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The Roach Master

by StarFields


Not long ago at all, there was a man who had been put into a grim and most horrendous prison for holding views quite contrary to what men in that land were supposed to be holding

Because of his views and because he would not change them, nor stop talking about them, and even other prisoners might be listening and might start to think the wrong things in return, he was kept in a very small cell all by himself, deep, deep in the dungeon cellars, deep below the main prison towering up above.

Here, the sun never shone and there were few sounds; those that were, were far away and deeply distorted.

Here, the man and his views were all alone, and it was a hard time, a very hard time, which grew harder still with each hungry, cold and painful day or night that passed.

It was here that the man began to make friends with the only other living creatures he could find.

Those were the cockroaches who lived in the cellar too; and he would keep a part of his meagre portions of stale slop which wasn't really food at all to feed and train the cockroaches for company and for amusement.

As the years passed by outside in bright spring rains, hot blue gold summers, glorious fire burst autumns and solemn pure white winters, for the man inside, the cockroaches became his world and all there was, and to the others in the prison, even though he never knew or heard of this, he became known as the Roach Master.

But then, so many years beyond the time before which now was all but forgotten, there was a change of rulers in that country and the views the man once held were now no longer deemed to be so dangerous or wicked. Like many others, the man was to be set free; and a special liberator was despatched to fetch him from his dungeon cell and help with his transition into the worlds of here and now.

At first the man did not know what to do or how to speak beyond a mumbling and a clicking, that was his special language he had used to talk to all his roaches all these years, but with some patience, first the liberator got him used to being in the presence of an other, and then to now remember how to speak and talk and understand.

The liberator then encouraged what had been the Roach Master for so long to leave his cell, to step out to the bright and clear beyond the walls, but here, the man held fast and cried, "How can you ask me such a thing! How can I leave my friends behind, my dearest roaches, every one is named and everyone my deeply cherished child, the brothers of my solitude - I must take them with me, you must find a means of transportation, and if this can't be done, then I'm afraid, I cannot go with you."

The liberator was astonished yet they understood and in return replied, "Dear man, please know and do remember that these roaches are but roaches - they seek to feed, they seek to mate and that is all. Once you are gone, they will continue on their way and do as roaches do, with ne'er a thought of you at all - that love and gratitude you hold them is inside yourself, and nowhere else, and you should never let a love become an obstacle to freedom, and unfoldments of the new."

The Roach Master listened, and thought, and cried a little, but he saw the sense and let the roaches go; no sooner had he opened the small cage he had fashioned and expanded with such care across the lonely, bitter years, than all the roaches scuttled off, one by one, until they were all gone and only little scratchings could be heard; they too did fade most soon enough.

The man who was no longer now the Roach Master, but instead was on his way to find a name and new distinction for himself, sighed deeply, shook his head and slowly followed out behind the liberator who was there to steady him against the shock of sunlight, and of bracing wind and clarity.

The liberator took the man in his carriage to the central city, where reparations would be made and bed and food and clothes awaited; but on the journey there, they came across a meadow, beautiful in summer flowers and so green and gold, it made the man's heart glad and he wanted to be there, lie down awhile, and let this beauty aid in his transition and his journey to the life ahead.

They stopped and the liberator was much moved to see the reverence the man displayed and the attention that he gave to grass and weed, to tiny flowers and the earth itself, the way he looked at clouds and skies and to the treelines, and behind him, blue, blue mountains in the distance far away.

They saw another thing, and it was this which made them smile.

A bird, a dove perhaps, came and it took to land quite close, beside the man, who in response, stretched out an arm in invitation. The dove was acquiescent and it came, short flurry of white wings, and settled on his hand.

The man looked at the dove for just a moment, maybe two, and then he raised his arm and made the dove fly free, and high above.



SFX 2004


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