Still Life

On the mountain, there lived a young man. He had a creature that he kept in a box. It had a lot of eyes and mouths. He loved that creature.

The creature was all that kept him going. His job wasn’t happy. He didn’t have a girlfriend. His art never went anywhere. His life was small and sad. But he had his creature. His thing. He could come home and sit by the box and push food through the bars. It would eat the food. It made his heart glad. So the man didn’t have much, but he had something.

One day, he read:

If you love something,
let it go.

“I understand,” he said. So he took the creature down to the city. He opened the box. The creature crawled out.

“If you come back to me,” he said. “It was truly meant to be.”

The creature snarled. It crawled into the city. It began killing people one by one. The city called out the army. Infantry shot the creature. Tanks bombarded it with shells. It killed the infantry. It crushed the tanks. It tore down the buildings. The city died. The creature crawled on.

“This isn’t like in the proverb,” the man said. Then he shrugged. He was sad. He went back to his mountain.

He checked the news now and then. The creature destroyed civilization, bit by bit. Its path went away, away. The creature killed people the man didn’t like. This made him feel a little better. But it also killed people he admired. That made him feel worse. He stopped checking the news.

One morning the last city fell. He could hear the rockets in the distance. He could hear the fireworks. People were celebrating. It was a momentous occasion. “That’s the way of people,” he said. “When the sadness is too much, you have to start celebrating instead. I suppose, without urban centers, it’ll have to hunt people down one by one.”

It didn’t matter. He went inside. He sat by the box. He pushed some food through the bars. “Come on,” he said. “Eat.”

Nothing happened. The creature was long gone. He laughed at himself, and he took the food back. But he did it the next day, and the next. Then he cried himself to sleep.

In the morning, he woke to the sound of sirens. The creature was coming to the mountain.

He went outside. He didn’t bring his gun. There wasn’t any point. He stood out in the open, where it would see him easily; where it would kill him easily.

The creature approached. He spread his arms. He closed his eyes. He could hear it shuffle closer. He could hear it shuffle past. He heard it shuffle into his house.

He turned. His heart was very still. He went inside. He went to the box. He pushed food through the bars. It ate the food.

This made his heart glad.

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