They began almost immediately as Isaac took control of the Council. Nightmare after nightmare. Strong, vivid, realistic to the point that he would wake up in a cold sweat. The panic they left him in was unreal. He would be woken often by the palpitations or by his own retching breath as he tried desperately to slow his heart rate. It was almost lucky for him that he had no living relatives left to witness his weakness and cowardice. It was just him who was aware of the anxiety and constant state of panic his mind was swimming in.
He had heard whispers from other members of the Council, mostly George, that the rest of the group were prepariang to push him out as leader. They were saying he wasn’t strong enough, he had too much emotion, he cared too much for the People of Erewon and not enough for the survival of this planet. Accusations were being hurled left right and centre. Some were saying Isaac had no respect for Victoria and for the world she had created and the stabilisation she had cemented in Erewon. The accusations were only whispers but Isaac could feel them. They crawled through the walls of the Council Buildings, he could read them on the other Council members’ faces. He knew he didn’t have the respect of the Council, of his elders, of those responsible for life on the planet. And most of all, he knew everything they were saying was right.
He was not confident enough to lead Erewon. He was scared. He was terrified of making a mistake, of fumbling in front of the thousands of people who were eagerly waiting for him to tell them what to do. How was he to know what the next move should be? He was young and the only reason he still had a grip on power was because of Victoria. She had been tutoring him for almost 18 months now, and she made sure everyone knew what she saw in Isaac – herself. But Isaac also knew that one mistake could cost him everything. He was teetering on the precipice, on the edge of a planet that had become so difficult to govern that its own Council were out for blood.
Isaac lay awake for the next few hours until the sun rolled over the hills and the light pierced through the blinds in his modest home. He lay in complete silence staring straight up at the ceiling waiting for the answer to present itself to him. He racked his brain for a solution to the dimming Heart of Erewon, but still could not bring himself to accept that he would be responsible for the murder of people on this planet. What was he meant to suggest? An age limit? Everyone that hits the age of 50 has to walk into the glowing pit and sacrifice themselves? It sounded absurd. Besides, if he were to suggest the age of 50 as a limit, that would be the majority of his Council gone in one fell swoop. He quietly laughed to himself at the thought of half of his Council having to throw themselves into the flames. There certainly would be fewer voices for him to contend with if that were the case.
Isaac knew that if he were to go into another Council meeting without a suggestion that would be accepted by the majority of the members, his time would be very limited as leader. He also knew that an age limit was not the answer. And just as he lay there and accepted that he was not fit for leader, it came to him.
“George, I need you. Come in here for a minute”.
George stopped his conversation abruptly; nodded to those he was talking to, and followed Isaac into his office.
“I’ve been thinking. I think I’ve come up with a solution. And it doesn’t involve murdering innocent members of our society”, Isaac said, as he heaved an official looking, red leather-bound folder onto the desk in front of him.
George’s eyes narrowed as he sat slowly in the chair opposite Isaac.
Isaac heaved open the red file and said to George, “These are the Laws of Erewon and an extensive list of every single person who has failed to abide by them. We are going to sustain our planet by sacrificing not innocent people, but guilty people.”
George didn’t respond immediately. He sat quietly, thumbing through the pages of the Laws of Erewon. He closed the file and placed his hand gently on top of the cover. The Official Laws of Erewon were reasonably basic. There were only five as petty crimes and questions of morality were not included. They hadn’t been amended or reviewed since the stabilisation of the planet as neither the People of Erewon or the Council felt it was necessary. The 5 Laws that were in place had successfully kept peace and order up until now, so they had remained exactly as they had been written. As it stood, the five Laws or Dictums as they were often referred to, encompassed murder, rape, serious theft, treason and serious harm to living beings.
“I understand. So those who commit crimes covered by the Dictums will enter the pits at the Heart of the planet before their ‘time’?” offered George.
Isaac merely nodded and waited for further response from his companion.
“And how many of our People actually break these laws, Isaac?” It was an honest question. The Population of Erewon were also known as being quite content with all that they had. Crime was not a common occurrence on the Planet.
“Last year we had a rise in cases of crime. Around three per cent of our population broke one of our five laws and were imprisoned in the grounds of the Council buildings. Three per cent of our population as it stands today would be roughly 690,000 people. I’ll be honest, George, I’m not too sure how many people the Heart will need, but it needs something, anything. We have to start somewhere. The ages of those that break the laws varies widely – I’m hoping quantity can outweigh quality. We will release the news to the Council members first, then the People of Erewon in a public hearing. I need you onside for this George.” Isaac waited hopefully for a response. He was still not sure in his gut that this was the right decision, but he felt cornered by the needs of the planet and his own morality. This was his only move.
He stood, braced for the reaction of the crowd, preparing himself to give the verdict of the Council. He broadened his shoulders, rooted his feet to the ground and took a deep breath in as he tapped the microphone that was hanging in front of his face. Be honest. Be calm. Be strong. He repeated the mantra as the crowd began to settle in front of him. He had rehearsed this speech a thousand times and knew exactly what he needed to stay. He begun, just as he had earlier that day when talking to George.
“Good morning”, the microphone crackled into life as the sound of Isaac’s voice spilled over the mass of people.
“I have brought you all here today as a matter of urgency. Our great planet, Erewon, is in trouble. The fire’s at the Heart of our core are dimming and fading and we cannot sustain them for much longer unless we pull together as the great planet that I know we are.” Pause, let it sink in. Let them realise there is a problem that we need to tackle.
“Up until now, the needs and affairs of the running of this great planet have been kept from you all. The Council have made the decisions quietly and you have gone about your lives in the dark. Today, that changes. Erewon respects us all as individuals and so we shall respect the planet together, as equals.” Make them think they are being rewarded, being brought into the fold. They now have respect from you and you can now demand it from them. Isaac repeated what George had said to him earlier that day in his head to keep his nerves under control. Shuffle your papers, give them a chance to take in what you’re saying to them. Don’t rush. Remain confident. Breathe.
“We need to come up with another way of sustaining our planet. As you know already, when we ‘come of age’ we give ourselves back to the earth as we have always done. This great tradition will not change. However, it is no longer enough to keep the fires burning. As our planet expands, so do its needs. And who knows what will happen if we cease to feed the Heart.” Pause for effect. Let the gravity of the situation sink in. You need them on side, or they will rebel.
Inhale. It’s now or never, just say it. Exhale.
“It has been decided that from today, those who break the Five Dictums of our planet will sacrifice the rest of their time and enter the Heart prematurely as punishment. As you know, the Five Dictums are the most severe of all crimes that can be committed on Erewon. I feel that early sacrifice to sustain this planet and you, the People, is fair punishment for such crimes. This is effective immediately. To help us implement this, the Council are putting together Dictum Enforcement Officers. They will guard and protect our safety and at the same time, will be responsible for bringing those in who have broken these laws.”
Nothing. No reaction. The People stood and they stared. There was no whispering, nothing.
“This is a dawning of a new age for Erewon. We must stay strong and we must fight to keep the Heart burning.”
Isaac stopped. He stared out over the audience that were mirroring his silence. What were they thinking? He could hear George in his head again – stay strong, stay forceful. If you are confident that this is the right choice, they will follow as they always have done.
Isaac hoped beyond all hope that this would be true. The People of Erewon had been conditioned from day one to accept authority and the ruling and judgement of the Council. He prayed that this would continue now.
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