The Story of the Whos as of 3 31 15.pdf
The gleaming halo of the moon stung the young boy's eyes as he trotted along the path that
traced the valley walls. Moonlight stabbed through the thin night clouds of the autumn night, like pins
through fabric. The boy's wool jacket provided little shelter from the frigid cold. He carried a tarnished
flashlight, and its faint light bobbed up and down on the trail ahead.
He had to know the answer.
The path sloped upward, to where the moonlight illuminated the outline of a small cottage, the
path ending in a steep drop-off, guarded by a rickety wooden fence. One of the beams had fallen from
the rest and lay forlorn and half-decayed on the ground, askew from the others.
Looking past the broken fence, down into the valley, beyond the cottage, on the edge of the cliff,
the boy could see the bustling city in the distance. A multitude of multicolored lights, like a field of
sparks, lay nestled on a canvas of black. Beyond the central cluster, the lights grew thinner, the few that
did shine straining against the horizon.
Tracing his eyes up the opposite wall of the valley, nearly twenty kilometers away, the boy could
see a line of green and red lights. Indiscernible though it was from this distance, he knew it was the
Wall; concrete reinforced with steel, surrounded by land mines. On both sides.
His numb knuckles rapped against the door, the sound stifled by the frozen air. Footsteps
approached from within.
An old man in a black overcoat opened the door. His kind face creased with a frown at the sight
of his visitor.
“Shouldn't you be at home, asleep in bed?” the old man said sternly.
“Hi Professor Harling,” the boy said timidly.
“You shouldn't have come out here alone.”
“I wanted to know the answer to the question you asked me today,” said the boy,“You asked why
I think our people are so good. And I didn't know. I mean like how we almost never hurt each other, or
steal from each other, or anything.”
“When you get older, you will learn that the world is not perfect.”
“But I read about the old people,” said the boy, “They lied and cheated and stealed and hit each
other and stuff. But that doesn't happen here. You asked me why. I just want the answer.”
There was a hint of longing in his voice. The professor sighed, and looked up at the stars.
“Nothing is perfect, or even close. Even us. Even we are not perfect.”
“I know,” said the boy, “Tommy pushed me outside the school today.”
The professor let out a soft chuckle he reserved for his young students.
“That Tommy, that Tommy,” he said, shaking his head, but his smile remained. He began to stand
up, to escort the boy back outside. But he would not go.
“What do you mean, 'not even close'?” he pressed.
The man sighed, closing his eyes for a few seconds, before opening them again.
“In a way, we are just as 'bad' as those people you read about from ancient times,” the man said,
his smile gone now, “But our bad parts are… separated, in a way,”
“Separated?” the boy started, “What do you mean–”
“Peter,” came a voice from behind. A serious looking man in a long black coat and an almost
ludicrous top hat stood outside, holding an electric lantern. The boy barely twitched at the surprise
appearance. Somehow, he had known that his father was behind him, a split second before he'd spoken.
“Peter, come home with me, right now,” his father said, extending a hand, “And there will be no
more sneaking out at night, or you won't go to play with your friends till the first snow.”
That couldn't be too terrible a punishment, Peter thought. It had been so cold lately, almost too
cold to play outside. Nevertheless, he took his father's gloved hand, wrapping his fingers tightly around
the warm felt. Peter's father glared at the professor, who returned nothing more than a knowing smile, as
if Peter's father were a student about to make a teachable mistake. To Peter, the professor gave a wink
out of his left eye.