Walking in a Legless Land
by Deborah Hemstreet
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I donít really know why I am even writing. At the moment, nothing really makes sense, especially my writing what is going on in this format. I suppose it is in hopes that somewhere out there I will find a ďkindred spiritĒ as Anne of Green Gables would have said. Someone who will hear what I am really saying, behind all the beautiful words, or not so beautiful, as they may be.
The title itself is misleading. We have gotten use to ďwalkingĒ as it were, for so long, I do believe weíve forgotten we are legless. The genetic engineers have never found the cause, and they say that these prosthetics we use are simply wonderful. For the most part, I donít think anyone stops to ask what real walking is anymore. O, every now and then we see some poor soul whose body absolutely refuses prosthetic limbs, but we all tut tut over them and give them wheel chairs, conveyor belts, whatever will get the job done to make them mobile and fit in to our world. But, still, the schools are full of children being taught to walk after years of crawling, and no one stops to ask why we so long to walk, if we are all born legless.
I suppose its blasphemy to talk this way. After all, I am close to questioning the very fiber of our being, the whole way our society works and functions. Still, if you are still reading my words, I guess I shall tell you what I am thinking about.
You see, I have heard rumors that there is a land where everyone has real legs.
Donít look at me that way, like Iím insane. Yes, I know you have heard stories in fairy tales, and childrenís nightmares... but really, there are rumors. And I canít help but think about them. Every night before I go to bed I look at these prosthetic man-made manipulations of plastic and electronics, and I lay down in bed and remember what I felt like as a small child, legless, and wondering how my prosthetic limbs would feel. I remember I thought they would be wonderful, freedom to move, a part of me. But they are heavy and a burden. They have more strength than I have sometimes, and I am carried places at a speed I am careless of. They fit, I can walk, but, be truthful, havenít you wondered what it would be like to have real legs, flesh of your flesh, bone of your bone, a part of yourself. There are myths that say we once had legs...
Wait, please, donít turn away. Listen, please, somebody, listen. Isnít there anyone out there who remembers the old stories? Isnít there anyone who hears the whispers on the streets, the rumors, the stories. I tell you, I have heard them. There are so many, too many for it to be a lie. I do believe we once had legs.
Yes, I do. And I want them back. Donít the rumors pull at you? Admit it. Look at these prosthetic limbs we all walk on. Look at the wheel chairs and the conveyor belts. Look at those stupid designer legs, and all the books on new improved ways to walk. ďWalking Naturally,Ē ďNow You Can Walk Without Limping,Ē and all those other best sellers. They feed our base hunger, they clamor at us from every direction, assuring us that we can indeed learn to walk. But their very existence is a noise trying to drown out the truth. I believe the ancient myths. Yes, we did ALL once have real legs. And that is why when I hear the rumors I almost cry. A land where everyone has legs? They call this land Shangri-La... from some old book Iíve never read.
Stay, wait, donít flee from these words. Donít they make you hungry? Yes, I try and wonder what it would be like to live in a world with legs. I donít know. Not really, I mean, all Iíve ever known is this legless world. It is all any of us know, have ever known, really.
But donít you think it odd, I remember the day I was told I could be fitted for my prosthetic limbs, that I was growing slowly enough to learn to walk. Do you remember? It was like coming alive, it was like, you wanted to shout and scream and laugh, ďThis is what I was made for, I was made to walk,Ē but then everyone calms you down, after all, who was ever born with real legs. Remember, this is a new invention. This is a development of science, these prosthetic limbs. Once we were all imprisoned to sliding, slipping, rolling, indignities on the ground, horses were more mobile than us. Beasts of the earth could have ruled us, but we had minds with which to think and made our own legs, looking at the beast and how they got around, we figured it out. Man was meant to get around, but on false legs. No one has ever had real legs.
No one? I ask myself, ask you. No one. There have always been rumors, since the beginning of time. I am sure. Every culture has their religions with Gods and they ALL have legs. The scientists say it is a universal language that all mankind has, we all long to ďget aroundĒ and for the freedom of movement we see in nature around us. But that doesnít mean we ever really had legs, that there are such things as real legs. Why who could imagine it, unheard of?
Well, can I tell you a secret? Shh, I must speak softly, lest everyone hear. Shh, look, here in my hand. Yes, its a book. Fairy tales you say? No, I donít think so. Iíve read the book and it makes my stubs tingle with yearning. Bear with me, better yet, why donít you read it too? Here, I will give you my copy. I have it almost entirely memorized. They say this book is where the rumors come from, about a Land where everyone has legs. Maybe, I havenít read it all yet. But the part that gets to me.
It says that once, a long time ago, one man was born with real legs. Donít look so shocked. Do I believe fairy tales? Here, you listen to the story, then you tell me.
The mother knew this child was different. She could feel him in her womb, every time he moved, it was, like, more than she should have felt. From the beginning, she knew she should be careful, and so did her husband. They were wise. For when the child was born, it had two long dangling kicking appendages, where no appendages should be. Like arms, but not arms, with funny shaped fingers at the end, but not fingers, shorter, raised up and rounded, instead of flatly attached to hands. The parents knew that their child had ďlegsĒ, though it would be many years before they realized what that would mean. All their other children were born legless, ďnormalĒ. And the father died, and the child was told to be careful, not to show off his legs.
But he spoke strangely. He said that his ďrealĒ father had legs, and he had come to offer legs to all who longed to really walk straight and true. Now here the story, I admit gets fantastic. They say he actually touched a few people who instantly had legs and walked. Instant, I tell you. Laugh, but that is what they say. This man, Haderech, he was called, spoke often about proper care of legs, to whole crowds of people who were legless. He talked about shoes, socks, boots, sandals, calluses, ingrown toenails, all kinds of things he said one had to know and accept if one wanted their very own real legs.
It sounded impossible. Most of the people laughed. They preferred rolling and sliding. Let the rich have sticks to walk on. But no one laughed when he raised his pants and showed us his real legs, which could bleed, just like his own hands, or your or mine, but prosthetics donít bleed. People didnít know what to do. Perhaps if one had to wear shoes and socks, and learn how to take care of these ďlegsĒ it might be nice, but so many rules and regulations, all, just to walk.
ďYou will walk as I walk,Ē he promised. ďMy father gave me legs to walk straight, so that in me, you too might have legs to walk straight.Ē
He tried to get people to understand that shoes and socks were for proper care, but the important part was to get the legs. That scared the big prosthetics makers. If this man spoke truly, why he would put all the prosthetics makers out of business. Youíve heard of Plastiwalk Inc.? Well, they say they were behind the murder of this only born legged man. No, I donít blame them, hey, I have Plastiwalk legs, they are the best (unless there is such a thing as real). They were just the biggest company, but I think all the prosthetics companies wanted to see him killed. They did not settle with just killing him, I heard that they waylaid him at night, took him from his friends, and chopped off his real legs.
Now here is where the story gets fantastic. The man had said that he would always walk, no matter what was done to him. So they buried his legs in one part of the city, and they buried him in another part of the city. Legend has it that after 3 days or so, everyone that knew him best saw him again, and walking on his own legs. A few people even claimed to have real legs, but it was rumor, or so they say. Still, Haderech promised that he would be in the hearts of all who followed him, and he would give them all real legs.
I donít know what I believe. Yes, you can laugh if you want to. It is hard to believe in legs, in this all too real legless world. But I have heard rumors lately that there really is a legless land, and I am, I think, going to go looking for it. If it is real, I want to see it before I die. If it is not real, I would rather die looking for it, than being satisfied with these heavy legs that carry me, but that I cannot carry.
You can go if you want. Its all right. Donít look at me so sadly. Iíll be OK. I was hoping for a kindred spirit to join me on this journey... you see, deep down, I do believe there is a land where people have legs. It burns in my spirit. Living in this legless world makes me so hungry for legs, I believe in them. And yeah, I guess I believe in that man who told us that his father wanted everyone to have legs. No, I have no idea what shoes and socks and ingrown toenails are, but I promise you, if I find my real legs, Iíll let you know.
Are you sure you wonít join me on this journey? No? Oh, OK... whatĒ what is it Iím doing? Yeah, Iím taking off these prosthetic legs. Why? I guess so Iíll be ready for my real ones when they come. I got along fine without them when I was a child... No, Iím sure. Iím taking off my legs, you want them, they are Plastiwalk legs... Iím sure. Yeah, I guess I will miss them, but you know, Iím tired of fakes. Living in a legless world, I think Iíll stay legless. I want the real thing or nothing at all, and deep down, I guess I do believe that somewhere there is Land where people have Real Legs.
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Very interesting analogy.
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