The Wild Eyed Boy

The village was set halfway up the mountain, on the cold, blank side where the eagles dared not fly. Its people were quiet and mealy-mouthed. Neighbours scarcely lifted their gaze from the ground to speak as they passed. Their shoulders were hunched, voices no more than murmurs in the breeze. Old and young died, and not a cry was heard in passing.

One night, this solemn place settled down. The hangman lovingly oiled his rope for the next day, his mind running along the thirteen twists that would make up the body of his child tomorrow. Task finished, he laid himself down to sleep, closing his eyes against the conscience of the mountain.

In the wooden prison of the village sat the condemned. Every hundred or so years, an oddity would be born amongst them – a prophet, a sacrifice. This century, it was a boy with the eyes of time, a look of sad patience so terrible, his own mother threw him out at the age of eleven. He lived in the cracks of trees and amongst the pebbles of the mountain, refusing to leave or die. The mountain loved him.

As the boy matured, the sense of difference between himself and the rest of the villagers increased. Their resentment grew until, finally, they had had enough. The wild boy’s message was declared insanity; he was to be hanged at midday.

When he was brought out to face the crowds for the last time, his gaze slowly swept over them before travelling up the mountain. A wild, panicked light filled his eyes, and he cried out.

“I have something to say!”

But the village did not want to hear him, and the hangman hurried about his job. It was as the rope pulled taut, that the mountain moved.

Silently, the boy’s mouth pleaded. As the mountain shifted, and great boulders came crashing down upon the at-last screaming people, the gallows tipped forwards, into such a position as allowed the boy to stand. With a broken voice, he begged the mountain.

“Stop, please! They don’t know what they are doing.”

But the destruction continued, until the wild boy was the only one remaining. The frayed ropes fell away from his wrists and neck, as he stumbled back to the village, broken-hearted and free.

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Author's note: This story was inspired by a David Bowie song, The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud, from the 1969 album Space Oddity. It's probably best if Bowie himself explains the song's meaning: The song is about a boy who “lives on a mountain and has developed a beautiful way of life…I suppose in a way he’s rather a prophet figure. The villagers disapprove of the things he has to say and they decide to hang him.”

In this story, the mountain alone loves the boy and therefore saves his life - at the expense of the village.

 

The David Bowie quote is from an October 1969 interview with Disc & Music Echo: the boy.

©2020 by Nicola Niemc