The Old Man and the Demon

Probably related: Here and here

From the Barabadoon Book of the Demon:

In the beginning, the demon was not the scourge we now know him to be.  He was evil, but his evil was the evil of mankind, of mortals. In those days, to escape the guardians who hunted him, he took refuge in dark places, caves deep beneath the ground.  In one such cave he found a garden, lit and nourished by beams of sun shining through cracks in the ceiling. Tending the garden was an old man.

Overcome by curiosity, the demon approached the old man.  He asked: “Elder, why do you dwell here so far beneath the surface?”

“There is nothing left for me in the outside world,” the old man replied, honest, open, as we all should be to our brother.  “I get enough sun here, and nothing bothers me from without.” The demon nodded, for he understood the purity of solitude. But he bristled: Did not this old man desire to subject the world to his anger as well?

“But Elder,” the demon asked, “why do you hide from the world when you could fight against it?  Can you not protect your way of life on the surface?”

The old man shook his head and replied once again: “I have given my past much thought,” he said–for we all must practice introspection, must seek to understand and grow from our mistakes.  “I believe that I chose a life that was evil. Perhaps I could defend it perhaps not, but I believe that I should not.”

Seeing an opportunity to spread doubt, the demon inquired further: “Elder, if you believe yourself wicked, why do you persist here?  Why not take your life in atonement for your wrongs?”

“It is because,” the old man said, “the virtuous man who does wrong seeks instead to do right in the future.  If I end my life, I will cut short all of my potential, and my life will have been in the service of evil.” The demon scoffed, for the old man had fallen into his trap.

“If you seek to do good, then why do you remain down here?” he asked.  “What good can you bring about here in this cave?”

“I have found purpose in my exile,” the old man replied with a smile.  “I sought to hide myself in the dark corners of the world, for that is where evil things hide, and I had made of myself an evil thing.  But I realized I was not alone. I found yet more evil here, and I resolved that I would redeem myself by ensuring it should never escape this place.”

“Elder,” the demon said.  “Would you take me to this evil, that I might see it, that I might help you defend it from those who would do harm with it?”  

So the old man led the demon deeper into the cave, to a chamber where a knife lay on the ground.  Though it appeared to be an ordinary tool, the demon could see that the knife was enchanted with a great darkness.  At that moment, he revealed his intentions to the old man, attempting to overpower him with claws of stone, but the old man was vigilant, ready for the demon’s betrayal, for though he believed in the good of all, he made sure to ration his trust to those who, like the demon, had not earned it.  The old man deflected the demon’s assault with gusts of wind, pelted him with fire, and summoned a great stream of water that carried the demon from that place.

The demon, in awe of the old man’s hidden strength, knew that he could not outwit or overpower him, so for nearly a year, he waited, keeping to the cave’s upper reaches, out of the old man’s sight.  Though the old man was wise and of remarkable skill, he was very frail. One night, he passed peacefully in his sleep, and the demon descended once again, claimed the knife, and imbibed its darkness, becoming the monster we now see in the world.  The old man’s negligence would thus doom thousands.

You see, the old man practiced virtue, as all of us must.  He was ever vigilant, truly wary of evil as the Nose and the Whiskers must be.  His claws were sharp, and he was prepared to fight evil at a moment’s notice, just as the Tooth is.  But from his failure, we chosen of the Barabadoon may learn: If we are to pursue justice, not even death can be allowed to stand in the way.

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