When a subterranean Islamic sect of over 70 people was discovered in Russia last week, more than 20 children were taken into government custody on the grounds of child abuse and neglect. One 13-year-old boy kept a journal of his experiences above ground, and a Russian journalist has convinced him to let it be translated and published as a memoir, which will be titled: “Things Sure Look Uglier in the Light of Day.” The following is an excerpt of his first week:
The weirdest thing about being above ground is that you can see things more clearly. That’s not like a metaphor (we learned about metaphors in the orphanage school the other day), it’s actually true. I see that some people have freckles, and different hair colors, and wrinkles — which I also found out about, the hard way. Lesson learned: never tell your old, fat math teacher that she has wrinkles. She won’t take it well. Believe me, I even tried using the whole “C’mon, I’ve been living under a rock – literally!” gag, but she didn’t even crack a smile.
People keep telling me that I was “abused” and that I should “thank Allah to be alive,” but honestly, I miss it down there: the cool dampness, the soft earth in my toes, and most of all, the peace and quiet that comes only with living in total and complete darkness. That, and the vampire bats, of course.
I blame all this damn light, really. It’s not these people’s fault, they just have to put up with it for about 12 hours a day. Imagine? I hate the fact that I can’t sleep until 3 pm anymore without having to squint, and I hate that as early as seven I can feel it burning my face through the glass panels of what the nurse tells me is a “window.” It’s hot, too, and my nose even gets all peely when I’m outside for more than five minutes. (When that happens, the nurse tells me I should have been living in a hole in Ireland, not Russia. She gets a real laugh out of it.)
And I’ll tell you something else: I don’t get these crazy people. At least in the dark, you’re free to do as many embarrassing things as you want — no one can see you! I would much rather get 20 lashings for not folding my prayer mat and bumping around in the darkness because I can’t actually see than to have to walk around, totally visible, looking really stupid while talking into a weird little box to nobody all day in public. Between those and the strange white things they stick in their ears, they’re more blind and deaf than the earthworms I used to catch with my toes.
I also have noticed that there is a bit of an obesity problem up here. I learned that word in school, too, and again, my teacher wasn’t very happy that I used her as an example. Excuse me for needing a point of reference! But there is no way around it: these people have to be eating as many as three meals a day. I know that sounds mean, but a lot of times, you can’t even see their collarbones. Lazy jerks. It must be all that vodka. (I mean, I wouldn’t know anything about vodka, of course. It’s against my religion, Journal. Even if some of the kids here offered me a sip a few nights ago, it’s not like I actually drank it. Not even one little burning, nasty sip to see what the fuss was all about, okay? How dare you suggest it?! Gosh.)
One of the women here puts this red stuff over her lips that looks like blood. The first time we met her, we thought that she might be Satan, and tried stoning her when she came near us. For some reason, this did not go over well. Apparently, this is called makeup. Or to quote her: “Eet ees makeup, you eediots!” Ha! Weirdo.
There is one thing I like up here a lot, though. And no, it’s not the food. (Fish eggs? Beef tongue? Boiled cabbage? My mom made better meals in a fort underground. Think about it.) It’s that box with moving pictures. Television, I think they call it. It makes me a little dizzy, and I still get creeped out when the box makes laughing sounds, but I’m really starting to like this one series of pictures. It’s called, “Dancing with the Stars.”
I met with the doctor yesterday. Apparently, he thinks I have some devils inside me called “Anemia” and “Tuberculosis.” He seemed pleased with me, though. I’d gained five pounds and was recapping DWTS (that’s short for “Dancing with the Stars,” of course) when he smiled and said: “Eet looks like you’re adjusting to normal life well.”
Little does he know, but I’ve already started digging another hole in the backyard. Darkness, here I come. It’s an ugly world up here in the light.