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The Most Dangerous Kind of Man
Nicholas sat in his laboratory chair, examining the words with cold, indifferent eyes. Most of the room was dark, apart from a small crack in the dark velvet curtains three feet to his side and a small fluorescent light above the laboratory table, illuminating the small area in which he worked.
Nicholas knew the words well. He knew their meaning the second they passed before his eyes. Oh, what a skill! Others must read them over and over, before absorbing speck of their meaning. Yes, he knew them well, but did not feel them. He knew their meaning, but was indifferent to their cause.
There was apathetic observation in his eyes as he dissected each phrase in his mind. In his eyes, was not care for their point, but only a search for how they could benefit him.
Behind Nicholas lay 100 or more blank books, some arranged on a majestic yet scarcely ornate mahogany bookshelf, some scattered on the table beside it. The majority of these were successes. Nicholas had very little few failures. These were the books whose words he had already used, whose words he had extracted. Some he fashioned into ugly, aberrational things. Others he made so beautiful, that they brought tears of joy to the eyes of the mob gathered around him, as he presented them from a high platform.
Although, in the strictest sense of the word, the books were not completely blank, a fact Nicholas always avoided thinking about. But after he had pulled out their words, the text inside them grew so faint, that they were more like ghosts of words. So faded, that, at first glance, they truly did seem blank. Initially, it had irked Nicholas that he hadn’t succeeded at completely removing the words.
But then the realization came; who would be able to read them? Even if anyone got their hands on a book, they would only know the words were there, nothing else. They would have to spend years examining them, scrutinizing each letter, to read even one passage. And still, after all the effort, their reading would be rampant with guesses. And who would take the time to scrutinize it so much anyway? Not the masses he presented their twisted counterparts to, he thought with a smirk.
Then, the smirk was gone, and Nicholas’s face darkened as he thought of the pathless. Yes, those idle layabouts would have all the time in the world to examine the faded passages. Doing no work for the benefit of the tower, the order from which all society prospered. And apart from all the other useless things those truant slackers did, Nicholas knew that they had read, or perhaps even at this very moment, were reading books he had not yet laid his hands on. They were why Nicholas had tried so hard to return the words in their twisted form back to their books. But to no avail, as their ghosts seemed to block their way.
Never mind Nicholas thought to himself, trying to bring himself back to concentration, They are but a thorn in my hand. To be easily removed and crushed underfoot if they prick. Anyway, there was no point in becoming aggravated. The pathless may suspect, but they do not know. The slivers of information they have are nothing. They do not know anything. All the books were safely hidden. No one could reach them except himself, and the people he granted access to. And though the words as he had shaped them were not in the books, they were written, recorded, in everyone’s mind.
Nicholas read the words in front of him again: We of the state of Neft demand the removal of your troops from our land and an end to your piracy of gold from our mines. These are our national possessions, and you must pay to obtain them. This time, it was not a book he was reading, but a letter. Besides the obvious, childish, demand for the possession of what is “rightfully” theirs, there was an underlying, unintentional significance in their words.
They may be demanding threateningly, but there was no actual threat, no mention of military or political power. They may have been trying to play the diplomat, assertive but not displaying overbearing force, but they had no real power to back it up. They had yet to learn that only those who had already proved their overbearing force could play the diplomat. They were weak.
But Nicholas had derived this only a few seconds after the first reading of the letter. This was not the reason he was scrutinizing it. He was concentrating, thinking how he would manipulate the words. How he would make them seem the opposite of what he had derived from them: bullying and despotically threatening. After a moment’s thought, a satisfied smile spread across Nicholas’s face, as just the right way to twist the words came to him. Oh, how the crowd would rally and anger when he presented the letter’s words to them! What fervent support they will give him in his military campaign against Neft, the preeminent solution, a perfect excuse for permanently seizing their gold mines. Amazing what panic and fear could do for him, what people would do when they think they are under military threat.
Nicholas stood up, victorious, a sly, smug smile still lingering on his features, and walked with deliberate, swaggering strides towards the velvet curtains. The window behind them was large and rectangular, beginning and inch above Nicholas’s tall head and ending at his knees, but the world beyond it was swallowed by the curtains’ blackness. With vigor, Nicholas pulled back the dark curtains, and the laboratory room filled with bright light from the midday sun. As Nicholas viewed the scene before him through the window on the topmost floor of the Iron Tower, in which his laboratory was located, his complacency increased even more.
He could see factory chimneys from the lower floors emanating smoke. Progress and production! What a magnificent, compelling feeling it gave! That is what all of this was for. That is what his actions were striving towards: Progress and production, which brings with them power, which allows for more progress and production.
He looked on at the glorious, structured expanse of society, stretching into the horizon. At the numbered, square edifices, connected by organized lanes that formed rectangles around them, all of equal size. And right in the center, a very straight brick road, expanding from as far as the eye could see, all the way to the factory doors of the Iron Tower, the road to which all lanes lead. Masses upon masses of people were waiting on line all across the length of the road, waiting to enter the Tower and do their day’s work. Such order! Such control! Everybody counted, everything taken into account. Maintained by us, controlled by us, all existing solely because of us! Nicholas proclaimed this to himself with pride, the exultant sense of power coursing through him.
Then Nicholas turned his cold blue eyes to the side, where the forest lay. Where the only others that could understand the meaning of the words lived. Like animals, he thought with contempt. But they were not nearly as great as he. They felt the words and their meaning. And those who felt them let them reign free. They could never be their masters. But he, he did not let them take hold of him. He had control. He was the master of the words. And he could make them do whatever he pleased.