Ariel’s Story #10 – Attack

by MW Cook

     The army proved easy to acquire.
     The first to join me was a young man with a fire in his eyes. He called himself Barnaby and told me he had often wondered about the Man pushing the Bride down.
     “But whenever I thought to bring it up,” he told me, “the elders and teachers would push me down.”
     “Why would they do that?” I asked.
     “They didn’t believe me. They said I was being rebellious to even suggest such a thing.”
     “But did you not point to the Man? Could they not, even from shore, see clearly that the Bride is being abused and the Man is not who they think he is?”
     Barnaby shook his head. “They said that perhaps the Man was disciplining the Bride for some sin. And they would allow no further conversation on the point. They brought it to an end and have since watched me with dark eyes.”
     And those dark eyes began to rest upon me as well as I tried spreading my suspicions that the Bride had been taken by someone who was not the Husband. More than once I was taken aside and rebuked by one of the elders. Gently at first, but firmly. After a time I was forced to carry on my recruiting under cover of darkness.
     The atmosphere seemed ripe, though. For I encountered many who had wondered about the Man as I had. I even took a chance and stole into other sections of the cistern to recruit brothers who lived beyond the other gates. We began meeting with one another at night and in any gate that seemed empty at the time. Emotions ran high as our numbers swelled. Each new addition brought stories similar to the one Barnaby told. We were united despite our different backgrounds. We grew into a formidable force. We became ready.
     We planned to attack at midday. Each of us from the section we associated with would, in unison, stride into the cistern and lay hold of the Man by force. And, by force, we would tear him from the Bride and drag him from the cistern and cast him without. And, should he not be cast, we would drown him in the end.
     The day was bright and hot. The sky was cloudless and dry. It was the perfect day for the attack. We rose early, said our prayers, and took to the water.
     It was a glorious sight, I think. All of us from our different traditions and following the Bride under different signs. United in the goal to bring down the Man and his oppression. Those who stayed behind got to their feet to watch, looks of uncertainty upon their faces.
     “Ho there!” called an elder from my group. I did not turn back.
     “Wait!” called a leader from another.
     “Where in the bloody hell do you think you’re going?”
     The voices grew agitated and angry as we approached the Man with murder in our eyes. They were spiced with fear and anger.
     We arrived.
     The Bride was as I had seen her last. Eyes mostly closed. Barely breathing. In a pathetic state of near-death.
     The Man looked at us, bored.
     “You are not the first,” he whispered. His voice was like velvet, dark and soft.
     “You will leave this place,” I said, setting myself up as the leader of the army.
     “No,” he said.
     “We will make you leave.” Shouts of agreement rose around me.
     “You will not.”
     We attacked.
     As I lay hands upon him I could feel my strength ebb. It was like grasping an icy rock, so cold that it saps your power as it digs deep into your bones. From the looks on the faces of my army it seemed they felt something similar.
     But no matter! I thought. We are many and he is but one. “Together!” I cried out. And they yelled a battle call. And we pulled on the Man. We tugged at his arm and we tugged at his head. Some beat upon his face and some tried diving under the water to trip up his feet.
     It was like pulling on granite. Icy, rigid granite.
     “Your friends are coming,” the Man whispered to me as I tried to gouge out his eyes.
     I turned and my heart died within me. My brothers were coming. As were the faithful of every section of the cistern. They wore masks of anger, but their fury was not directed at the Man, evil and powerful. They were directed at us.
     They fell upon us with sticks and books and flesh. The Man shook and we fell from him. And, thus, we were driven out of the cistern. And they pursued us through the park and down the roads. Into the buildings and out of the gates. Up into trees and down into ditches. And we were scattered and alone.
     I found a place beside a dumpster behind one of the high-rises. I was alone. I was weakened. I wept.