Friday, December 31, 2004

A Fairy Tale for the Future

Atop the tallest plateau in the land there bustled a village, self-sufficient and modern. The villagers worked mere minutes of the day and reaped the benefits of independence and relaxation. They knew that down on the arid plains below there were other villages, but they paid them no mind. To them, the plains were useful only as a place to let their garbage fall.

A woman lived in the village, and lived the village life. She spent her days watching performances in the village theater, or enjoying meals at the many fine restaurants. But at night, she would stand on the edge of the plateau and look out among the plains. She couldn't see the people there, but she knew they existed. She wondered how they lived.

One evening, as the woman was making her way to her usual looking spot, she stumbled and fell straight off the edge of the cliff. Down she fell, and was sure to perish at the bottom. But then she landed on something soft. If was garbage from her village, piled high up the slopes of the plateau!

As she began to climb back up the cliff, the woman heard voices.

"Please, don't leave us," they said. "We want you to stay with us!"

"Who is there?" the woman asked, making her way down the pile. "Are you the people of the plains?"

As she came further down, the woman saw the source of the voices. Half-buried in the refuse were the people of the plains, each weak and dirty. The plains people were almost invisible in the mound of trash they inhabited.

"How can you live like this?" the woman asked.

"We have always lived like this," came the reply. "For as long as your village has sent its waste to our plains, we have had no choice but to live in it. Now the pile has grown almost up the side of the plateau, and we can almost reach your village, but we are weak. We cannot climb the cliff walls. We can only drink the rain and eat the scraps that fall upon us."

The woman felt tears pouring down her face as she marvelled at the sadness of these people. She knew that she must help them.

"You will reach the village yet," she told them.

And so the woman climbed back up the cliffs to the plateau, and into her village, and straight to the village council chambers. The councillors were there, working late on their usual mix of making laws and enjoying relaxation. She told them what she had seen.

"Of course there are people on the plains below," said the chief councillor. "Our ancestors, who built this village, once lived on the plains. But they were smart enough to climb the plateau and sow the fertile soil. Our ancestors were men of greatness. The people on the plains are stupid, and lazy. They feed off our scraps, but lack the intelligence to see that if they merely climbed the cliff wall, they could pull themselves up to a new life."

"But they know that! They are weak and sick from our garbage, and they don't think they can make it."

"Dear girl," replied the councillor, "now you're making stories. Let the council attend to the real business of the village." Her turned and the chamber guards escorted the woman out into the street.

She wandered the village for days, trying to figure out the best way to help the people of the plains. She could steal food and water from the village, and send it down to them. But she would surely get caught, and the villagers wouldn't believe her intentions. They all agreed with the chief councillor, for none of them had ever ventured down the cliff.

One night she sat, nearly defeated, staring off her looking spot into the blackness of night, when she heard an eagle flying over head. As she watched the eagle soar, a revelation came to her, and she knew then how to help the people below: she studied the eagle, and from the eagle she learned the secret of flight. And after many weeks of toil, she brought the secret down to the plains.

The woman shared the eagle's secret of flight with the people of the plains, and they spread their wings and launched from the garbage, freeing themselves from the bondage that had encased them for generations. "Oh thank you, kind woman!" they cried, and soared upward to the village. The woman spread her own wings and joined them, and together they flew.

The villagers could not believe what they saw, that the people of the plains could fly, that they people of the plains were better then they were. But the people of the plains were not vindictive, and they shared the secret of flight with the villagers, too. And forever after, the people of the village and the people of the plains soared together in the skies above the plateau.

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