Ecclesiastes was born into a world out of balance. He felt it even as an infant, the power in both his mother and father, strong, stubborn souls who would not back down, who would not let the other assume dominion. Neither willing to subjugate.
So there were the inevitable fights. His parents screamed at each other, and Ecclesiastes screamed in his crib. Then one day his father went away and only he and his mother remained, and for the first time in his short life, Ecclesiastes felt calmness in his world. His mother was big and strong, he was small and weak. Balance.
As he grew older, he saw and understood the balance in nature: cold, icy days and hot, steamy days; heavy rain and brilliant sunshine; trees bare of leaves, trees a profusion of green; soil cracked and dry, soil wet and boggy. Nature, it seemed, knew the importance of balance. People on the other hand . . . they were the problem.
Some took and never gave. Some allowed themselves to be loved, but never returned it. Some hoarded all their money, never giving to those in need. And some tortured and killed their fellow human beings, but were never caught, thus never paid for their crimes.
But those were not the people who concerned Ecclesiastes, for their lives were balanced, because for every twisted, selfish person, there was an equally good person walking the face of the earth. It was the ones in the middle; those were the troublemakers. And they outnumbered the ones who kept the world in balance by the billions.
It was too much. His mind slid, dipped, turned upside-down. And he found himself locked away in a mental institution.
But the good doctors there had shown him the error in his way of thinking, had convinced him the world was naturally chaotic, that there was no order, no balance in the universe. It had taken numerous shock treatments, and hours of therapy, but Ecclesiastes had learned to deal with the tipsy-turvy world on its own terms.
Five years after his mother had had him committed, twenty-year-old Ecclesiastes walked out of Southwood Manor and into a new life. He went to college, earned a master’s degree in business, was hired by a well-known corporation, met a lovely woman there, got married, bought a mansion in Riverfront Valley, and two years later became a father.
That’s when things began sliding sideways. Again.
Some nights, he slipped out of bed, and leaving behind his softly snoring wife, padded barefoot into the nursery and watched his infant daughter as she slept. He loved her, oh how he loved his little Samantha. But something wasn’t . . . quite . . . right. And he worried, thought: Is something wrong with my child? Is there some disease, some abnormality that I, and everyone else, have overlooked? Ecclesiastes knew something was wrong; he just didn’t know what.
But eventually, he figured it out. Night after night of staring down at his baby girl’s face finally bore fruit. And it was so simple he wondered why he hadn’t figured it out months ago. The birth of his daughter had thrown the world out of balance. There had been a time of being born, but not a time of dying. There had to be a death to bring back balance. Tears filled his eyes as he bent over the crib and placed a gentle kiss on Samantha’s chubby cheek. “I’m sorry, Sammie, but I have to fix it,” he whispered, his lips resting against her smooth skin.
With a resigned sigh, Ecclesiastes shuffled down the hall to his office. He clicked on the desk lamp, then reached into the bottom drawer of the nearby file cabinet and pulled out the loaded snub-nosed 38 he’d purchased illegally from a pawn shop on Third Street when he and his wife had moved into their new home. Just in case.
Gun in hand, he moved at a snail’s pace back up the hallway, dreading with every fiber of his being what he had to do. But he had no choice; he had to put the world back in balance.
He crossed the cold, wood floor of his daughter’s bedroom. Tears streaming down his face, he leaned over the crib railing and placed a final kiss upon her forehead. “Goodnight, sleep tight, sweet dream, Sammie,” he said softly.
Then Ecclesiastes shoved the 38’s barrel into his mouth and pulled the trigger.