On Death to Reconciliation
I am afraid. Afraid beyond self. Fearful. Fearful for those who follow what they’ve been taught throughout their life, or in the immediate circumstances thereof, and dare to deviate at all. I look and find few friends, but no allies. Silence but no rest. The varying number of minor and major offenses that one might hypothetically take part in, a strict baseboard, or what the system calls the means of retribution, is quite absurd. Minor offense, and major offense no longer matter when it comes to the iron fist of a so called “justice” often dealt out with injustice. I was once informed that this wasn’t the case at all. Yet, because it came from someone who taught with empirical approval, I cannot be sure of its accuracy. Perhaps it was nothing more than some propaganda spewed at me in order that I might switch sides or become sensitive to the cause.
“Hope!” A cry arising from the streets, issuing a message attune with the forbidden fairy tales, those which brought visions of rescue and an overcoming of odds based on some supposedly superseding ideal of love. A love lost among the multitude. How could one acquire such ideals when absent are the means of attaining them? These have long since been dashed upon the rocks in a manner like the disfigured or weak infants of antiquity. My fate, my placement, my family, and my shield, has not protected me. Alas, how the guilt and people stained with either large blotch or ever so slight a unbecoming hue must quickly die in and at the hands of my same kingdom. The kingdom the likes of which I too now am bound. My bindings even more so constricting because of the discoloration of my own coverings. My own family. My hues speaking of my heritage. Will they really give me up in such a horrible manner? To such a fate? Whom would benefit? Whom would be persuaded, dismayed, or encouraged? By what means? Means of virtue or fear? The former wouldn’t be entertained. The latter preferred.
The protection offered by my position was not one of direct virtue, nor by surname. Virtue was unknown, ignored, and ineffective to the masses. Those who fell at the meeting of armies, the clashing of trained paradoxical brutes, half the serfdom, who died at the hands of those I was affiliated with. I also hid an ore of cutlery, and this was to protect me? No. More likely, if I was indeed destined to be the subject of vicious attack, my few outlying friends may indeed be more apt to fall upon the sword in my name and place. Peace. Everywhere I seemed to go, people would follow and inquire if it could be found. Sometimes cheerful and hopeful. Other times hissing and hateful. Being of this a prestigious family I had to ask within my own mind, if it was me they hated, my father, or the ruler of the Empire. My peace was always short lived. So much so I doubted if it existed anywhere at all. As it got harder and harder to find, it pointed the way. Not the way to an immediate better life, but I hoped this would be the eventual consequent of such misery. Somehow. Further rioting of hearts, minds and bodies erupted and hope, hope began to dwindle just before my final days.
Trials of fire and unmerciful punishment, of which I would have no part, were the only way that laws were made known unto the serfdom. At any random time. The people unaware until by the Empire’s seemingly random declaration, a wide spread rampage of atrocity was unleashed upon the people. Usually the poor first, which would give those with closer ties to the Empire a greater chance to escape wrath. I wasn’t sure, but I suspect many bought their way out of trouble. Those in power, and even some who merely had the stigma of being so, of course could go about doing whatever forbidden actions they desired in their black vain hearts as long as they paid homage to the Empire. The poor had no such means. The tipping of the scales made such filthy currency abhorrent in my sight.
There were none innocent, but that didn’t mean all were unworthy. For a time I watched over the populace from my room in the western-most tower, aware of the injustice of the people. Their wheeling and dealing. Even they arranging themselves in tiers based on almost any kind of distinction, the consequence being a necessary varying respect curve which followed the tiers. I tried. I sneaked into their inner most circles. I warned them. Some regarded me with open ears, while others might has well have spit in my face, and as it turns out would have their chance. I warned of the decline. A decline in a positive chimerical wealth and an incline in the carnal taking over of the capital city. I spread the word, repeating it in their alleys and among street corners, telling all that would listen that it was close. Woe! How the crimes I even witnessed seemed scaled, some more serious than others. Yet, all were in danger. More danger than they could perceive. Even among those I shared with regularly, those who listened while taking to heart and mind warning or teaching, even they couldn’t understand. Then it began to happen. The vicious nature of the governing parties raised their ugly heads and rushed towards the people, like Cerberus being freed of his cage. Every degree of offense brought heavy penalty. Often it was of death in the most foul and gruesome of ways. It made Goya’s general body of work appear merciful. I was witness. I wouldn’t have believed it if it was contained in some song of the bard, but how wretched this thing that is man!
Though these atrocities were often the case, it wasn’t always. The higher people, or people of respect and consequence would again escape the torture that often ended in death. All for the good of the kingdom of course. This became a source of punishment and torture in and of itself. The unbalance further made the people in private become enraged, but they dare not show it. Those of high regard would commit high acts against the Empire, like plundering, cheating, lying immediately after swearing an oath of allegiance, and other high treason. Yet, because of their esteem they would only get the reed. Again, how cruel to just offer the reed on the mighty things, while concerning the small and simple, it not only is the reed that is given, but dehydration and solitude. Darkness, much like the fabled real king of France, trapped in the iron mask of identity and secrecy. A situation as that, if it were to occur and be witnessed, would surely unleash a barrage of heartfelt pity on those who viewed him from above through plates of reinforced glass. Freedom stripped for the sake of that very same freedom, which was supposed to be encouraged through propaganda by such public punishment. To be made an example of in ages past couldn’t have even been considered, without rioting in those roads which ran every which way. Attacks coming from all sides against the established powers.
How did they not know what lay upon the horizon? I tried to tell them, even though it meant putting myself in harms way. Going against the Empire meant you were not of the Empire. How could they chant peace unto all as I lie underground, not given the common decency of a mask of iron, but being rather in full view of those enemies who mock me. Even as some above were spitting and stomping and kicking the reenforced glass, some tried to be more “polite,” waiting until they passed before laughing. While others, late in the evening of course, defecated and smeared excrement on the panes. Still few, whose faces I shall remember always, looked at me with pity. Their heart went out to me as mine did to them. Eventually, consciousness became a challenge. The maintaining of it. I must be sick. Or maybe not. I don’t know. But its inevitable.
I recalled my feeble struggle to get out of the hands of the central guards, and I must have nicked myself, or they sliced my cheek somehow. I don’t recall exactly, but the large scratch was painfully infected and continually seeping unto the few, sparse rags of clothing I wore. Rags was being generous. These mere strips of fabric were for identification and nothing else. Woe! The physical pain of starvation. The struggle of trying not to go mad from the lack of water. They were going to let me die down here, in full view of those up there. The strips rotted away, and I was bathed in infection, waste, and I could only guess what else which passed through the sewer into which I had been thrown. I certainly didn’t want to think more on it, nor could I.
Finally, I became aware in the moment of clarity that I was the example. More recollection came upon me. I would be informed and destined that I was the warning of what happens when the majority and the machine is challenged. The very prince of the kingdom. As I lay dying I pondered ridiculous things in my approaching madness. Clarity again was few and far between. It occurred to me for some reason people were or seemed to be more scared as I got closer to death. Even my enemies, and those who mocked me, looked upon me with horror. That snarling delight they once displayed was no more. The disgusting form of death, for such a small trespass. I only can be glad that my mental condition didn’t register pain as I was feasted upon at a microbial level. Perhaps they had no idea, no clue, but it was carried out. I caught a few faces from those days over a month ago, faces where I almost saw pity. Yet, it did not form fully, as it did in those who had a true sadness manifest in their countenances. Many emotions or thoughts were written on the faces of those above. Remorse. Regret. Some even made extra effort to pretend they didn’t notice but were as transparent as the very glass. I knew for sure for as long as they lived, the plight, pain, and wasting away of a boy, who was mocked by the very ones pacing the glass above, some his family, some his friends, would stay with them somehow. I was not to be forgotten. It was as if I had taken up the sword and attacked my father’s Empire, committing the highest of treason.
So unfair, but yet its occurrence. He would die, for such trivial matters he couldn’t tell how it all came to pass or how his father allowed it in the first place. The worms had found him. Perhaps now, or perhaps long ago. Disgust was an emotion beyond himself now. His body was beyond repair. Death would be merciful. His final recollections were strange both mixed with truth and things that may have or may not have happened. They couldn’t be determined to be true or not. He struggled to find the beginning. Yet, it was beyond his grasp. He could scarcely formulate the word. The “Empire.”
It sounded familiar but it chilled him to the bone, some of which was exposed upon the backside of his forearm. His head lolled around and a flash. A great flash of recollection. He flew over the landscape of the territories of the Empire. It stretched far below him. He wanted to descend, but found himself blocked by a flimsy like barrier but a impenetrable one nonetheless. It was to distance himself from himself, which only made sense to the prince … He was a prince? No. This couldn’t be. Yet, the last days of his life as they played out suggested this and asserted it explicitly. Even the occasions where he tried on the crown and gown came into his mind. He figured he must have already died.
He saw the nature of the Empire, the increasing greed and the decreasing funds. Jealousy, hate, envy, indifference, all these playing to money. The prince became aware of one group, chatting. Lamenting. Their store was going under. One that had served their small section of the community for generations. He wanted to help them and saw himself among them in discussion, but the king of the now corrupt, ethically impaired superpower had deemed such businesses unnecessary. Instead, as a means to find the Empire, which was drowning in debt, they made it illegal for such businesses to exist and do any trade whatsoever. All commerce revenue would be received by the Empire and only distribute it as they may see fit. This meant everyone worked under the Empire, but held no cards of their own. The Empire despised its people. They did need their citizens of course, but only as stepping stones and building blocks to commerce. Nothing more. They punished those who went beyond or below the means given unto them and deemed necessary. The least one made, the more likely the retribution, and the more horrific the form. Was the prince emphasizing unto the people the need for revolt?
These stores did operate however. Usually by the virtuous ones still in society, who were only among the poor. Though to be caught meant horrible punishment. Those within the hand of the Empire were detestable and wouldn’t lift a finger for his fellow man. Of this the prince had no doubt. The Empire even went as far as to draft a “declaration of happiness,” that the Empire would not be made to look horrible in the eyes of the world, though the nations of number had dropped and many were in like condition. However, nobody was exactly happy, but at least they had enough Empire provided entertainment and distractions.
A deeper recollection of dreams and images flooded the once-prince’s mind, which had occurred just prior to his capture. He remembered a dream vividly. Why, in the midst of dying he would recall such a thing was a curiosity, but a curiosity that he didn’t bother question. A large house engulfed, with all its floors and walls ablaze while every door stood open. The prince stands in the middle of the floor plan, reflecting upon the immediate situation and begins to run towards a door, an exit from the fire. The choking heat. The door abruptly slams shut in his face. He turns running towards another open door, which repeats the action of the first. He is burning to death, he knows soon he will die. He falls and struggles back up, his flesh on fire, peeling and burning as he hears something despite the roar of the fire. It clinks to the ground. A lone key lies on the floor. Somehow he knows it is a key to one of those doors and it would provide the way out from death. Blood flows from his forehead, trying to see he grasps the key, while the flames finally engulfing him. It was like this night after night.
He felt for the people. The Empire would’ve been his kingdom. One far surpassing the current. One that stood for truth, freedom and peace. He wanted to see it come to fruition and thus he went against the creed of his own Empire of which he belonged. He put in the work he figured nobody would dare quash due to his own inheritance. Rumors of plans sprung up everywhere, and warnings were given to the prince by his own developing loyalists. Any faction the Empire did not like even if it included the very son of the man at the helm must be held to account that he would be an example. His father commanded this without remorse. Not only that but he must be humiliated and his health drawn slowly out. In a place where rescue would be impossible. The Empire was a perverse one and frequent family were taken by them. When it was the prince’s time and he was in the middle of night, it wasn’t too shocking and it could be said he had been preparing himself for the possibility. No, for the likelihood. Yet, these means of which were disgusting, terrible and foul. A swift death could’ve been offered, but this wouldn’t have been the style of those in power. First came the seeping of blood which was required. For even in such a pool of filth like a sewer, hungry rats can still smell the rich scent of blood through all the other scents which would choke a man. For this back was gouged and he was stabbed along the rib cage as the cloaked figures of the Empire kicked him into the near-solidified pool. Death had its hand on him the moment he went into that sewer. How disgusting a loss it may have been if those in attendance, some by choice, and some taken quite by surprise by the events taking place, hadn’t testified that the prince approached his death with such dignity it was as if he was bringing the sewer to shame and not the other way around.
His last breaths were coming, each exhale painful, bringing copious amounts of blood with each upheaval and yet he smiled. Somehow. Those who saw it didn’t understand. Some said he had went mad down there in the dark amongst the filth. Who wouldn’t. Yet others said this was a man who was and would’ve been extraordinary, and thus manifest, as he approached death, it could only be the case that his mind was filled with the deepest of epiphanies, the likes of which the living and healthy aren’t privy to. The prince was always considered wise, but the understanding that so many things had came to an end at the hands of the Empire, at that very moment as he die, made him nearly laugh. If it weren’t for those who looked upon him with pity, he would have. He couldn’t see the faces up above anymore, and hadn’t for a while, but knew somehow his friends, the few he had, were now in mourning.
How he wished they wouldn’t mourn.Yet, wasn’t that the nature of man to be filled with regret, sadness, hopelessness and mourning? As his last thought arose, arguably either in a state of madness or within some relationship of profound recognition which hindered not on his rapidly approaching demise, but far surpassing life, death and time itself.
“Why do they all seem so sad and weep? Truly, I love them. Yet, they all must be completely dull indeed. Time will prove they’ll walk hand in hand with the arrogant and hateful. In this time the truth hovers above them just as much as I lay below. One day they will grasp, see, hear, and understand. Understand that the meek may have more power than the great in ways surely none will be able to suppose, nor anyone conceive. Those who look to understand will look to testimony and to example. This very day they shall know, have known and will know.”
Death. For so long considered equitable with cruelty, then crushed the disobedient prince within its grasp and by doing so broke its very own hand.