Manuscripts Burn


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- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 4, Part 3

"Do you know what the ultimate driving force behind mankind is, Krauss?"

"No, sir," replied Krauss.

"Fear!" Metzger replied with a conviction, "Fear is the only force that can drive and bind the human race. How does a dictator maintain rule? Fear of force. How does a democracy maintain rule? Fear of tyranny. How does a church maintain rule? Fear of eternal consequences. How does any government maintain rule? Fear of anarchy.

"Fear is the only force that can cause a man to act. Fear is the only force that can cause a woman to act. Fear is the only force that can cause an animal to act. Why does an antelope run from a cheetah? Fear! Name an event in history, Krauss. Any event."

"Uh, the founding of the Roman Empire."

"The Roman Empire was a direct result of fear. Fear of the Gauls invading caused Caesar to begin the Gallic Wars. Fear of a king caused the death of Caesar. Fear of anarchy caused the crowning of Octavian emperor. Fear of the Praetorian Guard kept the Emperor in command. Fear of the Roman Army kept conquered lands in line.

"Do you know what mankind is most deathly afraid of? Change. Change is the only thing which we are truly afraid of. We like the comfort of now, the predictability of the present. If humans all had their way, nothing would ever change. But then there is the fear of stagnation, paranoia (that is, rather, the fear of others), and pain (the fear of being injured) that causes us to not maintain the present. And so we go forward, ever fearful of what lies ahead."

The marshal had been giving speeches to Krauss for several days now. He was trying to make Krauss understand how he felt. Krauss saw the passion in Metzger's eyes, and knew he felt strongly about things. It was amazing to Krauss the kind of things that the marshal was talking about, though.

"Fear is the only way to consolidate power. Fear is the only power," Metzger's eyes burned like hot coals in a funeral pyre.

Suddenly in a flash of motion Metzger had drawn his sidearm. He touched the gun to Krauss's forehead and fingered the trigger. Krauss felt the cold steel against his forehead and felt a fear like nothing he'd ever imagined. Pure terror welled up within him.

"You seem scared, Krauss. Why? What are you scared of?"

"Your gun," squeaked Krauss like a little field mouse.

"Why? What about it scares you?"

"That it's going to kill me!" howled Krauss.

Metzger squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. Krauss's body suddenly relaxed and the fear disappeared. His legs felt like Jell-O and he dropped to the floor.

"You said you were afraid of the gun. You're not afraid of the gun anymore?"

"Well, I know now it can't hurt me."

"Precisely, general. You see, you were scared of the gun only because of what it represented. It represented death for you. I knew it was unloaded, so it couldn't hurt you. But you were still scared of it because it symbolized what you were afraid of.

"If we want to invoke fear in enough people to rule we need symbols, general."

Suddenly the telephone rang.

"Whose telephone is that?" Metzger asked incredulously.

"Does anyone have your number here?" asked Krauss.

"They shouldn't."

Krauss shrugged. He picked up the phone.

"Hello? This is Krauss. Yes, the marshal is here. Who's this? All right, here he is."

Krauss handed the phone to Metzger. Metzger cupped his hand over the speaker.

"Who is it?" he whispered.

"The chancellor."

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