The Day of the Herald
The pale blue light gave way to a rising sun, a single shaft of light from which flowed in through the doors and illuminated Dan where he stood in the center of the crowd, now gazing about in dumb amazement, though at least not blankly. Presently their eyes began to alight on Dan, who looked back at them all, who were still fanned out in their circular formation of the court yard. He looked intently at them all, as a father might look at his children, and emotion welled up into his throat which prevented his addressing them at once. Murmurings arose amidst the circular throng of three-hundred and thirty-three men, women, and teenagers, many Dan’s earth age or slightly older or younger. There were no young children. Dan spoke through the emotion in his throat anyway.
“I know not by what force or fate has brought you here to Domardor, but know this, it is a happy chance that you’re here with me!” said Dan addressing the crowd, which had a considerable stir on them. Some asked, “Who’s this?” or “He’s…I’ve seen him before..” but Dan did not allow the murmuring to continue. He broke into it again with the rest of his allocution: “You’ve been brought here, I say, either by good for good, or by evil for evil, but know now that you are free to choose which side. Those who hear and heed my words may yet live. Those who do not, will surely die!” and upon this last syllable all of Domardor filled with the sound, such were the beautiful architectural acoustics of the structure. The crowd now stirred and murmured even more, yet more quietly, as to hear the enthralling speech. “You’ve grown lukewarm, and in your tepidity you’ve allowed evil and dark to surround you and eclipse the Light! Even now this world stands on the brink of annihilation, like as at the foot of a smoking volcano,” Dan paused, to allow the words to sink in within the minds of his audience. “Death, death! Death is at the door. Death’s knocking, though you’ve grown deaf to its knocks! Death’s…”
“Oh! Come off it, already!” came the voice of a middle-aged man standing in the front of the formation. Dan noticed him from the crowd even before he spoke out and interrupted, by the way the man looked around while Dan spoke, instead of listening. “Who do you think you are, anyway? You ain’t a Dome official or something! That ain’t no uniform I’ve ever seen!” The man did have a point. Dan was blazing with the shimmering light of the rising sun as he spoke, and to the crowd he must have looked dazzlingly bright, like one on fire, in the dark Domardor court, where the only light allowed in was falling squarely and alone on Dan. “What you blowing on about, glitter-boy! Where’s your credentials! Huh?” Dan hadn’t thought about the fact that these people could not be compelled by reason to listen to him. They needed a sign, for the Dome held such sway over their minds, such that the ancient Guides and Creeds no longer meant anything to them. Considering this for a while, he did not speak right away, which made the middle-aged man in the front irritated and impatient, and prompted him to start to leave through the open doors. “This’s joke! The boy’s a charlatan if ever there was. I’m blowin’ this place! Who’s with me?” A time for a sign was now, Dan realized, for the man was gaining a little sect of followers who were making their way toward the door.
Another spoke up, more young than the middle-aged man but older than Dan by a decade or so, well-dressed, presumably of higher social status by the manner of his appearance and speech. “Hold on, now. Let us hear him through to the end. These are strange circumstances I’d say, which might warrant a little credulity. Why, I don’t recall how I came to be here, nor why. All I remember is sitting, dining alone at my corner café, then setting out on my way home, then waking, as it were, here in this building listening to this young man speak. I’d say that is a justifiable circumstance to at least listen to him to catch his meaning, right?” asked the man, looking about himself in the crowd as he spoke. His small spark of reason ignited a flicker of hope in Dan, as much of the crowd signaled their approval of these words with an applause, with “Hear, hear him out!,” being the general accord. Dan took up his exhortation again.
“Death, I was saying, is upon you. In only a few days, this Domardor will be destroyed and all of Metro City and the world with it!” There were a considerable number of exclamations of dread at this, but more exclamations of incredulity were perhaps countable. “Believe it. This Saturday, those who would accompany me to Mt. Olé may live. Those who deny me and remain below shall surely perish in the great flood of fire that awaits this world!” Again, more murmuring, but divided more sharply now among the crowd, with an observable count of those who believed Dan and those who did not.
“Who are you anyway?” one older woman asked. She struck Dan as sincere yet very slow to believe anyone who would threaten world destruction without so much as an introduction of himself.
“A fair and reasonable question, ma’am,” Dan said, now, for the first time directing his words toward an individual. “I am Daniel Goodman. I was formerly a member of the Academy in training to be an Official of the Dome, yet Heaven intervened, and I was shown my folly. I have been sent by the Lady of Light Herself,” and here Dan motioned upward toward the vault, “to give you this message. May you believe it.” This seemed to agree with the older lady, as she asked no more, and stood there contented, though obviously uncomfortable from the standing.
“I knew it! I knew I’ve seen you before!” another voice rang out from the crowd. A younger lady, about the age of Dan actually, who was making her way toward the front of the formation to get a better look at Dan. The sunlight was now cresting above the doorway entry, such that the light was growing less impressive. Dan sparkled less. “You’re that fugitive the Info Screens were blabbering about! You remember, right?” Here the young woman looked about herself to get approval and recognition from the crowd, “a few days ago? The announcement read, if I recall, this Daniel Goodman is a fugitive of Dome authorities. He’s crazy, and dangerous!”
“Now this fugitive is thought to be connected with two gruesome murders at the edge of the City, according to one broadcast!” came another voice, a young man, also about Dan’s age. Dan’s heart started to beat quite fast now, and wondered how to explain all of it to the crowd. He knew it would be impossible, since the evidence against him didn’t look good, and was quickly mounting to a unanimous verdict of “Guilty!” He tried to speak all the same.
“I’m no fugitive. I was being held against my will at the Dome. I fled for my life, with my wife…” This last detail was a regrettable slip of indiscretion.
“Your wife?” came a taunting voice from the back. “What, your imaginary girlfriend? Give me a break, this kid,” and another, “You’re just old enough to drive, and you have a wife?”
“I am married, well, was married. Marie was murdered by one of the men I had to defend myself against,” Dan said.
“Wait a second! The news report didn’t mention anything about no woman body! What you do, bury her I suppose?” came one of the voices that had spoken out before with a chuckle. This put Dan in even more of a quagmire of details and facts he was very not likely to escape from unscathed. Dan went on dauntless.
“I was married, and she was murdered!” Dan shot back, now brought down from the height of a prophet to that of a defendant. “After that, I defended myself and fled into the desert. There I was visited by Tulu, who gave me the message you have heard!” Dan’s voice had lost much of its potency and the crowd sensed it. A moment or two only intervened when the middle-aged man, who had hung around a while longer, started to make his way again toward the door, and as he walked, spoke up again.
“Not a charlatan. The boy’s mad as a hatter! Tulu! Ha! And dangerous too! I’m out of here!” and as he left a considerable number walked out behind him. The sun had now cleared the lintel of the doors, rising higher into another steel blue morning. Dan stood in fading, reflected light, almost gone, with only a third of his sheepfold left, a hundred and eleven.
Any right-minded and good-willed person would do what Dan did next. He reflected upon his past days, most extraordinary and one might say impossible, were one not possibly able to believe in the miraculous or fantastical nature of reality. Dan was able to so believe, and did so, which he could not, without violation to his primary principles and core beliefs discount as lunacy or superstition. He believed in Tulu just as sure as he believed he had a mother, though he never met her. He believed in the Lights just as sure as he believed in the power that propelled the railcars down the lines with such speed, though such power, like the Lights, were invisible. In a word, he believed, and that prevented him from remaking his own valid memory into a fictional nightmare. He was not insane; the world was. He did not lie; the world did. He was true; the world was false.
But the dwindled crowd wasn’t privy to such interior memories and rationale. All they knew was that they woke up unaccountably in an ancient temple staring at a fugitive, murderer, and lunatic by all accounts, who was preaching to them that the world was about to end, on the word of a private correspondence from a fabled or mythological mother of god. From the point of view of the crowd, the thing strained belief to say the least, and it was a miracle in itself that the hundred and eleven persons that did stay stayed at all! Whether because of a crushingly strong curiosity, or good-will gone mad itself, the crowd did stay and attend to what Dan had to say more.
“I thank you for hearing me out, though I dare not hope that you believe a word of what I say, as the case against he is both compelling and damning,” Dan said, his vigor of voice somewhat restored. “I know what I say sounds crazy! And I know the facts around the events and movements of my past few days has been suspect at best, and downright culpable at worst. I understand your hesitation to believe anything I say more,” this did little to even stir the crowd, as it seemed to Dan they grew impatient and only remained to hear something of interest to their curiosity. “There’s more to my story, which actually touches upon the reason for your presence here in this place.”
“Go on! I would like to hear an explanation of that enigma!” said an anonymous voice, though Dan thought it sounded rather familiar.
“You are, as it were, bought and paid for. You were brought here––though I know not by what craft or why it was allowed to be, either through assent or deception––that I might preach to you, but am able to now but for a price. You were ensnared and in the bonds of darkness. Now you are free and in the Light!” the last finding itself rather difficult to hit home with Dan’s audience, since, as a fact, no one was in the light just presently. Domardor had grown quite dark, the sun being too much at a severe angle to brighten the interior.
“By what were we ensnared?” asked a voice, not hostile in tone, but wavering in belief.
“By the Fallen Ones, the Caduclui!” responded Dan.
“The Caduclui?” said the same voice, “The Dome teaches that’s all allegorical and figures of speech! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been ensnared by a metaphor, let alone a simile!” this brought a little wave of snickering from the crowd, but soon died down.
“The Dome lies!” said Dan, and nothing, perhaps, had he spoke sounded so absurd as that last sentence. The bedrock and foundation of all order, truth, beauty and wisdom lies? Absurd, and not only that, asinine and grossly arrogant.
“The Dome lies, you say?” came another, rather heated and quite hostile, “And I suppose you were given all knowledge and wisdom and prophecy and truth! Bah, not only a charlatan and lunatic but also a megalomaniac! That’s it. I’m out,” and made his way toward the doors still quite open and wide and departed. Dan saw that he was someone from the Academy, from a physics course he thought, very bright, good marks, but Dan quite forgot his name.
“I did not say so. All I know I’ve received. You’ve been deceived. And what you do know is not from the Dome as it was understood, believed, and taught a half century ago! The Caduclui have infiltrated the ranks of the Dome officials, and set them to work against the dictates of revealed truth! I know not by what to convince you of this, if reason sway you no way, but read, study, the ancient Guides and Creeds; do not take my word for it!” Dan said, addressing the crowd with all sincerity.
“Read the ancients! And do a comparative study of what was taught to what is? In a few days before we’re destroyed as you say? Which is it? Study or make our way to Mt. Olé? Can’t be both!” came another voice, of a young woman of twenty or so, with a smart and keen look about her.
“No hour is guaranteed. We all sit in the defendant’s chair at every moment of our lives, the verdict ever pending according to our action, yet death may come as quick as a gavel fall, and we’re powerless to plead a word more on our behalf before the coming Judge!” Dan said.
“Then what do we do, sir? Believe every word you say, though nothing recommends you, or go our own way and risk losing our lives?” returned the young lady with a keen sense.
“Look about you. What do you see? A museum! An artifact of amusement and Sunday entertainment! Nothing more,” here Dan gestured broadly about himself, still standing in the direct middle of Domardor. “Where’s the Altar of Fire? Where’s the sweet odor of sacrifice arising heavenward? Extinguished! No more! And the Guides little more now than a polite list of recommended manners, the and ancient Creeds but the remnants of a bygone and gullible age,” the truth of what Dan spoke inspired not a few with at least consideration on their surroundings and habits of religious observance. The crowd that remained were mostly temple going people, and so they knew as well as Dan that what he said was true. Some, though, liked it that way. “The incense,” they would say, “get in my face! I’m glad they’re gone!” Others missed the sacrificial incense, but were quite happy to part with the dusty old-fashioned Guides, which put a hamper on their particular vices. Still others were quite disappointed that the incense and Guides were gone, but were satisfied with the pollution and distortion of meaning of the sacred Creeds, as this provided ample opportunity to remake the world according to their own beliefs. All these, though, of course were of a generation that preceded the Usurping Council to which Dan referred. The young who followed it had no such preferences or convictions. They were the remodeled ones, the reformed ones, the new and brighter future. The keen young lady was one such.
“Where religious sacrifice, moral codes, and cramped creeds have ever been, in the past!” said the keen young lady. “We are now and we are the future. The past is gone and buried!”
“This is not about the past or the future or the now, just as such distinctions about the passage of time do not bear upon claims of natural or revealed truth! Is it true or no, that is the question; not what day of the week it is––or what century!” Dan shot back, but to little avail, as the young lady with the keen look was already walking out of the wide open doors.
One by one, the majority of those gathered around Dan left the same way, though perhaps for different reasons. Each in his or her turn expressed interest in what Dan said, and would even go so far as to believe in the merits of what he said, but would finally depart for one of his or her pet preferences, either in ceremony, morals, or beliefs. Of the three hundred and three, all but twelve departed Dan. Domardor was now quite bare and empty and dark, as it was midday now, and the large group that gathered in the night had dwindled down to a little handful of followers, each of whom stood or sat close to Dan, still circled around him, though becoming weary and tired from the long night and morning. There the group sat in the empty vastness of the court yard, though shadows crept, slithering round the pillars unseen.
Dan sat amidst the group, answering questions as best he could about himself, about Tulu, the Lights, and even about his past life in Aerlan, the details on that score were rather sparse. And he spoke about the coming wrath and judgment to his followers. These were, as a rule, young, about his age, with one exception: the railcar conductor, the same one in fact who awoke Dan at the end of the West Red Line. Though he still wore his conductor uniform––black with white trim and an official looking cap of the same material––Dan remembered him without it. He was elderly indeed, almost eighty, which perhaps explained why he and Dan got along so well.
“I’ve lived too long to see the truth of all you’ve said, sir, about the Dome,” he said in his humble and soft tone. “In my time, why, I’ve seen the same thing condemned, and ten years later praised. I’ve seen our religious pomp displayed with such mirth and joy and merry-making one day, and, the next, thrown down to the ground and trampled neath their feet and made to ask forgiveness for it from the ugly world! I knew that Council was rotten. I just didn’t know anyone else thought so, too,” said the conductor, whom the little group now knew to be Mr. Peter, though they all just called him Mr. Pete. He was reclining as best he could on the cold, stone floor of Domardor, though quite uncomfortable and weary as Dan could see, and most likely famished.
“Let’s get something to eat. What would you all say to that barbecue bar and grill place just down the street from here? What’s it called?” said Dan, and another, a middle-aged woman of about forty, who was married though her husband did not appear to be one of the twelve, asked, “Grove Grill?”
“That’s it! After we convene there to have some supper, I would like to show you a very special tree in Green Grove just a little ways from there.” The twelve were rather thankful and pleased at this suggestion, and all decided to leave Domardor, and retire to the eatery for refreshment. As they got up to leave, one of the twelve suggested calling ahead, as the group was large, and accommodations would be wanting without doing so.
“Right! Good thinking. Please do,” Dan said, and the young man, Oscar Eliot, an underclassman from the Academy actually, whom Dan knew by appearance, though not personally, went ahead of the group to the Grove Grill to make preparations. As they all filtered out into the evening, Dan was the last one to close the doors. But as he did so, he noticed movement inside, and turned to count the heads. “Eleven outside, plus Eliot who’s gone ahead. No one should be inside,” he said to himself after counting. He returned inside and had a look around, only to see no one about. “Oh well. I guess my old eyes are playing tricks on me,” he said again to himself with a chuckle, and returned toward the door to exit and followed the others to Grove Grill, but as he did so, a shadow slithered past his notice, and went ahead of him and the eleven, out into the gathering gloom of twilight.