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Live to Die
The child was named Dove for a specific reason. A dove symbolizes peace, prosperity, and a hopeful future. Something none of us can ever dream of, I should add. Peace, prosperity, and a hopeful future is exactly what the Officials want us to think we have. They should know we are smarter than that. Much smarter than them, even. By naming the daughter of the deceased High Official Dove, they are attempting to lead us into a new era. A new, golden era without dirt floors and desiccated bodies.
However, the People understand more, much more, than we let on. We understand their insatiable craving for power, for dominance over lesser beings. We understand the greed that gnaws at their very being. We understand their elevated and self-righteous views of themselves. We understand that we are nothing like them. We understand that it is time for a new era. This new era will not be represented by a dove.
The People are forced to watch the exaggerated and prolonged ceremony. I watch carefully, analyzing their every motion in order to perceive their intent. The Officials are nervous because they know that the People are restless. They know that something has to be done quickly if they want to avoid bloodshed. And if there is anything the indolent, pompous fools despise and fear it is bloodshed.
It is ironic that the Officials so oppose the thought of blood and death, yet they condemn their subjects to every manner of demise possible. Starvation is their favorite weapon, and very effective as well. People weakened by hunger are not often a threat to their power. In the South, Burning is a common occurrence. The people that offend the Officials are sent to labor in a dry field when, quite mysteriously, the whole field goes up in flames. There is never a way out. Those that live by the Sea know that Drowning is the regular horror. But the Officials’ most successful weapon is the one they don’t even have control over: Suicide. The ceremony is only a frilly, transparent covering of the reality. The reality that the People live to die.
Every word is spoken with anxious precision, every face plastered with an artificial smile. After announcing the solemn, so sad news that the High Official has died during childbirth, the child was brought forth. With shining faces and suave voices, the Officials proclaim that a new era is upon the land and that peace, prosperity, and a hopeful future is to come. Their darting eyes and trembling hands cause me to laugh aloud. I am not alone in my scorn. Several dead bodies later, the Officials have our attention once again.
It amuses me how they cherish their power over us, yet they are so afraid of us. The Officials live every day in fear that the People, as a collective whole, will one day rise against them. We have nothing to fear from them. At first, death was frightening and the People cowered. Regularity tends to alter one’s view of such things though, and over time the People began to accept death and eagerly await its companionship, sometimes even taking delight and choosing which way to meet it. Death is still a powerful weapon that the Officials hold, but it has a blunt edge.
With as much flourish as the Officials could muster, they present the child to the People: Dove, the miracle child of the High Official. Miracle child because no one knew who the father was. Not even the Officials who were closest to the High Official, and they are few. Miracle child because everyone knows the High Official hates children. Officials are forbidden to have children. New Officials are selected from the children of the People. It is not an honor. It is not a privilege. It is the stealing of lives. Just another way to die. Stolen, brainwashed, and forced to serve.
I feel the current of energy in the crowd. The People are unhappy, verging on enraged. The Officials announce that the Administrative Official will take on the High Official’s duties until Dove becomes of age. They promise that if the People endure until that time, there will be rewards beyond our conceivability. They think that we are stupid. That we don’t understand what they mean. Dove is not a child. Dove is a carrot, being hung in front of a dumb mule as the whip is made sharper and more painful. The Officials have forgotten one thing, though. The People are not a dumb mule.
The People understand that there will be no peace, no prosperity, and no hopeful future. We accept that. We understand that we live to die. But we also ask questions. What if we could live for something else before we die? What if we governed ourselves? What if the Officials were no more? What if Dove was taken away? A clearer message could not be sent. The People don’t want peace, prosperity, or a hopeful future. Not one offered to us by the Officials. We don’t mind death. Every day, we live to die. What if we took the death they gave us, and give it right back to them? What if the predator becomes the prey?
The energy is rising to a dangerous level. The ceremony is coming to a conclusion and the Officials are relaxing, sure that all conflict has been averted. Something new is happening, something never been done before. The Officials are allowing the People to speak. To voice our opinion? Of course not! The Officials would never do such a thing. No, they are allowing the People to grieve the High Official’s death and celebrate the birth of Dove! The reaction of the People is instantaneous. Angry shouts, curses. A thought occurs to me and I act quickly before my opportunity is lost.
I raise my voice louder than ever before. My willingness to speak stuns the People. They grow silent. I am invited on the richly decorated platform that the Officials have conducted the ceremony from. I am carefully watched and this reassures me. I smile because I know I have made the right decision. I look at the child, the one they named Dove. An innocent creature, without blemish or sin. In another time and place, Dove would be a beautiful woman with a strong spirit. But now, here, Dove is nothing but a symbol. A carrot on a string.
“Dove is peace, prosperity, and a hopeful future. Offered to the People by the Officials.”
The Officials nod, seemingly pleased by my opening statement. The People do not want anything offered by the Officials. I lift Dove gently from the lavish cradle she is resting in. Her wide blue eyes search me and I softly kiss her forehead. I turn to face the curious, some angry and betrayed, eyes of the People.
“What if a dove flew away and the predator became the prey?”
The Officials are confused. Confusion only lasts a moment and the golden seconds of my life have begun their countdown. I hold Dove high above my head, close my eyes and put my complete trust in the People. They will know what to do. The dove flies away.
Once I open my eyes, I know the People understand as there is much shuffling about and Dove has disappeared. The Officials are frozen in shock, but I know it won’t be for much longer. For I have chosen my death. But I have done more.
The Officials suddenly move into action, cursing and withdrawing weapons.
Life for a life. No, lives do not matter to the Officials. Symbol for a symbol.
“I am Hawk.”