Writing Music About

The Windfall

"You can't have that without paying!" she shouts, suddenly on her feet.

We had been sitting together under a pear tree in the field, in this place which has been our world for all our lives. I had noticed a bruised pear nestled in the grass between us. Her hand was on it in a flash.

"Only yesterday we shared these things," I cry, "shared the blessed providence of being born in this place of plenty."

"That was yesterday," she says coldly. "I am a different person today. I am no longer your equal, I own all of this, and if you want it, you need to pay."

"But I have nothing," I say. "How can I pay?"

"You have something" she says. "There is a spark of energy in you, the energy to do things and make things. I will buy that from you."

"But if you buy it from me, I will be nothing."

"Don't be a fool. The spark of energy keeps giving. You will always have more of it to sell."

"How much will you pay me for my energy?" I ask.

"It's a difficult thing to put a price on," she says. "It's not worth much. It only really has any value if it is put to use for an extended period. Let's say, four hours is worth one hundred units."

"What are units?" I ask. "What good to me are they?"

"Units are what you will use to exchange for other things – things that you want – just as I have exchanged your spark for the units that I will give you."

"And what can I exchange these hundred units for?" I ask.

"Well, the air to breathe for one day is twenty-five units, and the water to drink and to wash is another twenty-five. If you pay me another fifty units I will give you somewhere to sleep and enough food to create energy to work."

Somewhere to sleep and enough food will see me through this life. And she will provide them. What more could I want?

"What would you like me to do for my first period of energy use?" I ask.

She reaches behind her and produces an axe. Where she has got such a thing I do not know. Its head looks heavy and its blade sharp.

"You see these trees, she says. I'd like you to chop some down and build me a house. A grand house that suits my station."

"Your station?!" I cry. "Yesterday we sat and ate together, content to be equals. Suddenly your station is different to mine?"

"Today I have all of this and you have nothing," she says, "ergo, I am your superior. My station is above that of yours. It's a simple enough concept. Are you too simple to grasp it?"

It's difficult to challenge.

"And what of my children, and their children?" I say. "Will they bow to you and yours just because you have seized all this and declared your ownership and your superiority?"

I can feel the weight of the axe in my hand. Never mind the trees, one blow directed somewhere else would probably be enough. I could own all of this myself.

But I don't want it, don't want the bother of explaining this to all of those who will come, and the bother of defending it against their interests. I don't want to live the lie that I have it because I am better than them, or you or anyone else. My soul would know I only have it because I took it from others. Let her have it. Let her deal with that. Let her soul deal with that. She has energy the same as me, she can use her energy on those things.

But I have energy too... Just one blow and I'd still have energy to spare to start building such a house for myself.

But what would follow? A lifetime of defending what I have from the hordes who have nothing? Living in the prison of a lie – the lie that I am better than them – for as long as I can defend it?

It would, of course, be a prison full of all of the things that I might need in this life – a truly gilded cage. And I'd have enough to ensure that my children and their children would never want for anything as well. At least, not want for anything except peace of mind and cleanliness of conscience.

What if I could somehow protect my ownership in some-or-other structure that would defend my interests on my behalf, so that no-one could challenge my ownership, let alone divest me of it? What if that enshrined system would allow me to pass all of it to my children without a trace of any shame or guilt over what I had done?

In my mind I am seeing institutions and documents. Grand buildings with armies in uniforms. Whole frameworks set up to protect me and my assets... So much to be built! And all starting from that first swing of the axe and that house. Dizzying to even imagine.

But who could find the energy to put all of that in place? How many other souls would one need to possess? How many bodies' energies would one need to seize? How many people would one need to dispossess? It was unimaginable a moment ago, but here it was in my mind. Now completely imaginable, but still despicable.

Resigned to my fate, I take up the axe and set about my first task.

You have been reading the short story The Windfall © 2023.

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