Following our Shepherd
Every morning the herd surrounds the Great Rock, on the Crest of Conservatism. We gather to hear the Shepherd speak. He was slightly tarnished with age, and had short black hair, but acted youthfully in his care for his herd. When comparing stature with other humans, some would regard him quite small, but among us he was a giant, and he carried himself as such. The Shepherd was our guardian and our teacher. He would teach us about the destination- the worth and the happiness -that would be rewarded to us for following in the Shepherd’s shadow. He was always telling us of the lost straggler that was “dealt with” by the boarder collies. He reminded us that the dogs were there for us, to protect us from corrupted sheep. They knew what was best and would execute on any action they felt was necessary to help guide us in the right direction.
When the Shepherd was around we. the sheep, were given a sense of security. Maybe it was the promises that he would lead us to our future, to our happiness, to our destination. Till then, every spring we would be shaved, “It is for your comfort,” the Shepherd would say to us. He told us the summer would be hot and that the fleece would be a burden that no sheep will carry while he was on guard.
As sheep we were to live by strict rules. If you fail to meet them, then you meet the dogs. Most of these rules lie in the Valley of the Forbidden Pond. The Forbidden Pond was a serine water mass. It dwelt in a lush green valley of grass, grass that was never to be eaten. At the edge of the pond there is water lilies, with colourings of red, blue or yellow. These lilies were never to be sniffed. The water in the pond was beautiful, it was opaque in its multitude of colours, yet transparent in its depth. Yet the water was forbidden to drink. In the water though, swam the most graceful of fishes, shinning and daring you nearer to listen to their beautiful song, a song that you were never to hear..
One day the Shepherd caught two sheep drinking from the Forbidden Pond, and listening to the songs of the fishes. The Shepherd was enraged, he scolded the two sheep, then in finality yelled,“Come with me!” and the left for his House. Never were the sheep heard from again.
The Forbidden Pond gives the drinker sight, so fantastic, that the sheep who digests of it begins to question the Shepherd. The digesters, as they’re known, claim to have had their happiness realized. Of course all known digesters have been sent to the House to never return. I have no idea what the House is, except that the Shepherd stays there when he’s not tending to us. All creatures who leave for the House never return, except for the dogs and Shepherd.
The sheep of the crest have always been encouraged by the Shepherd to stay physically fit and aware. He says: “A healthy sheep will be the only sheep to enjoy his destination.” So I play Hide & Go Seek, and Tag to satisfy our leader.
It was late spring, my fleece was very short from being cut only weeks before. Butterflies of yellow and blue were skipping from blade of grass to lonely dandelion. And I was charging through them, with my friend 060291.
We were numbered so the Shepherd could keep us organized, which were displayed by blue tags stapled to our ears. We were all numbers in the faceless herd. But for the sheep we all have our own names for each other, for example my friend 060291 was called Colin, and I, 060390, am called Kyle by my closest friends.
We were playing Hide & Go Seek and were searching for a rock or fallen tree to hide behind. As we trampled the grass that was at our knees, I felt the blades beginning to cut my ankles.
“Kyle,” Colin said to me, “why not kneel in the grass? We would be hidden from plain view.”
“We always kneel and we are always found, so no. We should find somewhere else to hide,” I said to him, looking over at him and not at where I was running. Just then, the ground beneath my feet disappeared. My feet lunged forward and I toppled head first down a valley hill, followed closely by Colin.
When I recovered, and stood to survey where I was, I quickly realized the place I had landed was the Valley of the Forbidden Pond. I looked up the hill that we had just fallen, and was stunned at how the grass seemed un-creased by our entrance, as if it wished our location to be a secret. The deep green grass was given a beautiful orange tinge from the dusk ridden sky.
“Whoa,” I softly uttered. I could hear Colin’s gasp as he marvelled at the land that laid before us. “We need to get back soon Colin,” I said pointing his nose to the sky, “We will be expected.”
He nodded toward me and we began to move up the hill. The grass was so much longer here, and it was greener on this side of the crest no doubt, but the Shepherd would be quite angry if he found us here. I knew this place was a land of evil, but my desire to observe seemed to overpower my need to leave. I stopped halfway up the hill, and Colin followed suit. We both knelt down to conceal ourselves from prying eyes.
“Kyle, what would happen if we had a taste?” Colin asked, as his eyes marvelled at the pond that laid steps ahead of us.
I began to stare at the orange sky as if reminiscent, “We’d anger the Shepherd, our kind, thankless leader. He helps us out of the kindness of his own heart, it would be cruel to betray that generosity to satisfy our own curiosity.” I looked again at Colin who seemed to have inched himself closer to the pond where his temptation laid, “Why do you ask?”
“I have heard that in it, and everything in this valley, lies the key to unlock imagination,” he said, his voice half realization-- half whispered.
“What is imagination?” I asked of Colin. Colin was the smartest of the sheep, he’d often spend his afternoons discussing ideas and thoughts with the others, guiding them to a piece of logic and understanding that they would never have achieved on their own.
“Imagination is a world in your head. In your imagination your happiness lives-- in a house-- with a rose garden--”
“I like roses!” I interrupted.
“Of course you do, everyone loves roses.” he reassured me, “Anyways in your imagination anything is possible-- And in your imagination you can discover ways of making others find their happiness.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed, “an imagination seems almost divine. But if it is so great, why would the Shepherd forbid us from getting one?”
“Easy. If everyone was happy, why follow the Shepherd?”
“But if the Shepherd is not here to leads us to happiness, why is he here?”
“Ah, now you have asked a question that I cannot answer.”
I looked back up in the air, I sniffed the sweet smell of the untouched grass. Then behind us there was another sound. I turned and got a glance at the top of the hill to see a great boarder collie. One with hair so black, that looked almost felt as if night was upon you when staring at it, and eyes so dark one questions instantly the purpose god created this beast for. I knew who this dog was. It was Rodfut, the Shepherd‘s lap dog and leader of the border collies.
“Colin, if we’re seen here, we will surly be sent to the House,” I whispered in a voice so quite that the gentle breeze softly moving the grass almost drowned it out.
“We have not done anything though,” Colin replied.
He must have spoken a little too loudly, because after he had finished Rodfut looked up, curiously examining the horizon. He then began to move closer to Colin and me.
“Kyle, stay here,” Colin mumbled as he began to stir.
“Wait! Where are you going?” I asked, but he must not have heard me because he never replied.
He stood straight up and charged toward the pond. Rodfut saw him almost instantaneously and began to bark at him. He was warning him, “Stop! Stop or I will be forced to assault you!” he yelled in a harsh voice, but Colin still ran. He had reached the lilies and gave them a sniff before Rodfut could stop him.
When I glanced down at Colin I saw a smile on his face. This smile seemed to differ from other smiles I’d seen him make. This one wasn’t of the joy he’d receive from winning a race, or the smile he’d get when coddled by a loved one. No, this smile was a smile of absolute content, a smile that one would make when delivered to the destination and finally obtained happiness. His smile was unfaltering. Even when Rodfut tackled him his smile was still there, still as unique as it had been before.
I was forced to turn when I saw Rodfut bite into the back of Colin’s neck, and begin to drag him. I saw the blood that was spilt and began to run. Rodfut was so busy with fulfilling his brutal duty upon my only friend, that he was unable to see me fleeing back up the valley hill.
When I got to the top, everyone was gathered around the great rock where the Shepherd spoke. No one saw me as I rushed into formation. The circle of white fleece looked and listened intently upon our noble speaker, “… that is why young followers, you all shall leave this place to the destination,” the Shepherd voice boomed, and the sheep all cheered, “I shall not go with you of course--” the Shepherd was interrupted by gasps, at the news he had just revealed.
“Would not come with us, but he is the only reason that we would have made it,” the sheep whispered.
The Shepherd silenced the gasps with a raise of a hand, so he could continue his speech, “Understand! I must stay so as to make certain that many other sheep reach the destination. It would be rather selfish of myself to leave with you when the way is not yet clear for others. An automobile will arrive tomorrow to pick up the herd, and it will take you to your destination.” He paused, and there was a hushed excitement about the heard. Though I was frightened of what had become of Colin, I could not help but feel with some anticipation of finally arriving at the destination, my key to my happiness.
“What is this you bring me Rodfut?” the Shepherd turned and asked, “Who is this sheep you carry?”
The herd turned to face the vicious dog which held in his mouth the bloodied and weakened body of sheep #060921, my friend Colin. His eyes were drooped shut, probably due to loss of blood, but his smile was still present.
“I found him, this ungrateful beast, sniffing the lilies,” Rodfut uttered from his mouth while dropping the limp body of my friend from his jaws. It was then I noticed that his ear was bloody as well, and the tag that had been there was now removed.
“Who are you?” the Shepherd said in a terrifying voice, “Stand before me and tell me who you are.”
Colin continued to lay on the ground unstirred. Then Rodfut let out a horrifying bark that made the entire herd hop back. “Answer your shepherd!” Rodfut growled.
Colin staggered to his feet slowly and, still with his smile, stared a bloody stare at the Shepherd, “What is it that you asked--” Colin paused himself for a second, “Sir!” he finished with a heavy coat of sarcasm laced into it.
“Who are you?” the Shepherd spoke. The Shepherd had a look so dark. He was at a type of angry that had never before been seen on the Crest of Conservatism.
“I?” Colin replied with a bold voice, “I am free,” he said with a finality that had taken even the Shepherd by surprise.
“No,” the Shepherd recovered, “you are a fool. You have wasted your life and all you worked for. You could have left tomorrow with the rest of the herd, but all that is lost. You have been lost, and will now come with me.”
When Rodfut grabbed Colin again by the neck, I began to move forward to stop it, but Colin looked back at me, his smile still in place, he looked at peace. I knew he did not wish for me to follow, his eyes told it all, Stay there, they said to me, I know what I have done. Then when he left my sight, I left for bed.
When I got to the patch of grass that was my home, I curled up and tried to get as comfortable as I could. Laying there staring into the starry expanse of the cloudless night, I was unable to get to sleep. I was to filled with thoughts, first of the beauty and happiness I was bound to find at the destination. But then, my thoughts began to wander, I started to wondered if Colin received an imagination, which was why he was so happy. Then came thoughts of what had happened to Colin when he left with the Shepherd. Then I was curious of why the Shepherd seemed so angry at how happy Colin was. Finally my thoughts returned to the question that I had never receive an answer to before: But if the Shepherd is not here to leads us to happiness, why is he here?
When I finished that thought, the sun was beginning to rise, and the field where the sheep lay were beginning to empty. I walked down to the Crest of Conservatism to see ten roughly dressed men carrying my kin onto a very large truck that had a very dark trailer on the back. One grabbed me and walked toward the Shepherd who was standing on the rock with a check list. The man who held me lifted up my ear and said to the Shepherd, “#060390,” the Shepherd looked down his list made a mark and then motioned the man who held me to carry on.
He walked me in behind the trailer and tossed me into the dark abyss. The sheep that were in it with me were very excited. I heard whispers about how, “the destination will be full of sweet corn and have many balls we can play with, I bet that’s exactly what it’ll have,” or, “I think it will be place on a mountaintop observing above all the sheep below. It will be so high we could jump and fall forever.” Our dreams had been answered, we were about to enter a world we had waited for since we were all little lambs. The truck pulled into gear and took our herd to a place we could have never dreamed.
The ride seemed about three hours short of eternity. The sheep were silent the whole ride down, and seemed to almost be ready to explode with anticipation. The excitement was so strong that the events of the day before seemed so far in the past that it was as if I had only read about them. When we finally came a stop, all the sheep began to push on the closed door, actually injuring a sheep or two.
When the doors finally opened, different men then the ones who put us in the trailer, came to get us out. There were about ten of them and they wore these dreadful looking black gas masks and had on white aprons with red stains up and down them. They wore cold black rubber gloves and boots. In their hands were black sticks that when held hard, a blue light came out and made the sound: click, click, click. When it made contact with any of the sheep, they would drop and be immobilized for several seconds before regaining coherency. It appeared they wanted us to form a large line, single file to the doors.
The line quickly assembled and the sheep began to leave the trailer one-by-one. As I moved closer to the doors, I saw that there was a wooden gang plank that apparently lead to a big concrete building that the sheep, single file, seemed to be entering. The building was not very inviting with its water stained walls and rust tainted metal doors, but the line continued unwavering, although I could feel the loss of anticipation among my kin. It was replaced with an uneasy, unnerving, possibly terrified feeling as they continued to walk.
Through the doors of the concrete building it was difficult to see anything. I noticed on my left, something that had taken me a little by surprise. It was a mound of fleece. The fleece was taken and processed and made into clothing. All this done by a machine. To the right there was something I could not make out for it was so dark, but the smell it had was something I had never smelt before. The line walked onto these treadmills that went into a dark metal tunnel. All the sheep disappearing in one end, and soon after a thump followed from my right.
When I entered the tunnel, I heard the scraping of metal, moving back and forth, back and forth. I looked ahead and saw the sheep in front of me pressed down by an anonymous contraption and then a sharp blade come out from behind the wall, and with one slick movement slit the neck of the now lifeless beast. It was then I realized what this place was: A slaughter house. I tried to turn and run, but the tunnel was so tight, I did not have the room to move. I tried backing up but it was too late, the metal contraption came and pressed down on my body making me unable to move. Just as the blade drew itself out from behind the steel tunnel wall, it was as if time stopped.
I was forced to watch my entire life, from lamb-hood to this fatal moment. I re-endured every one of the Shepherd’s speeches of deliverance and happiness. I remembered all the sacrifices I made for this promise, and sacrifices made for me. Then it came to me, my realization, before my death: happiness can be achieved at anyplace, but one must be allowed to find it. The problem with the sheep is that they allow themselves to believe that happiness, life even, is something you have to wait for, to be given. But no creature, object or thing can give you happiness other then yourself, then in the end, the sheep have just been manipulated, they have given, but will not get. It was so clear to me. The Shepherd had only lead me for the hope of profit, he wished us healthy so if we were to taste good he could say, he raised that sheep. Those who wear our fleece may say that it seems fresh and well kept, and the Shepherd would say, he kept those sheep.
The knowledge, that after all this work I was only to be used, brought me back to reality. I felt the cold blade press against my jugular, then it pulled and there was nothing.