The Exit Colony
A knock loud and hurried awakes me from my drunken slumber. I quickly cast a cloth around my naked frame and saunter my way towards the archway. “Who calls so loud?” I ask, as I creep through my shadowed grotto, festering for a candle. A raspy voice calls back, “Come hither man.”
The flickering moonlight exposes a young boy not a night over 16 leaning against the trellis of my hovel. Bloodshot eyes and midnight stubble mask a generous lad. Familiar he is, but not too familiar. The silver crucifix swathed ’round his neck speaks money, but his tattered, whiskey-soaked smock whispers failure. Even supposing he’s fallen money, he mutters first, “I see that thou art poor.” Conceivable, yes. True, yes. But why dost though judge me?
“Hold, there is forty ducats,” he says with sweaty coins joining my open, sticky hand. Intrigue wonders me if the boy pilfered his earnings from a local merchant. Judgment quickly subsides and I close my hungry fist around the ducats, ravenous for his desire or wish.
“Let me have a dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear as will disperse itself through all the veins, that the life-weary taker may fall dead, and the trunk may be discharged of breath as violently as hasty powder fired doth hurry from the fatal cannon’s womb,” the boy cries to me.
What the boy wants, I do boast a bottle of. In my youth, I served as altar-boy to a one Father Lawrence. Upon an early morning, he swooped three of us into his greenhouse and flaunted upon us a single flower in a single pot, indistinguishable from the other single orchids and carnations. Perpetuating want, he explained, “Within this infant rind of this weak flower poison hath residence and medicine power: For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part; being tasted, stays all sense with the heart. Two such opposed kings encamp them still in man as well as herbsgrace and rude will; and where the worser is predominant, full soon the canker death eats up that plant.” I hoarded up the pot after Father Lawrence laid to rest upon yonder table yet again; careless judgment rendered my conscious derisory. The power of the small and of the beautiful clouded his teachings. The ability to cure and the capacity to kill lay in my sinuous palms.
Undoubtedly, a grave mistake was made next: I filched Father Lawrence’s plant and sold to a local apothecary. My conscious said I was just. Perchance, just as loved ones withered away in their death beds, so did Father Lawrence’s plant in its copper tub. The bloodied ducats earned sustenance for an ailing mother and an apothecary the gift to cure. A gift shattered, the apothecary battered the plant into a potent poison for an adulterous wife’s morning tea.
My indiscretions Father Lawrence forgave. A new apprentice he retained: a young boy of the Montagues, who has since ascended to the second richest man of Verona; second only to Capulet. The Prince, clasped of the compassion of a pliable turtle, banished me to Mantua, a fate more venerated only to death.
“Such mortal drugs I have,” I report to the child, “But Mantua’s law is death to any he that utters them.” I’d starve through a thousand ravenous nights else feel the strength of a rope or cut of an axe.
“Art thou so bare and full of wretchedness, and fearest to die?” he asks me. “Famine is in thy cheeks, need and oppression starveth in thy eyes, contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back.” Decent meal shirk me relentlessly: I last gorged myself upon a plump rat, sluiced down with rain water suckled out of a gutter. Forty ducats equaled a fat, fresh bird and even a jug of wine; yet if caught, a trip to the gallows meant my only recompense.
“The world is not thy friend, nor the world’s law,” the boy says, edging inside, “The world affords no law to make thee rich. Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.”
With this boy’s money, medicines again I’d mix and bring forth. Curing would define my life, shadow skulking and rubbish groping. All needed was a finish to this young boy’s life, a life hitherto dead before me.
Save this boy I can not; help him I can.
The law abandoned me, why shan’t I abandon it? Without my help, I will die, he will die. With it, I will live, he will lay to rest.. “My poverty, but not my will, consents,” I tell the boy, as my arms reach for his poison.
“I pay thy poverty and not thy will,” the boy says.
Handing the poison to the boy, I grab his right hand and hold tightly, whispering, “Put this in any liquid thing you will and drink it off, and if you had the strength of twenty men, it would dispatch you straight.”
The boy drops my hand and holds the flower poison in his fingers. To my left hand, still grasping the remainder of his life, he says, “There is thy gold, worse poison to men’s souls, doing more murder in this loathsome world than these poor compounds that thou mayst no sell. I sell thee poison; thou hast sold me none. Farewell, buy food, and get thyself in flesh.”
The boy disappears into the darkness. In my hand, the ducats give desire, not hope as I desired. It is not enough to cure, only to subside. There is but one choice, none else clear than my local tavern.
It is yet early and life I still suffer.