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The Greatest Politician
“As long as I am trapped inside this physical body the nation can never be truly united. While I have this weak human form that is prone to sickness and lust, that needs to shit and piss several times a day there will always be division amongst the people. For that reason I will soon eliminate that weak part of myself and liberate the full greatness of my spirit. Do not be concerned by the flailing corpse that you will shortly see slump limp to the ground for that is merely the manifestation of this weakness. You will rejoice because that will be the moment at which I slough off this putrefying flesh. That will be the moment of triumphant emergence; the moment when the mighty spirit of the nation will rise up from me and spread out amongst the people. This spirit resides within each and every one of you. You are my people and I am your nation.”
The great leader saluted his audience and drew out a gun from the lectern in front of him. Without hesitation he drew the gun to his temple and clenched his fist. A loud crack rang out before his body slumped to the ground, falling through a pink mist. The amassed crowds stand in stunned silence as a waiting stretcher carries their former leader away. Grand patriotic music reverberates around the cavernous auditorium.
They lean closer and peer harder, scrutinising every move. They watch every curl of the finger, every twitch of the wrist. They know to ignore the broader movements, the swinging arm, the flailing cape, all designed to foil and divert. There is not one tremble, one quiver they miss. Yet they are baffled still. The illusion is complete.
Some shake their heads while others gasp in wonder. All eventually applaud. The Conjuror bows. The crowd chant for more. He consents and the crowd lean closer, watching ever more intently. No ridge or furrow of his wrinkled hand escapes their attention. One points out the slight throb of blood passing through his veins. A chill gust blows down the narrow lane and a small child tells his father how the hairs stand around the Conjuror’s knuckle. They lean closer and observe every miniscule vibration. Their attention is drawn absolutely upon his trick. Only the Conjuror can see the tumult behind them.
“How’s that working out for you?”
“Yes, it’s fine.”
The technician smiled at her enthusiastically. Peg wasn’t sure if the enthusiasm was for her or the leg. He opened up a narrow panel in the thigh and made adjustments with a small implement.
“The responses are good? Any delay at all?”
“No, it’s very responsive.”
“What’s the matter you don’t seem very happy? This is an incredible advancement.”
Peg looked down at the leg. It looked identical to the one next to it except for a hair thin seam where it met her flesh.
“It’s just, the touch receptors… It’s a little…I don’t know…spooky?”
“That’s to be expected. A machine is directly influencing your mind. The sooner you accept it the sooner it will start to feel natural.”
“Oh. Well, thank you.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
Peg stood off the bed. Impulses traveled from her hip, up along her spine and into her brain. They told her there was pressure on the ball of her heel. Putting aside ideas of machines invading her thoughts she took a breath and walked out the door.
To Whom it may concern
It has come to my attention of late that numerous injustices have been accumulating against me. These injustices are not obvious or plain to see but are subtle yet pervasive.
Please let me explain. I am not accusing you or any other individual for these injustices. In fact I don’t believe any single person has wilfully perpetrated these injustices. In fact not only that but I do not believe anyone even realises that they are occurring. You could say the entire purpose of this letter is simply to bring these injustices to your attention in the friendliest way possible.
You see, these injustices have come about not by any wilful effort to betray an injustice against me but as a manifestation of a lack of consideration for the personal sanctity of your clients. It is only by the most unfortunate of circumstances that these manifestations have aligned upon my particular person. Throughout the rest of the year they are evenly spread across all of your clients. They move around, inflicting themselves upon various individuals one at a time. Perhaps from time to time two injustices may coincide and inflict themselves upon the same individual at the same time. The injustices are so slight that he will likely not even realise he has suffered them. He may experience nothing more than the mildest irritation equivalent to missing a bus from having been stuck talking to a dull acquaintance.
On the rarest occasion a person may suffer from a simultaneous alignment of three injustices. On these occasions the person will likely become aware of the injustices. He will have a strong sensation of being persecuted. However, he will not quite understand what has happened to him. He will know that a terrible series of three injustices have been betrayed against him but he will not realise the significance of it. He will eventually replace his rage and frustration with the consolation that it was simply an unfortunate occurrence. After a time, he will humour himself with the idea that fate took the effort to have a laugh at his expense. And, to a degree he would be right. As I said before blame cannot be attributed to the conscious actions of any particular individual.
Now I come to the injustices betrayed against myself. These injustices and the manner in which they have held themselves against me so persistently can only be likened to all nine planets of our solar system holding themselves in perfect alignment for several months. This of course is impossible. Our solar system would have to keep spinning for hundreds of times the age of the entire universe for this to ever happen. It would be more likely that humans would, by some act of interplanetary boredom, bring about this alignment by artificial means, before it would ever happen naturally.
Please let me remind you that I am not in anyway suggesting that these injustices have taken place as a result of any wilful act of your own. Just as the artificial alignment of the planets would require the collective labours of the entire human race, along with massively advanced technologies, and some unconscious social desire to do such a thing, I feel these injustices have come about as a projection of slight hostilities held against me by your entire staff.
Again, I do not suggest that any of your staff are aware that they hold these hostilities toward me. In fact they may not even know me. The truth is they have likely come to hold these hostilities by some vague association with me. Perhaps they were required to work late filing some forms that had my name on them. Or they might even have been reprimanded for processing one of my applications improperly. Any number of events could have culminated in this collective resentment.
The matter of the letter then is this; that I would like to bring to your attention the accumulated hostility that has developed toward me at your corporation. As the figurehead of that corporation I would feel it is your responsibility to see to it that this morass is cleansed from your staff.
Please let me be clear that I in no way hold you responsible for these injustices that have been betrayed against me. In fact, you are in a sense as much a victim as I. It is your own company that has been blighted in this way. I am sure that you, as the head of this corporation, are very proud of the control you exert over your entire staff. I doubt there is a single thing that happens at that corporation that does not fall under your gaze. In fact, you are probably fully aware of this situation. You have likely taken care of it already. A letter is probably on its way to me right now, assuring me that the situation is under control.
In fact, the degree of control you exert over your corporation means that, in a sense, you have personally inflicted these injustices against me. Please understand, I do not take this assault personally. I don’t even blame you for it. The truth is, a thing as nebulous as this cannot really be attributed to anyone. In a very real way one could say the old man walking past my window is as much to blame for it, or the young lad who tosses my paper at the door or even my house maid. One could even go as far as to say I am to blame for it. Only to a certain degree you understand. Only in so much as I am a member of society and the whole of society is to blame for it. That really is the truth of the matter isn’t it? You and I are educated men. We can both see that it is the blind and careless hordes that bring these terrible injustices about. Unfortunately, we also see that there is nothing to be done about it. This is the way it has always been. We can only hope that someday providence will bring about a better world, a caring world where all people are considered. It would be a world where people looked at one another in the street and smiled, where people reflected on the consequences of their actions before charging ahead, where no one is left to while away their hours alone or in silence.
We can only wish I suppose. There is no point getting worked up about it. These things pass in time. Even if they do not they become bearable at least. I am sure you will do what you can in this matter. Thank you for your time.
If I lie down and close my eyes I become concerned. The concern is that my thoughts will turn to the subject of my existence. It is a legitimate concern. With my eyes closed I am no longer connected to the manifold of visual appearances, the full and complex world of seen things. At this point my focus is drawn to the humble machinations that lie beneath that tangible world. The fizz and crackle of a thousand thoughts jostling for a position at the front of my mind becomes the white noise of ten thousand impulses, chemical receptors at the synapse’s tip. These thoughts fade in the darkness as ghosts detached from their bodies.
There is an old idea that every moment of life we are reincarnated from the previous moment, like a flame passed from one candle to another. When I listen carefully to the moments of being I’m sure I can make out brief flickers of silence between them. What is in there, in that space between moments? Where is the flame between two candles?
When I lie down and close my eyes, my thoughts turn to the space between moments. In the ordinary time of day to day living the spaces are so slight as to be imperceptible but at night, lying down with my eyes closed they seem to grow. When the chaos of the day has faded the space of non-being grows.
A beautifully decorated arch reaches over the doorway. The decoration is so finely detailed that no one walking through the arch could ever make it out without the help of a ladder to get a closer look. Probably the only person who ever saw it clearly was the artisan who made it.
Many people walk through this arch from every distant land and nearby as well. They come through to stay at the luxurious hotel. A kind of ornamental gate stands at the end of the archway. It is never closed. Between the bars of the gate bronze flowers coil up and down its length. Guests run their finger over the flower heads to accentuate what they see with the added depth of touch.
At the reception they are guided to their rooms. The rooms are lavish but not large. The guests that stay here do not come for grandness but rather density of opulence. One might consider, though it would never be admitted, that the popularity of the hotel resides in the proximity one has to the other guests. It is said that the rooms are laid out such that the heads of the beds rest against the common wall and that one can often hear ones neighbour’s quiet breathing in their sleep. It is possible that this sound heard nearby but muffled slightly by the wall is the secret to the peaceful night’s sleep the hotel is renowned for and not the plump mattresses stuffed with goose down. The hotel becomes a communal house where hundreds of the well-to-do can live together with the security of anonymity.
“I don’t understand, there was supposed to be a terrible storm today. The weather seems very fine.”
He held out his hand to see if it would collect a raindrop.
“There is. This is the most terrible storm we have ever lived through.”
“You must be mad then. I can see no sign of any storm.”
“That’s how terrible this storm is. It is so large and rages so violently that we can only see some tiny fraction of it. Its immensity is incomprehensible to creatures as small as us.”
His hand returned to his pocket.
“More likely, you are gone mad. There are hardly any clouds. The ones there are seem light and powerless. The sun blazes right down on us. How can you say there is any kind of storm?”
“Do you think ants feel wind the same as we do? No. The gale to us is nothing to them. It blows right over their heads. The wind that howls for a fraction of a second to us blows steady for weeks to them. This is a titan’s storm. It is not a storm for me or for you.”
“There is no doubt then. You are mad for sure.”
The mad man nodded his head and watched an ant crawl out of the ground.
“Yes. They say that about me indeed.”
I came back down before I had seen it, embarrassed that I had no equipment with which to view it. No doubt there would be a crowd gathered. Another one wasn’t due for three years. Who knew if they would get to see that? There would be other crowds on other rooftops and they would see me squinting and blinding myself to look at what they could easily see being prepared as they were. With cardboard tube and a loose sheet for a screen I returned to the roof.
I looked straight at the sun as I came out, stunning myself. Blinking, I could see the beginning of the eclipse seared into my retina. A moment later my vision returned and I could see that my imagined crowds had disappeared. I couldn’t think where they might be. We didn’t expect another eclipse for three years. Over the edge of the roof I could see where they had gone. Busy scuttling about on the ground the crowds had dispersed before they could form. People busy living their lives unaware that an eclipse was forming at this very moment. No doubt some knew about it but thought they would have more time to look up three years from now. I stood to think about these people on their way to here and there, what they were doing and why they were doing it. What was so important that they could not stop for a minute to wonder at the alignment of celestial bodies? I looked up from the ground and my ponderings just in time to see a cloud pass over the end of the eclipse.
A man and a woman sit feasting together. They gorge themselves endlessly, to what end no one can tell. They have feasted continuously for over ten years now. In fact it may be that we have joined them in feasting to celebrate this decade. They are certainly superior to the rest of us when it comes to feasting. None of us can match them in their ability to consume.
What is most surprising is how thin they look. In fact they are more gaunt than the last time we met, as if the effort of continual feasting has worn them down. Then again we all look a little older. Perhaps the question is not why they feast but what is it that they are feasting on?