Unto Them On The Left Hand

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In 2006, Dr. John Lancor wrote, “The minimum criterion necessary to enforce any behavioral system is that it should require less strength to enforce upon others than the strength of those it is enforced upon. By induction, this allows a single person advantaged by that system to maintain its grip upon the entirety of the population.

“Only those who participate in them derive value from crime, atrocity, and waste. For this reason, it is evident that every extravagance, every waste, every sin, and every horror—every crime not justified by enlightened self-interest—is and must be balanced and sustained by someone, in some place, choosing without coercion to sacrifice themselves for the common good. Otherwise the equation would not balance, and social enforcement of the prevailing system would not be possible. To say that people are evil or drawn to sin is missing a fundamental truth: the atrocities we hear of every day are made possible only by humanity’s elemental quality of good. A society of monsters would also be a rational society; even the richest and most powerful would scarcely be able to waste, and only insofar as society recognized that the abstract value of their contribution required reward to sustain it.”

In 2008, Dr. John Lancor took certain actions in accordance with his philosophy.

It is 2027.

The creature walks into the center of the town.

It is raining. The buildings are crude but strong. The streets are cobblestone and dirt. The people who stare at the creature are nourished but unhappy and their faces show the marks of disease.

The creature should be dead. But it is not.

“Help is necessary,” it says. “The doctor has fallen. He has broken his leg. Help is necessary.”

There is a small boychild on the street. His hair is black. He walks up to the creature. He pokes it with a finger.

“You’re not dead,” says the boy.

“From the parts of the dead,” says the creature. “From the parts of the dead I came. But life was added.”

The boy tugs at the creature’s arm. He pokes at its leg. Then he picks up a rock from the street and hits the creature’s leg with it. He looks dissatisfied.

“Why?” asks the boy.

“To love him,” says the creature. “To love the doctor.”

The boy walks around the creature. He is fascinated. “That’s stupid,” he says. “There isn’t any love.”

The creature tilts its head to one side.

“The history books say that it stopped in 2008,” lectures the boy. “That other people stopped being valuable then. That’s why nobody but me matters. The thing they had that would have made me care went away.”

“The doctor needs help,” says the creature. “He will die in misery.”

“Everyone does. You will. I will,” the boy says. He mimics the creature, his head canting to one side. “Could you care about me? I still matter.”

“I’m sorry,” the creature says.

The boy frowns.

“You have not fallen and broken your leg,” says the creature. “You are not alone and cold on the mountain. Why shall you die in misery?”

The boy bends down. He plucks a flower from the ground. He holds it out to the creature.

“Nobody knows that I matter,” says the boy matter-of-factly. “That there’s still someone left who does. So my life and education’s worth it to people, but nobody’s gonna spend resources to keep someone from living and dying in misery.”

The creature takes the flower. It looks at it.

“Like that,” says the boy. “It was screaming when I pulled it up. It tried really hard to tell me it was important. It showed its inner beauty, and asked that it survive one more day. And then I pulled it up to let it die slowly in the air. And you watched and thought it was okay. That’s what’ll happen to me, one day. Both of us. And to the doctor.”

The flower falls from the creature’s hands.

“You could care about me,” the boy suggests persuasively. “I mean, since you’re into that kind of thing. Not the doctor. Me.”

The creature looks up. “But I love him,” it says.

Its words carry. There is a ringing in the air after each word.

“I love him, and I do not want him to die like this.”

It is too loud, the creature realizes. It is too loud and it is too honest.

“Oh,” says the boy.

It was at once too loud and too honest, and there is now a low noise. It seems to be coming from everyone in the town at once. It has envy in it and anger and a terrible desolation. And it is like the rising sound of bees.

“I will go,” says the creature. There is a certain fear in it. “I will go. I will give him such comfort as I can.”

The sound is rising. The creature is backing away, but it is not yet running.

“Only blankets,” says the creature. “Only something to keep away the cold.”

It is not magic that moves the people of the town. It is not emptiness. It is simply the thought that someone should have this, when they cannot.

“Stupid histories,” says the boy. “They were lying. Weren’t they?”

He slumps away.

“It figures,” says the boy.

There are pitchforks and torches in the hands of the townsfolk, and the creature is afraid.

“And if the world were hollow,” wrote Dr. John Lancor, “and but a single soul in it both innocent and good, then there should be a price paid in sorrow for that innocence—a price growing from that innocence like from a grain of sand a pearl. How it should happen I do not know; but the mathematics are inevitable.”

There is fire and there is blood, and it is regrettable that the doctor cannot see it, for he would find the matter of a certain scientific interest.

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Categories: Hitherby, Legends