protection. But the nameless child did not mind, for he knew not the meaning of such things, and he was free.
Before there was Heaven, there was Earth.
She gave him shape and breath and life, and the freedom to do with it as he pleased. She hatched him from her own body and made him wilder than the storm, the sea and the wind put together. She gave him all the Power that was within herself, and he was perfect.
Before there was fear, there was wonder.
The world was full of things to see, to smell, to touch, and to taste. He was never hungry, and he was never lonely, for he knew not the meaning of such things.
Before there was chaos, there was confusion.
The small animals in the forest did not fear him. They were his brothers and his sisters, and even though the shapes they wore were different, in them he saw himself, and like him, they understood the unspoken laws of nature. But these other creatures confused him. They looked almost like him, with two arms and two legs, even though they were clumsy and nearly deaf and blind, and had small, round ears and eyes that shone with anger and fear.
He did not know that it was wrong to kill and eat the nanny goat in the garden. He was only hungry, after all, and the goat was fat and friendly and did not run away, almost as if she were offering of herself a meal to feed him.
He did not want to hurt the villagers, for they fascinated him – at first. They called him youkai and gazed upon his small, naked body with eyes that held both fear and displeasure. Most stood back, but one gentle creature reached out a hand to him, and softly cooed in soothing tones. But the earth child was a wild one, and he shyed away from the outstretched hand with a warning growl and a snap of needle-sharp teeth.
The woman looked again then at the blood spilled upon the ground, at the remains of the goat, and at the small creature in her yard, and she quickly ushered her family inside the house.
Before there was love, there was hatred and misunderstanding.
The so-called-youkai was enjoying the garden. His belly was full of fresh, warm meat, and the flowers smelled so good. The grass was soft and green, the birds were singing, and the afternoon sun was lulling him to sleep. But the villagers soon returned with sticks and stones. They shouted out words he could not understand, and they threw rocks at him to chase him off.
The earth child became angry. Why were these creatures attacking him? He had done no wrong in the eyes of Nature, and he only wanted to rest here for a little while longer. A sharp-edged stone struck his face, and a trickle of bright blood ran down onto his lip. His little, wet tongue flicked out, tasting, tasting. They provoked him, and it was not in his nature to run from a threat…
He did not harm them, but they were very, very frightened, for he was wild and he was strong, much stronger than they were.
Word spread fast, and now all the people in the surrounding area kept their doors locked tight, their children safe inside and their animals sheltered. For there was a mad youkai about, and it was evil and bloodthirsty and dangerous. But the little youkai did not know the meaning of any of these words, and he lived only to be happy with the feel of the sunshine kissing his skin, and the beauty of the world reflected in his golden eyes. He did not know that there was anything wrong with the colour of his eyes…
As the human-world learned to hate him, so too did he learn to dislike the humans. He learned to make sport of them, and would derive great pleasure from tricking them, and frightening them in all kinds of clever ways. He was like a very naughty little monkey with the strength of the earth and the grace of the winds. No one could stop him, and no one could tame him, for the earth was his…
Before there were chains, there was freedom.
But this freedom was not granted to him by the gods, and so therefore the gods were not at all pleased. Before long, his antics down below caught their divine attention, and they descended to make their presence known to the wayward earthling, and to capture him once and for all.
The wild one was curious. This new creature shared his shape, but it didn't smell human or even youkai at all. Nor was there a trace of fear in its regal, condescending eyes. It granted him the power of language, and it spoke in words that the earthling could understand for the very first time. And it produced chains and clothing, and forced the little earth spirit to wear them. Last of all, when he was duly subdued, it touched his forehead, and a great weight bore down upon the child's very soul. It was a weight that seemed to rob him of his nature, and the world shrivelled away from him and made him feel somehow very small. It made his soul angry, so very, very angry, and so his soul swore that it would one day escape…
The god smiled smugly, for it had tamed the wild monkey, the heretical beast that the earth had spawned in forbidden abomination. The god led the little monkey along by the chains placed upon his wrists, tread divine feet upon the green earth without a care, and quickly ascended to Heaven.
Before there were these sterile walls of white, there was fresh air, green grass and fragrant earth…
The child did not like the feel of the smooth floor when he was shoved upon it. He was hungry, but where would he find food in a place like this? There was nothing here, nothing but…
A light so bright, it drew his wondering eyes like a beacon. There was no sun in this vast, impeccable hall, but that one… that tall one… he was so beautiful, and his hair shone just as if the sun had haloed him in its own golden warmth. This one's eyes sparkled and glittered like ice, and looked at him directly with annoyance and detached curiosity, but without concern or hatred or even a trace of fear.
The nameless child stared in awe, and the shining one scowled with arms tightly crossed over his chest. The Merciful Goddess smiled upon them both, her chin resting in her hands, and Heaven would never be the same…
Yes, before there were chains, there was freedom, and there can be no loss without love.
Ah, but some links are not made of metal, and are all the stronger for it. And as for chains, some can never be broken, no matter how much time has passed, for they are not made of Heaven or Earth, but of the heart.
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