The Sorrow

Once a year they brought the Sorrow from her hermitage in the hills so that she could speak to them and remind them of the world that had once been, to speak from the affliction that science had cured. They gathered in the stadium by the tens of thousands, talking and eating hot dogs until, small and lonely, she walked across the field to a stage placed in the center. A chair sat on the stage, which she sometimes used. The people grew quiet and waited for her to climb the steps.

Some years she sat and stared at them, saying nothing, sullen and strange, with eyes unlike any they now possessed. One year, early on, the Sorrow had wept with full-bodied convulsions. She had just been informed of the death of her mother upon her return to civilization. The footage of this occasion was shown in high school science classes and parodied in commercials. Most years she spoke a little of what she felt; the crowd listened as they might to the reading of an old and important document.

The Sorrow was old now. Her hair had once been blonde. Her face, magnified on the Jumbotron, was wrinkled. It was her eyes the people studied. They fascinated, entranced, confused. They were windows into an alien landscape, a glimpse of something enormous and captivating and almost repulsive.

Today she gained the stage and did not sit. She looked at the rows of murmuring spectators and turned slowly to take them all in. Water hovered over her pupils. It slid down the creased cheeks. This was new. It was not a convulsion, not an angry explosion (as it had been in many of her appearances), but silent streams flowing from the orbs.

The people waited for her to speak, enthralled by her expression. She looked up at her own face on the screen and turned away. She found the chair and sat, head bowed. Long minutes passed before she looked up and began to speak.

“I had planned what I was going to say to you, but I did not expect….” She shuddered and breathed deeply. “I do not know if you can understand what I want to say. You have removed sorrow. You have eliminated the sense of loss. But you have become what you took away. I look at you and see the hole. That is why I weep. You are missing. You are pretend people. I envied you. For years, I hated you. I was afflicted and you were at peace. I wept and you laughed. I suffered the night and you played in the sun.”

In earlier years, this might have been spoken with bitter rage. Now she spoke softly, with that strange timbre that denoted an emotion they did not comprehend. “Do you ever think of sickness or tragedy or death? Do you consider God? Can you consider him? My God wept. What can that mean? He suffered. It says that he must suffer, that that was his way to bring man to God, the plan set in motion since before the beginning of the world. Can you understand such talk? Tears brought God to me. They brought me to God. But you? What are you? Can you have anything to do with him? How can you possibly taste him? Will there be a new heaven and earth for you, when you have no tears to wipe away?

“I fear you are lost. I fear you are without hope. And it hurts. I wish you knew how it hurts.”

She began to cry again, softly but deeply, and she did not speak again but wept for a long time, her face in her hands.

The next day, everyone said it was the best Sorrowing they had ever seen.

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