The King and The Colony
By Lydia Penn
The King was justifiably angry as he perused the latest report from the Colony. “My patience with these people is coming to an end,” he raged as he paced up and down the Throne Room. “People are starving, crime is increasing, and in their blindness, they start yet another project with no firm foundation, doomed from the start. With their defective sight, they can’t even get the walls straight either.”
He sighed as he handed the missive back to the Littlest Courtier, who was standing nervously to attention, regarding his silver-buckled shoes, and clutching a silver salver. It was his first visit to the Throne Room, and he was awed by its magnificence and the sight of so many courtiers standing stiffly to attention, resplendent in their blue and silver uniforms. With relief, the Littlest Courtier departed and returned to the Lord Chamberlain’s office to make his report.
An older courtier who was sorting out files, smiled at him as he entered the office. “Your first visit to the Throne Room, lad?” he said. “What did you think of it?”
“Oh,” said the Littlest Courtier. “It is so beautiful, all those beautiful tapestries, the purple drapes and the lovely stained glass windows. There is so much light there; it is awesome. But the King was so angry when he read the report.”
The older man had turned back to his work and gave no reply. The Littlest Courtier wanted to ask some questions, but he knew better than to try and continue the conversation. However, he was a bright boy, and as he went about his work that day, he was puzzled as he thought more and more about the King’s anger.
Late that afternoon, as he was having a hearty meal in the refectory, another older courtier comes to sit opposite him. He had a kind, friendly face, so the Littlest Courtier plucked up the courage to speak to him. “Excuse me, Sir,” he said, “but may I asked you a question! It’s about something that has been bothering me all day.”
The older courtier was wise, and as he looked at the Littlest Courtier, he could see before him a smart boy with an inquiring mind; this was not just idle curiosity. “What’s troubling you, boy?” he asked as he laid down his fork.
“I don’t understand why the King is so angry with the people of the Colony,” began the Littlest Courtier. “I know he is kind, just, rich and all-powerful. Why doesn’t he help the people of the Colony, instead of being angry with them because they do faulty work? They can’t help their eyesight being poor, and surely they are doing the best they can. Why doesn’t he help them?”
“Aha!” said the older courtier. “I can answer that question for you. Finish your meal, boy, and I will show you something. I see you are just new here!”
He led the Littlest Coutier down a long passage into a beautifully furnished room, a small replica of the Throne Room, with magnificent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and cedar panelled walls. At the far end, framed by scarlet velvet drapes, was a large picture of a stately looking, white building, standing perpendicular against a deep blue sky. Even in the picture, it seemed to be glowing, it’s windows sparkling in the sunlight.
As the Littlest Coutier gasped in awe at such beauty, the older Courtier began to explain. “You asked why the King doesn’t do something to help the people of the Colony. Well, he has! Here you see a picture of a hospital, which the King built at great cost to himself, to provide a free remedy for the people’s defective eyesight which is hereditary. He knows they can’t help being born with that problem, but he is angry because they won’t take the remedy he has provided, and they continue to erect faulty buildings with no real foundations and so they fight and squabble over what they do. The beautiful land he gave them is littered with their failures and has become fetid with neglect. That is why the King is angry.”
“But,” asked the Littlest Courtier as he still stood gazing at the picture, “why won’t they take the remedy? I would have thought they all would be glad to.”
“They have a film over their eyes, which means that to them everything appears grey,” explained the other. “And their eye defect means too that they don’t see things properly at the same angle. You and I see a beautiful upright building here. To them, all of it looks grey and bent over – really ugly, and they don’t trust it. By contrast, they see all their structures as upright, and don’t realise they have no firm foundation.”
The Littlest Coutier found such folly hard to comprehend. “Perhaps they don’t know that the King has provided a remedy,” he ventured as they left the room.
“Oh but they do,” replied the older courtier. “The King sent out many proclamations. He even sent out a proclamation before the hospital was built, to tell the people what he planned. But very few have taken any notice of him, and he has left them free to choose. But they are dominated by Will Power, who acts as leader. So now you understand the King’s anger,” he ended, as they returned to the refectory.
It was several days before the Littlest Courtier was once again sent to the Throne Room with a report, and he sensed a heightened tension in the atmosphere. Daily reports from the Colony were full of worsening situations and fights among the people. Unexpected storms had devastated a large number of buildings, and corruption was rife as the people attempted to rebuild over their previous failures.
“They behave as if I don’t exist.” said the King sadly. “Who do they think gave them the Colony in the first place! Confidence in Will Power has led many astray.”
The tension in the Throne Room permeated the rest of the palace, and the Littlest Courtier was kept extremely busy with repeated calls for his services. “Here, boy, lend me a hand with this,” or “here, boy, take a message and be quick.” As he scurried about in the heightened activity, he wondered if it was all something involving the Colony. Was the King going to act? Had he finally lost patience?
In the Colony itself was also a sense of growing urgency, but from a very different angle. “I vote we get rid of this ugly misshapen hospital building altogether. It’s just an anachronism and stands in the way of progress,” declared Will Power, the self-important, swaggering leader of the Colony.
His supporters agreed, but when Will went home and told his wife, Hope, what he was going to do, she objected strongly. “You can’t do that,” she said. “I’ve heard of several people who have been there and come out much happier, saying how different life is now they can see properly, with the film removed from their eyes. You can’t take away people’s right to go there if they want to.”
“Nonsense,” stormed Will. “It’s all in their imagination. They’re brainwashed, and those are the people who want to interfere with our lifestyle, saying we don’t see properly and we have everything crooked; what audacity! What’s wrong with our lifestyle? My father lived this way and his family before him. And I intend to do the same.”
“But there is so much arguing and fighting, and people are getting killed,” objected Hope. “No one is very happy. How can this be a good way to live?”
“Bosh!” snorted Will. “Once we get rid of this monstrosity of a hospital, we can put something better on the site, and our problems will be solved with no one to interfere. Don’t you dare go anywhere near it,” he ordered.
Years of domination by Will had left Hope reluctant to argue with him, afraid of his violent temper. So she said no more as he stormed out of the house.
His supporters all agreed, “Will Power can do anything he wants.” But Will had come across a very big problem. Two days later he came home in an extremely bad temper. “That hospital structure is proving harder to shift than I expected,” he fumed. “I don’t understand it. I thought it would be an easy pushover, but it isn’t.”
“Perhaps you should just leave it and build around it,” suggested Hope timidly.
This provoked a further storm of abuse from Will, so she said nothing more. But three days later, making sure that no one saw her, Hope went to look at the hospital building. It looked as grey and uninteresting as all the other buildings, and to her defective sight, it certainly was leaning over badly. But as she looked at it she began to wonder; if it was so crooked and misshapen as it seemed, why was it so hard to get rid of, when the other buildings had just tumbled down of their own accord?
She went to visit her friend Joy, who had been to the hospital. “Yes,” said Joy, “it’s the eye defect we were all born with, which makes the hospital look crooked and everything else straight. Actually, it’s the other way round. Once I availed myself of the remedy, everything has become different to me, and it is all so much brighter.” Hope said nothing, and Joy continued, “there are rumours too that the King is soon going to take action in the Colony, because of all the pollution and destruction over the years. He considers it is not a safe place to live anymore.”
Hope decided she would visit the hospital herself. She had nothing to lose, she reasoned, and there certainly was a sense of impending doom in the air. Whatever Will said to the contrary, something momentous was about to happen. She sensed it!
She was right!
The King summoned Michael, the Commander of his armies, to a meeting in the State Room. “The time has come,” he said as Michael stood at attention before him, an awe-inspiring tall figure in his deep blue uniform, his sword in a scabbard at his side.
“This Colony is no longer a fit place to live. The people are destroying themselves and everything in it,” the King stated. “As you know, I have been preparing another Colony. It is now ready. You have the names of those people whose sight has been restored and I am transporting them to a Colony even better than this one once was. You will organise an airlift for them and I will personally greet them on arrival.”
“Excuse me, Your Majesty,” said Michael. “But what about the others? Are you just going to leave them there to destroy themselves and everything else?”
The King shook his head sadly. “They had a choice, but they refused to take the remedy I provided for their eye defect. If I took them to a new Colony, they would ruin it in the same way in their blindness. What would be the point? They wanted to be left alone to live as they are now. I respect their wishes. Go ahead.”
The Aircraft of the King’s Flight was ready, a call had gone forth to everyone named on the list, and Michael stood waiting to receive them on board. The sun shone in a clear blue sky, and the magnificent silver aircraft emitted an iridescent glow as it streaked across the sky.
But to Will Power and the other benighted people of the Colony, it looked like just a very dark cloud preceded by a prolonged loud clap of thunder. “Another storm on the way,” they observed indifferently although rumours had been going around of transport to a better Colony which the King was preparing. Will scorned such fanciful talk. “Nothing wrong with what we have here,” he reiterated, and his supporters agreed as they continued working with him under his authority.
However, soon there was an awareness of people missing – people who had visited the hospital claimed a new, better sight and then wanted to improve the Colony. “We’re much better off without them, “declared Will, glad that he had forbidden Hope to visit the hospital.
But when he went home, incredibly, she had also gone, leaving only a half-finished meal on the kitchen table. Will Power, blustering, self-important, who could do anything and was always in control, was now left free to do as he pleased, but he was also a man left alone, a man without Hope!