They found God. No, really. Granted he was aging. He had a few scraggly white hairs left on his balding head. His wrinkly face was highlighted by his piercing gray eyes and his bushy eyebrows. He had a pointed nose and thin, curling lips. He was bony and his naked body showed signs of decay. If there was any thing that stuck out about him, well, it was that he was, ironically…so powerless. He was dying. So they kept him locked in a metal cage.
“I am the Messiah,” he would whisper with a raspy tone. Then he would mill around his box-shaped cage with that same old look of despair. They were afraid of letting him go. Exactly how they found him is another question. It was as if he was ready to be found. But they did.
They wouldn’t let him go because he had all the answers to their questions. He possessed all the power to provide them with a better life. As you would expect he was quite prophetic. They didn’t even call him ‘God’. They called him “The Philosopher.”
This apparent lack of respect did not affect him. Or at least it did not seem to affect him. There was growing concern over his deteriorating health. Some surprise even. At the same time there was a growing anxiety to hear what he had to say. The re-written Bible called for a Messiah who would save everyone with an urgent message on his death bed.
Quite clearly, our Creator was this so-called Messiah. An egotist? Maybe. I think if the guy really made the world then he could do whatever the hell he pleased. You make the game, you make the rules. Right?
For awhile, no one really knew what to do. He sort of just sat around. And he said the same thing, nothing more. “I am the Messiah.” They knew that by now. No one else had come for them. No one was there during the Holocaust a couple hundred years back, or the merciless nuclear bombing which wiped out over three quarters of the life on our planet. But one day, he finally uttered something else.
“Take me to the place where I can die.”
As his caretaker, this responsibility fell upon me. I told The Philosopher to wait because I needed to tell all the leaders of the world that the time had come for our renewal. His face was expressionless but gave the slightest hint of frustration. His eyes were buried so deep behind those furry eyebrows that he gave this tiny indication of aggravation, or sadness, or something so utterly complex that I could not even grasp this particular emotion he was feeling. But he just nodded his head, as if in recognition that he would continue to be treated like an animal.
I made my way through the picturesque castle which had been inhabiting our Creator. This place, known as the Middle-Land (because it lies exactly in the middle of everything) is the international meeting place for all of the world’s leaders: those of Westland, Northland, Eastland, and yes, the infamous Southland.
I climbed up a spiraling staircase for what seemed like an hour. Quite ironically, it reminded me of climbing the tower of Babel. That probably had more to do with the religious implications of the moment, but nonetheless, it was quite the trek. I came at last to a rectangular door covered in red felt, except for a tiny square window toward the top and a bunch of dusty, metal buttons on the sides. I got up on my tippy-toes to peer through the window.
Squinting in with my left eye, I could make out the shapes of several figures moving throughout the room. I could see the outlines of wine glasses, long robes, and enormous tables. I assumed that this was the right place.
I hastily opened the door, and, panting (for I still had not regained my breath) declared triumphantly, “The Philosopher is ready.”
It is a good thing I was in the right place. I was so set on what I had to say that I did not even look up when I entered the room. But when I did look up, everyone in the room was fixed as if glued to the floor. It was as if they were statues – no – the very same gargoyles that were a part of the castle. The four Dukes and their guests stared at me with dropped jaws. The Duke of Westland dropped his glass on the floor. A shriek was heard from the back.
Calmly, the Duke of Southland approached me in his fur coat. On each of his arms was a beautiful woman – one with blond hair, the other surely a brunette. About a second after he stopped in front of me, a red haired beauty waltzed up next to him and put her hand on her hips. He extended his right arm so as to include her.
With his nose inches from my eyes and his mouth squarely in front of my nose, he began to speak without the slightest care that his wretched breath impugned my nostrils with every syllable.
“Bring him up here. The walk to the basement is, well, very…long.”
“Yes sir, of course.”
As I turned around to head toward the stairs, the silence reigned. As if on cue, well not by cue, but more by a recognition that the awkwardness had to be put to an end, the Duke of Westland cried out, “Well I could use another glass of that wine!”
A bit perturbed by those events, I decided to make due with my time down the stairs. I thought about everything that had just happened within the past hour. I wondered what would happen to everybody. I was curious about what The Philosopher had to say. Moreover, I was hopeful for The Philosopher’s health. A part of me was hoping he would have nothing to tell us.
When I did return to the basement, The Philosopher was asleep, or so I thought. I approached the cage to tap on it so as to wake The Philosopher, but before I could even lay my finger on the cage, he asked, “So can we go now?”
For some reason, I enjoyed his sass. That attitude is appreciable in certain situations, and in the time I had got to know The Philosopher, his balance of seriousness and humor was remarkable, especially since I do not think he intended to be “humorous” by any means.
Smiling a little, I told him we could go. I signaled to the two guards on either side that they would need to lift the cage, and they did. And let me tell you, we were all quite tired when we returned upstairs.
When we opened the door, I was a bit surprised by the emptiness. I was confused at first, until I looked over to the adjoining room and spotted a couple of the Dukes and their guests asleep on the floor. I assume that they had imbibed a bit too much. The guards shrugged their shoulders and made some grunting noises; with the wave of a hand, I signaled for them to leave. I can handle situations on my own.
Or so I thought. As soon as the guards left, I was immediately struck with my first major dilemma. I needed to move The Philosopher to his bed here on the top floor of the Midland castle. However, all of the world’s major rulers were asleep, and it would be incredibly risky to open up the cage and try to handle the situation by myself. They really did not want him to escape.
Before I could even think about a solution, The Philosopher spoke to me rather nonchalantly.
“Trust me, Edward. If I really wanted to escape this cage, I could.”
Without any hesitation, I opened the cage. The Philosopher had been leaning up against the door and subsequently slid onto my feet. Lying there, he just looked up at me but had to squint because of the glare of the sunlight beaming down from behind me through the majestic square windows. I crouched down and picked him up so that I had one arm around his legs and the other around his shoulders. He was so light!
We took a few steps to the bed where I proceeded to place him down softly so that his head rested on the pillow. I pulled the covers out and then over his frail body. Suddenly, I was overcome by my own grief as I saw a tear run down his cheek.
“This is not what I wanted,” he said.
I was equally sad, and I could not quite put my finger on why. I preferred not to think about it. Instead, I asked him if there was any thing I could do for him. If he was hungry, too. He ignored me. Either that, or the answer was ‘no.’ He was probably still thinking about what he tried to tell me earlier. I sat down on a chair by his bedside as he stared at the ceiling. This went on for awhile, because the sun started to set. Out of nowhere, he spoke again.
“I’m so cold…”
I rushed to grab him an extra blanket. Seeing this, he began to shout. He did not want a blanket and he urged me to stop. I do not remember clearly, but he said something about how it was futile. More importantly, he sensed that the leaders were awakening and that he would rather spend these last moments by telling me something. In a panic, I dropped the extra covers and ran over to be by his side.
As I leaned over the bed, he shifted over and grabbed me with all of the little force that remained in his body.
“Bad things happen to good people, Edward. And even I don’t know why.”
And that was it. I heard a cough from behind me. It was the Duke of Southland with his three partners.
He brushed me aside.
“So, Philosopher. I suppose I can get a head start on my peers and discover the meaning of life, now that you’re dying.”
The Philosopher shot him a nasty look and turned his head away. The Duke of Southland was unfazed.
“Well, you’ll be telling me soon enough. Don’t you worry.”
I could not help myself but to back away even a few steps further from the Duke. His repulsion was inhuman, and I was curious as to how his partners could always hang on his arms. Still a little drunk, he started to create banter with the aforesaid ladies.
Hearing the commotion from the other room, his colleagues arose and entered somewhat sleepily. Upon seeing The Philosopher lying in bed, they all came to attention when the Duke of Westland proclaimed, “The time has come! Finally, I will be able to make all my people rich!”
The Duke of Westland was a chubby fellow. Everything about him could be described in basic terms as plump. He had plump cheeks. A plump nose. Plump eyes. Plump eyebrows. Plump everything.
The Duke of Eastland chimed in shortly thereafter.
“I see you have made yourself comfortable,” he said to the woman with red hair.
He was on the contrary quite thin. He wore glasses. His obsession with money was perhaps overcome by his disappointment with the Duke of Southland stealing his wife, the red-headed beauty. I know this because he used to talk about economics. Now, he complains about his wife. Or ex-wife.
What followed was an awkward silence. The woman was about to speak, but the Duke of Southland silenced her with his finger and lashed out instead.
“She was fair game, my friend.”
As the Duke of Eastland’s face turned crimson, the Duke of Northland entered the fray. He turned to the Duke of Westland and said in quite frank terms, “I’m surprised you would consider sharing this wealth of knowledge with your people. I am planning on using it for myself. Hell, with all the propaganda I throw at them, they still don’t know that I usurped their elected ruler!”
Everyone in the room chuckled. Some people muttered, “elected rulers!” under their breath as if to mock the former system of government. This laughter was broken abruptly by the Duke of Southland.
“Everyone silent! Fellow Dukes, and kind ladies, well, except for the lack of a lady for the Duke of Eastland…”
Laughter ensued before he continued.
“We must remember why we are here. Our Creator has proclaimed that he is ready to die. And we all know that we are here in order to receive the words from this prophetic messenger who claims to be the Messiah so that we can all reap in the benefits!”
Shouts of approval filled the room with a deafening din as everyone clanked their wine glasses and turned their attention to The Philosopher. Half the people in the room were jolted by the sound of thunder outside and the sudden downpour of rain. A half-second later, the room was lit by a lightning bolt.
With rosy red cheeks, the Duke of Westland turned to the Duke of Northland.
“It is indeed quite the time. So symbolic, wouldn’t you say?”
So they all circled around The Philosopher like a pack of wolves honing in on their prey.
The Duke of Southland leaned over and grabbed The Philosopher’s shoulder to turn him back over so that his back was lying squarely on the bed. The Philosopher was wide-eyed and looking sicker than ever. He began coughing and turned a faint shade of purple.
“Don’t touch me.”
The Duke of Southland was taken aback and put his hands on his hips. Brushing the warning aside, he asked more politely, “May we please hear the prophetic message?”
The Philosopher looked as if he had nothing to say. He was just lying there, tight-lipped with his eyes closed, as if he was thinking about his childhood. Another tear came to his eye. When he opened his shiny eyes, the Duke of Southland could not handle the silence any longer and began to speak.
“Well there’s no need to get so emotional we just need – “
“We are all alone,” The Philosopher interrupted.
The Dukes looked bewildered. They stared at each other as if wondering if that was the message, or some sort of prelude. They didn’t know If The Philosopher was dead now. After all, if that was his prophetic message, he would have to die shortly thereafter. His eyes were closed. He did look dead.
Shaking The Philosopher, the Duke of Southland, stammering now in belligerence, began yelling, “No! That cannot be the message! Tell us what the message is!”
This went on for a few seconds before The Philosopher was able to shake himself free.
“No…no…no…I have made a mistake…”
The Duke of Southland released his grip and started smirking, looking around the room as if he was trying to get credit for bringing about a better philosophy from God. The Dukes were preoccupied with The Philosopher, and looked into his eyes as they opened so he could deliver one more message.
“You… you are all alone.”
His eyes closed, for good this time.