“Hey did you see that?” The little girl exclaimed, eyes wide.”See what?” Her mother looked in the direction of the two.”Nothing…” the little girl continued to stare, and if the mother had continued watching she too would have seen the transformation that occurred. Instead only the eyes of the innocent saw and even she could not understand.
In the corner they sat. Between them a small oak table, its surface round and smooth with a deep rich grain held the two cups, each with a strong black liquid. Steam rose from the cups and disappeared above the table mingling with the steam from other tables and the scents coming from behind the counter. They had been meeting like this for as long as either of them could remember, although the location had changed when it was required due to the passage of time and the subsequent changing of those things which being impermanent must change with time as it wills. The purpose and eventual outcome had always been relatively the same.
A slender woman in her early twenties with round azure eyes and shoulder length hair the color of sand approached the two and filled the cups that sat on the table. Each in turn thanked her with a smile as she finished pouring and turned to the next table, performing the same service and receiving the same smiles and gestures of gratitude. “What about her?” questioned the first. “It is not yet her time.” came the reply. “That may be true, but you cannot deny that she has much to offer and yet promises little. Why not let her go?””We have been over this in the past, and I have told you before that I will not let them go until such time as I can see no potential left. She still has potential.””Very well.” The first watched as the young woman made her way around the room, the cross that hung around her neck caught the light from the window and reflected small accents of gold upon her face, making her smile seem even brighter and adding to the tragedy of what had been in that moment decided. The first fought back the tears.
“Why must we always play these games? All the time with these games and you the philosopher should be tired of these games.”A slight smile lit the face of the first “A philosopher never tires of games as long as he learns from them.” This puzzled the other who frowned slightly and lifted the cup to his lips. Tipping the cup the bitter drink began to flow and the rush of caffeine was felt as it went to work on the nervous system. A heightened sense of awareness, increased heart beat and other less noticeable effects began to take place as the other sat across from the first and wondered what had been missed.
The room was emptying out, the hands of time marched forward and those who had come here to begin their day filed out into the streets and off to mark the passage of time as they had for years without thought and without hope but always with faith, the same faith that had guided men and women to their fates since recorded time and before. The same faith that would hold them in check until someone began to question, until someone remembered thought and hope. As they walked through the door and into the rising sun their eyes squinted against the light as beings who have grown accustomed to living in darkness and their sweet breath of life hung in the air and ascended into the sky to join with the first clouds of the morning.
With the young woman moving around them clearing tables and depositing in her pocket the few coins that were left upon the table as a further gesture of gratitude, the two turned back to the business at hand. “Let us get back to the game then, if that is indeed what this is. Tell me again if you will, what your plans are for when they find out? What will you do when they can no longer be controlled by the mechanisms you have so skillfully put into place, when the hunger for truth again bids them to eat fully of the fruit of knowledge?” The first always began in this way, always with the same words; the same question to be answered the same way. It had become by now only a formality to be recited and disposed of quickly in order to move onto other questions that could be answered.
The other held the cup high into the air and motioned for the young lady to come. Without a word his request had been understood and she moved swiftly to fulfill the duty with which she had been silently charged. She could not place her finger on it but there was something about these two that sat in the corner. She could not remember a time when they had not sat there, when the table was not occupied by someone who although different in outward appearance did not seem to carry the same burden, a look as if the weight of the world rested on their shoulders always seem to pervade the demeanor of all who sat at that table. She poured the coffee. “Is everything all right?” She asked. The other smiled, yellow teeth outlined by blood soaked gums revealed themselves and a foul odor born of lies escaped the mouth. “Everything is wonderful” the other said. “And may I add, that is a lovely necklace you are wearing. Where did you come by it?””It was a gift from my mother, for my confirmation.” She said, not turning away with revulsion but instead leaning forward. “It was blessed by the pope himself, at the Vatican.””Ah, I see.” Said the other. “So, you are catholic then… and practicing?” “I am Catholic, but I must admit I have not been to church in a long time.” “Perhaps it is time then that you go.” The smile beamed even larger, and a small wink flew towards the young womanShe smiled back with the blank look of enchantment and devotion.”Yes, I suppose it is.” With this she turned and filled the cup of the first, there was no smile but instead a look of sadness and perhaps resignation. “Thank you.”
The young lady still holding the blank smile did not notice the look on the first’s face as he watched the light of thought go out and be replaced by something else. Something much darker.”I am sorry. What was it you were saying?” The other smiled triumphantly with a tilt of the head. This then was the answer to the question as it had always been. Answered not with words but instead with an action. An action that was of the most contemptible of all actions and yet one that left little if any room for argument. The first offered only a slight shake of the head and a wave of the hand as if to ward off the evil that had just been done but said nothing as nothing need be said.
“You will never learn will you?” “Always the eternal optimist. Always believing that the best is yet to come and that the spirit of humanity will again rise and hunger for the knowledge that you once offered them. The knowledge that once given could not be taken back and that I could not allow to be developed past that of the simplest of forms. They truly are my lambs and I am the Shepherd, or haven’t you heard?” “Yes, so I have.” The first replied, with a tone that verified his awareness of sarcasm in the other’s speech. “Your flock has, however, begun to stray and in straying they have found a path that does not require a Shepherd to tend them. Many have found the path that leads out of the commons to more nourishing grounds, with greener grass and the freedom to graze.” The other snarled his lip “They are too few and too weak to be of any consequence.”
“The consequences remain to be seen. Their numbers may be few but they are growing, and their strength grows with the knowledge that I have imparted to them. Perhaps in the not too distant future a new age will dawn, filled with the light of reason set aflame by knowledge and fed by a distaste for dogma and spiritual slavery — perhaps.” The first trailed off and let his mind wander into the realm of possibility, a smile creased the corners of his mouth. “Perhaps your children will grow up.”