By Andrew Leishman
We are the five men of stone, left to stand in silent solitude as the earth swallows us whole. As we stand watching the comings and goings of the living world, our paralyzed statues serve as a symbol and a reminder to those who are free. We are a symbol of fear and a reminder of the consequence of happiness.
We will never feel the warm glow of the morning sun upon our cold disintegrating arms, nor will our hairs stand on end as the cool breeze runs along our now hairless arms. The warm rich blood that once flowed through a vast maze of arteries and capillaries will never again flow, nor will we feel the powerful rise and fall of our chest cavities as the cool sea air fills our now shriveled lungs. We are the men of stone.
The cry of bells rang throughout the crumbling ruined city of Caraun, disrupting the calm continuous afternoon-lull that had forever consumed the city. The residents of Caraun were flocking to the center of town. Small rag-covered children squeezed out of every crack in the crumbling buildings, and cats and dogs once enemies now came bounding, moving in a harmonious rhythm. Men and women emerged in a fury of excitement from the piles of rubble that littered the streets. In the alleyways amid the crumbling copper-tiled houses, between the droves of ancient apple trees, and through the lines of once great now rundown overgrown fisheries, people stirred. Most were poor, clothed in dribs and drabs of ragged hand-me-downs, blue faded jeans tired from years of play and overuse, or plain mud-stained overalls littered with holes, held together by safety-pin buttons. Others were dressed in a more elegant fashion from a time long ago, chatting as they walked. The clamour and commotion sent yellow-tailed swallows soaring through the clear light blue sky. In the silence of the surrounding green fields to the west, or the crumbling Persian orange cliffs to the south, one could hear the soft drum of the excitement that was winding through the streets, now consuming the city.
Caraun was located amid a cluster of crumbling cliffs overlooking the Tamolin Sea. It was known for the continuous stream of fishing boats that raided and pillaged the surrounding ocean. Their ivory white sails swelled in the warm summer wind, reflecting off of blue ocean waters like white clouds against a blue sky. Their hulls were painted with fire, as if they had been kissed by the fires of hell, from burnt orange to charred crimson, bobbing in the waves like a chaotic dance.
The people of Caraun were a simple folk. They did not concern themselves with the comings and goings of the outside world. They did not measure their wealth by the amount of gold in their chest, for they had no gold. They did not measure their status by the title they held or by the friends that they had, for there were no titles and they all had many friends. Wealth, riches, and status were of little importance to them, a now faded memory from a more complicated time. For the people of Caraun, happiness was not measured by the possessions they owned, but by the relationships they created. However, things are not always as they seem.
The center of town had now reached capacity, flooded with the energy and excitement of thousands. The smell of sizzling roasted pork now filled the air, signaling the beginning of the festivities and the feast. Several long tables clad in rich crimson cloths were laid through the center of the square. A small string quartet began to play in the southwestern corner of the square, each note more magical than the last. Suddenly, a ferocious cheer erupted from the already chaotic crowd as a man was brought on stage. The man had no shoes and was dressed in grey trousers and wore a thin faded tunic that exposed the majority of his chest. His hands were bound with twine and the saddened expression that lay across his face threated to extinguish the joy and excitement that had filled the air. As the sun reached its zenith, the man was forced to stand upright, his head now strapped to a thick wooden stump, atop the stage. It was almost time.
The man erupted in a cry of pain, shrieking as the first stone hit him. Stones were hurled at the man from every angle. Men, women, and children, who just moments ago were flying kites in the town square, produced several stones each from their pockets and joined in. The screech of the violins grew louder and the beat of the drums quickened in pace, both in unison with the man’s cries. And when the screaming had ceased, the man was cut from his post and brought to where the stone men dwell, hung to rest, silently screaming.
Many of the people of Caraun understand that this was their duty, others do not. However, they all understand that the survival of their city, the strength of their children, the abundance of their fish, and, above all, their happiness depended on this ritual. For them to survive, each year one must suffer, because to be happy is to suffer. A society’s success often comes at the expense of another’s.
We are the men of stone, lost and forgotten, a sacrifice for the many.