The slaves walked slowly, one after the other, and each bore a polished stone. Four columns of slaves, each one and a half kilometers in length, stretched from the stone polishers to the spot where the construction of the fort city had begun. Sentries guarded the columns, with one armed sentry soldier assigned to each ten slaves. At some distance from the walking slaves, on the summit of a thirteen-meter high, man-made mountain of polished stone, sat Cracy, one of the high priests; for four months now, he had been silently observing all that transpired. No one distracted him. No one dared interrupt his reflection with so much as a glance. The slaves and the guards perceived the man-made mountain with the throne at its summit as an integral feature of the landscape. And the person – now sitting motionless on the throne, now strolling across the open area at the summit – attracted no one’s attention. Cracy had set himself a goal: he would
reconstruct the government, fortify the priests’ power for a millennium to come, bring all the people of the Earth under their control and turn all of them, including the rulers of governments, into slaves of the priests.
* * *
One day Cracy came down from the mountain, leaving his double behind him on the throne. The priest changed his clothing and removed his wig. Then he ordered the leader of the sentries to shackle him in chains like a simple slave and put him into the column behind a strong, young slave by the name of Nard. Peering into the faces of the slaves, Cracy noticed that this young
man’s gaze was not wandering or distant like those of many others, but rather, inquisitive and calculating. Nard’s face was at turns focused and thoughtful, or agitated. “That means he’s conjuring up some kind of plan,” the priest concluded, but he wanted to ascertain how accurate his observation might be. For two days Cracy followed Nard, silently hauling stones, sitting next to him at meals and sleeping in the bunk next to his. On the third night, as soon as the command “Sleep” had been given, Cracy turned to the young slave, and in a whisper full of despair and bitterness, he uttered a question, addressed to no one in particular:
lamps, they gleamed.
“It won’t go on this way for long. I’m working out a plan. And you can be part of it, too, old man,” the young slave whispered.
“What kind of plan?” the priest asked indifferently, sighing.
Nard began to explain, heatedly and confidently:
“You, old man, and I and all of us – before long we’ll be free men instead of slaves. Count them up, old man: there’s one sentry for each ten slaves. And there’s only one sentry for the fifteen female slaves who do cooking and sewing. If we all attack the sentries at an appointed time, then we’ll conquer them. Even though they’re armed and we’re shackled in chains. It’s ten of us to one of them, and we can use the chains as weapons, too, and use them to defend ourselves from the blows of their swords. We’ll disarm all the sentries, tie them up and take control of their weapons.”
“Ah, young man,” said Cracy, sighing once more, and then he apathetically replied:
“You haven’t thought your plan through: it’s possible to disarm the sentries guarding us, but the ruler will quickly send new ones, perhaps even an entire army, and they’ll kill the rebellious slaves.”
“I’ve thought about that, too, old man. We’ll have to pick a time when the army won’t be around. And that time is coming. We can all see they’re readying the army for a campaign. They’re gathering provisions for a three month trip. That means that in three months, the army will arrive at its destination and engage in combat. It will be weakened by the battle, but it will emerge victorious and will seize a great number of new slaves. New barracks are already being built for them. We will need to begin disarming the sentries as soon as our ruler’s army enters into battle with the other army. It will take messengers a month to deliver the message that they need to return immediately. It will take the weakened army no less than three months to return. In the space of these four months we’ll be able to ready ourselves to meet them. There will be no fewer of us than there are soldiers in the army. When the captured slaves see what’s happened, they’ll want to
side with us. I’ve planned everything out just right, old man.”
The priest answered, now in an encouraging tone, “It’s true, young man, with your plan and your thoughts, you can disarm the sentries and gain victory over the army.” And then he added, “But what will the slaves do next, and what will happen to the rulers, the sentries and the soldiers?”
“I haven’t given that much thought. One thing has occurred to me so far: all who were once slaves will be non-slaves. All who today are nonslaves will be slaves,” Nard answered somewhat tentatively, as if thinking out loud.
“And what about the priests? Tell me, young one, once you attain victory, will you count the priests as slaves or non-slaves?”
“The priests? I haven’t given that much thought, either. But what I would suggest at the moment is this: let the priests remain as they are. Slaves and rulers alike listen to them. They may be difficult to understand at times, but I think they’re harmless. Let them go ahead and tell us about the gods, but we ourselves know the best way to live our lives.”
“The best way, that’s good,” the priest answered and pretended that he was terribly sleepy.
But Cracy did not sleep at all that night. He pondered. “Of course,” thought Cracy, “the easiest thing to do would be to inform the ruler of this plot and seize the young slave. He’s clearly the main source of inspiration for the others. But that wouldn’t solve the problem. The slaves will always have the desire to be free from slavery. New leaders will appear, and new plans will be developed, and since that’s the case, the main threat to the State will always come from inside the State.”
A task lay before Cracy: to develop a plan for enslaving the entire world. He understood that it would be impossible to achieve this goal through physical force alone. He would need to exert psychological influence on each person, on entire peoples. He would need to transform people’s thinking and instill in everyone the idea that slavery was, in fact, the greatest good. He’d need to set in motion a self-perpetuating program that would cause entire peoples to feel disoriented spatially, temporally and conceptually. But most importantly, disoriented in terms of their normal
perception of reality. Cracy’s thought worked faster and faster, and he no longer felt his body or the heavy shackles on his hands and feet. And suddenly, the program arose, like a flash of lightning. He didn’t yet know the details, and he couldn’t yet explain it, but he could already sense it, and it was astounding in its scale. Cracy felt like the absolute ruler of the world.
“An unusually fortuitous situation has come about. The slaves have readied a plan for rebellion. It’s rational, this plan, and it’s clear it could lead to a result that would be positive for them in the short run. But with just a few phrases, I will turn not just them – but the descendants of today’s slaves too, and even all the earth’s rulers, too – into slaves. I’ll force them all to be slaves for thousands of years to come.”
In the morning, when Cracy gave the signal, the head of security removed his shackles. And right away, the next day, he invited the remaining priests and the pharaoh to his observation platform. Cracy began his speech to those who had assembled:
“No one is to write down or pass on what you are about to hear. No walls surround us, and no one aside from you shall hear my words. I have conceived a way of turning all people living on the Earth into slaves of our pharaoh. This is something that is impossible to achieve even with the help of countless troops and exhausting wars. Yet I shall achieve it with but a few sentences. Once they have been pronounced, only two days will pass, and then you will see how the world will begin to change. Look: down below us, long columns of slaves shackled in chains are carrying one stone each. They’re guarded by a multitude of soldiers. The more slaves there are, the better it is for the government. That’s the way we have always seen it. But the more slaves there are, the more we end up fearing their rebellion. We increase security. We are forced to feed our slaves well, because otherwise they’ll be unable to do this hard physical labor. Even so, they are lazy and inclined to rebellion. Look how slowly they move, but the sentry has grown lazy. He’s not urging them on with the cat o’ nine tails, and he’s not beating even the strong and healthy slaves. But soon they’ll be moving much faster. They will need no guards. The sentries, too, will become slaves. Here is how we can achieve this. Today at sunset, let the heralds issue the pharaoh’s decree, which will declare: “With the dawn of the new day, all slaves will be granted complete freedom. For each stone that he delivers to the city, each free man will receive one gold coin. The coins can be exchanged for food, clothing, shelter, a palace in the city, and for the city itself. From this day forward, you are free citizens.”
When the priests grasped the full import of what Cracy had said, one of them, the oldest among them, uttered these words:
“You are a demon, Cracy. Your conception will enshroud a great number of the earth’s peoples in demonism.”
“So let it be said that I am a demon. And let it be, that in the future, people will call this conception of mine democracy.”
* * *
At sunset the decree was issued to the slaves. They were astounded, and many were unable to sleep that night, as they contemplated their new and happy life. The next morning the priests and the pharaoh once again ascended to the platform atop the man-made mountain. They could not have imagined the scene they now saw before them. Thousands of people, former slaves, were racing against each other to haul the very same stones as before. Many, the sweat streaming off them, were carrying two stones each. Others, carrying one stone, were running along, kicking up the dust. There were also several sentries hauling stones. These people, who now thought of themselves as free – after all, their chains had been removed – were striving
to acquire as many of the coins they were lusting after as possible, so that they could build their happy lives. Cracy spent a few more months on his platform, gazing with satisfaction at what was transpiring below. The changes were immense. Some of the slaves had united into small groups and constructed carts. After loading these carts to the top with stones, they’d push them along,
streaming with sweat.
“They will invent still more devices,” Cracy thought to himself with satisfaction. “Why, even now, people have begun providing domestic services: they deliver water and food. Some of the slaves eat on the go, not wanting to spend time going back to the barracks to eat, and they pay those who bring them food out of the coins they earn. And look! Healers have appeared, too. They treat those who are ailing on the go, and they, too, receive coins. And they’ve chosen traffic controllers. Soon they’ll choose bosses and judges for themselves. Fine, let them do that. After all, they
consider themselves free, but what’s at the core of it hasn’t changed: they’re still hauling stones…”
And they have been running this way through the millennia, in the dust, streaming with sweat, hauling stones. And even today these slaves’ descendants continue their senseless running…
* * *
“Anastasia, I imagine you’re talking about regular workers here? I suppose I can I agree with that. But you can’t put business managers and
bureaucrats and entrepreneurs into the slave category.”
“Do you see any difference between them, Vladimir? If you do, then what is it?”
“Well, some work and haul stones, like slaves. Others direct the hauling, or to put it in modern terms, they direct the production process.”
“But really, directing is also work, and often somewhat more complex than the work slaves do when they haul stones.”
“Well, I guess, yes, entrepreneurs have to think a bit more. Their thoughts are occupied by work from morning ‘til night. So, wait, then that means that the pharaoh and the president and the chancellor are also slaves?”
“Yes, it does. The priests who committed that ruinous act became slaves, too.”
“But if you have slaves, then you have to have slave owners, too. Who are they? If you don’t even count the priests as owners.”
“The slave owner is the artificial world created by people. And the sentries – they sit right inside most people, lashing them with cats o’ nine tails and forcing them to earn coins.”
“Well, then we’re left with a sad picture, with no way out. Over the past millennia, entire empires have risen and vanished, religions and laws have changed, but in essence, nothing has changed: man’s remained a slave, just the way he was before. Is there really no way we can remedy this situation?”
“How? And who is capable of doing it?”
“What do you mean, an image? What kind?”
“An image that will present a different scenario for people. Judge for yourself, Vladimir. The people who control today’s world by means of money think that only power and money can bring a person happiness. And they’re managing to convince the majority of people who are striving to earn coins that this is so. But the victors in this senseless race often suffer, very often. They attain some illusory stature and then, all the more keenly than other people, they sense the utter meaninglessness of their lives. I’m going to show you a scene from the future, and you can tell people about it. May it become a reality.”
Volume VIII, part 1
of The Ringing Cedars of Russia book series