If I Went Crazy Now,
Would You Still Call Me Superman?
by Edward Morris
Time, time, time. There is never enough time to finish anything before something else is thrown at me. I chose my path when I was but a toddling infant trying to teach myself to read the big books of Homer and Ovid in father’s study, God rest his soul.
Yet I wonder anew why I started, why I’m still doing any of this, or what the greater point might be. The scholarly path I chose so long ago feels to me now like a wall I can only butt with my head, again and again. A single dislodged brick has thus far been the only product of the process.
I abandon my notes, ignore my snoring roommate, and walk down the hall to the common room with my little hornbook and clutch of pencil-stubs hoarded on the sly from class so I don’t have to buy them new.
I see old Herr Dotlich has left cold coffee and curdled pastries out on the big table by the window. “Good as a feast,” Mutti would say. I fill up one of the proctor’s cracked clay mugs and let it sit by the radiator in the corner, as I do, and ruminate.
I’m not thinking of blind Homer now, or Ovid, either. There is so much I want to teach my countrymen, so many covered dishes to bring to their vast and groaning table where none can yet find the food of the gods, and so must live on sweets, Poe and O’Brien, our own Goethe, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, Swift and Defoe, all the infant cries of this new kind of fiction I wish the professors took seriously.
But these are phantasists and Fabulists, fresh from the asylums. What philosopher would give them one iota more credence than the picture-books about Baron Munchausen that Mutti once read to me in the nursery?
Then I remember that Munchausen was an alchemist. The alchemists of my day have harnessed the power of lightning itself, and nitroglycerine, and a form of communication that will one day span the globe. Perhaps in time...
Time. Time. Time. The catalyst for miracle, ever in such short supply it might as well be an element that can only be created in the laboratory for an instant, there and gone and never twice the same. Time, bane of discoverers and explorers. If there were none left, I could be free.
I keep thinking of Mutti. I miss her. But in a way, I really don’t. Being on my own for the first time is scary, without someone behind me telling me what to read, what to wear, what to say, how to act, and four other grownups in that same house barking four sets of variations. It would take Socrates himself to make sense of it all, but only if someone hid the hemlock in the interim.
I’m only fourteen. I just wanted to get away. Now that I am, however, Lady Fortune taps me on the shoulder to find me stammering like a spastic idiot. None of my peers here at Schulpforta know what I had to fight through to get here, the lucky swine.
Now I am called upon to somehow interact with the rest of this world. No one instructed me in that department. Ex tempore is the whole of the law, which leaves me with little recourse. Here, the professors exhort me to speak my mind now, finally. I just can’t get it all out at once, nor do I know how, or whom to ask. Even music only gets me so far.
Meanwhile, the world’s armies rattle their sabers ever closer to the birth of another antichrist like Napoleon. No one ever learns. Those like me, who see, are confined by cages of age and station to mute obscurity.
What, then, would a being from the Moon or another heavenly body, make of all this? Perhaps if a man from the Moon fell to Earth and began human life-process in infancy, without the biological taint of Earth-iness, if you will, could he not then force Civilization to live by the rules it pretends to uphold and so flagrantly disregards?
Maestro Alighieri’s words leap to spark the gap: “Then that thought gave rise to thoughts of several other kinds. Mine eyes hazed over and closed, and changed the thoughts and scenes to Dream...”
I brandish my pencil, and let my fingers draw down the lightning.
* * *
Dr. Georg Kant had no thoughts of rescue in his mind until his mare bolted from the road at the sight of the airship falling from the stars. The boom made his ears ring. The mare was probably faring little better.
The thin column of smoke half a mile away in the woods drew his medical mind like a lodestone. Many could have been killed. He was sure immediately that he heard someone crying.
He and goodwife Marta uprighted their buggy, soothed Sturm the mare into a rattled vestige of her former patient countenance, and struck out for the smoke. When they got there, the Herr Doktor found himself confronted with a situation which had never been addressed by any ivy-covered professor back at University.
He had no thoughts of hunting monsters, only of possible consequences, others besides himself, and pain that was not his own.”First do no harm,” he muttered as though it were the Lord’s Prayer. Many sensations unnerved him at once. As he stared into the moral and ethical abyss before him, the country doctor somehow felt that abyss... staring back.
No one walked in the flat field. The road was empty. In all that deep night, the only motion was the snow, the snow, the snow, falling so fast that the doctor found everything hard to see.
But he could feel that the crystal coffin smoking before him half-lodged in the ground was not a bomb from the stars. The glass was whole, and unbroken. Its tint melted away like frost when he touched it with one spindly hand, parting to reveal...
A boy. A living, black-haired, brown-eyed boy, bellowing like a calf in the moonlight. Dr. Kant saw a lot of babies on house calls. His first thought was that the infant’s nappy was of no like he’d ever seen, but that it would need attending to.
Religious terror stole through Georg Kant’s bones at the sound of Marta’s gentle voice over his shoulder, “And when the basket was opened, the baby wept, and the handmaiden said, ‘Behold, this is one of the Hebrews’ children’...”
“Who shall be called Moses, for he came from the water.” He turned around. “But this one came out of the air. Why didn’t you stay with the buggy like I asked you to?” His wife shoved him out of the way, a gesture as timeless as motherhood.
“Karl,” she mused softly. “He looks like a Karl. Don’t you think?” Her eyes were somewhere else. The boy was looking up at her. The country doctor spluttered and fumfuhed.
“But if he came out of the air, he should be called something like—”
“Karl Kant. A good strong name. Didn’t you have an Uncle Karl?”
Dr. Kant hung his head. “We’re taking this child to the Sisters in the morning. Even if either of us let something slip, who’d believe the tale?”
Marta was fiddling with the top of the glass coffin. The baby was still wailing, and didn’t look like he needed air. She paused and rose, her index finger an inch from her husband’s face. In her eyes were all those times they’d ever tried to produce a Karl or Katerina of their own.
“If you take him to the Sisters, you can pick yourself up a new wife on the way home,” she told him bluntly. Tears spilled down her cheeks. She made some sound that meant she couldn’t see, as she tried to turn away and bend back to her work.
In that smoking crater on the edge of the Schwarzwald, the country doctor caught his wife partway, and held her, and perhaps cried a little himself. Then they both went back to the coffin, and after a very short time, puzzled out the lock and freed their new houseguest. One pair of baffled hands were no match for two sets working in unison, in exasperation, in love.
Their new houseguest ate and drank enough for an entire football team, kept them awake at night, and nearly destroyed their marriage. Yet little Karl soon proved to pay his own board in other ways that no one would believe. He was the light of their lives, and taught them things they never knew they were ignorant of.
He was their Hercules in the cradle, and for all his swath of destruction, Georg and Marta Kant knew their son would travel to unbelievable places and achieve unbelievable things.
They just had to figure out how to keep him busy until then.
* * *
It has been three hours. Why did I do this? This is terrible.
Yet I feel outside myself now, hanging over the back of my head, seeing my fat little bespectacled form from on high. I’ve finally arrived here. This is all really happening. It is 1858 now. I’m not in prep school any more. No more rulers, no more priests, no more bunkmates with stinky feet. Perhaps soon, someone will hand me the programme.
One day, I’ll give dear Mutti a few platitudes of my own. Until then, this demon brain will whip me bloody and drive me mad with the effort of transmission. I am strangely comfortable with the idea. My will to power can be altered in its own current. I just have to outlast all these other things.
I chuckle at my own foolishness. Sometimes, everyone needs to lose their marbles just so they can find them again. Oh, I would have been shouted down in Literature class for this one, shouted down from the very first page that now lies on top in my own wastebasket, proclaiming in handwriting no one can ever read:
von Friedrich Nietzsche
“Foolishness,” I mutter. Yet for some reason, I hit the books again with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm not seen by many.
Copyright © 2006 by Edward Morris