Solutions: The Dilemma for the Gods
Dedicated to those of us who believe "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
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Time to reflect on the lonely cabin for just a moment interrupted Terrance’s stroll to town. He just wanted a moment of somber silence in memory of the woman he would never see again. The disappearance remained one of two mysteries that lived within the thoughts, and one of two that silently tortured his heart perpetually from that tragic day. For the children, however, the mystery was yet one more reason to assign the anger of the Gods to Terrance.
In her absence, the cabin represented the many acts of rebellion he had committed against the tenets, and to briefly pause in silence was of no further sin. Her sin, however, was not an act of rebellion but one that simply made her an unwitting accomplice in the eyes of the Gods. Rita had not erred, yet she was held to the same judgment that isolated each of them from the town.
Besides treating her cabin as a monument to be defiled by no man, Terrance had invented other ways to honor the memory of Rita. One of the other venues to mourn in isolation and to secretly pay homage to her memory was in the garden that was seeded within the confines of the Greater Temple. How long he had done so was clouded by the memories of a past which blended in with the nothingness of the isolation. But he was well aware that if the deeds became known by the high priests, the tributes would not be seen by them as a grievous act of one shrouded in heartache, but one of sinful rebellion that would demand instant punishment. Yet, the garden remained undiscovered.
The holy priests were neither permitted nor allowed when the feeling struck to wander about the grounds between the gate of the town and that of the Greater Temple. Only Terrance had the key to the gate which was a cruel punishment handed to him as prescribed by the tenets of the Gods. His secret was safe. The mighty men who in their zeal to please the Gods, pay homage to them by obeying all that was written in the tenets would know of the rebellious act only after his death.
As for the Gods, Terrance viewed them as being of no concern. The garden, if discovered, could only lead to further punishment initiated by the very Gods whose secret pasture he had corrupted. It seemed as if the Gods were too wrapped up in their divinity to care.
Besides memories, the cabin remained as a real and solid testimony that she indeed once lived. The life, however, meant occupying the hastily constructed shack that offered the least of comfort that the Gods would provide.
Terrance eyed the cabin and vividly remembered the very life they each faced and lived on a daily basis. It was a prison cell with no electricity, no running water, no plumbing, and little furniture. A cast iron stove provided the heat for cooking and warmth. The wood to burn, however, could only be gathered by each in the surrounding forest, and wood that could only come from dead trees scorched by the heat of summer and whose core had been frozen by the bitter cold of winter. An outhouse served the bodily functions. A well was the source for water.
Food was provided by the high priests but in the harshest manner as prescribed by the tenets of the Gods. Both Rita and Terrance were required to retrieve the daily allotment in the distant town every morning. Both were to remain silent as they entered the gates of the town. They had to refrain from eye contact with anyone. Conversation, or any sort of communication with any believer no matter how lowly or highly esteemed that believer was absolutely disallowed.
Terrance’s appointed time was well before Rita’s. Over the many years prior to Rita's disappearance Terrance had hoped but never had caught a glimpse of her through the small window of the cell as he hiked into town for the morning ritual. Only in the imagination could he see her in the isolated cabin. Yet that did not dim the hope. Many, many times hope sprung eternal as he passed by. If just one time, the thoughts pined, one time the longing to see her face would have been granted would have meant instant happiness for Terrence. Sadly though, the hope of that desire was cut off by the cabin’s drawn drapes. Still, every daily hike into town to retrieve the daily sustenance rendered hope anew. He believed in his heart that one day he would see her spying from behind the drapes to catch a glimpse of him. And though it never happened, and would not happen, the light escaping from the cracks in the wooden frame hastily put together and the smoke that spewed out of the chimney in the isolated abode allowed Terrance to see her despite being absent in the physical world. The best he could do was to remember her face, the sound of her voice, and the form of her body. But those memories, however, had faded over time.
For just a moment Terrance stood on the road staring at the emptiness. With eyes closed he did all he could do to stir up the memories of Rita, but all that was conjured up were the memories of the woman he had known in the past. It was a past that was cut off from any future the two of them might have shared if he had not rebelled.
If he had not rebelled she would still be alive. There would be no mystery, yet a mystery it was. A blizzard had left barely a clue to the disappearance. The footprints ended just outside the door. The gusting winds and heavy snowfall had erased any evidence of the direction she took. The children, as prescribed by the tenets, searched for her in every direction for miles but had to end well short of the gates of the Greater Temple. The grounds were considered too valuable to the Gods for men to tread their filth into the soil.
Terrance had hoped she fled to the Greater Temple, but for what reason he could only guess. Maybe the reason was simply to escape the hardship of daily living or maybe a plea to the Gods to remove her from a life of misery. But a search of the inner and outer world resulted in disappointment. Rita was nowhere to be found. No signs of her presence were detected outside the outer world or within the inner world where only the Gods and the Guardian of the Gods were permitted to roam.
Not that they would have requested her plea in either case. Terrance had been well aware that the mercy of the Gods fell on deaf ears. They could not grant any such request let alone take it into consideration. He concluded that if she had fled to the Greater Temple he would have found her dead somewhere in the outer world. Terrance had to accept, for whatever the reason, that she simply wandered off in the wilderness and succumbed to the freezing winter.
The high priest, the one given charge to providing the daily needs of the outcast Terrance, waited. The time to reminisce heeded to the prompt arrival into town. The high priest, as prescribed by the tenets, had to verify that the gatekeeper was alive and well: For in the event of Terrance’s death a new gatekeeper would have to be assigned from the congregation and Terrance was not about to let that happen.
A wave of the hand and a warm smile was all Terrance could offer to the ghostly cabin.
Terrance sat down and waited till the high priest, the storekeeper, to bring forth the allotted sustenance for the day. In the beginning the priest had been always prompt bringing out the box as Terrance arrived, but over the past few years the high priest was often late. More and more he appeared reluctant to fulfill the duty as prescribed by the Gods. A few times the high priest even grumbled displeasure at the duty by throwing the box down at his feet. But Terrence took no offense to the grumbling.
Terrance believed the high priest had grown weary of the task. Between the times he served the children in the physical realm by operating and managing the general store to accommodate the needs and wants of the believers, he was obligated to the tenets of the Gods. At dawn he wandered about the town with the other high priests blessing the brand new day by calling for obedience and reminding the believers that the Gods would be angry if any wandered away from their specific duties. At dusk, other high priests were required to roam the streets begging for forgiveness in the case any had erred in their obligations to the good world provided by the Gods. It may have been too much for the storekeeper to handle. the mental and emotional strain ended up being too much for any one man to manage.
On this particular morning again it seemed the high priest was reluctant in fulfilling the duties as prescribed by the tenets. Then again, the signs of displeasure were abundant all about the good world. Terrance could see rebellion rising steadily amongst the children. On a few mornings there had been children that dared to violate the tenets and actually smiled in his direction. Some had even offered a silent good morning out of tight lips. Even more surprising were the items found amidst the daily victuals now and then. A pair of winter boots, a parka, a scarf, a bag of cookies and other assorted items of comfort had made their way in the box at times. Terrance doubted they came from the high priest and he was sure his parents would not risk the act of compassion. But as far as who had tucked them away within the closed confines of the box, the answer to that had to have been done in secret by other rebelious believers.
Such bold compassion was absent in the beginning when the Gods had deemed it safe to emerge from the underground shelter. Strict adherence to the tenets was demanded. To stray from the demands of the Gods meant immediate punishment. This was well known by those who had grown up in the underground haven provided by the Gods in protecting them from the evil entities that once upon a time looked to destroy their children. After the Gods defeated the enemies the children emerged into the light of day. But for Terrance, he was only a toddler during the time of emergence and had very few memories of the early sheltered life.
The knowledge of the Gods was passed on in the childrens' upbringing and within the confines of the good world provided by the Gods. Tenets and all forms of directives were taught to him and other children who had yet received such knowledge. Tenets governing relationships between the children and the Gods, the children and the Gods’ good world, and between the children themselves were spelled out succinctly as to avoid any misunderstanding of the demands.
All of the Gods’ children each had a duty in taking care of the good world. The appointed times of sowing and reaping, from what seeds to sow, when to sow them, how much to sow, and the exact perimeters of the sowing fields were dictated by the tenets.
The time of reaping also was spelled out in exact detail. Every appointed child heeded every direction down to the last detail. There could be no mechanized tools used on the tender crops. After all crops had been reaped in raw form and prepared in the acceptable manner, the food was required to be weighed. Then, by calculations provided by the Gods, a small percentage went for the solemn feast thanking the Gods and their good world for providing the nourishment out of their mercy.
The larger percentage of food made its way to the appointed processing plants where the sanctified sustenance was measured and secured in glass containers that would sustain the children until the next harvest. All remaining food which included the most succulent cuts of meats, were delivered to the warehouse and freezers of the ...