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Product of Society

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I’ve been watching the TV more frequently lately. I have been hearing things, things about me and what I have done. I’m framed as a monster, something inhuman, a biological error, a genetic mistake. Would you like to keep your preconceptions and your sanity, or are you ready to lose them both? What happens when the system doesn't work in the way that it is expected to? In this case, it has produced the alleged murderer Ivan the Terrible...the revolutionary, often whimsical deviant who faces a society that wishes he didn’t exist. From a young age, Tristan (alias Ivan the Terrible) has not lived a normal life. His battle against oppression, persecution and conventionality takes him to the edge of existence and cultural morality as he and his unconventional companions question everything that those around him hold to be true. Written from the point of view of Ivan the Terrible himself, Product of Society aims to delve into the mind of this controversial personality... Psychopath or revolutionary? Insane or genius? Hero or villain? One can never be sure.

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In The Beginning

A little bird watches me from the park outside the window of my apartment, and dances from branch to branch underneath the sun in the oak tree. It is a robin, and is much like any other robin one might see while outside on a warm, clear spring day like this one. Except that it isn’t…this one is looking at me. That makes a difference. I watch it through a stain on my window that has been there since I moved in last month. I’m not sure what the stain is, but I’m too preoccupied with other things to clean it off. However, it tastes rather bitter. I was adventurous enough to taste it.

Cars pass by on the street below me; they do not notice that I’m here. It’s better that way, considering the things that I will be doing shorty. It is almost time now. They drive from home to work, from work to home, and do the same thing again and again each day. Some of them have become familiar; their schedules are always the same. Nine to five mostly, but a few differ by one or two hours.

Today, the blue Chrysler was late for work. It was going very quickly and nearly crashed into one of the white Hondas, but it swerved out of the way just in time…fortunate for them, but less entertaining for me. Watching the cars might have felt more amusing if I were still a child. But alas, I am not, and the tolerance level of excitement builds at an incredibly rapid pace.

Some of the cars drive to school as well. They drive off to school and the people get out of them to learn how to say many beautiful things. They learn how to fill the world with words and dreams. Maybe this is the city of words. So many things are said. So many things are planned. Then nothing really happens. Or maybe it is the city of dreams. There are more of those here than anywhere else that I could imagine, but they never become anything else. All the people just keep getting older as time keeps moving faster, like the movie you watch for the second, third, fourth time...it never seems quite as long as it did in the theater.

Sometimes I can’t remember anything, when my mind is shows me a little compassion. Everything starts to float away, and leaves only the lessons. Say nothing. Want nothing. Want nothing…that was always the main lesson. They said that wanting things is just the same as hurting yourself. But today I remember, and I want things. I want something to happen and I don’t care anymore whether it is something good or bad, just as long as it happens. Yet nothing does…not until now.

I’ve been watching the TV more frequently lately. I have been hearing things, things about me and what I have done. I’m framed as a monster, something inhuman: a biological error, a genetic mistake. But this isn’t what I am. If you only look, you will see. There is blood on my hands, but not pointlessly. Soon there will be more to add onto it. However, before I proceed, it is necessary for me to let you know how I came to be where I am. Some things may be left out, and some may be added in, but overall it went at least somewhat like what I’m about to tell you. It will be revealed bit by bit along the way, until you understand why I am doing what I am doing…why I have done what I have done…and why I am not finished. Everything happens for a reason.

In the corner of the room, near the ceiling, there was a light. It was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. Sometimes it shone brightly through a square glass hole near in the ceiling and other times vanished completely, only to appear once again after some time had passed. I finally learned what the light was. Mother said that it was called the sun, and that it watches over us from over a million miles away. That little stream of light crept slowly across the floor, moving inch by inch as the day wore on.

Across the unclean, once white, carpet floor sat Anna. Her long disheveled brunette strings of hair veiled her face as she stared into a rather large thin book. She have be reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar again. She continued reading onward, and her lips moved faintly as she mouthed the words on the page. I knew I was right as I watched her carefully, and learned exactly where she was in the book. I had read it many times.

She hadn’t gotten very far into it yet; she had always had trouble with reading. Even though she was a year older than I, almost twelve years old, I always had a much easier time of understanding the little words on the pages. Some days I would read her more complicated stories that she couldn’t seem to grasp alone, like Dr. Seuss. Anna’s lips pressed together and parted again as she came to the end of the page; the caterpillar had begun to take into itself things that would eventually fuel its transformation. So had we.

Anna and I had lived in this place ever since I could remember. It was always cold, always dark, and always damp. But I didn’t know that then. When you’ve spent every day of your life inside of a single place, you don’t know what cold is, or dark, or damp. There isn’t any way to know without anything to compare it to. It’s all I had ever known, all I ever had.

Anyway, Anna is my sister. She was my only friend for those long years that I spent trapped inside that place. We grew up together, discovered the world together. We imagined together, believed together, experienced together. We did have good times, but the good was overshadowed by darkness. The lighting was not the only dark thing about our home.

All of my earliest memories seem to have books in them. I remember mother bringing the books into our room…I remember nothing earlier than that. How old was I then? I’m uncertain. I learned how to read by the time I was four years old, or so she told me, and since then it has been one of the few things I have truly loved. Anna and I were never allowed to leave the house. But I read about far away worlds, imaginary places full of color.

I often asked mother to show me these places, but she insisted that they were just stories. None of the places in the books were actually real. She admitted to us that another world existed outside of our house, whenever I began to wonder where she disappeared to time and time again when she left us alone. However, the world that she disappeared to was a place that we should never adventure to, she said.

If we ever were to venture out beyond the hallway just outside of our room, we would die horrible deaths. There were monsters that would tear us limb from limb and then swallow us whole. Once, when I was too young to remember, we had lived outside of this house. Mother said that she and Father had saved us from the monsters. Here was the only place that we could ever be protected from them, the only place we could ever be safe from the evil dangers of the world. Here we were safe.

As Anna came to the end of the story, she looked up at me with her beautiful hazel eyes. She had gotten through the whole book on her own this time. She stretched her arms above her head then brought them down, rubbing her eyes on the way as she let out a long yawn. The stream of light still present on the floor told me that the sun was still out. It was still day-time.

But neither mother nor father ever told us when we should be awake or when we should sleep, so we slept when we became tired, until we weren’t tired anymore. She crawled across the floor to where I sat and laid her head down on my lap. Her eyes slowly and gently fluttered shut. I wondered if she dreamed about the same things that I did. I wondered if she was thinking about the worlds that were beyond our little section of the old house, but my wondering came to a stop as sleep overtook me. I was whisked away to join her in our world of dreams.

I awoke to the smell of breakfast and to the taste of Anna’s hair. A few stay pieces had somehow made their way into the edge of my mouth during the night. I shifted my gaze from the white popcorn ceiling down to the two plates of food that had been brought in. They were set on a small desk against the back wall while I had been sleeping. Three slices of fresh ham each, and a piece of delicious white bread. This was my favorite meal of the day by far. I walked over to the plate and eagerly devoured the feast before waking Anna so that she could do the same.

As the day wore on, mother stayed outside of our room. I began to wonder where she might be. In my head I envisioned her clad in a full set of steel armor, just like the knight in one of my books, fighting off the dangers that existed beyond our room. A few times I heard a crash or felt a thud that shook the floor underneath me. I knew that she had defeated them once again.

The light in the window made its way to the edge of the room and slowly faded once again. I laid my head down on a small pillow and closed my eyes, expecting sleep to envelop me as it had so many times, but sleep would not come. The sound of a door slamming sent a jolt down my spine Bang! I quickly sat up and listened carefully to the sounds coming from the other side of our door. It was a man’s voice, my father’s voice, and he sounded very unhappy. He began to shout angrily. His voice got louder and louder with each slowly passing second. Next there came a crash. Then mother screaming. Crash. Crash. Then silence. One of those monsters must have gotten in the house, I thought.

Anna appeared next to me soon after, having been awoken by the noise. She clung to my arm, in hope that I would have the strength to combat the monster if it had been able to get past mother and father. I was never very brave, but as she held on tightly I was filled with a new boldness. I would keep her safe.

Another sound soon came from just outside the doorway. The monster was finally here. Wasn’t it? It fell against the other side of the door. Maybe mother or father had hurt it. Then a scraping sound came as its big sharp claws scratched their way down the door. The handle began to shake furiously for a few minutes, and I pulled Anna in closer to me.

“We’re going to be okay, Anna.” I assured her as she shook quietly and began to cry.

“What is it, Tristan?”

“I think it’s one of those things…the things that they tell us we have to stay inside to be safe from. One of the monsters must have gotten into the house.”

The door made a clicking noise and slowly cracked open. Then there was a fumbling sound, almost as if the thing was unsure whether or not it wanted to come into the room. Finally, the door opened. The light from the hallway beyond the door cast a long shadow, hiding our faces, and I looked up to face the creature had trespassed into our room. I looked up at the face of the monster, and soon discovered that it was not a monster at all…or was it? It was father, but something about him looked very different. We saw a new side of father that night.

So began my version of the world…trapped inside a house by fear instilled in us by a woman; beaten by a man with an alcohol problem in the same way that he beat his wife. There was no way to know that our world was any different than the world outside, as we were too afraid to look outside to see. The stories of the dangers that lurked outside the walls kept us scared enough to remain in the darkness, and the darkness remained. Away from everything else, we could never know the difference. Our world was a world all our own, and we made the best we could of it. Right and wrong did not exist to us, and we could only believe that these lives, our lives, were the same as everyone else’s.

Weeks had passed since the first time that father came into our room at night. At first we were scared and afraid when he hurt us. He came at us at first with a leather strip, slashing at our trembling arms and legst. But it was okay. We deserved it, he said. All children are treated this way, he said. He missed a lot of times and stumbled around. He often stumbled over and crashed into the walls.

“It’s meant to build our character, Anna. That’s what father says. He’s only helping.”

Next came a piece of wood. This was bigger than what he used before, and hurt more. It left marks that wouldn’t go away. We were told the same thing. We deserved this, we needed this. We wanted this. I started to wonder if this was really normal, but mother assured us that it was. Father was always watching when she did.

Anna thought that maybe father was lying, and so they brought us books. They were torn up books with most of the pages missing, but a few were still left inside. Children were being beaten in the illustrations…they were getting hurt, just like us. It was normal. It was okay. It happened to the children in the books, the children on the outside. Father came in again with the piece of wood. He was gone eventually, but the signs that he had come remained.

“I don’t like when he does it, Tristan,” Anna whispered to me. “I wish children could be left alone, and just get to read their books.”

She was falling asleep again, reading the caterpillar book. She was almost at the end now. I didn’t notice my own sleepiness, but I was falling asleep too. I looked up through the hole in the ceiling and saw the night sky. I could see the thing that mother called the moon. I wondered if one day Anna and I might go there. Maybe it would be worth fighting the monsters outside to be alone. I was finally asleep…

“Do you want to go to the moon?” I asked, holding a small blade of grass in my hand. It grew warmer as I held it before breaking into tiny pieces and blowing away in the cool autumn wind. Anna and I stood up in the branches of a tall tree, just like the ones in her book.

“How long will it take? We’ve got to be home before breakfast.” She looked up at me, wearing a sparkling midnight blue dress covered in stars, just like the stars I saw through the ceiling moments before.

“What if we don’t come back for breakfast…the moon is made of cheese. We’ll never go hungry. We can stay as long as we like. None of the monsters can hurt us there. Maybe they won’t hurt us there. Maybe we could sing and laugh…”

“Let’s go to the moon then, before they hear us crackling and crunching through the leaves.” She turned her gaze toward me with little saucers gleaming in her eyes, and soon we began our journey.

“What if they come?” I asked.

“We make it away or die.”

“We're going to die.”

“Well, it isn’t going to be when they come. Maybe long after, somewhere far away, together underneath a full moon, there we can die. We just can’t do it alone, you know. And we’ll have to come back from the moon once we have a say in making our own adventures.”

“But we’re making our own adventure now, aren’t we?”

“Come on, rapscallion. Off to the moon.”

“How will we get to the moon, Anna?”

“We’re going to have to fly.”

We began our search for the perfect place to take off from. We journeyed up and down the street, and all the way to a clearing that was a few long blocks away. It had to be the perfect place. When we finally found our spot, we ascended the large concrete stairs that lead to a little open field in front of an impressive towering metal slide. We approached it slowly, soon arriving at the base of its rusty looming ladder.

“We have to climb to the top,” I announced. “When we slide down, we’ll be…”

“We’ll be flying to the moon,” She interjected.

“Are you ready?”

Anna turned her face toward the ground with a stare that seemed troubled. Her eyes seemed to darken as she gazed into the dying grass. It appeared to meet her eyes with two of its own, as if it was beckoning her to stay. I wondered if she had gone to the moon without me. But at that moment whatever had taken hold of her let her go, and she looked toward the slide and I once again.

“I think so,” she said, still shaking slightly.

I began the climb up the ladder with Anna following close behind me. The ascent continued on and on, and soon we were up among the clouds. Our vision was invaded by a cloudy mist, and the air grew colder. We had almost reached the top.

“Let’s not come back once we leave,” she said as we neared the top of the slide.

“We won’t have to.”

I then woke up to the door opening once again. Father was acting unusual, as he now often did. Mother was nowhere to be found. I tightly closed my eyes and waited for the pain that I now believed I was justified, but no beating would come tonight. Anna awoke and prepared herself as well. We were not prepared for this.

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