How is death different from life? Fjor asked himself. He had his eyes closed. He could hear a running stream of water nearby. He could feel the warmth of summer on his face, smell the polished wood around him. He was not in the Carsanion Senate anymore. He was back in the alley of The Burnt Market, back to the place that mattered to him the most. He followed the sound of the stream of running water. “Gaspare?” he shouted. “Gaspare?”
There was no answer. He must have gone to deliver the wood in the market, Fjor thought to himself. No, a stronger voice said. No, he isn’t here. He will never be here anymore. Fjor started to tremble, but shook his head violently from side to side. “No!” he said, to no one and everyone. He said it to the society, to the council of Carane, to his own fate, to the stronger voice that was commanding him. The voice ignored him. How is death different from life? It asked Fjor.
Fjor played deaf although he knew the voice too well. He diverted his attention instead. The boy was good at survival, he told himself. He nodded to that thought for several seconds. He had survived before, hadn’t he? Fjor remembered the famine and the riots in the boy’s village before the boy had come to Fjor.
The hurricane had torn apart all of the fields in the village. The hunger had brought along with it evil and ill minds. The people had started rioting in the streets, fighting against one another, fighting against society for the injustice that nature had done against them. The boy had survived all of that. Fjor still remembered as the boy had told him. “I woke up to fires everywhere. The farmers were burning everything down. It didn’t matter whose home it was. They just wanted it all to end. Mother pushed me out of the house. She screamed and yelled and threw sticks at them. They didn’t see me escape. She told me to go find you, told me that you were my grandfather. I ran until I couldn’t. I was about to die of thirst. Carane’s Protectors found me and brought me here.” the boy had said. The forces of Carane had saved him once, Fjor thought. Surely, they would let him survive again? Surely, they would not…? He couldn’t find the strength to finish the thought.
Gaspare had given a new meaning to Fjor’s declining life. Fjor had tried to explain his actions to Gaspare, he had needed the validation. The validation that his actions were for the best of the country. That they weren’t for his own ambitions, for his own demons. Gaspare had always given him that justification, had always agreed to Fjor’s visions and plans. He was an obedient child, Fjor thought to himself, tearful. Naïve… I should never have agreed to take responsibility for the attacks… If only I had listened… The thoughts felt stranded and confused to him, as confusing as his own ambitions.
The shot from The Burnt Market rang in his ears. He saw the girl dead. He had not fired the shot during the procession. But the order had been mine. Had he believed in the cause? He had thought so. Had society not done it’s share in helping him through the years? The time to lie has passed. It didn’t matter now. There was more to it than he would ever admit. Why then was he so adamant on fighting this battle? Why did he still obstinately defend his misplaced sense of egalitarianism? Because, death needed to be different from life, came the answer from deep within. What was it that the Sovereign’s dog had called him? ‘A failure… Attempting to be victorious at least once in your life…’
Fjor laughed, not the laugh of a sanguine mind, but of a person resigned, bowed down to life and its will. He recalled the various deaths he had orchestrated. The three councilors had been charred to death. Fjor looked at the stream of water in front of him. He hurriedly reached out to it, taking the water in his palms, throwing it to the side. “This should help” he nodded to himself. “This will help fix things”
His hands continued to shake with the motion even after the stream had disappeared. He was fading in out of consciousness, back now in the Carsanion senate. They were all standing, all alert, all worried that he might harm one of them next. They needn’t have. It doesn’t matter anymore. Fjor was swaying uncontrollably.
They say that in death all things become clear, but it was even hazier for him, all the more difficult to let go. Just one thought emerged from the abyss, and Fjor opened his eyes once more, as the silhouette of the frightened Gaspare came before him. Behind him, he saw the Sovereign. He should have been happy to see Gaspare. He is alive. The forces of Carane shall protect him. But then he reminded himself of his own actions. The girl that had died in the procession was no older… He did not address Gaspare. “Please don’t punish the boy… Please… Please don’t kill him..” His eyes desperately searched the audience for a sympathetic face. They found Stizlam Tepalmi. He had survived the attack. I am not responsible for all the deaths. He could stop all this. They could forgive me. The actions of an old man….
“Please stop this” Fjor said to him, “Please protect Gaspare” he spoke his dying words with a hope beyond certainty, and collapsed, falling into a death no different from his life…
Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre