Tarrington stared through the bars of his cage. Armed guards kept watch at each of the three exits from the prisoners’ cavern. He drew in a breath, and the stench of stale air offended his nostrils. He turned his back on the sentries and began the few steps to the stone slab that served both as bench and bed.
In the dim underground light, he missed his target and stubbed his toe ― perhaps, even broke it. Tarrington had no way to know for sure. It hurt, but his mind processed the pain and dismissed it. Other considerations pushed their way to his frontal lobe.
Why was he ― Tarrington, the wise counselor and champion of the people who resided on this planet ― arrested and imprisoned below the great city? In his mind, he had committed no crime. He had only stated facts which should have been obvious to even the most obtuse. He could have kept his knowledge to himself and side-stepped the wrath of the overlords.
But he couldn’t bear it any longer. He was weary of the rhetoric, the words that encouraged everyone to think of themselves as victims. Those words incited them to hate their neighbors, and at the same time to fear and blame them. He had let his anger get the best of him. He had spoken the Truth words in divisiveness and caused yet another rift in the society. He did not mean to champion another reason to hate. For that action, he was as guilty as the terrorists.
Tarrington rarely thought of himself as a member of any tribe. He was a sentient being, and as such, a kindred spirit to all other sentient beings. Where a person came from, and what his physical appearance was like, were incidental. What mattered to Tarrington was the state of a person’s mind. Kindness, love, forgiveness, understanding, empathy ― these were the traits he admired and attempted to emulate. He had found those same attributes in members of every species. He had also seen the opposite. In either case, the traits were not inborn but learned.
He had spoken about the Doctrines of Division, which he blamed for his weariness. His words, which rang through the town square, were these:
“Liberate me from the chains of contention and division.
“Liberate me from the blame game where the adults emulate children on the playground and shout, ‘He hit me back first!’ in an attempt to excuse their behavior.
“Liberate me from the label of victim. After all, if my actions did not cause my plight, then I can do nothing to improve it.”
The last words had barely left his lips before he was arrested and thrown in prison.
“Liberate me!” He shouted the words, and they echoed into the cavern of his confinement and down the three arteries to the outside world. The sound rattled the bars, which shook until small shards of rock dust sifted down from the stone ceiling where they were attached. The power of his words, spoken with passion, frightened him. What good would come from bringing down the bars of his cage and the walls of the cavern with him inside those very bars and walls?
An epiphany struck him, humbled him. Just as he had claimed in his speech, his plight was of his own doing. And the more he shouted in protest, the more chance he had of being buried alive by his own angry, desperate words. “Liberate me from my own folly,” he whispered.
The bars, the stone walls, and the cave itself faded away into oblivion, and he stood once more in the town square. All eyes were upon him as he spoke. “I love each and every one of you,” he said. Silently, he vowed to live up to his own declaration. It would be enough.