Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Owl in Shining Armour

Marcus kept crawling through the narrow underground tunnel. It had been hours. As he was getting more tired, the space got tighter. Before he even realised it, he was well and truly stuck. There was no way for him to extricate himself. As the clock of futility ticked away, he pined for the quick death he could have secured had he stayed behind in his own world. Then tremors swept across him. The ground above shook and cracked open. Cautiously he climbed up to the surface where hundreds, thousands of people were running around, shouting, and throwing stones at buildings.

He was still staring at the chaos when troops appeared and started firing on the rampaging crowds. Civilians were being torn to shreds. Marcus knew not where he should turn when an owl in shining armour appeared to tell him not to worry. It had contacted a friend in the west who promised them his protection. Within minutes the sky was filled with planes dropping bombs on the trigger-happy soldiers, but also from time to time on the civilians in the streets and those hiding in their own home. Bemused by the deadly help it received from its friend, the owl led the boy across the border to a different land.

Here the streets were quieter, but as dusk approached, a large crowd gathered in a public square decrying the injustice they daily faced. Almost immediately tanks arrived and proceeded to kill defenceless people on sight. The owl flew off to speak to its friend in the west, only to return later with the news that since the name of the land they were now in began with an ‘S’ rather than an ‘L’, no help would be forthcoming. As bullets and shells were sprayed around them, the brave owl guided young Cicero to yet another place where there were no soldiers, just civilians smashing shop windows and burning cars. “I’ll leave you now. You should be safe here”, it said, “this belongs to my friend in the west.”

As the owl disappeared into the night, Marcus felt a truncheon crashed into the back of his head. He woke to find himself arrested for rioting and looting. Repeatedly he attempted to explain that he was an innocent bystander, only to be told sternly that an example must be made of him for daring to mix with the unruly elements of society. A man with an expressionless face threw him into a stinking cell. The boy stared out of the barred window, hoping against hope that the owl would come back once more, but he looked in vain.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The River of Venom

Marcus came upon a river and saw people wearing headbands of different colours mingling together. They wore black, white, pink, green and many besides and happily exchanged greetings and gifts. But then to quench their thirst they approached the river to sip its flowing water. The boy noticed a violent change of disposition amongst them. Rapidly, they were attacking anyone not wearing the same colour headband as their own. Vicious punches were thrown, merciless thumping and kicking spread uncontrollably. Some drew weapons on those with no defence against them. The verdant fields turned raging red.

Fearing for his life, Marcus ran along the river up the hill. In the distance he could see half a dozen figures. He desperately hoped that they would be able to help him. They seemed remarkably calm, and it was possible that they could cure the madness downstream or at least offer him temporary sanctuary.

Men and women each wearing a different colour robe stood at the head of the river, pouring bucket after bucket of dark fluid into the water. They explained it was part of their ritual. They could not live without their constant outpouring of hate against people of different colours and traditions. Great stress they laid on their condemnation of violence. They would not have anything to do with those lunatics lower down. Unfortunately they would not have anything to do with the boy either, for they must carry on infusing the river with their vitriol. They had no time for anything else.

Marcus tried to warn them, but they would not listen. The hate-filled zombies were fast approaching. The boy ran to hide behind a tree and witnessed them picking out those wearing robes with colours they despised to unleash their unspeakable fury. The robed figures, proclaiming their detachment from violence to the last, had their lungs flattened and skulls smashed by those who had unwisely consumed the poison released into the river. For young Marcus Tully, there was no escape apart from that deep hole by the tree. He had no choice but to jump into it.