This is from an assignment for a creative writing class. Comments and suggestions welcome!
|Leaning against his staff, Malachi nearly falls asleep. He jerks awake and looks around to see if anyone has seen him doze off. Quickly checking his watch, he sighs relief as he sees he only dozed for a few seconds. A few nights ago, he was found napping against the wall. He’d fallen asleep for nearly an hour before being discovered by the patrol.
This time of year, it was especially hard to stay awake since it’s starting to get a bit colder. Over the last two summers Malachi got to know the guards and how things worked by bringing coffee and sweets or sandwiches to them on both day and night shifts. He’s wanted to join them since he was a little kid.
On this night, he reminds himself, he needs to stay alert. There have been sightings of both wolves and thieves from neighboring tribes in the area. The sheep in this section are most vulnerable because the wall is crumbling and there hasn’t been any concerted effort to fix it.
Malachi climbs up on a sturdy part of the wall, peering out into the darkness. He shouts, “Hey! Get out of here!” This is enough to let any interlopers know of his presence even if he can’t see anyone out there. Looking back, he can barely see the brown woolen sheep as they stir from his yelling.
“They’ll settle back down in a bit,” he says as he fishes around in his pouch for the crackers he brought along for a snack. His stomach is aching a bit.
There’s a rustling sound. Perhaps the wind; perhaps someone or something moving around. Flipping on his flashlight he peers through the dark. If it’s wolves, the light will reflect off their eyes. People are a different story.
Nervous, he continues to survey the area. Slowly sweeping his light from left to right, close and then far, and then back again. Munching on his crackers he remembers how it used to be when there were more guards and the wall was kept up.
He jumps at the sound of Jebediah speaking. “Hey, M. How’s it going out here?”
“Fine,” says Malachi. “I thought I heard something, but I’ve done a sweep and can’t find anything. Prolly just the wind.”
“How you set for the night on coffee and snacks? It’s going to be a long night,” says Jebediah.
“I’ve got my crackers and a dinner roll with ham. Plus, a thermos over there with coffee.” Malachi pauses and then asks, “Any chance we’ll get the budget for more guards or at least lights out here? Maybe fix the wall?”
“Not for a while,” says Jebediah, “They keep slashing the budget and moving the majority of the guards closer to town to make sure the white sheep are safe. I doubt the leaders care about these here. They're the poor sheep.”
The wool on the darker sheep is not as fine as that of the white sheep. These are typically used for making sacks and bags used to store or transport food or products. Clothing is made from the finer white wool and is used for trade with other tribes.
As Malachi and Jebediah move along the wall to check for breaches, they come across an entire section that has collapsed from lack of maintenance. Jebediah makes note of it in his little book, shaking his head slightly.
“Why don’t they fix these sections? Don’t they know the thieves walk right through when no one is around?” says Malachi.
“I don’t think the leaders care. They own white sheep and don’t see any value in the browns,” replies Jebediah. “I honestly think they’d rather give this area up and let another tribe have it. There’s a rumor the chief made a deal with another tribe’s chief to give up the land. Not sure why.”
“But, how can he do that?” asks Malachi. “Isn’t that illegal. The land and the sheep aren’t his to give away.”
“Yeah, but if there’s no one here to guard it, they can just take it. He won’t fight for it,” says Jebediah.
The new chief has turned things upside down in comparison to the old chiefs’ ways. This one has secret deals outside of the tribe that worries other leaders. He won’t answer their questions and often seems to be using his position to enrich himself at the expense of the tribe. In the old days, a chief would make sure that the walls are kept up and the guards are in place. Everyone mattered, but not anymore.
The following evening, as Malachi prepares to head out to his post, there is a knock at the door. His mother answers and calls for him. “Malachi. Jebediah is here. Come on in Jebediah. Would you like something to eat or drink?”
“No thanks. I’ve eaten and I’d hate to get too full. I might fall asleep if I do.” he says.
“Hey Jebediah. What’s going on? I was just getting ready to head out.” says Malachi.
“Change in plans tonight. We’re moving you closer to town.”
Malachi asks, “But why? Is someone else taking my post out in the far section?”
“Nope. There were reports of wolves and even some tents where another tribe has set up camp nearby. The leaders say they don’t want any guards to get hurt, so they’re moving everyone back,” Jebediah replies with a roll of his eyes.
“Isn’t that the whole reason we’re out there? To keep them back?”
“Listen, kid. I just do as I’m told and tonight, we’re moving back. I’ll walk with you and show you where you’re posted tonight.”
As Jebediah and Malachi walk together towards the main guard post they talk about the changes that have come about since the new Chief was elected. The changes that have been made are far-reaching and no one seems to understand why they’re being made.
Passing by the post, Malachi notices a map on the wall inside. There are strange markings on the section he normally guards. “Hey, wait up. What do those markings mean on the map?” he asks.
Jebediah sighs and says, “I didn’t want to tell you, but it turns out we’re giving that section up.”
“What?” exclaims Malachi. “What about the sheep? What about the land?” His mind now racing as he remembers the conversation from the night before. “This can’t be.” he thinks. “How can they just give up? It’s our land. They’re our sheep. They belong to us; to our tribe, our people.”
“There’s nothing that can be done. The Chief made the decision and that’s how it will be. Our laws give him that right.” said Jebediah.
Fuming, Malachi headed towards his new post for the night. Along the way he overheard elders and housewives talking about the change. Everyone seemed to be in disbelief. When the new Chief has been elected, there were rumors that he had financial ties to other tribes. He’d been making deals for most of his life. And now, it seems those rumors are true. The change means the other tribes won’t be stealing the sheep or the land. Instead, they’ll just take it; without any fight from us.
The following morning the air was tense with anticipation. The news was spreading that the Chief may have made a deal behind the tribal council’s back with the other tribe. The council chair had called for a meeting to investigate and decide what to do next. Though the Chief tried to quash the meeting on technical grounds, the council leaders could call it without his input.
As the meeting was called to order, the news had leaked that there was proof now that the Chief had made a deal. With this new evidence, surely the council could remove the Chief and restore order to the tribe.
“Hear Ye, Hear Ye. All with businesses before the council, step forth and be heard. The special council has been convened and will begin.” said the council guard. As the murmur died down, the council chair stood to address the council and the people.
“Good people and council members, I have in my possession the evidence that our elected Chief has sold us out. He signed a contract with the offending tribe two years ago. Long before he was elected. They have given him land for a farm that sits by a river. It appears recently there have been further dealings for profit concerning the Chief and his family.”
As the details of the contract were read, it became clear that the Chief’s rise to power was coordinated with the other tribes. There were deals including money and land for opportunities that would normally be forbidden. As more became known, the people began to see their mistake in choosing this man as Chief. He had promised change. He had promised more sheep, more land, and a better life. Instead, he had only enriched himself.
“LIES,” yelled several in the council. These were the Chief’s staunchest supporters. Though there were rumors that they too had been privy to special deals, there was no proof.
“These are not lies,” continued the chair. “We have witnesses who have come forth to testify.”
“Never. This is not the proper format or procedure,” said the opposition leader. “There is no precedent here. We cannot know these so-called ‘witnesses’ are telling the truth. There have been so many lies here.”
And with that statement, a fierce back and forth shouting match began between the two sides. As Malachi sat in wonderment watching this spectacle, his leader Jebediah leaned over and whispered into his ear, “This is politics. This is the ruin of our way of living. No one will win. Everyone will lose and nothing will change.”
“But, we must have hope. Surely the truth will make a difference. The witnesses. The documents. Don’t these prove what’s going on? Everyone knows he’s corrupt, why can’t he be stopped,” said Malachi.
“The system is broken, Malachi,” replied Jebediah. Just then someone threw something at the chair. The room erupted in chaos as more vegetables and other items were lobbed through the air.
The capital police drug several offenders from the chamber and the session was called to an end for the day. Nothing had been decided. No witnesses were called.
A week later the council convened another meeting in the hopes of settling things and removing the Chief. The opposition was just as strong on this day and again, no decisions were made.
As the meetings went on there were discussions about what could be done, whether they could remove the Chief or undo the deals he’s made. In the end, it was decided that he should be removed. The land and sheep that were lost through his deals could not be undone.
Many years later, an older Malachi was tending to his own sheep. Things had changed. In the old times, the people would trust each other and the tribal council to protect them and their property. Those days are gone. Deep seeded mistrust has continued. The tribes are constantly at battle with each other over land and sheep. Accusations of thievery are a common way to try to gain profit. People are forgetting why there is so much distrust. The days of the bad Chief have lived on through at least one generation and it seems, more to come.