The Diadem

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I sat on the roadside, alongside many others, watching a city on the brink of collapse.

The night was dark but the earth had a deep orange glow to it, illuminating everything within sight.

I was surrounded by hypocrites. People of no real passion or purpose. Their eyes spoke of what their mouths wouldn’t reveal; stories of hatred, envy, and evil. And with those eyes they shot the sliest looks straight at me, with wicked pretentious grins covering their faces.

They all seemed the same, really. Though their faces differed, their eyes were unified.

Feeling quite uncomfortable, I stood up and began to walk away from the crowd, only to be stopped by someone with a grin extending from one side of his face to the other. Pearly teeth shone in front of me, and a happy look, meant to appear sincere, was flashed my way. His eyes were trying to look genuine, yet the look he had was thought out and calculated.

“Hello, my friend. How are you?”

I took a moment, trying to get hold of the situation. I always loved to be a step ahead of the person I’m talking to, and what better way to do that than to anticipate their motives?

“I’m fine. Do I know you?”

He smiled. “Why, of course you don’t! I’m here to tell you that you had won a wonderful, wonderful prize. A sweepstake.”

“But I didn’t participate in any sweepstake. You have the wrong guy.” I was stuck in the grounds between confusion and disinterest.

“Well, your name is right here with me. Someone must have entered it in the sweepstake. Consider this your lucky day, though.”

Reaching into a worn out brown satchel, he pulled out an object covered with a soft dirty piece of cloth. “Your prize, sir.”

I removed the cloth, almost coldly, only to feel my heart pound faster once I laid eyes upon the beautiful article that I held in my hand.

It was a magnificent diamond diadem. Its edges glistened with the orange glow of the world, giving out a blend of blue and orange dancing together in allure. Its touch made my skin feel blessed, and my blood feel colder. It almost rung with a sound so enthralling, you instantly entered a dreamlike state.

While admiring the artifact, I almost didn’t notice the mobs of people gathering behind me; the same people who had previously held the sly looks and serpentine tongues. Only now, their eyes shone with wonder, and their tongues turned golden. Smiles replaced the apparent wickedness on their faces, as they stood behind me, mute.

“We only require of you to do a walk through this city, displaying to people what you had won,” said the man. “You are now one of the most powerful beings around here. Make sure that you, and others, know that.”

He handed me his satchel and retreated into the mob that was following me. Within the satchel were many small diamonds, glittering gently.

Without another word, I began walking forth, with an ever-increasing mob of people following my every step.

Something felt weird, however. The city was in a worse state than it had ever been. The buildings were crumbling and falling into ruin. Towers were demolished whole, and random pieces of scrap metal and burnt wood filled the horizon. The orange glow from within the earth shone brighter than ever, until the world looked like a ball of flames.

I looked beneath me, only to realize, to my shock, that I’d been walking on a mountain of dead bodies all along. Within these bodies were souls, trapped inside the mountain of inanimate beings who had been brutally killed, and finding no escape whatsoever. Those souls shone a deep orange.

The city wasn’t on the brink of collapse, it was actually war torn.

… And then I saw one of the most horrible sights a human could witness.

Children, around seven of them, digging their own graves; small rectangular spaces within the tiny bits of soil they could actually find. They were preparing themselves to be housed within those graves for the rest of eternity.

Some were done digging, and simply stood motionless within the holes, looking down at their feet. Their black eyes saw nothing but sorrow.

I took out the satchel and grabbed a few diamonds from within. “Please,” I approached one of the children. “Take this. Start over. Do not despair.”

He remained motionless, as though I hadn’t been there. For all I could tell, that child was already good as dead.

“They can sense the blood covering your diamonds,” a woman’s voice echoed loudly, filling the whole world. She spoke from nowhere, yet her voice echoed everywhere.

“It can help them,” I refuted.

“Look behind them. What do you see?”

There was a huge wall. Nothing significant about it struck my attention. It even had faces drawn badly all over it, and looked battered to the core.

“There’s nothing. Just a wall.”

“Do you see those faces? They are humans, all of them. Real people. This wall is called the wall of sorrow; you can tell from the way they’re frowning. More people are added here every minute. People who have paid the price of others’ crimes. People who have suffered from the authority of the powerful. People with families forever lost, and friends forever gone. They look at you, and all they see is just another powerful man, ready to create havoc. They can see you, and hear you. They’re observing you. They may look like drawings but they are very aware of your presence here.”

“I can help them, as I will.”

Not awaiting a response, I began wiping out the frowns drawn on those faces, and drew very lousy smiles instead. But if only it were that simple…

“You realize it does not last, don’t you? The will to help others and stand with them. That diadem you have is therapeutic to an extent. It purifies your soul and cleanses you from what is good, until all that is left is what you powerful people call humane purity; the absence of altruism, and the ascend of the selfish needs. Soon enough, only you will matter. I have seen.. WE have seen, all kinds of people pass by this wall, some paying us no concern, some falsely claiming they mean to help, and some taking the necessary steps to help us, only to find themselves, eventually, on the wall. People like you will always claim to look at us with sympathetic eyes, but we are weak. Hence, we are insignificant. Some people see us as machines, others as currency. No one sees the human in us. Spare us your claims, and leave while you still could. With that diadem, your humanity is as good as gone.”

“I pride myself with my intelligence,” I argued. “My control over my mind and thoughts isn’t something I’m willing to lose, nor will I ever lose it. You offend me with the claims you’re throwing my way.”

“You are stupid; you are petty.” 

I could feel the blood within my veins boiling, as I threw the satchel at the wall. “I don’t know who you are, or where you’re addressing me from, but dare disrespect me once more and you will regret it. I am neither stupid nor petty, you naive coward.”

“Shame, how blind you can be to your own reality; how power whispers its words of comfort into your ears, and shapes you into the person you are now. The biggest irony is that you are ever convinced with your own humanity. You feel no guilt for crimes you’ve committed; crimes you refuse to believe or admit to. Pathetic, shameful, blind. I didn’t expect much, yet I am very disappointed.”

“YOU DO NOT KNO-“

“Look behind you, you ‘noble’ man. You walked here with a crowd of people after seducing them with your diadem, but now all you see are piles of dead bodies stacked behind you. These people are now dead. Did you notice that? Did you witness their suffering as they died protecting you from your foes, while fighting for a cause they had never believed in? Did you notice the sorrowful faces being added to the wall? Did you even realize that the ones you forcibly caused to smile began frowning the moment you blinked? Or were you too busy fighting me to clear your name and prove your greatness?”

“Do not play on my guilt, woman. Those people following me were horrible people to begin with; snickering at others, preying on the weak, causing harm. They were envious, full of hatred, and possessed by anger. They are not victims of my actions.”

“You poor, poor soul.” Her voice sounded triumphant and full of mockery. “I never did claim that we were the good guys.” 

The faces in the wall began blinking. Big smiles occupied their guise, as they began slowly walking out of the wall; hundreds and hundreds of them, approaching me with knives in their drawn hands. 

“We do not forgive. We do not relent.” 

 

 

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