A woman suspected her child was a fake.
“My good daughter always eats the food I give her,” the woman said to herself. “She always cleans her plate.”
But no matter how long they sat together at the dinner table, her child refused to eat. Her porridge grew cold. Its surface congealed. Never once did she pick up her spoon or look at her meal, sitting instead with her eyes directed elsewhere. The woman scowled.
“My good daughter always tidies up after herself,” the woman said. “She always takes away the dishes.”
But long after they’d left the table their bowls remained in place. Dust had collected in the corners of the room and the sink was crowded from previous meals. Her child entered the kitchen, glanced around, and left, never once reaching for a broom or running hot water. The woman grimaced.
“My good daughter always comes when I call her,” the woman said. “Daughter, come here! Come here now — come at once!”
Sitting in her empty bedroom, on her thin mattress, the child listened to her mother’s voice. Very soon, she knew, she would have to leave this place or else strangle her mother — close her hands around her throat and choke the old woman until she was dead. Something had to change.
“Daughter!” her mother called out. “Daughter! Daughter! Daughter!”
Once there was a boy who came to power. But it wasn’t enough.
The boy led his followers to the mouth of the cave where he’d originally sought refuge. No one questioned why they were going there. They were content to do as they boy said.
“Here it is,” he told them. “The cave that I shared with the Bear King. The cave that made me a leader of men.”
The assembled people looked at the mouth of the cave. Some of them had already been aware it was there. All of them were, by now, familiar with the boy’s story, which relied on the cave’s existence.
“Just inside are bats,” he told them. “You can see them hanging from the ceiling. There are hundreds of them — maybe thousands. Walk too loud and you’re sure to wake them. They’ll fly at your face and bite you.”
It was implicit that the boy himself hadn’t walked too loud. Some of the people looked at him while he spoke, while others looked at the entrance to the cave, trying to imagine the bats or to hear them moving around in the dark, rustling their wings or licking their fangs.
“Beyond the bats is the bear,” the boy told them. “The Bear King. He’s huge — immense. The biggest bear you’ll ever seen. When I found him he was sleeping, so I slept, too. I learned everything I needed to know from the Bear King. And now I’m back to kill him.”
As if summoned by the boy’s words, the Bear King lumbered to the mouth of the cave. The assembled people gasped. They collectively retreated a step. He was immense.
“Good,” the boy declared. “I won’t have to come inside find you.”
It was a brave sentiment. It was also the last thing he ever said.
The Bear King looked at the crowd of people. He looked at the boy. He didn’t seem to be very distressed. Reaching out, the Bear King swatted at the boy’s face — though the two stood a distance apart he was easily able to reach, his nails leaving the boy’s cheeks in tatters. The weight of his paw instantly broke the boy’s neck. The child was flung to the ground, far from where he’d initially stood, a corpse before the dust had settled.
The crowd stared in amazement, some at the boy, some at the bear.
“He was only a boy,” the Bear King told them. “He was never a bear.”
With these words, the Bear King returned to his cave, and the people returned to their village. It was a long time before another child would lead them.
Once there was a boy who was chased by the other boys. He didn’t know if they were playing a game with him or intended to cause harm.
The boy discovered an entrance to a cave, so he ventured inside. The cave was very dark. It was cold and wet. The boy could hear the other children in pursuit, so he ventured even deeper inside, though he felt afraid.
There were bats in the cave — the boy could see them hanging from the ceiling. He was scared of bats, but he was even more scared of being punched or kicked. Not wanting to wake the bats, he made an effort to walk quietly.
Past the bats the boy encountered a sleeping bear. The bear was very large — indeed, it was larger than any person the boy had ever known. It was also soft and warm. The boy decided he should wait here until the other children had desisted. They wouldn’t be brave enough to enter the cave, he reasoned with himself, and if they did so they wouldn’t be brave enough to go past the bats, and if they did so they wouldn’t be brave enough to wake the bear. The boy laid down and went to sleep.
The other boys grew bored and eventually desisted.
When the boy did emerge from the cave he was taller and stronger — people noticed a difference immediately. Other children didn’t scare him anymore. In fact, instead of chasing the boy around they followed wherever he led.
“I have shared a cave with the Bear King,” he said to them. “I have learned from him everything there is to know about being a leader.”
The people believed him. Soon it wasn’t just children who followed the boy around but adults, too. When he told them how to settle their disputes, they listened to him. When he gave them instructions about their crops, or border disputes with neighboring clans, they obeyed his commands without question.
“I have shared a cave with the Bear King,” the boy often liked to remind them. “I am a leader of men, just as he is a leader of the bears.”
Soon his authority was absolute. But he knew he’d only possess real power if the bear was dead.
This is a repository for JY's original content that's yet to be bound in a book -- essays, short fiction, etc. There's little rhyme or reason, so jump in!