Submitted by LadyOddDuck
Some days, even when you can’t find a reason to get out of bed, when you know perfectly well where you are, and it’s not where you want to be, and who you are and it’s not who you want to be, some days you can hear music in the air, instruments making harmonies painting glorious pictures of summer afternoons you feel nostalgic for though you never lived them; you see the sun dance in front of closed lids, and kiss the chilled exposed skin, and know that, regardless of the bed you find yourself in, or the skin, that time will sort itself out and the pieces will connect.
Unless you are a particular person, in a particular place who, turning over in bed had nearly forgotten about what got them to that bed and lived, for a moment, in that peaceful delirium between dream and awake before the dream slips away. And then you open your eyes, and see a golden tree, the sunlight twinkling around the area, and into your eyes, and you sharply remember everything you said and did that brought that monument into being.
They would never know, down there, the things that had to be done for them to walk around their days without living in fear. And every year there would be fireworks, songs and laughter sent to the sky.
The tree was gold and shimmered, and if you looked closely, you could see the dents where it was pounded into shape. The leaves had to be repainted after every winter, a light coating of green so the gold would still gleam, just in case people forgot the oblong shapes were supposed to be leaves, and just in case people forgot that the monument was gold.
There was a tree there once, that looked like that, people would say, down the line, when everything but stories and song were forgotten, and those things mere echoes of the half-truths, and mostly truths, from which they were cobbled together.
The truth was that there was a battle. A battle won without any bloodshed, and without anyone knowing that it happened.
It happened when a person stood up against a tyrant.
And that tyrant and that person, they looked each other in the eyes, and there was a spark of recognition.
Of winters spent playing in the snow, sliding down hills, and throwing snowballs. Of jumping in puddles in the spring, and jumping in piles of dry, crunchy, leaves in the autumn. A thousand little memories flickered in their minds, of two lives, lived mostly apart, except for the afternoons when their seconds and hours and days were hopelessly entwined.
And of summer afternoons that smelt of the sea and hot tar and barbeques and alcohol. All afternoons that could never be relived, but were still relived in that single moment of recognition.
All it took was a single word, and everything ended.
When the sun is high and you’re looking down on a crowd of people who weren’t there, dancing around the monument to remember the day that your soul mate was found hanging from the tree’s branches, no amount of lilting songs about love can make you dance with them. They weren’t there at the point of no return. They didn’t see your salvation become the epitome of everything you hated. They didn’t understand that the intentions had been good. The intentions had been noble. The intentions had been for the needs of the many. Under the tyrant, the people had no voice. Under the tyrant, the people had no choices. Under the tyrant, the people would have been free to live a life of subjugation. If only they didn’t question if freedom would be better: freedom to live, sure. Freedom to starve as well. Freedom to choose, and the freedom to be damned by your choices.
The tyrant… the tyrant didn’t care if he was loathed. The people would be fed. Memories fed into each other, a feedback loop of words tuning into each other as they grew and as years flew by. Of course the tyrant had no choice by the end. Damned by his own decisions. To throw away what he had hoped to accomplish was unthinkable, to hurt the one other heart that made his heart complete was impossible.
And people cheered. And not a shot was fired. Not a drop of blood trickled from the tip of a spear. A noble spirit, too proud to admit defeat, chose his out. And the cries of joy, the rebellions that that bore, tore another in half.
Hope is what keeps a person going. Some days, when everything is grey like a snowy winter morning, when it hurts to be alive, the hope that things can turn out better can keep you from turning in on yourself.
“Please.” And the memory of a thousand lazy afternoons that musicians wrote rambling, lovely, sometimes melancholic, songs about. It killed any hope that things could get better. It destroyed the hope that the two could go back to being one again. It set forth a course of action that then became unavoidable.
And what good are intentions? Intentions don’t mean anything if they lead to the wrong outcome. “Please” wasn’t meant to kill.
But the floor is cold, it’s always cold, in the winter or the summer, and it brings everything into sharp focus, when all you want is the bleary blissful dream world where there was no desire to save a starving population, where you were just two children discovering the world, and then you two became each other’s world. The people would dance and cheer at the death of a man who only desired their salvation. They didn’t care that since his death, the food stores had been depleted. They cared that there were no new taxes. They cared a symbol of an old way of thinking was gone.
And in 100 years? Would anyone care that he didn’t start a tyrant?