The boy and his father walked happily together, hand in hand, the father gently guiding his son, pointing out all the fascinating items along their route. All the good things to see, to touch, to handle, to smell, to taste…
And one thing to be wary of. For as they walked, they passed a deadly area of quicksand.
And from that direction, an unfamiliar & distorted whisper intruded on their tranquil conversation. Powerful, it stirred in the boy a rebellious yearning. Snatching his hand away from the loving grip of his father, and in knowing defiance of his warning, the boy launched himself onto the dangerously appealing surface.
And immediately sank up to his waist.
Unable to free himself, and now beyond the reach of his father, the boy slowly looked around, seeking something, anything, to provide some comfort in place of his father’s reassuring but absent grasp. Or at least some distraction.
And he began to notice various items close by; close enough for him to reach. They seemed alluring; somewhat familiar, even fascinating. Different shapes & textures and colours. So he grabbed one. Strangely, as he took it in his hands, the colour gradually changed to a dull grey, the shape became indistinct, and the texture took on a sticky quality, attaching itself to the boy such that whatever he did, he couldn’t remove it. And he became aware of its surprising weight, though at first it was barely noticeable.
He reached out for other colourful and interesting items around him. And each time he held one, it gradually began to lose its attractiveness, and always the items clung to him, and he couldn’t shake them loose. And now he felt the weight building with each thing that he grasped. And it slowly dawned on him that, under the growing weight of the rapidly accumulating detritus, he was sinking deeper into the quicksand. But he had to grasp at something, for what else was there?
And now the weight was becoming stifling, constricting him, and under the heavy load he was sinking in the quicksand, down and down, deeper & deeper. He struggled, but his mouth began to clog with the deadly sand, and his senses seemed dulled and passive. Then he glimpsed his father, the father he had deserted, gazing lovingly at him from the pathway. Out of reach. Helpless, almost hopeless, yet stubborn and almost afraid to speak, the boy could just barely mouth the word ‘Help’, before his head was pulled down beneath the surface by the weight of everything clinging to him.
Blackness began to close in.
Suddenly what seemed like an earthquake shook the quicksand. The enveloping silt shifted and the boy was hurled back to the surface, into the light. Looking around, he saw he was not alone. Another figure was close, waist deep in the quicksand. And as the boy watched, all the clinging weight of the things he had so eagerly (and so fatally) seized, shifted off from him, and – as if drawn by some immense magnetic force – greedily raced to attach themselves to the other figure. That figure did not struggle. In fact he seemed to open his arms to receive the deadly mass, to embrace it, drawing onto himself every lethal thing. And not merely from the boy. Now, from all around, debris rushed onto the other figure; truly the weight of the world seemed hungry to cling to him. Or perhaps he to it. And he began to sink under the impossible burden. The boy caught a faint echo of the earlier, perverted whisper; a snarling and heartless laugh. Glancing around, the boy looked back toward the path, looking for his father, but he was not there. The quicksand sucked the figure down and down, deeper and deeper, loaded with every weight that had – just moments before – clung to the boy. And for a final brief instant he looked into the drowning figure’s eyes.
And in those eyes he suddenly recognised…his father. And then those eyes, so full of longing love, were lost beneath the devouring quicksand.
There was a pregnant silence.
Loaded down with the lethal, clinging mass, the overburdened figure sank far below the surface. Yet as he was devoured by the quicksand, it seemed like the deadly quicksand itself imploded, and was consumed along with him. Or by him. And then, to his surprise, the boy discovered he was no longer trapped. His feet rested on solid ground, and he found himself back on the familiar path.
Looking back, the ground that had been deadly quicksand was convulsed, and the boy heard again the unfamiliar and distorted voice, but this time no longer a whisper, nor a laugh. It was an anguished and hateful scream, devoid of its previous power, and knowing it.
And then with a thrill that ignited his whole being, the boy felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and heard again the father’s familiar voice.