It is simply amazing, unbelievable really, how a human being can forget something that occurred last week, but can remember events with absolute clarity from forty years earlier. Have you ever asked yourself how that is possible? Lester Mobey did, often, but he had reason to.
The human brain is a curious and wondrous organ, magnificent but mysterious, evolution’s magnum opus, a masterpiece actually, except for the fact that it is so fragile, imperfect, narcissistic and prone to severe lapses in judgment. It is a chameleon of sorts, just as capable of manipulation and deceit as a means to survival as it is of love and tenderness as a means to survival. It will be whatever it needs to be. At least that is how Lester Mobey understood it after years of intensive therapy and decades of practicing his craft.
Lester came to another conclusion, while settled into his favourite chair, some forty years after his wedding day, although he probably knew it all along. The avid reader and military history buff sat alone in his living room beside a roaring fire, as he was prone to do, celebrating his retirement and reading the words of the great Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus. Night combat was rare in ancient times, but the Spartans, who were overwhelmingly undermanned a thousand to one, proceeded with a daring raid in 480 BC, attempting to assassinate the Persian king, Xerxes the Great, and using the cover of darkness to even the odds and catch the unsuspecting Persians off guard:
They immediately seized their arms, and six hundred men rushed into the camp of five hundred thousand, making directly for the king's tent, and resolving either to die with him, or, if they should be overpowered, at least in his quarters. An alarm spread through the whole Persian army. The Spartans being unable to find the king, marched uncontrolled through the whole camp, killing and overthrowing all that stood in their way, like men who knew that they fought, not with the hope of victory, but to avenge their own deaths. The contest was protracted from the beginning of the night through the greater part of the following day. At last, not conquered, but exhausted with conquering, they fell amidst vast heaps of slaughtered enemies.
Diodorus Siculus was describing one of the first documented examples of an enemy exploiting the cover of night to attack a sleeping and defenceless foe, easily slipping over an unguarded wall on its way to a crushing victory. Of course, since then, army tactics have evolved drastically to protect against these nocturnal assaults, leaving them with no real advantage in the modern world.
It was clear to Lester that the human brain, despite its brilliance otherwise, was still stuck in ancient times and, unlike those primitive armies, had been unable to improve its defences against night attacks, leaving the usually formidable mind vulnerable and defenceless when it slipped into unconscious sleep. That flaw was comparable, it seemed to him, to the greatest of all Greek warriors and the hero of the Trojan War, Achilles, who had that suspect heel, despite all of his might.
To this day, Lester did not like to sleep, because, like the Spartans, his demons often came over the wall at night to slaughter - and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop them.