Part 11 – Taking Control

The doctor looked at his guest who was pointing the splintered bottle towards him. “What exactly do you think you are doing, my dear Burke?”

“Are you not listening, my dear Norton? I am taking control of the situation. Isn’t that what I am supposed to do?” He lashed out and cut his host through the face. The old man groaned, closed his eyes and heavily moved backwards. He leaned against the wall, holding the cut on his face.

“Is that your way of paying me back, Burke? Is that what it is? Is that what this is about? You are upset that I put you into a vulnerable position and now you are getting back at me?”

“This is not about revenge. This is about controlling the uncontrollable. Why should I wait for something to happen to me if I can be the one taking action? How can we take control if we always wait for things around us to shift? We are the most powerful, the most in control of our lives when we are the ones taking the necessary steps, when we are the ones moving. Yes, he who runs may fall. Yes, he who rushes might hit a wall from time to time. But at least we see the wall moving towards us, we are not being pushed against it unprepared with no time to raise our arms for protection. I for myself do not want to be the leaf drowning in the current. I much prefer to be the river tearing at the leafs, sometimes stepping over the banks.”

“But Burke,” the doctor sighed, “Burke, no! No, no, no, no, no! You got it all wrong! What about the fish?”

“What about the fish?”

“Yes, what about the fish?”

“What do you mean, what about the fish?”

“What about the fish, Burke? What about the fish? Leafs might be helpless. You might have the power over leafs, but fish can swim! They can even swim against the current.”

“Yes, but they need the water to survive.”

“True. But being able to move they might decide to leave your waters. A river needs the fish as much as vice versa – the river’s eco system would break down without the fish. Any water without living inhabitants is toxic – either it turned toxic by the absence of its symbiotic residents, or it turned away if not killed its population and is left empty. Either way: it’s toxic. And toxic water is useless.”

The young man looked at him, bottle still in hand. He swallowed. His Adam’s apple rose and fell. He clenched his fingers. “How could you possibly claim that poison is useless, Norton? Isn’t it the oldest weapon of them all? Silent, clandestine, efficient. Used by many, dreaded by all, crafted only by the most gifted. Nature itself makes use of it. It’s a legitimate mode of defense; you find it in mushrooms, wasps, snakes. They all use it. Are you trying to tell me that poison is a flaw in nature, that it is a mistake in the grand scheme of life?”

“The grand scheme of life?” the doctor laughed, “oh Burke, don’t get ahead of yourself! Haven’t we agreed earlier that the human nature does – if not in many, but at least in a few aspects – differ from animals? And now you even start to compare yourself to a mushroom? Let me explain a few things to you, dear Burke. If you were a mushroom, your poison wouldn’t help you to survive one bit. A mushroom’s poison kills its victim after is has been eaten. Which means it dies too, together with who- or whatever ate it. It works for mushrooms, because they are a species, which means there is an uncountable number of the same kind which all kill their victims the same way. The word spreads, they develop a reputation, they are being recognized and other species keep their distance and refrain from eating them – if they are smart enough. You, dear Burton, are not a species. As far as I know there is only one of you, so you really only have one shot to survive. Do you really want to take that chance? Kill someone after you died yourself? That is just childish revenge. The wasp, again,  has a completely different incentive. It is at the bottom of the food chain, it has to be nasty to survive. You and I, on the other hand, we are at the very top, we do not have to play by the same rules as an insect. As for the snake, dear Burke – and I despise this example for obvious reasons, but since you brought it up – we are morally above that. Do not forget what I am trying to do here, Burke. I am not trying to create an invincible Übermensch. I am trying to free people from pain. I am trying to create a better life. I am trying to create a better world. You cannot attack in order not to be attacked, you must not! Do you really want to be an isolated mushroom no one has the desire to get close to because they know it would kill them? Believe me, my friend, I have seen that happen many times. You do not want to lead a mushroom life. Isolation leads to a whole other classification of pain. It is not that simple, Burke, do you not understand?”

“Yes,” he whispered. “Yes. Yes I do understand.” He nodded slowly.  He nodded slowly. He nodded slowly. Then he raised his hand and carefully looked at it. The blood was still dripping from the open wound. He watched the warm fluid accumulate in the small hollow of his palm, admiring the red pattern it created running down his arm. “Then I guess there really is only one other way.” He raised the bottle to his forearm, pointed the sharp edges onto his flesh, and slowly and deliberately cut through his skin. “This,” he says, “is my design.”



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