The landscape was desolate, a steaming wasteland of muddy pools and stinking slime that stretched as far as the eye could see. The monotonous scene continued seemingly indefinitely, save for one curious exception. In the very middle of the deepest part of the swamp rose a small island of sharp, crumbly volcanic rock, empty but for a single fixture. A tall, slender mirror stood in the center of the tiny oasis, brightly illuminated by some unseen light source. Angels and demons alike stood concealed in the shadows, their motionless eyes looking on with intense curiosity at the unoccupied stage in front of them.
The stillness was broken suddenly by a commotion from the fetid pool nearest the island. Large bubbles boiled up at the surface, as if some undersea vent was releasing poisonous fumes into the noxious atmosphere. A shape began to rise from the mud; it rather looked like it could have been a man once, and yet a second glance was sufficient to cast serious doubt on this initial impression. The thing had legs and arms and a head, but it was there that the resemblance to humanity stopped. Gargantuan was an inadequate description; huge, greasy blobs of oozing flesh protruded in every possible direction, and great patches of long, oily hair hung from the mass at irregular intervals. A dark cloud seemed to surround it, and the thing’s foul odor made even the vilest of the demons recoil in disgust.
Inch by agonizing inch, the shape dragged itself out of the muck and onto the fragile black rock of the tiny island. The sharp edges of the stone cut into the outer layers of flesh, releasing a fresh fountain of pus and blood. Apparently undeterred by the injuries, the thing continued its progress, snail-like, towards the mirror at the center of the rock. Once there, it paused for a long moment on its knees, studying the grotesque reflection through yellowed, bulbous eyes. One fleshy, bleeding hand rose then, ragged with bloody strips of flesh torn by the struggle with the rock. A glittering edge caught the light from the mirror; the hand held a knife aloft, the blade suspended for an endless second.
Then hand and blade descended, and the shape began to cut away at itself. A wailing, soul-wrenching scream of pain rose from the thing, and yet it continued to slice and tear at its body. Great steaming chunks of bloodied flesh fell at the shape’s feet as it quivered in agony, but still the cutting continued. The knife seemed to be alive, animated, and hungrier with each vicious laceration. There appeared to be no elegance or specific intent driving the mutilation, and yet a curious thing happened as the minutes dragged into hours. A recognizable form began to emerge from the carnage, reminiscent to the ancient eyes in the shadows of the way David was birthed from a block of marble under the skilled hands of Michelangelo. A human form…not perfect, nor beautiful, but undoubtedly the shape of a man.
The intended message behind the story?
The human organism, as both an animal and a spirit, is perpetually in a state of either evolution or degeneration. Equilibrium is a myth; there is no actual physical manifestation of the concept of balance in life. There is only the choice between the slothful, corpulent, groveling crawl towards the death of dreams and ambition, or the willing submission to the knife that cuts away all that is weak and pathetic in humanity and leaves a person free from that which would hold them back from achievement. The choice cannot not made for life and forgotten – no autopilot exists for the soul of man. This decision between the perceived comfort of cowardice and the self-induced pain of discipline is presented minute by minute, case by case. The balance recording the weights of each choice is more visible to the rest of humanity than you might think, but there is one who will curse you louder than the rest should you make a habit of picking foolishly.
The choice is yours, as are the consequences.