I am a coward and I may have begun the end of everyone I ever knew.
I used to live in a small town out in the western half of South Carolina. We were a small community, shut out from the normal which, which is something that I, admittedly, am still learning. It’s different out here. Things are faster. People are meaner. Buildings are huge and there are simply so many people. So. Many. People.
Where I was from, we didn’t have all of these things like you have here. We didn’t have business or industry – those things just weren’t part of our lifestyle. We didn’t have a need for cars or busses or even bicycles. The community was small – if you needed to get somewhere, you would just start walking. Clothes are much brighter out here and people dress in very strange ways. People like their clothing tight and restrictive. I don’t understand how people would ever intend on working in such small clothes, but then again, everyone out here doesn’t need to work quite like we did.
We made everything ourselves. Our food, our tools, our homes – we raised our own livestock and taught our children in the ways of the world and of the Lord. I see people attending schools here for many years after your fourteenth, which is when we would start getting to work in the community. Even now, I sit in this chair and hit buttons on this mechanism that I still don’t rightly understand to tell you these things. Your world and mine are immensely different.
Which is one of the reasons I had to leave.
I never intended on trying to get out of the community. My family, just like all the others, had been there for as long as we could remember and there had never been any reason to leave. We, just like this normal society of yours, have traditions that need to be upheld and issues that need to be dealt with.
I broke the traditions. I ruined my family. I destroyed my friends.
It’s all my fault.
My last day in the community started like many others, even though I knew that it was going to be significantly different. It was the harvest day and on this day we were all to meet in the community center – a large open field in the middle of the homes and farmland – to celebrate. There was always an abundance of food and drink and we all wore our finest clothing and people would play music to dance to. It was the happiest day of the year. And that year I was old enough to be the Harvest King.
The Harvest King was the most highest held position for the following year in the community. People would hang pictures of the King around town and we would add them to our prayers every night. Only the strongest and most worthy of young men could be considered the Harvest King and this year, I could just feel that it was going to be my year.
I was both nervous and excited as we headed towards the community center, my mother, father, two sisters and I. They exclaimed during the walk “Make way for the future King!” and would pretend to dust the ground in front of my feet. I knew there were two other boys that I would be competing against, however there was nothing I could do to better my chances now. The community voted just days earlier and today we would learn the results.
The community center was full of people, as expected, upon our arrival. We danced and sang and I drank my fill of wine made from the vineyard on the edge of the community. I was given a purple robe to wear, along with the two other boys who had their hopes for the position just as high as mine. The sun started to go down and the three of us were led to a large platform in the center that had been constructed specifically for this event. We stood upon it, high above the cheering crowd as our Reverend joined us, hushing the audience to hear him speak.
“Ladies and gentleman, hear me now!” he shouted.
“We hear you, Father!” they shouted back in unison.
“These three young men before are standing here as farmers, workers, and members of our family. These men have attempted to prove themselves worthy of the title of Harvest King for the last year and you all have decided! We have here the Crown of the Harvest!” He held up a large crown made from all sorts of earthly grasses. The crowd exploded into cheers as the three of us boys looked at the crown in envy. “Only one shall wear it in pride!” the Father continued. “Are you ready to find out the name of your new Harvest King?”
“Tell us!” the people yelled, putting their hands into the air, palms facing the darkening sky. “Please, tell us of our new king!”
The Father pulled a small sheet of paper from his pocket, inspected it, and then smiled. The congregation fell silent, waiting for his answer. Without a word, the Father walked over to us three and placed the crown tightly onto my head.
The community hollered and screamed in joy. People started to sing again as I was lifted into the air from the people that rushed the platform. I was carried around the field as people called my name and handed me all types of food. It wasn’t until they carried me back to the platform that I felt my stomach drop.
I knew the responsibilities of the Harvest King and I knew exactly what I needed to do to ensure the proper harvest for the following year. Every man and woman in the community marched towards the platform, instructing the younger children to go home and get to bed. I felt the lump in my throat grow large and heavy as my legs were kicked from behind, dropping me to my knees. The Father stood above me, now brandishing his ceremonial knife. Another man came behind me and tied my hands behind my back before getting a fistful of my hair. He pulled my head backwards so that all I could see was the night sky, stars shining brightly, my throat now exposed to the audience.
“It is today that were celebrate our new Harvest King!” shouted the Father.
“May he bring us much fortune and prosperity!” shouted the crowd in response.
I felt my eyes start to water as the fear of death crept over me. I was ashamed of this feeling, as I had seen so many Harvest King take their fate with courage and dignity in the past. I knew they struggled as they would writhe on the ground for a few moments, but they never let out a cry before they succumbed to death. And yet here I was, feeling like a child, wanting the safety of his mother’s arms again.
I saw the knife now being held over my head as the Father began his prayer. That was enough for me to decide. I stood up as fast I could and leapt from the platform. I ran until my legs burned towards the woods that surrounded the community and into the dark trees. I could hear men chasing me and screaming. I heard women crying and footsteps growing louder behind me. I ran and ran and ran until the patter of feet stopped and the light of their torches turned back to the shadows of the forest. Then I cried.
I walked for three days until I found another community – this one much different than mine. This community being the first I had ever seen of your world. It took some time, but I was able to beg on the streets and make enough of this currency to buy my first meal. How shameful it was to go from a King and in only a few days be brought down to a beggar. My family would be so disappointed. But I am sure I will no longer have to worry about them. There won’t be a community for long. With no Harvest King there is no harvest. With no harvest comes no food. They will surely starve.
I am a coward and I may have begun the end of everyone I ever knew.