Let me tell you a story.
As a very young child, when I was, as they say, “at a bad time in my life”, I would sit outside in the courtyard for hours because I didn’t want to be inside the house, that toy-box filled with angry figurines, and I would sit outside and I would have a stick in one hand, and I would poke at the ant-holes in the dirt, and then crush the ants that spewed from them by the hundreds with my feet.
I would stomp, and I would stamp.
I would do this with a grim yet satisfied vengeance, as if I had a personal vendetta against the tiny creatures, and the more frantically they ran, the more I furiously I crushed them. I wanted to exterminate each and everyone of those ants so I would not see their crawling anymore, their crawling that was like a crawling over my skin and my eyeballs and my heart. I would get buckets of water and slosh their contents over the stones to drown them. And I would watch them as they died, or drowned, tiny, black things dragging their straggly legs, still trying to move even though they were mortally wounded. And I liked to see them die, see them suffer, see them small and broken by the hundreds, because it made me feel all-powerful, in a time when life was crushing me under its boot.
Nowadays, being older and having developed a sense of morality, I shudder at the thought of my childhood cruelty. I don’t like to hurt anything, now. I don’t even like to kill any insects that scuttle or fly into my room: instead, I open the window and put them outside after capturing them, or I just let them live with me, in my room, until they die of their own accord, or find their own escape. Right now, there is a tiny spider in the corner of my ceiling. It is too far up for me to reach. I have named him Midnight Guard (even my spiders must have romantic names). He watches over the room while I sleep, making sure old monsters don’t come crawling out of the shadows at night.
But every now and again I am reminded of that wild, frenzied killing, one hot summer holiday, as a child, and I wonder.
I wonder whether that darkness still exists in me, that madness to destroy, to overpower. I wonder about the pleasure I took in killing those ants, just so I could feel strong. Sure, I was just a child, and maybe I killed them out of curiosity, and maybe something more, but I knew what I was doing, and I kept on doing it, fed by a strange, dark compulsion.
And I wonder if that urge, to kill, to destroy, to hate, to exterminate, exists within the heart of every human, like a tap on the shoulder in the dark now and then.
I wonder if all the terrible acts in history were committed because some man, some woman, some child, was being eaten up from the inside, and to distract themselves from the monsters nibbling at their guts, they became monsters themselves and ate others.
I wonder, when I lose control out of frustration, and lash out at my loved ones, whether we will be the end of all – of ourselves, the world, each other – because of that little demon lurking in the deepest chambers of our hearts, cackling to itself and biding its time.