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Michael Wayne

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The Emperor's Lament
By Michael Wayne
Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Michael Wayne
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· Excerpt from The Idealist
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Prologue to "The Idealist"... going live on July 8

            Great consideration was given to this process of creating such an empire. An abundance of time passing over the collection of every detail. Was it's creation what I wanted, or did it simply need to be done? A curious gambit, I chose, in my method. To shape and craft, in its entirety, the whole of the locale, nary a bit of it on the back of a single subject. To give it form and hope that it would be most suitable for the subjects that were to come. All of my time, all of my energies, all of my very essence... all for them.


            It required cataclysm and rebirth. It necessitated selection and balance. So careful the balance. The scales must only sway, they may never tip, or all may be undone. Each decision leading through to an endlessly increasing series of alternative ends. Were I not so resolute, I could have let the process skew recklessly out of control. I persisted, placing my mark upon each waypoint along this road toward my triumph. A self-sustaining paradise for those given to live within its balances. We would nourish each other, Emperor and subject, equally until the end of my days.


            I placed the final stone. I cultivated the last garden. I surveyed meticulously to the farthest reaches and back again. If there were a creation more grand, it may not yet have been even conceived. Satisfied in all that now lay before me, I was ready for the celebration of my work to begin. Slowly, and with the most delicate care, I began to invite subjects into my realm. Their caution, I greeted warmly, as we both stood new to one another. I was willing to give them all the time they needed to make the determination that this was indeed a realm worth inhabiting. They scurried about, investigating every aspect of my labors. I watched each in the best manner I could, making subtle adjustments to suit their needs. I had an abundance of patience in the early days, and was thoroughly contented to watch as they sampled the plethora of resources I provided.


            After seeing all that was and the promise of what may come, my newly invited guests chose to become subjects of this mighty realm. I was overcome with joy. I watched gleefully as they diversified and flourished. My efforts to create a balanced home, leaving no one to exclusion, were a resounding success. I took gratification in their consumption as they toiled in it to maintain the precious balance. Where they had needs, I provided willingly. Where I had needs they returned in kind. Time itself marched slowly through this period as even it, unbiased and distant, appeared to savor the slow progression from empty state to glorious empire.


            As the growth of the empire expanded, so too did the capability and complexity of my subjects. Their diversity lent itself to an increase in self reliance amongst the newly forming sub-communities, and in turn, competition and cooperation. While the competition between factions was sometimes fierce, the cooperation between others maintained the fragile balance needed for the empire to thrive. Oh and thrive it did! All subject now great and small had found their place here. I was humbled by the beauty created by the grace with which my subjects, in their respect for my creation, now proliferated across my lands. They had taken long consideration, exercised every caution, but through great courage and strength, had succeeded in stretching out to every boundary to make their home. They had more to take pride in than I, their Emperor, could have ordained in my wildest imaginations. I was prepared to declare this empire a success.


            Then... a curious thing happened.


            One faction began to grow in power, out of balance with the others. It did so first by happenstance, and I found the curiosity of it intriguing. Over time they correlated the happenstances and evolved them into intentions. Cunning, these subjects were, and rapid was the pace at which they were learning that their cunning was unique. They cultivated it to their own advantage and in its early stage, it still remained within the bounds of the maintenance of the balance. As more time passed, however, their advantage was moving precariously close to the edge of the scales. They were unaware that they were beginning to cause them to tip.


            Was intervention on my part now being called upon? Could my intervention itself cause a greater shift than what would take place through the course of natural events? What if ambivalence would see the crumbling of the empire? What if benevolence pushed the balance back too far in the other direction? What if vengeance pulled the scales over entirely? What kind of Emperor would I be? What kind of Emperor should I be?


            I weighed the every detail of my dilemma. The consequence of any action would be colossal as the complexity of the empire was now vast. The consequence of inaction could also lead to ruin. In the beginning, and by my intent, I placed myself apart from my subjects as unique. Caretaker, benefactor, patron... that was to be my station. To provide for and support and govern the fate of my empire in obscurity, yet all encompassing. Of all the great care and conscience I placed into its creation, I never once imagined myself to be found in such a position. Adjudicator.


            When I put it to myself in that term, my decision became readily apparent. No, I would not intervene. To do so would be in stark contrast to and a vile displacement of the balance. So heavy would be my introduction, and I could not by the nature of what I was doing, place myself directly at the center. My interference would be a force of imbalance unlike any that had come before. I reasoned that it would not be just to allow a faction to grow and then summarily pass judgment on the nature of what they could become simply for my own comfort. Emperor or no, imposing my will upon them would only provide a reflection into my own selfishness. It would negate all of the selflessness I have bled into the foundation of this empire. I will not shake that foundation merely to cause one faction to tremble. I will maintain my distance. I will leave them alone. I will not intercede.


            My mistake.


            This faction rapidly developed characteristics unlike any other. They used their cunning now to not only satisfy their basic needs, but to supply their own, new forms of comfort. They began to no longer take their comfort in the empire, but now from it. They gathered more resources than they needed, and stored them as though I would not provide. They vanquished other factions, not for need of their own expansion, rather simply for entertainment. They did not replace what they removed. They did not give in equal part to what they had received. They did not reciprocate the cooperation given freely to them by the other factions. They did not seem to notice, or care...


            Then this faction presented yet again, another curiosity.


            They had propagated across the entire empire and having done so began to promulgate something that until that moment I believed was never to be discovered. It was astonishing to watch. Again I was mystified by this faction and their seemingly limitless capacity for learning and development. I was also mortified by what they had uncovered. They had developed Ideals.


            Ideals require faith. These ideals were not given unto them by me. Had they dispatched their basic faith in me in favor of these new edicts that were racing across the lands of the empire like wildfire?


            I opted again, behind the same principle I had rationalized once before, to merely observe.


            These ideals seemed to form in the central settlements of this faction in all corners of the empire. Each member of the faction would spread the ideal to the nearest member of its kind and the recipient of this new knowledge would repeat the process ad infinitum. That is until inevitably, two subjects met and found that each had a different story to tell. Instead of listening, instead of sharing, instead of lending any credence to the merit of each other's tale, they closed their ears and their minds to one another. They could not agree to disagree. This in turn led to the closing of their fists as well.


            It was unspeakable, unthinkable, unwatchable... but I as their Emperor could not deem it unforgivable. I was forced to lay silent as the mightiest faction in my empire let their derision explode into division. Though they were all once as one, and in my heart remained as such, they had sequestered themselves into quarrelsome nations. They began to spill rivers of their own blood in defense of their ideals. Ideals, when observed from my vantage point, that were so similar that they were barely discernible from one another. Ideals so similar that they could easily be intermingled to promote harmony and preserve the balance. Instead they chose animosity. Instead they chose discord. Instead they chose war.


            It was not long before they laid down lines to claim the lands. Upon those lines they drew up banners and sent warning to their neighbor not to cross. They would make displays of their respective might by placing the strongest amongst them at the edge of their newly defined boundaries, taunting their mirror image, daring it to step over. It appeared to me for a short time that this segregation would be their endgame, that they had now developed the intellect to recognize the relative safety within their borders. They would be free to continue to cultivate their own individual ideals to whatever end they saw fit. While it was not the vision I had in the beginning, it was a result I could bear as long as it would fortify the balance. I thought they could remain content in this new order they had established. How could I have been so foolish...?


            They grew restless. They grew resentful. They grew intolerant. They drew up arms and set their banners forth. They rose great armies and enslaved lesser subjects. They set upon to march, to conquer, to subjugate... themselves? It made no sense. They had lost sight of the fact that once, in recent memory, the whole of the empire was theirs to roam safely and freely. There was no need for this. What was once a beautiful and perhaps the grandest of all the factions in the empire had taken to its own genocide? For what purpose and to what end? They could not possibly be engaging in such staggering conflict over a difference in ideals... could they?


            Time, which had once been languidly hanging about, captivated by the harmony that was beheld here, had now accelerated away from this place. Even in its infinite impartiality, it could no longer bear witness to the atrocities that were unfolding. It's rapid recession of intent unleashed it's effect throughout the empire. The various nations abilities to cause harm, not only to one another, but to the foundations of the empire itself, were growing exponentially. They were developing new methods of harvesting resources, new methods of traversing the lands and seas at unnatural speeds, new weapons of destruction so diabolical, that even their own inventors feared them.


            I could do nothing but watch. They now had the power to instantly and irrevocably change the face of the empire I labored for so long and so hard to build. Their faith in me long since misplaced, I was becoming supplanted. Not by aggression, but by omission. Long since passed were the days of balance. They were overthrowing me in the most humbling and demeaning manner imaginable. Self-righteous disregard. I had rendered myself impotent by my previous inaction. I could do nothing but watch.


            The raping of the lands for their comforts and their conflicts bore me scars. The hubris of their belief that they could sustain themselves without my governance bore me anguish. The abuse of what had been my creation bore me pain. 


            Where did I go wrong? How did I let it come to this?


            They had become the first and only faction to develop the capability of removing themselves from the empire. Not by traversing great distance, but by their own self imposed extinction, and if they were to do so, they would likely take many if not all of the other factions with them. Helpless and harmless were the other subjects against the singular power that had now risen to proclaim this empire, my empire, their own.


            They rationalized their intentions as being for self preservation. They had forgotten that it was the path of their own choosing that led them to have even the concern for the preservation of their faction. I, their Emperor, had provided for that concern for all of my subjects long before they discovered their own cunning. Throughout the time that my empire contained it's subjects, I had provided a bounty of riches for all. They had forgotten that past. They remained blissfully ignorant of their impact on the present. They had little, if any, regard for their future.


            It is with great sorrow that I look upon an empire once filled with beauty and grace.  I grieve for the days in which the balance was maintained. I lament over my disgrace as their once and proud Emperor.


            I have no resources left to give. The well has run dry. They have left but two options and I must make a choice.


            To let them continue, racing down their chosen path, and see if they can make right what they have so carelessly wronged.


            To intervene, to strip the empire bare, back to its foundation, and begin again.


            I haven't the time I once had in the beginning, they have forced this decision upon me now. I must base my decision on few quickly chosen factors. What do I look upon to make the greatest decision since the first?


            I have compassion for them, their plight had begun by their very addition to my empire.


            I have concern for them, for all their might, in my mind they are still my subjects.


            I do not have pity for them, as they could have chosen to remain within the balance.


            I do not have respect for them, for that is something you must give in order to get.


            I do not hate them... yet.


            I stand on the precipice of a bottomless canyon at the base of a endless mountain. Charity and Wrath stand beside me. I can only draw wisdom from one and that wisdom will become the shape of this empire for all time. Which do I choose?


            Which would you choose?







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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 7/7/2014
holds reader interest, well done
Reviewed by Diana Legun 6/8/2012
"They had forgotten that it was the path of their own choosing that led them to have even the concern for the preservation of their faction." Greatly powerful sentence. The whole write is powerful, poignant, and pitiful. This deliverance is a stunning portrait with each and every facial detail recognizable. Reading this I feel shock of truth, guilty by association, quaisi-empowered to actually vote by individual action choices, disempowered by potential voting making any difference, frightened by the Voice's choices, both ending in The End. Magnificent piece of writing. ~~ Diana

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