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“So why don’t you wear it?” Mikail Foreman asked.
“I don’t think that it is rational,” Ashford Collums said. Collums looked at the nooses, and the guillotines, and large stones, and gigantic swords that swung around the necks of the populace. He remained the only person in the building in Dover, Delaware not donning such hardware.
“We’ve got a mutinous person on our hands, sir,” Foreman said, rising to his feet.
Collums tried to run to the rear of the room but sentries barred his exit. He attempted to run to the front of the establishment but received the same treatment.
“You will conform. Or you will perish,” the leader of the group, an old man with a long gray beard named Atana pointed a finger at Collums.
“Then I will perish before I conform to such rigid, backwards standards,” he spit at the ground.
“Guards, take this insolent prisoner away to the dungeons,” Atana said.
On his way, Collums showed his back to Atana and walked with his head as high as the clouds to his cell.
Collums looked about his surroundings. He noticed that the prisoners to the left and the right of him had been starved, whipped, shocked, and received overall maltreatment. He didn’t even flinch. He prepared for his fate, whatever it would be. The guards threw scraps of food into his cell and laughed. Collums didn’t even look at it. He took their lean jug of water and poured it out onto the floor. Worms and other vermin expelled from the jar. Collums looked at the patch of night sky above his holding cell. He didn’t pray. He didn’t ask the earth or angels or the collective of men from a past to life to give him strength. Collums peered within himself. He walked around the cramped space like a lion guarding his territory. He continued to pace while the other prisoners just sat slack and withdrawn from all activity. He knew by morning that there would be an opportunity to speak his mind, to speak his truth. Trickles of water spilled through cracks from the ceiling of the cell which made spider legs of liquid. With the effort of his legs, he reached himself up to taste the cool water spurting from the cracks in the top of the cell. Replenished to the point that he could take no more, he watched the worms squirm around on the dusty floor. Collums wiped his mouth.
On the next morning, Collums was brought up on the charges that he neglected to wear the signs of separatism that decided whether someone was with the mystics or ascribed to a social group. His punishment if found guilty was to be burned, shot, hanged, drawn and quartered, go in an iron maiden, be gassed, and beheaded. Severity existed in the eyes of Atana. His light brown skin glistened in the morning light. His beard swayed in the wind that had swept over the council of men and women. Atana’s say was final. But Collums had one chance to say the reality of the situation.
“I come to you all to say that your trinkets, your pendants, your medallions, your signs of separatism are just that. They exist to keep us apart from one another in terms of thoughts and ideas. They exist to be divisive and put us in categories not among men and women but among constructs.”
Collums looked amongst the shining pendants in the outdoor courtroom. He pointed to each and every person within the outside space.
“Look at you. You can’t even break yourselves from these twinkling trinkets. They represent to you more than your families, more than your work, more than your life. I have come here today to not only clear my good name but request that you exterminate the malignant troll in your souls that tells you to keep these things. They are what they represent; a guillotine slamming down, slicing off your mind; a noose, cutting the spinal cord to your spirit; large stones crushing your very will to survive; and giant swords, beheading you before you even get to think. Turn away from them my fellow people with a thought left in your brains. It is the only hope for the future.”
Atana looked down upon the detainee whose skin looked like ink in the sunlight.
“I have heard your words, prisoner. Ashford Collums, you make a good point.”
Murmurs arose from the crowd.
“Silence. I have to say that these pieces of jewelry showcase our division instead of our individualism. Let us throw these items upon a pyre. They will be melted down to form a new currency for the state of Delaware.”
The crowd erupted in chants of elation.
“And as for your charges, Mr. Collums...all of them have been dropped. You are clear on every count,” Atana said. He came down from his high bench and shook Collums’ hand.
The large fire roared as people threw in their charms and rings and bracelets. Watches with the emblem of some forgotten god cracked and fizzled along with the rest of the rhodium, silver, gold, and platinum pieces.
Collums stood with his back against the wind that drew the fire up high into the sky. He breathed. He took in great gulps of oxygen and bowed down to his only god and society: his mind.