The Invisible Hand
I turned on my side, trying in vain to find the elusive position in which I could finally sleep. It wasn't my body that wouldn't cooperate, though, it was the thought of my lost mother that forced my eyes open night after night. I could see in my mind's eye the headlights of the semi growing larger as it approached. They blinded me, then...darkness. I could feel warm tears streak down my face. Then, through my blanket I felt the impression of a hand. There room was empty, save for me, but I wasn't alarmed. Then I rested at last.
Nothing For Free
I stood staring at the type on the rectangle in my hands that, as I had been told, was the reward I was due for my creation. As I studied it and held it in my hands I expected to feel the exhilaration of victory. I could hear the words that everyone was bound to say in m mind, "Well done!" "You've finally made it!". But as I listened to those encouraging voices I felt neither validation nor happiness. I couldn't understand it at the time, but I felt nothing.
I don't want you, dear reader, to think I'm ungrateful to the publisher and my agent. But, as I walked home with the check in my pocket I realized what was bothering me. The whole business felt so transactional. So sterile and businesslike. I could remember, vividly, the feeling of joy I had as I poured my thoughts, dreams, and feeling onto the page. I could see the silhouettes of my characters interacting, speaking, and moving in a world I made. The money made me feel as though I'd sold them and their world.
I made it home after taking the long route. I pushed open the door, my mind still heavy with that strange feeling of guilt, and in an instant that feeling melted away. Standing on the threshold of the doorway I saw first my daughter, Ellie, only eight years old looking up at me. Behind her was everyone in the world that I loved. I pressed forward and embraced them, forgetting completely the woes that seemed so heavy only a moment before.
We didn't talk of money or fame or sequels. We told our own stories from our own lives. As I listened to them I realized how foolish I had been. I felt as though I'd betrayed myself and my art for money. But I was wrong. The money was incidental. I didn't really need it. Everything I needed was right here with me. Not only that, but I was able to share the world and people I created in my mind with thousands, maybe millions of other people who could enjoy them too. And maybe to some lonely soul somewhere in the world, my characters, my world, the thoughts and emotions I poured onto the pages would bring them some comfort. We all need a family of one kind or another.
Then I went out and bought a new car.
I sat there watching, just observing trying to take it all in before the inevitable outcome. There sat Mr. Epstein sipping scotch with a crystal decanter on the table beside him. The Lolita Express was just as tacky as one would assume it would be. Pictures of tropical landscapes adorned the walls and wood panneling encompassed the fuselage. The man seeme dpretty well pleased with himself, seemingly unwawre of any danger. However, we were not alone. I spied two unassuming characters toward the rear of the plane, dressed in smart suits and sunglasses. I contiinued to look around until my eyes fell at last on an old photo album. I picked it up and flipped to the middle. It was less a photo album than a meticulously organized file of Mr. Esptein's exploits with his friends. Or perhaps they weren't friends, merely clients or some combination of the two. There were familiar faces among the many pictures: politicians, titans ofindustry, prominent foriegn dignitaries. It all seemed so casual.
To this day I am not certain how I got onto this plane or why I was there, but no one seemed aroused by my presence. I decided to break the silence, knowing I had precious little time to find the answers tot he questions people would be asking a year from now.
"So" I began " Where are we headed, again?
He looked up, seemingly surprised at the question. "Well, New York, of course. We've got to take care of some business. You must need taking care of, your memory is lapsing already" he chuckled.
" You might be right." I replied quietly. " Will there be anyone meeting us, by chance?"
" Oh sure." He said "But they'll be waiting back at the house. We'll have to make this one quick, I've got to go meet some clients in Europe in a few days."
" Oh I see. So run the plan by me again. You must be right about my memory, I can;t seem to keep it straight." I lied. Hopefully I could find out what in the world we were supposed to be doing in New York. Maybe that would give me some clue as tot he events that I know would transpire.
" Ok, but keep your voice down and come with me to my cabin." I followed him to a provate quarters within the plane. he closed the door, locked it, and sat behind a wanut desk. I could see the room was soundporffed and the door was thick and strong.
" So" he began " We'll meet the car on the tarmac, it'll take us into the city, and we'll meet our fellow guests at the brownstone, right?"
"Oh right, right." I awcknowledged.
" Something's wrong, though." he said ominously. " I've been feeling weak more often, sick even. And now I see it's not just me, you're feeling it too. It seems we won't be able to stave off age and the reaper forever."
" Stave off age, you say?" I asked, without thinking.
" Do you have another way?" he asked sarcastically. " After five hundred years this lifestyle has finally started taking its toll." "Five hundred years?!" I thought to myself. "What in the world is this guy talking about?"
" Do you remember when were just boys in Vienna? So many centuries have passed but I can remember it like it was yesterday." I decieded to play along. "Ah, go one, I'd like to reminecsce."
He looked up and closed his eyes as if he were picuring it all. "We were obsessed, singularly. Why two young men were so worried about mortality is strange, but we could feel the creeping shadow of death even then. That's why I love you, you've always understood that." I kepy my composure but underneath that veneer I was lost.
" Romania. Romania. That was the key. How long we looked. We spent a lifetime looking for a way to live forever. It would have been tragic had it not worked. Who could have believed the storties of the vampires were real. Well, not as people nowadays think of them, but real nontheless. Can you believe that was so long ago, and look how far we've come. And al it cost was the lives of lost young women. But immortality is a prize worth paying a great cost for." My eyes narrowed and I felt my blood pressure increasing. The satisfaction on his face was enough for me to want to jump over the desk and kill him then and there.
" Ah, those were the days." he said smiling. I cracked a smile knowing that this monster would soon have his world turned on its head and find himself behind bars. " And look at this. Finding that secret costus a great deal. But as far as returns on investment, I couldn't be happier. Sharing that secret with the rich and powerful hs made us one of them: rich, powerful, and immortal. What more could a man ask for?" I could feel the plane beginning to descend. " Ah, looks like we're here. Remember we're meeting some important people, try not to forget them when we arrive." I simply nodded and followed him out of the cabin. The plane came to a halt and the staircase lowered. As he apporached the threshold of the doorway he looked back and me, knowingly, smiled, and turned. There was something peculiar about the way he moved. The years were taking their toll on him and I saw the pathetic old man he was at heart as he stooped out of the doorway. I watched as dark cars swarmed around the plane. We all know what happened next.
Please, everyone, please. I know you'd like this to be over and done with, and justice meted out by we the jury of the man's peers but let's not be unduly hasty. You don't have to tell me it looks bad, I know it does. You don't have to tell me that you know he's guilty, you've all made that clear. But is it that clear? We are tasked with deciding this man's fate beyond the shadow of a doubt, and I, gentlemen, see a tinge of darkness where light should be.
Imagine, if you would, youwere this man: surrounded, brated, being pelted with objects. You might fear for life, certainly he did. You all know how it is out there, sentiment against the british has never been worse. They say w are the verge of revolution, and whatever you may think about that it's not the fault of the young private. Look into your own hearts and you know this. These were scared young men who fired intot he crowd that day, but to say they did it from a malice in their hearts is a lie.
We were promised a fiar inquiry into what happened. But has it been fair. I should say not. I am no friend of the crown, but I am a friend to decency. If the rule of law is to mean anything in these colonies, then it must be applied evenly and fairly. If we wish to have our own country some day, we will want these same rules to apply to us. Now is our chance to set an example for the people who desire liberty. justice, and fairness. Will it bring you liberty to condemn these men? No. Will it bring justice for those killed? I should say not. And finally is it fair? How could it be fair? These men are as aliens to us. We feel no loyalty to them or the masters they serve. Yet, are they not simply broken men as we all are? We would do better too show mercy and compassion to these men. If we cannot do that, then what we would stand for in our independence? Keep a close watch on your hearts, and be sure it's your reason sending these men to the gallows, and not your hatred.
Remember to Remember
I don't have alot of time to say this so I'll get right to it. It is important that you all remember everything we have learned. We have savaged ans dacrificed eachother. We have invaded, conquered, and enslaved eachother. We have salted the fields, and spilled the blood of our brothers and sisters for millenia. Do not forget what we have learned. For every time it seems we are rising from the mire of poverty, ignorance, and vioelce we are dragged down back into the muck of our primal fears and instincts.
There are those today that seek to destroy the memories we have. They want to make us forget the lessons we paid for in blood, sweat, and tears. We can only rememebr the sins of our past if there are those alive with the will and courage to tell us. I ask that you be that person of courage.
I'll never forget the overcast sky and the feel of soft rain on my face, standing not far from the knoll near my childhood home. Before me lay a grave and before it, a a figure shrouded in a sky blue blanket. There lay Akita, my first pet and loyal friend. Despite only being five years old I remember not feeling sad. I mourned for the loss of my friend, but I felt strangely at peace. I understood, even then, that I would not be seeing her again, this became my first experience with the finality of death. My father lifted the bundle and lowered it gently into the the ground and I watched solemnly as earth was heaped upon the bones of my old friend. Though I shed tears for her, they were not only tears of sadness but of fondness. I still remember her quite fondly and this relationship between boy and dog helped shaped who I am today. I regard animals, not only houshold pets, as creatures worthy of dignity and protection. I learned much that day about life, death, friendship, kinship with animal life, and letting go. Goodbye, Akita, and thank you.
We stood facing each other; only the wind could be heard whispering in our ears. A wall of magnificent red stood before me and the smell of gunpowder was in the air. I felt as though I was a loyal subject of the great British Empire but I could only tolerate so much. The yearning for freedom and self-determination steeled my heart and brought me to this moment. I averted my eyes for a moment as a sign had caught my attention. It read "First Presbyterian Church, Lexington". My gaze returned to the battlefield, and here I saw the colors of the Union Jack begin to march. They were advancing steadily toward us, and then abruptly halted. I could see, as they were not far away, they were loading the field guns. I shuddered at the thought of being fired upon by such a devastating weapon, but held my resolve. My fellow patriots stood stalwart and prepared as I gripped the barrel of my musket tightly. Sweat ran into my eyes, I blinked it away and shouldered my rifle along with my comrades. I looked into the eyes of my enemy from across the field and saw not a tyrannical brute, but a boy. Surely he was no older than my own son, but it was through him I must fight to create a better world for my boy. It was a shame it had to be him, but fate is a cruel mistress. I steadied my hand, exhaled, and pulled the trigger. A quick pop, then utter silence. I took my own men off guard. With that, the world was on notice. A new day was dawning and with it the beginning of greatness.
Looking down from above.
Let's start in our corner of the globe: North America. The most influential country in the world, America, is divided. Some say it is the most divided the country's ever been. They've seem to have forgotten a civil war. Up in Canada heir prime minister is on the ropes, but hardly anyone notices.
South America has been seeing its fair share of trouble too. Venezuela's collapsed and its neighbors don't seem sympathetic. At least they have the Amazon (for now at least).
Europe can't seem to recover its identity. Two cataclysmic wars have torn the continent asunder and it's never recovered and perhaps never will.
Africa may be on the rise. In a land so rich it would be nice to see the continent prosper. Dictators are being overthrown so we must now hope they find another way.
Asia has many scenes being played out. Civil war in one side, a cold war on the other, and in the south a rising power.
Australia seems okay.
Antarctica is still cold.
All-in-all, it could be worse.
Some things are better left unsaid.
We've all had that moment. That embarrassing memory brought up to the fore by our subconscious. A time you made a social faux pas. Or a time when you treated a friend poorly. These are things usually in the distant pass, things we try our best not to recall. It is important to do this, however. These moments help us to grow and learn. It's hard to become a good person without knowing what it's like to be a bad one. When those memories are churned up from the bottom of your conscious you may involuntarily sigh. You may breathe through grit teeth. You may pause, consider for a moment, and then push that thought back down. I would encourage you not to. Embrace that moment and understand it. Understand who you want to be by understanding what you don't want to be. Remember.