Friday, October 15, 2010

Moonchild

Eventually the little boy must have fallen asleep because he awoke at dusk having had the strangest dream.

He dreamt that he was in a large, sunny, public square in the centre of an ancient foreign city standing in front of a huge temple which was mounted on top of many massive steps that led up to its high columned entrance. It reminded him of a pyramid.

People were arriving at the temple to worship, or to celebrate something. A religious man was calling to the faithful, beckoning to them, herding them up the steps. Men, women and children seemed happy as they passed him, making their way up to the temple.

When most of the people had gone inside, something struck him as strange: he noticed that all about the great stone steps were life-sized statues of deer and golden calves. They were all posed standing, looking up as if expecting to be petted. Had this been a children’s park and not a religious temple the stone and metal animals might have seemed cute or amusing, but here they seemed ominous, alien, strangely cloying and fake.

He walked closer to one of the deer when no-one was watching. It didn’t look like a real deer exactly, but like a three dimensional cartoon deer. This was not art depicting nature, it was something masquerading as something else. It was like a child’s toy enlarged and exaggerated to a size that was faintly disturbing. It was clearly meant to represent innocence but it conveyed nothing but extravagant artifice.

Soon there were no more people outside and dusk descended on the plaza. As darkness fell, the crowd rushed out of the temple shouting and laughing hysterically. There was violence in the air. People set about smashing the statues of deer and calves, knocking their heads off with steel poles or big chunks of stone. From everywhere people came with pieces of wood from which they constructed a very tall tower on the plaza in front of the temple. There they threw the broken statues onto a great pile which they set on fire. Someone had caught the religious man and tied him to the wooden tower. The flames leapt high into the air all the way to the top of the tower which creaked and leaned as it burned hotter and hotter throwing showers of sparks into the air.  Each time this happened it only excited the crowd more. Moonchild was afraid that the tower might collapse on top of him, so he backed away into the shadows. Meanwhile the crowd had become mad, mad with fury and a kind of decadent joy. Soon the temple itself was on fire. The plaza was bright with firelight which cast their faces in shadows and light that made their grinning expressions and wild eyes all the more grotesque.

Moonchild waited until the tower had collapsed into a pile of black cinders and ash. By this time all the people had gone. It was a scene of waste and destruction. The stone and metal animal statues that had survived the fire now looked even more evil, staring at him as if to say, “It wasn’t our fault; why don’t you believe us?”