Friday, December 28, 2012
My Christmas Story
Ray Bradbury, famous author of Fahrenheit 451, died this year, but in his life, he also wrote a story called "The Flying Machine." In it, a Chinese man invents a beautiful flying machine, but when the Emperor finds out - he orders the execution of the inventor. He explains that he sees what evil eyes would do with such a contraption, such as drop rocks against his kingdom from high above. At the end of the story, he sees birds fly and realizes that his execution was in vain because he understands that birds were the inspiration for the inventor. The machine would be built again.
When I was but a young boy, a witch and a warlock gave me an evil book of sorcery and magic. Now - witches and warlocks of our modern time don't discuss the fact that they are these relics of a pagan past, and they certainly don't look any different from another human being. So, as a kid how could I tell any different. I was just excited that these two called me into a secret meeting, in a secret room, to give me a secret book. Now, I was told to keep it in safeguard. It was special - just for me.
I liked the book, and flipped through it from time to time, since I was given it. But, it was an evil tome of forgotten magic, spells, and rituals. One volume of the Tome taught me why men crave murder in the most heinous ways and how to use the blood of murdered men to divine the future. Another volume explained how to seek the forbidden knowledge that got Adam and Eve expelled from Eden.
Years and years later, people warned me I had a book of evil in my possession. I didn't think anything of it. But recently, while I was at Starbucks, a random man, a man who claimed to be a prophet, became urgent and told me he wanted to talk to me outside. He said I had a book of ritual and magic and sorcery. How he knew or who told him, I never figured out.
I returned to the book. I flipped through it. I felt compelled once again to not destroy the book. After all, someone had put in at least a decade of collecting this knowledge - evil or not. It appeared to be precious knowledge.
But up to the days leading to Christmas, several people once again reminded me to burn the book. I was going to shred it, but all three people reminded me: "That's not good enough." On Christmas day, I asked my mother for the bbq pit. I dumped the book in there and doused it with lighter fluid.
I struggled to know whether I did right or wrong. I never burned a book in my life. I remember my Indian Project Manager, an educated man, told me that his wife and him smacked their child only once in life. Once. And they did it at the same time. It was when their daughter ripped a page out of a book and threw it against the wall.
Now, I was going to commit the same act that Hitler authorized with his book burnings. All that precious Jewish sacred knowledge lost - forever. The Romans burnt down Cleopatra's library; the Romans burnt the knowledge of the Jews. The Germans incinerated Jewish volumes of lore and wisdom. Now - I wondered to myself if it was right to destroy this knowledge - even though it was from the heart of evil itself.
I took a match and threw it against the book. My mother came out and asked, "Why are you burning that book?"
"Because people told me it's evil," I answered.
"And since when do you become superstitious?" She said it in broken English.
"When strangers told me I had an evil book I had to burn."
"Well - I can see that's important."
I watched the orange and red flames gliding over each page and eating away at it. The wraiths inside of the book shrieked and filled the night sky with screams. The flames sent them back to where they belonged: Hell. I just watched the hypnotic fire growing ever bigger, destroying my tome that I was supposed to safeguard. And I did safeguard it I suppose. No one would ever have this knowledge now. I kept my promise as that witch and warlock never told me who I was safeguarding it for. I did what Adam could not do when she saw her fallen Eve. He took her hand and chose her over God and instead walked hand-in-hand out of the garden together. Here - I made the decision that I didn't want this magic, and no one else would have it. People have evil eyes and people have nefarious purposes.
When the ashes flew up into the sky, like bits of silver flakes, I knew someone put a ritual inside that book to bind me to it. My spirit felt freer with every page that burnt, like chords that bound me being snapped. Yet, my chickens and ducks, locked in their cage started fluttering their wings and clucking with madness. They wanted out. They were banging themselves against the cage, until the last page burned, and the flames drove the last demon back to Hell.
It was an odd ritual for Christmas Day. And why do ghosts love to be present on Christmas day? I took my mother then to watch Les Miserables. It was a good way to end Christmas - to watch the story of grace and mercy re-framed for me. My mother fell asleep as she said, "Musicals are boring." I laughed.
When I went back home though, I had the most gnawing feeling biting in me. That book - I could feel it. There's another copy somewhere. Who has it? And why? I suppose the inspiration to recreate its words are still out there.