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Fiction

An Old Tale

By Seana Sperling

Millennia ago, there were a people that fled the tyranny of slavery. They left the lush gardens of their country and were forced to wander for years in the sands of a never-ending desert. This harsh place offered little in the way of enrichment for body or soul and in their despair they began to question their leaders. Had their lives really been so bad before? The food supply was running low and as a result there were nightly raids of the richer inhabitants. Amid the discord, the people began to turn on each other and many were even slain over the theft of something as small as a loaf of bread.

The elders came together to discuss how they could bring peace and unity to their divided camps. They chose a small beige goat from the flock and called all the people to a meeting. At the meeting, the elders lead the goat by a tether before the people and said, “This goat is evil and has brought bad luck on our tribe. It has done nothing good its entire life and even its milk tastes sour.”

The people regarded the goat. How could such a small goat be responsible for the theft of food, the resulting murders and the brutality of desert life? The goat was practically starving and its ribs were so pronounced that they looked more like they were on the outside rather than in. The people stared in sadness at the shivering goat.

Than one man pointed at the goat and said, “That is the goat that stole my bread. I saw it. It happened the other night.” The people turned and looked at the man questioningly. Another man said, “I have seen that goat sneaking around my tent. Just look at its face. You can see it can’t be trusted.” Then a woman chimed in. “That goat soiled the land outside my tent.”

Suddenly, there was a hum of angry whispering and oaths. The people began to shout insults at the goat and call it terrible names. Even the children began to yell foul things. The small goat bleated horribly. Then one of the smaller children picked up a stone and hurled it at the goat. The goat, struck in the face, turned toward the child and charged. Of course it was jerked to a stop by the tether, but the child screamed anyway.

Then the people picked up stones and surrounded the goat. The small goat struggled to free itself from its tether. The people so caught up in the frenzy, gleefully hurled stones at the innocent goat. The small goat lay broken and bloodied and already the flies had appeared and carrion dimmed the sky. The people left, pounding each other on the backs in sycophantic accord on how they had saved the community from the evil goat.

As the sun rose in the morning, a terrible noise like that of a huge building collapsing came from the east. The air became yellow and the wind moved with terrible fury, round and round.

The people covered themselves as best they could and protected their young as the wind pierced tents and threw their possessions into the air. The wind ripped through the dunes and heaped entire hills of sand over their livestock and belongings.

Suddenly the air was still and the remaining sand dropped as if dumped from the sky. The people rose, half-buried in the dunes, as if rising from graves. As they brushed themselves off and cleared the sand from their eyes, they saw the devastation. People searched for loved ones, which they found, but all the livestock, food and other valuables were completely gone. The few items that remained were broken crockery and scraps of tents.

As the people cried out at the injustice of the desert, they dug through the dunes, searching for the livestock, gathering even their broken possessions. The elders gathered, still in shock and gazed across the vast sands in search of guidance. In the distance they saw a small animal, half buried in the sand. They ran to it, only to discover the half eaten carcass of the small goat.

About Seana Sperling

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