Nevertheless, Doug lifted the old metal latch that was the occupants’ only protection from what was outside their sanctuary and slowly opened the door of rotted wood. Its rusty hinges resisted, as did a certain warning in his heart. But as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw a small human form lying curled up on an undersized bed in the corner of the almost empty room. Doug was full of the fear that the suffering of another of God’s creatures could bring upon a man. He wanted to look away, to say that there was nothing he could do for him. He wanted just to forget, to flee and save himself. But he had a certain amount of pride, a degree of teaching from his parents that dictated that this is not how he should act. He was a human and he would act like one. He was not an animal, deaf to the suffering of others. And besides, even animals had empathy for others, he had witnessed it himself. Swallowing his own fear, he reached out to connect with another living soul.
“Are you okay?” Doug asked into the darkness. The uninterrupted whimpering of the child did not in any way show that he had been heard. Not having any idea what to do, Doug approached the bed and knelt down to the figure lying upon it. The smell of sweat and overripe hay hit his nostrils, the shivering of the child palpable from the short distance he maintained. He recognized him now as the child in the field the other evening, the one who had cut his hand on the sharp blade of the sugar cane. His hand was still bandaged with the dirty rag his mother had torn from her dress. Doug was afraid to touch him, both for himself because it might increase his closeness to suffering and because he might frighten him. Instead of touch he used words.
“Don’t be afraid. I know what he did, know what Delavois did. I won’t let him hurt you,” Doug promised, knowing his promise to be an empty one. He was helpless to stop Delavois from doing anything he wanted, but Doug knew he would have to find a way to stop him, knew that helplessness was not acceptable. This would have to end and he was the one who would have to put a stop to it. He didn’t know how but it somehow felt that his will would open a rift in reality to permit it. Delavois’ power, after all, was a rift in reality, a wrongness crying out to be righted. Suddenly, this purpose placed itself above all others in Doug’s mind, higher than the urge for self-preservation that was the default setting for all living things. Here, in the darkness, amidst the suffering of a child bereft of his mother, Doug discovered something so beautiful he almost wept at the realization of it. It was the opposite of what had Delavois had gripped so tightly, that fear that so much shaped mankind’s reality. It was a truth at least as powerful as all the darkness and corruption that surrounded him.