In the moment after Ileana’s statement, there was silence. Then, Razor let out a wordless roar and wheeled away from them. Chess watched, not breathing, as Razor took a single step down the hallway and then turned back toward them again. “Put them in a room!” he shouted at Tez, pointing around wildly with his pistol as people ducked, “and keep them there! I need to go think,” he added with a growl, and stomped off.
Chess looked at Ileana and caught her sharing a glance with Tez. As might be expected, Tez looked surprised. And yet, on his face was an expression that Chess had never seen there before: the hint of a smile.
A few minutes later, they were locked in a small storage room. For a few minutes after that, they stood without speaking. Chess desperately wanted to say something, but what? It was over – their big plan had come crashing down. Now, the only thing they could possibly do was try to find a way to run. But he wondered how they could do that with guards posted outside the door?
Finally, Ileana broke the silence. “I think it’s time to go,” she said quietly.
Sariel gave a loud snorting laugh, but Chess ignored her. He sank to the floor, took a deep breath, and looked up at Ileana. “Okay,” he said, making an attempt to focus on the situation. “We need to get out of this room. And then get away from the compound. How can we do that?”
“Tez,” Ileana answered without hesitation. “We just can’t get caught outside this room.”
“Okay,” Chess repeated, closing his eyes for a moment. “We’re going to need supplies -- food.”
At this, Sariel spoke up. “It is summer. There will be food along the way,” she argued, looking only at Chess. “Medical supplies would be helpful, though, and bottles for water.”
Chess nodded. “Probably our bags will still be on the floor out there. What else do we need?”
“I will get the things from my room,” Sariel answered thoughtfully. “I must also go to the people one last time.” Her eyelids lowered for a moment, her gaze shifting downward. The bruise on her face was turning darker and beginning to swell. But soon, Chess hoped, she would have access to her own medicines.
“I’ll grab my backpack and get what I can from the kitchen,” Chess agreed.
“Forget the canned food,” Ileana suggested. She bounced against the wall as if ready to run now. “Take the nutrition bars. They’re lightweight. They’ll keep us going for a while.”
“Us?” Sariel asked sharply, jerking her head up.
Ileana turned toward her, eyes wide. “Yes, you know I want to come with you,” she said slowly.
“No!” Sariel protested, jumping to her feet in a swirl of skirts. “You can help us get out. You’re in no danger -- we are!”
“But, Sar…” Chess looked at her, bewildered. He could not imagine leaving Ileana behind.
Sariel faced him angrily, one hand on her reddened cheek. “This is not a fairytale for Princess’s amusement.” She pointed agitatedly at Ileana. “Her boyfriend will kill us. And if she runs, he will follow us to the ends of the earth.” She turned back to Ileana. “But you can stay and pacify him.”
Chess got to his feet and frowned at Ileana. “Do you want to leave here and come with us?” he asked gravely. He watched her nod silently, and his spirits lifted. “Then you’re coming.”
“I’ll talk to Tez,” Ileana said in a quiet voice. “You go to the kitchen. Sariel will get her things and go to shelter. We’ll meet…” She glanced at Sariel, who was avoiding her gaze. “We’ll meet up just beyond shelter, under the cover of the trees.” Then, hearing no disagreement, she turned and banged on the door. “I want to talk to Razor!” she shouted into the slab of metal.
The door opened slightly. “He won’t see you right now,” a male voice answered flatly.
Chess watched Ileana sigh in frustration and then bow her head, looking thoughtful. “Right… Then I want to talk to Tez,” she said, as if just coming up with the idea. “Tez will talk to me, at least.”
Five minutes later, Tez opened the door.
Continued next page...
“So this is it,” said Arthur, “we are going to die.”
“Yes,’ said Ford, “except… no! Wait a minute!” He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. “What’s this switch?” he cried.
“What? Where?’ cried Arthur, twisting round.
“No, I was only fooling,” said Ford, “we are going to die after all.”
-The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Perhaps the idea of the evil god who upsets perfectly-ordered creation is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes in mythology, evil is there to test the humans and see if they are truly good. Sometimes, though, there are other reasons given for the existence of opposing forces. In terms of the Egyptian mythology, Joseph Campbell refers to this idea as the “Secret of the Two Partners,” implying that the two opposing gods, Osiris and Set, are actually working together, sort of behind the scenes. And why would a mythology imagine its gods doing something like this? Perhaps it wants its gods to cultivate change and potential improvement in what otherwise would be an unchanging (stagnant? dying?) world.
Human nature seems to resist change, but it happens anyway, bringing both bad and good. And when have we, in our western-world traditions, stories, beliefs, and heroic figures whom we revere, ever been content with an unchanging perfect world? In our stories, we value doing far more than being passive, and striving toward something more than acceptance. Our imaginings of perfection quickly become dystopias: perfect order becomes Nineteen Eighty-four; lives of contentment where all contribute productively to society become Brave New World, lives of perfect ease quickly become the world of The Time Machine, where those who do not work or learn shrink in stature and devolve in intellect to become the Eloi. And although we might not like change in our own lives, nearly all of our stories, quotes, memes, etc. at least give lip service to the value of change, and the possibility that it leads to something better. Perhaps these so-called evil gods are doing what they do to help us?
Death was ever present, because the Numenoreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging.
-The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
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