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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Oracle of Hope

The murky water into which young Cicero had dived seemed to possess unfathomable depth. As if being drawn down by invisible weights, he sank relentlessly until he reached a mirror lying flat at the bottom. Cautiously he crept into it and found himself in a warm, dry room where a carved green stone as tall as the boy stood by a glowing fire. “You’re wondering what’s happening? Why you’re caught up with one bizarre event after another? And what it all means?”

Marcus nodded, and the voice continued, “you have been chosen to be the agent of the gods, to draw attention to those who threaten our world and kindle a spirit of defiance in the battle against them. The gods are alarmed by the relentless march of tyrants who rob the poor to aggrandise themselves and their rich allies, fanatics who sacrifice the innocent to gratify their perverted sense of righteousness, and charlatans who spread lies to serve their unscrupulous masters.”

“But what can I do?” asked the boy, “I try to explain but nobody ever listens. I’m as powerless as ever in the face of the horrors you speak of. They are everywhere, and there’s nothing I can bring about to stop them. I fear that regardless of what I do, however much I protest, even if the gods are on my side, all the efforts are in the end futile. How long have I been wandering now? For much, if not all, of the time, I’m just on my own. If I were struck down, nobody would even notice.”

“For a long time to come, it is true, you will remain alone. You will have to continue on your journey fraught with mishaps and dangers. And no one will pay any attention to you. But it is written that you will continue with your quest. Let neither the cold neglect nor scorching attacks you face divert you from the true path. Some day, the dream of Arpinum will give strength to hope, and the resistance to the darkness upon us will burn that much brighter."

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Curious Trial

The Judge stared sternly at Marcus. He asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed. All the boy could muster was that he was an innocent bystander – he neither stole nor damaged anything. “But you didn’t stop the looters,” thundered the Judge, “you are morally weak, you are a pathetic creature who would not stand up for what is RIGHT. Your weakness must be punished, as a reminder to you and as an example to others.”

Looking at the gallery where a large crowd had gathered screaming for the death penalty, the Judge smiled grimly. “The people have a right to expect justice to be carried out on their behalf. They have been wronged and it is my duty to strike back, judicially, to right that wrong. So, based on the power vested in me by an ancient constitution none of you remotely comprehends, I hereby sentence Marcus Tullius Cicero, aged ten, to death by hanging. May God have mercy on you, because we certainly don’t.”

“But I’m innocent”, the boy cried out, “surely you understand that.” That only infuriated the Judge who acidly replied, “How dare you ask for understanding in the middle of a crisis. Now it’s no time for understanding, now we must take decisive action. Only the weak, the liberal-minded, the treacherous ask for understanding. We ask for justice, strength, and resolution. Take this criminal away!”

Back in his cell, Marcus counted out the number of days he had left before his execution. No appeal would be allowed, he had already been told. The Governor, a good friend of the Judge, was running for some even higher political office, and had proudly declared that he was the only man to have the courage to ensure the accused was hung, regardless of the incessant whining about innocence. The boy turned the tap on until water overflowed across the floor. Looking at his gaunt face staring back at him, he dived into the reflection and vanished from the cell.