A person can survive on rabbit meat alone for only so long, for rabbit meat is too lean, not providing the body enough of the fats essential for survival. The phenomenon has been referred to as fat-starving and protein poisoning. It’s said that a person dies of starvation faster on a no-fat diet than by regular starvation. It’s a widely known phenomenon but not everybody knows about it.
Ashkii left his town and family when he felt old enough for independence. He couldn’t wait to leave them. At 17, he left them without ceremony. He left them having barely learned to read and write and he wasn’t very good with their language or customs either. But it wasn’t that he was stupid – it was almost as if he was too smart. He was smart enough to have noticed, starting years before his departure, how easily one might construct a life of almost complete independence from his town, a town he’d grown to resent for wanting him to be something other than what he knew he was. For years, formulating this plan for emancipation had displaced most of the attention Ashkii might have otherwise directed toward learning the rules and customs of his culture. But he hated the idea of being groomed into what they wanted him to be, for he didn’t want to be groomed into anything at all. He didn’t want to be the farmer or fisherman or carpenter they wanted him to be. He wanted to be a Wise Man or Medicine Man or one of the men who relayed things from God. But, more than any of those, what he really wanted without really knowing it, was to be nothing.
Some will say it wasn’t a matter of rebellion but, ultimately, Ashkii’s departure was a matter of indolence. For to become anything at all – a farmer or a cobbler or a metalsmith – it takes discipline and effort to acquire the skill to be any of them. But Ashkii was young so he can be forgiven for the ignorance of his displaced resentment. He can be forgiven for believing it was the culture of his town he was rebelling against rather than an existence that wanted him to exists as something – if nothing else, to exist as something so crude and fundamental as Man.
In the spring of his seventeenth year, Ashkii left and built himself a shack up in the hills with a plan to subsist on rabbit meat and goat milk. So he bought a goat and some chicken wire and some elementary tools and built a shack and a trap for catching rabbits. He caught a dozen or so rabbits, then built a big pen, where they bred like crazy. He found that tending to the rabbits was pretty easy except for rare exceptions like when he noticed one of the does eating her young. It’s a little known fact that rabbits don’t possess the same instinct as dogs or cats toward protecting their young. Rarely, for reasons unknown, a doe will eat its litter. There is no known cause or cure. All that one can do is destroy it, which is what Ashkii did and from then on out, he had to remain attentive to it.
Otherwise, things went according to plan. Within months, Ashkii had goat milk and enough rabbits and meat to be mostly self-sufficient so far as food went. He still had to collect firewood and feed for the goat and rabbits. And once every few weeks, when he needed a new pot or knife for cooking or some nails or he needed a shoe repaired, he’d walk to the market to sell or exchange some freshly butchered rabbits . But he mostly hated those trips to the market. He hated the walking and the heat or the cold. He hated the swindler who charged him too much to sell his meat. He hated the people’s music and the smell of their food and tobacco. He hated their silly fashions and the gossip he heard. The beauty of the girls and women he saw there – their beauty that he knew he couldn’t have – made him anxious.
Ashkii was becoming accustomed to his quiet life in the hills and told himself the market was nothing more than a necessary nuisance. He hated the crowds and he mostly disliked the people who bought his meat and all the other trifles there. Ashkii simply disliked people. There was no way around it. He tried telling himself otherwise but the proof was in his existence. He shunned them with his life. During contemplation, he tried convincing himself that he liked them. But the best he could do was convince himself of loving them in the abstract, not in the flesh. For his life was abject proof of that but he refused to admit it, so he tried countering that proof with grand ideas and sentimental beliefs about them, though absent were any gestures, even the simplest of ones, that would show any sympathy or concern for his fellow men and women of the market.
In his previous life in the town, Ashkii had existed mostly unnoticed, Yet, on the days he returned to market, from time to time, an old neighbor or classmate might recognize him. If asked, Ashkii tried to explain his current life, living up in the hills, alone, except for his goat and rabbits. He tried explaining it the way he felt it – that he had somehow risen above the pettiness of the crowd to literally live alone with his aloofness up there in the hills. It took discipline to live without the petty distractions of the mob. It took a discipline that nobody else understood. With that discipline, in his own mind, at least, he’d escaped the shadow of the town’s perception of his idiocy and indolence. But it was hard to explain and hard to understand an acquaintance’s response, for Ashkii, having foreseen his future of sovereignty, had never seen it fruitful to master their language or customs. In conversation, he struggled with their words and when to speak or not. If these things had come easier or more naturally, he might have understood their warnings that living on too much rabbit meat can be unhealthy – as unhealthy as living without human contact- of living without love or caring or concern in the flesh – not the just the abstract, which, for Ashkii, even in the abstract was a lie. Living without others can be done, one classmate warned, but only if the heart and mind and soul are corrupt. He went on to tell Ashkii that a man can live with the limp from a broken bone that was never set or he could have set the bone to live a normal life without a crippling limp. But Ashkii, having barely understood his classmate, returned to his shack that night no more the wiser.
In the hills, Ashkii’s companions were the goat and the rabbits he was compelled to kill. He would allow himself sympathy for their lives were those lives not a merely practical matter for sustaining his. They were just meat. Still, Ashkii wasn’t cruel or malicious. He learned to kill efficiently with a swift and merciful club strike behind the ears. A clubbed rabbit usually spasmed and twitched and flopped frantically from the bludgeon to its brain, sometimes flinging itself a few feet into the air. There was something in all the frenzied and erratic and spastic convulsions that made Ashkii feel bad so he starting hanging his rabbits by their feet before clubbing them. That way they only flopped around at the end of a string, not up and all over in the air. The hanging method somehow seemed more humane. With one hand he would grab the dangling rabbit by the ears, then club him in the skull with the other. Holding it by the ears kept it from from flopping and kicking around everywhere like an upside down kite in a storm, which Ashkii found grotesque. So he held it by the ears as it twitched and jerked and spasmed and died. That part of it dying in his hands didn’t make Ashkii feel good either but it was somehow better than the other way. Ashkii sometimes thought those deaths were a shame but he also knew they were necessary. But it never really struck him that he existed mostly for their killing and his hours and hours of contemplation about things or nothing. The best was when he contemplated over nothing but when it was about something, it was rarely about his killing and their suffering.
For between killing rabbits and milking the goat and cooking and gathering firewood, that was Ashkii’s primary occupation – contemplating. And he mostly contemplated about nothing. He desired to contemplate about nothing. And when he did, it was mostly about his own nothingness. which is all he ever wanted to be was nothing, so that made him satisfied. It was so satisfying that he took pride and savored the virtue in being nothing. All those who are something are also fools, he told himself. They are the unenlightened ones.
By Ashkii ‘s estimation, it was about 10 months into his new life when his goat got sick. It stopped eating and giving him milk. Ashkii had never paid any attention to the lessons or ways of life of the farmer, so he didn’t know what to do. And it wasn’t time to go to market for a few weeks, so there was nobody he could ask what to do. And even if he did ask, if given a remedy, he wasn’t sure he’d understand it. So Ashkii told himself he could live without the goat’s milk and just drink water instead. After all, she was an unnecessary resource. If he allowed her to die, that would leave more time for contemplation instead of milking and gathering her feed, so he allowed her to die.
Starvation brings about curious effects, including hallucinations. It’s not clear when, after the goat’s death, Ashkii’s meditational delusions about nothingness became the delusions of malnourishment. But at some point it probably didn’t matter since delusions from one source or another are still delusions. Ashkii died a few weeks after the goat – all alone – except for that pen of rabbits who, without his attending, starved to death too. That is, starved to death after the horror of trying to cannibalize themselves first.
Nobody really knows if it’s sad how Ashkii died for, if he were around, he would tell you he died happily under the delusion that, since he was nothing, he didn’t exist – hence, he wasn’t even suffering or dying. Heck, since he never existed in the first place, then he never died at all, though the harrowing remains of his half-eaten rabbits made it seem like they did. In his delusions before he died, Ashkii dreamed he could fly or swim for miles underwater without taking a breath. Other times he dreamed he knew everything about everything, including himself. Ashkii didn’t last too long in the woods – maybe a year total – before he died from fat-starvation. Some have said his was a bad plan from the beginning.
And while some think Ashkii’s death was sad – that he had a life full of potential for joy and love as well as all the bad things that accompany them – nobody knows if this tale of Ashkii is one of true tragedy or not, for most of it depends on who’s on the other end of the story and the intent behind how it was crafted.