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Monday, March 28, 2016

Fiction


(Work in progress, all rights reserved copyright alex ness)

A MAN NAMED 112

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
Albert Camus

Some dreams we have are pleasant, and comforting.  I dream of different worlds, universes and the people who dwell there. I dreamt of places that cannot be understood by words, nor described by any means.  I have dreamed of worlds where people live mundane existences without passion or hope. 

I have also dreamed of worlds that are afire with conflict.  Some remember glories of a past war rather than the fears born of such a war.  There are dreamers who dream of worlds in epic and majestic creation.  The greatest dreams are those where beings rise up and first change, then recreate the world they live in.  Some refer to this as changing history, but that is false.  It does change the flow of the river of time in the future.

A DREAM OF ONE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS WORLD

Upon a distant planet, called Earth there is a war.  In the midst of a battle, one of the empire’s slave warriors broke his hand blade.  In the long run of things it might seem a minor loss should he thereafter fall, but it was greater than that.  He wasn’t just a number.  He wasn’t just a slave.  He had gone through too much to die so simply, and he had become more than simple property of another.  

“Fingers broken, pain, the blade wrecked… I am lost.” The hand is mangled, blood streams down his arms. “Gods beware, if I am about to die, know that wherever you send me, I am going to continue this fight…”

It has been argued that we bargain one life for many in the case of war.  It isn’t really even a matter for debate.  But that happens when by giving a life for a cause, it saves many.  In a world with kings and queens, slaves and peasants, some lives are worth more at birth.  Other lives born are cast into roles that have less worth.   Some find themselves clawing their way up from the bottom.  Many have no idea they are swimming at the bottom, so they just tread water.  The warrior in my dream was like many, he was a slave, but was different, because he strove to be more than what he was cast in life to become.

During a famine his parents sold him into slavery.   He was four years old.   They missed him, and sorrowed their act, but they had food for the week, at least they consoled themselves with.   Of course it wasn’t enough, eventually the family died of the starvation they sought to stem the tide of, with the sale.     He never remembered his name, because from the beginning of his time in bondage, he was referred to with a number.   It was easier, the slave master said, to keep track of things that way.

“Strength spent, weaponless, the rest are dead.   Make a run for the top of that mound…”

Survival for the youth, now numbered 112 came from the desperate act of his parents to survive, and the opportunism of a businessman to acquire slaves for his fields, at a price that was a minimum.  Was it a great deal?  The slave master wasn’t yet certain.   Each time he bought a young child from a desperate family he was gambling that the famine hadn’t destroyed or harmed the child’s ability to work.  The choice for the parents was a horrible one, the choice for the slave master was one of economic efficiency.   Neither choice allowed the child a childhood.   But famine didn’t allow much room for survival let alone a childhood.

The routine of waking before the sun rose, and working until after it set was, by the early teens, a familiar one.     However, it was neither a welcome one, nor one that allowed the child to be anything but exhausted.   The slaves of this this slave master were well fed, even in the famines, because food was all there was as a form of payment.   So despite the ravages of a slave master discipline, the youth grew strong.

Every lash, every whip across the back, was a reminder that he was not a free being.  And every day he went out to work, was training for the time when he would not be under the lead of someone else.

“CAN’T BREATHE, the air is lousy with stink from death.” He falls to one knee, his body failing, and the weight of numbers covers him, he is overwhelmed by the many.  But he refuses to fail, he can’t fail or he will die.

He grew strong enough to overcome those who thought that he was their property, the guards, wardens of the field and his ultimate slave master.    One time too many the whip slashes a small groove across his flesh, and that one lash of the whip became too much to bear, and resolved to never let another lashing take place.  

The next lash was caught, twisted around his arm, and pulled the bullwhip from the hand of the warden.   A struggle followed, wherein the section warden and later his two assistants were quickly overwhelmed by the youth and eventually kicked and beaten by the others, so a minor incident turn to a full out rebellion. 

Every section warden, and crew of guards were all captured and killed similarly.   Quickly the slaves learned that their numbers were a great advantage, and now, they were armed.   The master’s home and entourage lay within sight, and after only a brief struggle, the slaves overwhelmed the guards, and killed everyone inside the building.  

Taking food, and weapons, #112 took a horse and ran away, far from the fields of his former master.  He had had more than his share of lashings for his disobedient tongue, and more for his lackadaisical attitude towards planting and harvesting crops.  But that was over, and he was free.



The numbers of warriors and dead men on top of the mound, and of 112 caused the surface to break.  Without warning the masses break through they find themselves now lying in a ceremonial grave, a mass grave of the honored warriors.

A slave thinks like he is allowed to, and a free man, no matter how young, thinks without those boundaries.  The former slave youth, without a name, 112, grew up different than many in his situation.  He believed that he had a destiny, and that life would afford him an opportunity to realize that destiny.  Being free now he decided to offer his services to the leader of the empire opposed to the country his former slave master had served.   What better way would there be than to strike back than to directly attack the state that guided the hand of the now deceased slave master?

The former slave organized a cadre of former slaves and trained them to fight, to survive.   He knew that the world they were about to enter was unforgiving, and it was ironic.   He was a former slave, offering his service as a fighting slave, to achieve revenge against the country that enslaved him.   But it was the most direct and effective way to go about his desired path.   Revenge itself might not be a wholesome, moral, kind thing.  But it was the thing that burned in 112’s breast.  It burned so, that he couldn’t think of anything else, like love, normality, hope, faith, dreams or anything a normal person might dream of.

He’d grown robust in height, fully strong, and muscular.  His long hair went down to his buttocks, his muscles rippled through any clothing he wore.   If he were a noble, in proper attire of the nobility, he’d be thought a great symbol of the state.   Instead, he was a roguish looking wild warrior, who looked well able to carry out his dreams of vengeance.

The fall stunned everyone, but 112 was the least wounded by the fall, and looked for a weapon to use.   The nearest weapon was a stout sword thrust downward at the head of a grave.   It was two handed great sword, a sword of the elite class of warrior.

Every scar he had from the whip, he refused to ignore or forgive.  Every moment of humiliation and fear he remembered from his childhood he made certain to use as motivation.   The world he knew was not beautiful.  The world he hoped to create was one where the people who made slaves work as he had, would be destroyed.   He was of course short sighted, but he wasn’t an educated man, or rather, his education came from observation, reflection, and experience as a slave.   He believed in destroying the system he was created by, and his mind, however able to see beyond the system, was poisoned by the cruel realities of being part of the system.



Screaming 112 began to wreak his final havoc among the dazed enemy.  Heads and body parts began to be separated, and the blade and 112 were as one.   Quickly the dozen or so who had tried to grapple and take him down, were now bloody remains.

The wars of the ancients were brutal, fought without mercy, and, were not efficient by any stretch of the imagination.  Should the cadre of 112’s be successful, and win their battle, those who fought the best would supposedly be offered freedom.  If freedom mattered to anyone, it mattered to slaves.

The first encounter with the enemy was without glory, honor, or greatness.   A group of scouts from the enemy collided directly into the gathering forward units of 112’s army, and the action was furious.  Before long, the land was covered with ichors of battle, entrails and red.   Few were moved to fear, or joy, but the battle did set the tone for the cadre.

112 addressed his cadre before their next action…

“We weren’t born slaves, we were born men.  We weren’t born warriors.  We were forced to become that.   I was never given a name, and I’ve refused one ever time I’ve been asked.   Our fate wasn’t to be free, it was to fight, and maybe die, or fight and maybe live.  We aren’t alive.  We aren’t flesh.   We are beasts inhabiting flesh.   We are fighting slaves.   So instead of worrying about tomorrow, or what we might get out of life, let us worry about one thing, how many will we kill before we die.  Then the enemy will give us names in our passing.”

It wasn’t long before the main body of enemy troops came to fill the void where a previous wandering march had been slaughtered.   The two sides engaged quickly, and once again the hand to hand combat left no question as to whether there would be mercy given, or prisoners taken, there would be none.  The din of combat was beyond loud, the mist of red and pink blood and flesh in the air was putrid and vile, and soon the warriors in the combat were wounded, dead or dying.  112’s hand blade broke, and he worried it was the end.    In the masses the loss of your weapon could and often did prove fatal.

In the midst of battle, inside the haze of it all, warriors are making battle, falling dead, the air stinking of death, sweat, blood, and bile, and they move as one.  The masses engage one another without anger, without any sort of knowledge of the lives the other live, they exist there simply to fight, to win, to live or die.  The stinking putrid cloud of war, covers them all, a fine mist of blood, entrails and more grows heavy as both sides of the slave wars pale from the bleeding white.   The broken hand blades, the two handed mauls, the great axes that are used up, upon the flesh of the warriors, lay upon the ground, covered in the bodies of those who used them in battle.

"If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave?
If ye do not feel the chain,
When it works a brother's pain,
Are ye not base slaves indeed,
Slaves unworthy to be freed?"

James Russell Lowell

And here 112 stood, but his body was covered in wounds.   His cadre was dead. Save for him, both sides of the battle were dead.   Blood covering his body, entrails from those he had killed painting him, and his weapons broken, he dropped to a knee, and took a breath, and surveyed the field and asked, “For what have we all died?”   But he didn’t die.   His heart was broken with sorrow, his mind reeled to see the bodies broken, from both sides of the battle.  But he vowed inside his mind, to never allow this again.  And he didn’t.  

What he saw laying upon the ground was not his comrades intertwined with the enemy.   It was victims of the system of war, slavery and bestial conquest.  Many great thinkers have pointed out that only the family of a slave mourns the life of a lost or killed slave.   This isn’t quite true, owners of the slaves mourn the loss of their property.  They are property to some, performing tasks, serving as laborers when others are too valuable for such a task or the task is too dangerous.   Therefore, the lives of slaves are worth less by virtue of their being used.    112 had been used.   Had thereafter escaped and volunteered to be used again, and led others into further servitude.  He felt guilt for his role in the system, what he then came to consider, the machine, grinding out human labors, and human violence, without mercy, without passion or cause.

Leaving the battlefield, the mist had fallen, the sun was dimly shining, and there was a silence broken only by the birds of prey harvesting and the birds and beasts who scavenge carcasses for food squabbling over the dead.   There were no angels singing over the dead.   There were no choirs and anthems sung over the lost.   The silence and unsung nature of the dead, allowed 112 to see that the deaths had no purpose, that the piles of dead were one, and that they were victims, nothing else, of the empires who had employed them in battle.  As he walked, his wounds still bled, and his throat was parched dry from his exertions in battle. But he dreamed too.  He dreamed of the end of the world that allowed slaves to fight in the stead of free men, where the cause was righteous, and where wars were not sport for the common man to witness.




The rest of his days, however short in number they might be, he promised himself, would be devoted to the liberation of slaves, and the destruction of any state that employs them.   And then he’d choose a name for himself, as then he’d be worthy after such a feat.

My dreams continue, but I dreamed no further of this warrior. The records show the result of his determination. “The scribes who kept the annals of history of the land recount that a single slave, who’d been enslaved on both sides of the slave wars, grew a rebellion, and familiar with both sides of the conflict was able to cause grave defections in the ranks on both sides of the wars.    In the end the third side, the free “slave army” gathered and then crushed the armies of both empires. They then opened the gates of the slaves pens, so that nowhere would slavery exist.”

“The naming of a man should come from a parent’s heart.  The naming should reflect the hope of a new life, respect for the family past, and determination that the child would grow to be as great as the talents given by his gods.  I am not a number.  I am a warrior.  I will decide my name should I lead my people to victory, but until then I will wear this number upon my heart, so that no one will forget why we fight.”  

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?"  The Bible, Isaiah 58:6

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