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  • Isabelle Applebaum

Falling for... "Grendel" by John Gardner



The talking is endless. I’ll never understand how humans can prattle and blabber and yak without a breath between words. Their mouths blur into a microscopic hole penetrating the surface of a balloon. Slowly the air streams out until all that is left is a sagging empty sack. It never happens soon enough.

I sit waiting for the 16 sad balloons that sit in a circle to finally deflate. I watch their heels tap under their desks in an effort to keep themselves awake. Tap tap tap. The talk muddies into a cloud of letters and syllables attempting to put meaning behind the letters and syllables in their book. Tap tap tap. That’s the world that is built within the confines of this dimly lit classroom. A world of letters and syllables, that’s it. Tap tap tap.

I snap awake from my trance and observe the room I am in. Sixteen desks are forced into a jaded circle, shoved against the wall in an effort to conserve space. On each of these desks is a brown, paper-cover book with a hairy monster howling at the sky. I let out a sharp laugh. But none of their heads move from their positions resting sloppily on their hands. Typical, the humans are too engaged in their meaningless attempt to learn to see that the gruesome monster that graces the cover of their books sits right next to them. But I am used to it – watching, seeing, understanding but never being. “As solitary as one tree in a vast landscape of coal” (76).

An older balloon stands in the front of the room. She scribbles on the white board as vigorously and forcefully as a fox chases a rabbit. A web of words swims with the marker: existentialism, solipsism, nihilism. Then I realize. They are not explaining my terrible deeds and countless murders, but they attempt to explore the depraved, twisted mind of me, Grendel. Once again, I laugh. How could these idiotic humans possibly understand the complexities of my mind? (To be honest, I don’t even know what’s happening up there.)

I focus on the words now. Although well-masked, I recognize their desperation to find meaning in my writing. Humans are all the same, from the Danes that I massacred so many years ago to this group of exhausted girls in plaid skirts, mechanical in their pursuit of explanation where explanation does not exist. Whether it is a Shaper or a teacher, they look to others for guidance within their meaningless existence. “They’d map out roads through Hell with their crackpot theories, their here-to-the-moon-and-back list of paltry facts” (64).

It is all too much for me. I look out the window to provide me a release back to the comforting depths of my mere. As if the world were playing an outlandish game, I realize the window I was planning on thrusting myself through was nothing but a large, uneven picture of a waterfall thousands of miles away from this claustrophobic classroom. Humans never fail to surprise me with their lunacy. Never wavering in their desire to mask the dark prison of life with a lie. “It was all lies”(54).


[Image via Dark Worlds Quarterly]

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