The Old Man with the Answers

Who am I?

It was the question I had asked myself ever since I could register that I was different from most people around me. Different from my parents, my family, even my best friends, Stephen and Stormy. Though to be fair, they were different too.

Stephen, with his mid-back length dreads, milk chocolate skin and serious face, stood tall at 6’7 and looked every bit as brave and determined as he sounds.

I always felt safe with him, like he’d kick somebody’s ass if I was ever in trouble.

Then there was Stormy. Not only did she have the eyes to match her name but she had the personality and wild red hair to go with it.

My eyes—black as midnight on a new moon.

In my twenty-five years of life, my eyes led to very few friends, plenty of awkward stares and a mountain of Hail Marys and rebukes. It did not help that my parents were pastors of the local church when they took me in as a baby.

While they raised me as their own and loved me unconditionally, the church members felt the opposite. Whispers of “demon-child” and “Satan’s spawn” swirled around me during every Sunday morning service, Wednesday night Bible study and especially at revivals. In my immediate presence they went deathly quiet, most times. But the few times they were bold enough to say something was when they would throw oil and lay hands on me while my parents weren’t around, in an attempt to rebuke the demon out of me.

Damn, I can’t even remember how many times I ran out the church crying. As comforting as it was to see my parents stand up for me every time, I could see the damage my existence caused, because by the time I was sixteen, all the church members had left and the church was closed down.

I knew it was my fault.

Where my eyes were as black as midnight, Stephen’s were as white as snow. His vision was perfect but he wore colored contacts to keep from frightening people.

As for Stormy, cloudy gray eyes may seem normal, but when she got emotional, gray clouds literally swirled in her eyes as if a storm was brewing. It was breathtaking and unnerving to watch.

Two years after the church closed, me and my other two weirdo best friends left town for college and never looked back… until this weekend.

The three of us were taken in by our families as babies, and they never revealed how exactly we ended up in their care. So when this old guy popped up during our first visit in seven years, telling us to meet him by the lake and he would tell us the truth about our existence, it seemed like the perfect chance to find the answer to the question we had been asking our whole life.

Who are we?

You are probably thinking that only stupid people would listen to the advice of one very dirty-looking old man, but if you had grown up the way we grew up, dealt with the way the town looked and treated us after seven years of being gone, you’d be stupid too!

The lake was nothing special. It was a mess of mud and no one ever went near it because the town was sure it was a disease ready to happen.

So there we were, standing in front of a dirty old lake around one in the morning, when all of a sudden the old man comes speeding down and climbs out of the lake looking really clean—and he was glowing.

He tells us that the lake isn’t really a lake, and if we stepped in it, we would see. He wanted us to follow him into the lake! At first we just thought the old man was cray-cray and we probably wasted a good night’s sleep doing something weird in this town that already wanted to kill us with pitchforks and fire. But then Stormy just decided to charge in.

So we had to follow her.

I was about to be grossed out, but what we stepped into wasn’t a lake. It transformed and became kind of what I thought heaven would look like. Bright, colorful, almost bug-less, with a shining city in the distance. The air felt so crisp I was sure I could bite into it like a Gala apple.

The old man gave us a knowing look and then claimed that this is where we truly belonged. Here is where we would find our true identities.

That’s when Stormy glared at him and began telling him off, because he just admitted that he obviously didn’t know who we were! This man, or whatever he was, just led us into this weirdly wonderful place to tell us we have to find out our identifies ourselves. Stephen had to calm her down so she wouldn’t kill the guy—if killing him was even possible.

The old man winked at us and said we couldn’t return home until we found ourselves. He wished us the best of luck, whatever that really means, and disappeared.

So now, we are in this strange beautiful land with two questions:

Where are we and who are we?