Rhythms of the Human Heart (2001)
This piece is one of my longest works. It was prepared and submitted for my Higher School Certificate Extension 2 Major Work. I can’t remember the mark I received, but it was in the 90s.
Reading it now, I can’t help but smile. It brings back so many memories, and reminds me of the immaturity of my pen, and the innocence of my mind (some will say, nothing’s changed!)
The Rhythms of the Human Heart
The lonely lounge sighs, the metal dinner table yawns and the matching chairs tap impatiently. The velvet curtains drape heavily, like vertical iron bars, all around the room. Over it, light, pretty lace masks the weariness. The glass ceiling stares quietly into the room, its back holding up the dark, black sky. Praised for its impenetrability and vastness, it separates both worlds. At the centre of this black hole shines a blinding light from a crystal chandelier. It illuminates three escalators and four elevators, all stationary, humming loudly, as if irritation is the only way to gain attention – as if competing with the prominent spectacle. The grand staircase assumes prominence with its marble moulded into icy silence. Prettiness comes with a price. Fatigued rather than indolent, weary of the façade they desire. Although they do not show any sense of diminishing interest to this masquerade.
Speak of the devil, here they come: Love, Hate, Happiness, Sadness, Integrity, Deceit, Compassion, Anger, Ignorance, Envy, Paranoia, Intellect, Individuality, Prejudice, Selfishness and finally, Greed. Humanity – the guest of honour. They entered through an iron door, engraved with the word “liberty” in Chinese characters down the sides (The hotel owner had no idea what it meant, but acknowledged that it was fashion, liked the design, so it was scratched in, in the hope that it would attract customers). They walked through the giant mouth, marvelling at everything their eyes touch.
“This place is beautiful! I never expected the business dinner party to be held here! Where do they get the money from?” (Happiness)
“Who cares? All I want to know is what else is in store for us!” (Ignorance)
“It’s so pretty. Oh my god! I have to get those curtains!” (Envy)
“I don’t think so…I saw them first!” (Selfishness)
“The staircase! I am in love!” (Love)
“Yes, made of marble and iron, it is a perfect match with the door” (Intellect)
Gliding across the Italian rug that covered the cold, marble floor, Love stroked the grand staircase with a touch that was as soft as her whisper: “It’s terrible to be so cold, isn’t it? Even beauty cannot atone for the loss of warmth.”
“O but what is warmth if the cold is all you’ve ever known?” Hate spat out with contempt. His rigid shoulders matched his hardened face that was so frequently put on, it became him.
“Just because coldness is all you’ve ever known, it doesn’t mean that you can never experience warmth, either.” Love spoke with a voice that was so gentle that people tend to agree with whatever she said. But not Hate.
“Well, if coldness is all you’ve ever known, any experience of warmth will become coldness, anyway.” And with that, Hate left the room to spend the rest of the night in solitude. Love watched him as he took those bold, heavy, long strides that gave him an intimidating manner. Love always felt threatened by his presence.
An outburst of laughter from Happiness caught Love’s attention and made her smile. She loved the carefree attitude of Happiness, which consequently tied them two together to be best friends.
“Love! I was just telling Sadness about my trip to Italy.” Happiness had on one of those amazing smiles that stretched on forever. Almost as if opposites, Sadness’s face was like a drooping moon.
“Well from the look on Sadness’ face, your trip was probably really horrible.” Love joked as she greeted Happiness with a kiss. Then turning her attention to Sadness she asked if anything was troubling him. She expressed such genuine concern that, for a minute, Sadness seemed to have softened his mournful expression just a little.
“Oh, that’s Sadness for you. Even if he won the lottery he would cry until the cows came home. And even then…” Happiness stopped herself when she saw Love’s face. She’d seen that expression before and she knew the lecture she would get from Love afterwards, even though she knew that Love only meant well. She couldn’t help being ‘insensitive to people’s feelings’ sometimes when she was uncontrollably overjoyed.
“No, no I’m fine.” Sadness tried to reassure them, and as usual, without much success. These two women constantly tried to make him feel better, but they didn’t know that during that process they were really depressing him even more. And he thought that was impossible. “I’m just tired from my business trip to China, that’s all.” With the mentioning of ‘China’, his face grimaced even more.
“You poor thing, you must be exhausted.” Soothed Love.
“Well, I came back from Italy last night and I’m happy!” Another look, Happiness should’ve seen that one coming.
“It’s just…oh you won’t understand.” Sadness said quickly. Before Love could object, there was a loud commotion coming from the balcony. Happiness rushed to see what was going on, Love followed. Sadness took this as a sign for him to leave the room and look for a quiet place to rest alone.
On the balcony, Deceit and Integrity were surrounded by a mob of spectators. Happiness recognised a few familiar faces, but others were completely foreign to her. She turned around to ask Love who they were, but realised that Love too, of course, was mesmerised by her ‘prince charming’. She remembered the conversation she had had with Love before about Deceit.
“He’s charming!” Love had said.
“They usually are.” Happiness had replied.
“But he’s different!”
“Probably in front of you. Then again, that’s probably just a face he puts on to get you.”
“He’s not like that! He’s a genuinely nice guy!”
“Nice guy? Nice guy! Remember what he did to Compassion, Sensitivity, Confidence, and God knows how many more! Remember Compassion?” Happiness repeated for emphasis “Remember how he’d played her during her most critical times, when she had needed him the most? Look at her now. She’s dying and does he even care? Nice guy? I don’t think so!” But Love wouldn’t hear it. She should be best friends with Stubbornness, Love was too blind to see the truth. Love was another victim of Deceit’s spell. Poor Love, poor innocent Love.
Now here on the balcony, Deceit was in trouble again because he couldn’t treat anyone with respect. This time it was about Compassion, Integrity’s daughter.
“Integrity! You lying old fool! How dare you come here and accuse me of worsening your daughter’s dying condition!” Deceit’s true colours were beginning to show.
“Why did you leave me?” Compassion’s voice was soft and came out as a chocked cry. “I cared for you so much, we were going to get married…”
Deceit laughed and Integrity’s face tensed. He was an old man, but only physically frail. Like wine the essence of his being had become much richer. Deceit’s laughter made a hole the cork, and now the air was seeping through.
“Marriage?” Deceit’s tone was of such incredulity and mockery, that Compassion cried softly. She could not understand what had happened to him. She could not understand why he was treating her like this. “I never wanted to marry you! Especially now, I mean, how would I know that after a couple of days of marriage life you might just kick the bucket? How can you be so selfish?”
And with that, Integrity slashed his walking stick on Deceit’s face with such shock, rather than force, that sent Deceit scrawling across the floor.
“Come on,” Integrity’s voice was weary as he took Compassion’s arm, “forget him, he’s not worth your tears.”
Compassion took one last look at Deceit and turned away, she couldn’t help the hurt she felt after his words. She wanted to run to him, to comfort him and to pretend all this wasn’t happening. She silently blamed herself, like she did so many times before, for getting sick. Her dreams will never be fulfilled; her heart will always remain empty.
Integrity, being one of the two elite members in the company, made his way to the Board meeting. “Are you sure you want to come up with me? Wouldn’t you rather go and dance and socialise or something?” Integrity’s face was filled with concern. It was not like Compassion to sit with him on his meetings. Compassion shook her head.
“I guess I’m not in the mood today, that’s all.” She replied quietly, her eyes downcast, a reflection of her mood.
“Ok, but promise me not to think about him any more. As I said before, he’s not worth it. Look at me, I’m old now, don’t make me have to worry about you, ok? Your health isn’t good, but don’t rot your pure heart as well.” Compassion nodded as her eyes filled with tears. It always saddened her when she thought of her father dying. Although she knew death was a part of the human lifecycle, she just couldn’t imagine life without her father. She hugged him and cried into his arms like she used to when she was little, when she scrapped her knee or had a bad day. They stayed like that until Greed, the other elite member of the company, informed Integrity that the meeting was about to commence.
“Time is money, Integrity.” Greed recited his motto.
As her father led her into the room, Compassion silently promised never to worry her father again.
In the next room, Sadness, unobserved, had witnessed the heart-felt scene and now returned to his own sorrow. Sadness wondered how long it would be before he could finally move on. With every breath, Sadness inhaled misery and he felt, with every exhalation, joy and memories evaporated into air, to be breathed in by another.
As if the room was alive, it responded to the man’s cry with a faint and gentle melody. Nevertheless, its words gave dead memories a breath of life. The song found a familiar spot in Sadness’ heart and clenched at it. A song of hopelessness and struggle as the bewitched man’s freedom was crushed over and over by the woman. His desire to end the relationship was only fuel to the woman’s fire for him. His love settled the war – he lost, he stayed.
In the ballroom, the music pounded heavily, its lyrics blurred by the vibrations. The party responded by pounding heavily like confined gorillas. Paranoia yelled out to Ignorance that he enjoyed her company. More than enjoyed – loved her company, but felt foolish using that word.
“What did you say? My company? Why must you talk about work at a time like this? I know it’s a work party and all, but…” Ignorance was still talking as he pulled her off the dance floor. He needed to talk to her, somewhere quiet. At least some place where they can hear each other.
“I just love this song, don’t you?” Paranoia opened his mouth to answer her, but realised that she wasn’t really asking him, but rather enjoying the sound of her own voice. “Apparently this song is about this really sexy and powerful goddess who bewitches men with her charm. I can so relate to it! Actually it reminds me of the movie ‘Charlie’s Messengers’. Gosh I love that movie don’t you? Don’t you, Paranoia?” The requirement for his opinion startled him, and for a minute, a whole minute, his mind was completely empty. All he could do was nod his head wildly and hope that that would draw the attention away from the stupidity of his face.
“ ‘Charlie’s Messengers’? ” Interrupted Intellect, trying to save her brother, Paranoia from yet another tongue-tied moment. Also, to benefit herself, get closer to the company’s goddess and maybe then she might acquire charm, popularity and perhaps a promotion. “It’s not exactly what you think it’s about. Although superficially it projected three women who are envied and worshipped as role models in the 20th Century. However, analytically, they were merely the sex-images of society in 20th Century uniform! The hypocrisy of it all! – They were suppose to represent the movement of women, yet presented to us through a male director who, I quote, ‘is an admirer of the female body and wants to flaunt this sexuality on screen’. O Heaven! Save our sanity! Save our souls! They’re evil! They…”
“How dare you!” Ignorance hissed. The spotlight was on her now, like it was when she fired the professor, her uncle, and her father. Incompetent was what they were. They were no use to her, well except after their departure, when the board promoted her higher than any women in the company had ever been before. “How dare you tell me what to think and what is right and wrong! How dare you come barging into my conversation with your, your…words! ‘Charlie’s Messengers’ is one of the best movies of the year! Don’t you watch the Silver Sphere Awards? Oh you just don’t understand! You have no taste for fashion and hairstyles and make up and those beautiful women! I could’ve been a ‘Charlie’s Messenger’, but they took my spot. I am so much more…”
“Superficial, superficial! Have you heard a word I said?” As soon as Intellect said it, she regretted it. Her brother shook his head. She may be great at mathematics, but her timing was never right. She may be fluent in English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, and a dozen other languages, but she always seemed to say the wrong thing. Paranoia’s head was spinning. Why did he have such an annoying sister? As soon as that thought passed his mind, he stopped and scolded himself. She was all he had left and it was his responsibility to watch out for her. They must stick together no matter what. Still, at this moment in time, he hated her. His plan was going so well, he was finally going to make it, and then…this happened.
“Oh you…” No one ever found out what Ignorance was about to say because there was a phone call for her at the reception table. She stormed out and made sure everyone knew that this was not the end of it. She made a mental note to take revenge, but knew that it was hopeless remembering anything, especially something so insignificant.
The party didn’t take long to bounce back. The music was turned on, a noticeable notch too loud as if to blast out what had just happened. It happened frequently in their lives, this need to mask, and now they were only too willing to let the purification process of the music take place.
Prejudice surveyed the room and immediately felt a hostile bond developing. He saw men and women of considerable ages, dancing and carrying on as if they were schoolkids. He saw a couple in the corner engaged in their own world as if their public show bothered no one. Must be an insecure couple who saw this as an opportunity to show colleagues their desperate attempt to revitalise their love life. He left the room in disgust.
The adjoining room was open to the ballroom, however smaller and much quieter. It seemed to have been deliberately constructed in such a way that it attracted critics who now littered the room. They all watched from their individual sofas the scene played out in the ballroom. Some were quiet, some were pointing, and some were just too engaged in their own hand-frantic conversations to care about what was happening in the world around them. Prejudice sat down next to Envy who was desperately gasping for air. She smiled at Prejudice, whilst fanning herself with her hands. Prejudice had seen her on the dance floor, trying awkwardly to imitate other people’s movements, without much success. Here they sat quietly, their minds spinning as they thought of a good conversation topic. Once in a while, they would look at each other, and smile, not really knowing what the smile was for. Finally, Prejudice resorted to the only conversation he was familiar and capable of.
“Individuality can’t dance, his moves are so…weird.”
“I know!” Envy sprang into life “and those clothes!”
“And what kind of name is ‘Individuality’ anyway? It’s so long and…foreign”
“I know what you mean.” agreed Envy. “Have you ever heard him talk? He’s got this funny accent and he doesn’t make sense!”
Prejudice nodded, he hadn’t really talked to him, but the rumours were so strong in the office that it was impossible to think otherwise.
“I don’t know how he got his position.” Prejudice spat the words out, and they were true. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t see what was so special about him. His differences should hold him back, but why did he get the job that Prejudice had worked so hard for?
“Same, I worked so hard for that position,” Envy’s voice fell, as if her heart was telling the tale, not the mind. “I did everything the way they liked! I was courteous, friendly and hard working.”
“And pretentious.” Prejudice thought. However he did not reply, but merely nodded his head with insincere agreement.
He found himself observing Deceit and Selfishness, both engaged in their private corner of the room. Envy must have also noticed it as she disapprovingly pointed it out.
“Look at the way Deceit droops over Selfishness! What can he possibly see in her?”
“I don’t know, but I do know that Greed wouldn’t be very happy if he found out his wife was being hit on.” Prejudice wondered what Deceit was up to this time. He knew that Selfishness was not Deceit’s type and he also witnessed the fight Deceit had had with Integrity and Compassion earlier in the evening. He watched on eagerly as if it were some sort of soap opera.
Selfishness knew exactly what Deceit was up to. If the boy thought that he could trick her like he did with Compassion he had better smarten up. However, it was fun toying with this boy and at least it helped speed the night up. In any case, she had to admit he was cute.
“You’re eyes are so beautiful,” the boy was saying, “it is a masterpiece by all the great painters from the beginning of time. And your scent, what is it?”
“It’s Le Chontea, the new fragrance from Ralph Lauren.” Selfishness replied bluntly. The boy had been talking as if he was some sort of Cassonova the entire night and it was beginning to get tiresome.
“I wasn’t talking about your perfume, I was talking about your natural scent. If I could bottle that beautiful scent and sell it, I would be the richest man in the world!”
“If that was true, then maybe I would consider dating you.” Selfishness thought. She was starting to feel sick, this man has no shame.
“You can cut the sweet talk Deceit, I know what you want.”
“Really?” Deceit’s eyes widened “Because if you were mine, I would be the luckiest man…”
“Hold on a minute!” Selfishness interrupted “First of all, I’m not yours. I’m not anyone’s property. Second, I said I know what you want. You want to get on my good side so that I can promote you, right? Isn’t that the same reason why you were with Compassion, to get in Integrity’s good books? I can see right through you, Deceit. You can fool the world, but you can’t fool me.”
With a toss of her hair, Selfishness turned and made her way to dinner to join her husband, Greed, and her share of the company.
The old grandfather clock struck six; its needles aligned like an arrow. At the distinct sound of the seven vociferous chimes, the metal dinner table straightened itself, while the matching chairs stamped quickly into order. The soft, white tablecloth drifted lightly onto the cold dinner table, held only in place by the heavy cutlery. Almost like an unspoken law, the spoons took the second place, after the knifes. The forks, isolated, held their tines in defence, as the folded napkins, in the shape of swans, glided on the tablecloth. The minor tools made room for the great plates, which spun onto the table, followed closely by the gently crafted wineglasses, which sparkled delicately on the table.
Menus flapped excitedly onto the table as if sensing human presence. Two candles hovered onto the table, burning brighter when it heard the growing human conversation. At the sight of this, the room collapsed into silent conformity.
The opening of the grand dining room door filled the room with laughter, and later, with tears. It brought with it infinite joy, but also everlasting suffering. With one, there was always the other; with humanity there was always the presence of personalities. With these human personalities left uncontrolled, the dining room, the party and its occupants, will eventually surround itself with hell.
They took their seats – Compassion, Love, Happiness, Ignorance, Paranoia, Intellect and Individuality on one side, with Selfishness, Prejudice, Envy, Anger, Deceit, Hate, and Sadness on the other. Humanity against humanity, humanity assessing humanity, but unfortunately, unable to see that they are all alike – humanity is humanity.
Love chatted lightly; her smiles radiated rainbows and flowers of every colour to the table. She felt that for a second her glows had touched Sadness who seemed to break a smile at her. She wasn’t sure, because Hate, who was sitting next to Sadness, gave her such a stare, her rays seemed to bounce off him and then hide behind her.
Sitting next to Love, Happiness was having trouble debating with Anger on the issue of children’s shows on television. Happiness praised those shows with their children smiling and dancing as they watched those shows.
“They are also very educational,” Happiness pointed out.
“No they’re not. What they teach you how to smile?” Anger snapped sarcastically.
“No, there’s more than that, but if that’s what they taught, then I suggest you watch it everyday for the next couple of years to rid that temper of yours.” Happiness, never knowing that solid ground can be quick sand also.
“Temper? What temper?” Almost like an answer, his face bloated up red. “You want to see real temper, real TV? Violence, that’s what they should have instead of those moronic kids shows.” He shook his fist and his face grew a violent red – the signs of his swelling animosity. Happiness retreated, terrified.
Paranoia felt small next to Ignorance, and although he sat with his sister, Intellect, he still felt like an outcast. Isolated, and afraid to make a mockery of himself, unaware of the goofy smile painted on his face, he remained quiet, a usual tactic of his as he felt that silence was his best weapon. Observing the table only through the corners of his eyes, he tried to reassure himself by explaining to himself the reasons why he was quiet. His excuses weren’t successful, and made him look even more pathetic as his face rearranged itself into a worried smile.
He glanced occasionally at Ignorance, trying to seem casual, but really mesmerised by her neat clothing, her beauty and the softness of her skin, like a white swan gliding softly on the lake. He admired the way she whipped amazing conversations out of thin air – Versace, Calvin Klein, Emporio Armani, Gucci, and Fendi! He didn’t even know who these people were! Actually, he didn’t even know if they were people, or food, or wine. He gasped for air; he felt completely exhausted.
The employees fell quiet as the company’s two CEOs entered the room. Greed took one end of the table, next to his wife, Selfishness. The room seemed to slump as he walked past – they could see the indignation in his eyes, he must’ve had an argument with Integrity who walked in afterwards. Although he looked flushed, either from the argument or the walk down the stairs, he greeted the diners warmly, and took his place on the other end of the table, next to his daughter, Compassion. He apologised for keeping them waiting, thanked them for waiting and for remembering to leave him a seat. The diners smiled and, unlike the fearful respect they had towards Greed, they treated Integrity with genuine respect.
Before Integrity was even seated, Greed had lunged for the menu. He flipped through the menu, remembering that it was the company’s treat tonight, then selected the most expensive crusine on the menu. Like her husband, Selfishness ordered the most expensive wine.
“Solely for myself, I do not like sharing my wine, actually, I do not like sharing anything at all.” Selfishness couldn’t have been more blunt. The waiter nodded and walked away.
“But sharing is caring!” Happiness parroted the cliché as if it were her motto.
“But sharing is caring,” Selfishness mocked, her laughter screeched like a fingernail on a blackboard. “Sharing will get you nowhere, my dear. It’s your life – just like no one can live your life, no one cares about your life either.”
“What a horrible thing to say!” Compassion exclaimed, “If no one cares about your life, then you go through life in solitude…”
“You make solitude sound so horrible.” Hate’s eyes narrowed. “But what’s so wrong about being alone?”
“Well, being alone sometimes is alright,” Love couldn’t believe she was actually on Hate’s side. “I love to wake up early and watch the sunrise and breathe the early air. Watch the clouds roll by and the moon getting fainter and the sun brighter and…” Love stopped, quickly realising she had just wondered into her dreams again. It happened frequently to her; she would slip in and out of reality.
“No, no, no!” Love could see Hate tense. “Solitude is not supposed to be for pretty colours! Solitude is meant to be in a dark room, for only then can you truly see your fear.”
Ignorance laughed “Why would you want to see your fear?”
Hate bent over and whispered, sending a chill down Ignorance’s spine “We live in a cruel world where people are killing each other. Where people live for only themselves. We live in both fear of others and ourselves. We are petrified; yet entertained by the ability of humans to commit such macabre acts to one another. We are afraid and amazed at the evil that we posses and the simplicity of unleashing that terror. In this world, the only way to survive is to know your enemy and destroy your enemy. Fear is your enemy.”
There was a long silence. Sadness looked up from his empty plate, his expression was so mournful it could make someone cry. His voice, a sad song that echoed down a lonely hallway. “The world lives in an empty state. The essences of joy, of wonder, of life, are all missing, evaporated as time passes by. It seems like fear is the only solid thing that the world has secured. We can’t be alone in the outside world without the rushing thoughts of threats to our safety. As a society, what have we done? We live our lives, clinging to our trust like the mothers with their babies. ‘Trust no one’, they say. But I ask ‘why’? The world’s emptiness fills me. I have no personal fear, but only the fear of what may come to the human race.” Sadness bent his head down as tears welled in his eyes.
“Well, anyway…” Ignorance’s indifference was self-evident. “I am hungry and I would like the Pasoni de Cres – It is the most deliciously looking pastry. I don’t know what’s in it, but honestly, who cares?”
The waiter smiled as an answer, then remembering the hotel manager’s words: ‘you are here to serve, not to entertain. You are a servant, you don’t react, understand?’, he resumed his bland face and scribbled onto his note pad.
“Sounds good to me, I’ll have the same.” Envy shallowly chirped her agreement, but deep down inside she resented Ignorance. She hated the way Ignorance could just whip up these amazing facts and win the admiration of all. If only she was more like Ignorance.
“The Pasoni de Cres?” Intellect smiled – she knew this one. “That’s just crafted dough with bits of meat inside. Basically a meat pie with embroidery.” It was meant to be a joke, but the joke fell, splat, onto the floor.
“Oh, Intellect, Naive Intellect.” Ignorance patronised, shaking her head. “What would you know? This pastry, this extraordinary pastry (here Ignorance put on a French accent, making the table giggle and Envy more frustrated) was voted the number one exquisite cruisine in America. So you’re wrong, Miss I-think-I-know-everything-except-how-to-dress-myself!” Ignorance laughed – Intellect felt like the whole table was laughing at her. Even her brother was laughing at her. She couldn’t understand it. No matter how hard she tried to fit in, she couldn’t seem to make them accept her. She buried her head in the menu and recited poetry to calm herself.
“Can I order please?” Compassion called softly to the waiter. “Hi, I don’t want to be a pain, but do you have a vegetarian menu? I noticed that all these contain meat.”
The waiter nodded and adopted a masculine voice. It was a game he played as he adopted personalities. His acting teacher advised him that it was good practice, but he always made sure that the hotel manager wasn’t around, because here his acting abilities were of no credit.
The waiter cleared his throat “Yes Madame, we have a separate menu for vegetarians, I’ll just go and get it.”
After a polite ‘thank you’, he left the woman, congratulating himself on that star performance. His normal voice was a squeak, so to hear such masculinity projected from himself, he felt his self-esteem rising.
Upon returning with the menu, the waiter heard a voice that was filled with such manhood, that a pang of jealousy hit him. However, instead of letting that jealousy overwhelm him, he took mental notes of the voice for him to practice even harder when he was alone.
Anger’s voice echoed in the waiter’s mind. “You don’t understand my question,” Anger was pounding. He looked like a child who couldn’t make his parent understand. “How can you not eat meat?”
“But you don’t understand my question – how can you eat meat?” Compassion’s incredulity had no impact on Anger, who liked his meat practically raw. She continued reasoning softly.
“Don’t you know that animals have feelings too? They flinch at pain, they squeal at terror. They show signs of affection and signs of motherly love. Do animals feel? They react to generosity and to pain. They know how to be loyal and faithful, and how to be deceptive in order to survive. They are living creatures, not merely just a piece of dead meat, or resources to be exploited.”
“Exactly,” Love reinforced, she felt strongly on the subject. She felt that there could be no greater crime than to take the life of another. “Have you ever asked yourself the necessity to kill? Are fruits and vegetables not enough? Are nature’s gifts not enough for you? Must you corrupt your temple and let your self-desires destroy the morality that you have bound your life by? Is it really necessary to kill?”
Integrity, who had been listening attentively, also included his opinion. “Who are we to take the life of other creatures? They have as much right to live as we do. Who are we to play god?”
Prejudice laughed. “Have you all forgotten who you’re talking to? It’s Anger – he’ll eat anything even if there’s still a heart beat.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Anger was related to one of those cover stories last week. Did anyone notice that for the last three weeks the front page was always about a grotesque murder or mass-shooting or something like that?” Intellect hoped that this time no one would argue with her and make her look like a fool again.
As if by telepathy, Integrity nodded his head in agreement. “Worse, the way it’s written is as if it’s entertainment, not news.”
“I remember some bizarre headlines like ‘Sandwiches after father’s axe killing’, and ‘If death do us part, do us now’.” Individuality maybe considered odd, but nevertheless, his intelligence was unmistakable.
Prejudice snorted, trying to make a mockery of the outcast. “And what was that about, Individuality? I don’t see any relevance between marriage and the topic we are talking about.”
Prejudice waited for Individuality to melt away, but instead, Individuality smiled and answered confidently. “The article ‘If death do us part, do us now’ is actually about the bride murdering the groom on the wedding night, before hanging herself. So, I find it relevant to our topic.”
“Don’t get smart with me boy. In any case, how would I know what it’s about, these things only happen from where you come from, and where’s that again, in Misfit Land was it?”
“Actually, it happened right here, just ten minutes from work. And, not that it’s any of your business, I was born here but went on a scholarship in Identity Land, returning last year.”
“Oh my goodness!” Envy’s eyes widened with her jealousy. “You went to Identity Land on scholarship? I applied every year since I was fifteen years old, and I was willing to pay as well!”
“Let me guess,” Selfishness couldn’t stand Envy. Envy just had no sense of self-value “they rejected you every time? And let me have another guess – you didn’t get Individuality’s position because you didn’t have the potential and credentials from Identity Land?”
“It’s not fair! It’s so not fair!” Envy’s eyes began to glow a soft green. Everyone had seen it before, every time she didn’t get what she wanted. “What do you have that I don’t have? What is it that makes you so special? Integrity! You hired him, tell me why you didn’t promote me instead!”
Integrity peered into Envy’s eyes, as if searching for her dignity. If the eyes were really the windows to the soul, Integrity had probably found an answer.
“Envy, do you like your life?” Seeing the puzzled face, Integrity clarified further. “Do you wake up in the morning and look into your eyes to discover who you really are? You constantly ask why ‘him’ and why not ‘you’? As if you’re the victim and the world is your enemy. You’ve asked the right question, but you’ve looked for the answer in the wrong place. You see, the cause is not those around you, the cause is you. You try to hide behind superficiality – your clothes, your hair, and your pretentious attitude. You’re always trying to be what others want you to be and not who you really are. I suggest you go home and take a long look in the mirror and look into your eyes, can you see respect for yourself? Or is it just empty – a hollow heart? Take a look at yourself – the real self, past the face and the pretty colours – take a look at your soul and discover your faults. Don’t hide from them, don’t run from them – discover them and learn from them. Individuality isn’t better than you, it’s just that he’s got his own characteristics and not the image that he thinks people want. He’s different, unique. But instead of competing with him, try and learn from him.”
By then, Envy was crying. However, those around her, Anger and Prejudice, refused to comfort her. Only Compassion ran from across the table and seeing this, Deceit leaped up and put his arms around Envy.
“Truth hurts.” Hate pointed out indifferently. “It’s always the case, reality can be so brutal, that living in fantasy is so much easier.”
Greed laughed “Unless that fantasy is anything like the game you created!” Then he stood up, “Tonight, Integrity and I would like to present Hate’s masterpiece, ‘Malice in Wonderland’!”
“Hold on!” Integrity also got up. “I’ve already objected to that. I thought we were going to promote Love’s ‘Alice Revisits Wonderland’.”
“Who would buy that?” Anger seemed to have had a drink too many and if his reputation holds tonight, Integrity and Love must be careful. Anger is known to stand by his friend, Hate. “Let’s hear about your game, Hate. When it comes on market, I’ll be the first one to buy a dozen and distribute it to all the playschool children everywhere!” He stared at Happiness when he said that, as if challenging her again.
Ignoring Integrity’s objections, Hate began to explain his masterpiece. “‘Malice in Wonderland’ will be the PC game of the millennium. This Alice will be a twisted and dark reversal of Lewis Carroll’s sweet and innocent girl in wonderland. She will be armed, first with a standard kitchen knife and then these toys get more exciting.”
“That’s horrible!” Love, Compassion, Happiness and Intellect could not believe their ears.
“But why? Why does it have to be so destructive? It’s immoral!” Any hope Love had in Hate has now disintegrated to nothingness.
“Why? Because it’s what the audience wants – The consumers in this era, in this millennium, have a vicarious attitude to malice and destruction.” Hate’s eyes actually lit up “Why do our ears perk up at news about death and murder and rape and wars, wars, wars, and immorality? Why is it that the necessary ingredients for a successful movie are violence, drugs, money and sex? There is a market out there that wants it, and to be successful in this industry, you need to give them what they want.”
“But doesn’t it concern you that your game and your kind of thinking can affect children’s mentality? Doesn’t it worry you that the next generation will be made up of immorality and evil?” Guess Love still thinks that there is a chance to erudite Hate.
“Ha! Too late!” Prejudice the cynic – the name suited him. “You want to change the world Love? You want to spread your goodness around? Well let me tell you something dear, it’s too late. You’ve missed the last train, so now you’re stuck here with the rest of us. You’re stuck here with all the malice and corruption. You have two options: either sacrifice your purity and succumb to evil, or keep preaching to deaf ears. To be honest, the first one is so much easier, and as Hate said, it’s the only way to survive in such a world.”
“That is preposterous! It’s that kind of thinking that…” As usual, Intellect was interrupted, this time by Selfishness.
“You know, from the beginning of time, humans have lived for themselves. Only a couple of idiots still sacrifice their life for others, like those blockheads who go around hugging trees.”
“We don’t hug trees, we save them.” Compassion explained. Selfishness and Greed, who found charities somewhat amusing, also found Compassion’s explanation hilarious.
“You know,” Greed was gasping for air “you are one odd kid, Compassion. You are exactly like Love. Tell them about your project, Love.”
“Why? So you can make fun of it?” Integrity interrupted. “You know, Greed, your life is filled with so much materialism that you have forgotten the essences that make up life. You have lost…”
“Now look here old man,” Greed had stopped laughing. “Don’t give me one of your speeches again, I’ve already copped one upstairs.”
“But it’s true.” Sadness couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Our lives are miserable and empty. We may feel that we have everything we need for our survival. We may feel that we are so much more fortunate than those starving in Asia and those dying in Africa. However, the core of it all, the very element that can make someone satisfied and alive, indeed it has been lost.”
“You are a fool.” Ignorance spoke with such indifference that Sadness could feel a rip in his heart. “I liked you better when you didn’t speak, every time you spoke it’s rubbish. What is life? If life is living like those in poor countries, then it isn’t life is it? Is that why you’re always gloomy and dull? Because you’re worrying about them? Gosh, don’t you have better things to think about in life?”
“You can’t constantly push anything distressing and unfortunate away. One day you have to face them.” Intellect voiced.
“Oh, what would you know? Look at you, you’re nothing, that’s why! But me, I have hopes and dreams, I have money so I don’t ever need to think about living like them.”
“You still don’t get it, do you?” It never occurred to Intellect that Ignorance would never get it.
“You know, I have something to say.” Timid Paranoia squeaked.
“Oh shut up!” Ignorance snapped sharply.
“Don’t tell him to shut up!” Once again, Intellect played the role of the elder sister. “I am repulsed by the way you think you surpass everyone. I loathe the way you speak to me like I’m inferior to you and not deserving of even breathing the same air as you. You have no respect for anyone who does not have the same superficial standards as you. People tip toe around you in case you suddenly have an explosive attack. People smile their sweet smiles in front of you and then hiss and snicker at your back. You live your life unaware and only concerning yourself with the fantasy, blocking off the reality.”
“That’s enough!” Ignorance could not believe this amateur was speaking to her in this way. Although she didn’t understand some of what Intellect was talking about, she could see that it wasn’t pleasant. “Listen…”
“No, you listen!” Intellect felt a sudden rush of confidence as she saw things more clearly “I walked on eggshells around you, I was friendly and courteous, only asking for you to reciprocate. For some senseless reason, I used to want to be like you. But you…you felt yourself above my petty friendship, but you know what? Tonight I realised that you are nothing. You have no spirit – no wisdom, no kindness – just a rotten soul. Your life is filled with such stupidity that one might say that you’re not truly alive. Now that I come to think of it, I am so happy I’m not you.” Just like that, like an exhalation of decayed air, Intellect felt instantly alive and happy to be alive. She turned to her brother, waiting for that disappointed face of his. To her surprise he was smiling at her, and hugged her.
“That was so brave, I’m so proud of you.” Paranoia whispered. “You know, I learnt something tonight as well, lust doesn’t compare to real friendship, and definitely not worth more than a sister’s love.
“Aw, that’s so sweet!” Happiness looked so dreamy “I love happy endings.”
“Well, you like living in fantasy that’s why. In real life it’s not like that.” Hate – always a pessimist.
“No,” Love rebutted softly “Life can be as good as fantasy, if you take the time to cherish even the simplest wonder. Yes, life can be wondrous.”
“Even with a lost love?” Deceit asked, looking at Compassion.
“That depends,” Integrity couldn’t keep the knowledge any longer “is it real love? Or is it just for the purpose of gaining a share in the company?”
The table stared at Deceit, who looked dumbfounded. Deceit had overlooked Integrity’s wisdom and insight.
“Even with Deceit?” Selfishness laughed.
“Even with violence?” Anger picked up the game.
“Even with teenage kids?” Prejudice was incredulous that Love can have such solid faith in the world.
“Yes! Yes to them all!” Love’s goodness shone.
“How about the knowledge that one day you will die?” Ignorance’s number one fear.
“Death is inevitable; if you live your life in fear of it, then life and death, what’s the difference?” Intellect replied, and for once she felt no fear of anyone challenging her views.
“What about with the knowledge that people are suffering all around the world?” Sadness asked, almost as if for a reassurance from Love.
“But Sadness, how would know joy and comfort if you’ve never tasted pain and suffering? And if you always torment yourself by drawing in the anguish of those who are less fortunate than you, then aren’t you bringing yourself down to the same level?”
Hate did not believe that Love could hold her purity for so long. “Even with the evil in the world – the crime, the destruction, the murders, the wars and the corrupted human heart? Even with the growing animosity and the dying kindness, even with these real facts of life?”
“Hate, there are some things that you can’t change, they must do it themselves. There are some things that you can’t rescue if they refuse to let you. It doesn’t matter is you’re Love or you’re Hate, the choice is yours. So to answer your question: yes, I believe that amongst all these a spark of Love will survive, and that’s what’s going to let the world continue turning.”
The light from the rising sun begun to stream through the room. Most of the diners had already adjourned early and crept into some empty rooms. Others had partied the rest of the night away. Some were still at the dinner table, their conversations burning throughout the night. But upon seeing the morning rays, they gathered themselves up and emptied out, dispersing to their separate ways. Some took familiar roads, while others decided that it was time to choose the roads previously not taken and discover their humanity.