It was an odd-sized casket, too small for a man, too big for a child. A flag was draped over it, a smallish one. It was carried by four men in uniform, though it was hard to tell for sure from a distance what uniform it was, or even if they were all men. There was no room for the usual six pallbearers due to the small size of the casket since it would have made for a comical service to have all six jammed together, shoulder-to-shoulder, crowding around an under-sized coffin. So the extra pallbearers were in the ranks of many others in uniform standing beside a small open grave. The officiant wore a robe instead of a uniform and must have said something because there was a long silence, then a burst of laughter.
It was very wicked of them, after all, yet I was not surprised. Some might think it was very callous or rude, but it was not that easy to judge. If someone knew what had passed to us, then it would not be that easy to decide what was right or wrong.
I was wondering how inside his dark, cold, and helpless coffin he would feel. The endless mare had haunted him, and his dark doom had strangled him, at last. Such a grim fall of the heartless dynasty it was. Now they would lie beneath the chill ground, where they deserve. He must have felt banished and lost, alone and helpless, just as what his dratted lineage forsook us in. They ruled on this unblessed land for decades. Generations had emerged and vanished, nations had born and died, hopes had lived and lost, but tyrants will always survive, and their tyranny will remain.
They had taken everything from us: our beliefs, our hopes, even our dreams. They mocked what once used to be valued, and they disvalue them ruthlessly. Nothing had left for us anymore; we had nothing to lose. Once everything is lost, wrath would seize the heart, and vengeance would find its way. Fury would arise, for pain never appease men, but irritates them.
He was just seventeen when he got into power. Although first, he was too young and immature to rule, soon he learned how. For him, it was the rebirth of the nation; for us, it was the same old story. The young master had plans to compensate for the sins of his ancestors. But years of the ambushed rage would soon be assailed.
Just after two months, finally, it happened. People swarmed into the streets, rebelled, and revolted. They claimed the abduction of the ruler, determined and unstoppable. They wanted to abolish this oppression. Soon they seized the territory, raid into the palace, and detained the young ruler. They coerced him to resign from the throne, and he did.
But that was not enough to execute justice. People wanted more: his death. So they captured him in a dungeon, and it had announced that he would hang soon after. I still can remember his cadaverous face after hearing that terrible news. He was beseechingly talking about his amendments and how he had stood against his father’s unjust orders. He wanted to remind us how he legislated some laws to eliminate poverty and ignorance. He asked us not to judge him with haste; that we were acting just like the monster that his parents used to be. But alas! People were deaf to his words.
On the execution day, all the people had gathered to see the fall of the monarchy with their own eyes. All seemed to be excited: some swore, some prayed, and some spit. They glowered at the execution squad with zeal. I can never forget his pale face as he stood on the platform and watched us calmly. He smiled wanly with his trembling lips. His eyes were tearful and dim, and his heart was full of ache and lack of hope.
The gallows happened faster than we thought. It was ironic to see how quick our revenge could be while we had been torturing for a lifelong. Everything was done, and everyone was soon gone with staggered faces. Soon the young man had been forgotten, but for me, there was something in him that seemed unforgettable.
Now he was dead with an everlasting curse upon his last name. People, whose voice had been silent, and their hope had been lost for years, then had a new chance to take their fate into their hands. With his death, their sudden outrage quenched. But were they in peace? Did they feel completed?
Despite all of these, I felt pity for him. He was too young to be executed in such a relentless way. And what was his charge? Being the heir of the cruel throne? The crimes and felonies that his notorious family committed were taking its scapegoat, and he paid high.
People forget everything too fast, but I still can remember what he had done. Despite all those who ruled before him, he understood us. He was not blind nor egoist to rule with cruelty; he was different. In his short life, he tried to bring justice to this wounded nation. In response, we paid him well with thanklessness. It simply did not seem that fair to me to punish him.
They were still digging that grave, the sun was slowly creeping into the west, and I was getting bored. I leaned on the pine tree next to me, wondering why they wanted to bury him “there”-in the woods, instead of the churchyard. Maybe because they believed the dynasty did not deserve to be forgiven by God. If that so, then why did they bring the officiant? Perhaps they tried not to be that inhuman.
I watch them digging that hole eagerly as if they wanted to make a massive one. Some parts of the ground were full of gangues and rubbles, but nothing could stop them. Like, they were overtly announcing to the earth that they shall never forgive and never forget. They dug the grave, so deep, so dark, that it would never come back to light. A grave, so massive, it could inhume all those suffers and sorrows that they had seen. They would inter him somewhere in the dark and stony heart of the ground. He shall lie in a world that no voice comes out. Just a perfect atonement for them!
His casket had a perfect size, too small for our dreams, too big for our hopes. A casket in which he can lie with all his kin forever. They would all suffer and suffocate in that tight coffin. They shall rest in hell forever. It was so relieving to see them all buried in that rigid thing, after that casket-life that they had put us in.
They wanted to hide that coffin in the deepest and most departed part of the land, so they will never remember all those wretched accursed years again. But could we ever forget? Would that dispel? Some believed so, but I was not quite sure. Sometimes, I realize that the curse is upon us, the people, not the monarchy. The anathema had been rooting beneath this land for a long while. But after all, now we had hope, and we were determined to gaze upon the future.
Sometimes, I ask myself who was guilty? The dynasty had been killed our hopes and buried our dreams. Our hearts were full of hatred. We could not tolerate this injustice anymore, and we did what we thought was right. We had no regrets, but sometimes I question our actions that led to the death of the young master. We must have been so ungrateful toward his amendments. At that time, we all believe it was another lie. Lies, lies, and lies! It was the only thing that we could hear. It had seeped through our minds and corrupted our thoughts. We were too dubious that we could not trust anyone or any word. Too skeptical we were to see that things were getting better.
If there was a lesson I learned through my life, it was not to judge. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish right from wrong or guilt from innocence. Maybe we were all guilty. After struggling hard to find someone to put all blames on, I could not find anyone admittedly. But there was something to sure of: the revolution must have happened anyway.
I stood calmly, leaned on the pine tree bough, and watched them silently. The past seemed like a mare. The future seemed unsure, but the only flickering hope had lied over there. We had to reach it. We had to forget our sore wounds and try hard to start over. So we stretched our hands to that shimmer, the only thing that we had.
The grave wasn’t ready until sunset, so the whole event was rushed and disorganized, except for the very last part. The grave was a massive affair, more of a crater than a grave, and it took until dark to roll the casket down to the bottom. If any prayers were said, they couldn’t be heard over the dull thudding of the clods raining down on the casket far below. It was an odd-sized casket, too big for a man, too small for a dream, but just right for a dynasty.
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