Adan Berkowitz’s story “Calm Folk, Come Forth” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 4 May 2018.
The story originally began as an old idea I had kicking around about “The Lazarus People,” which was about the rise of a technologically advanced people who augmented themselves to live forever. I couldn’t think of anything especially interesting to do with the concept, so I stuck it away in the back of my mind. Later, I had a similar idea wondering how a child without any natural instinct for fear might see the world, what kind of journey he might set off on. I only really had the opening scene in mind, where the boy is attacked by a bear and treats it as a minor nuisance. Instead of being wise and weary, I thought a young boy would be an interesting reversal, sort of a play on the “jaded immortal” trope. I remembered the Lazarus People and decided to combine the two ideas into one story.
Ben, the protagonist, is functionally immortal, but he’s also a child—maybe the last of his kind—and he’s still naïve and immature in many ways. He’s never left the mountain where he’s grown up, and despite his invulnerability he realizes the outside world can be confusing and illogical, even cruel. In this way, it’s a story about a loss of innocence we all go through, presented through a fantastic lens.
I think Ben’s upbeat attitude helps lighten what is actually a fairly dark story about fear, suicide, and the dissolution of a family. The Calm Folk, or “Lazzies” in the story are generally taciturn, but its hinted that some of them have become warped and violent, and there’s a suggestion that Ben might stray down this path if he’s not careful.
The first half of the story came out more as less as I’d imagined it; the second half was more difficult to write, and veered off into some unexpected directions, but I’m happy with where it ended up. It has the feel of a dark fable or fairy tale, which is fairly different from the kind of thing I usually write, and I was pleased to stretch out a bit from my comfort zone.
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