Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Scribes

"And lo, eight demons would come forth," read Bartleby from his history of the future.

Eight demons emerged from a crack in the earth, shaking the dirt and dust of their trip from their scaled backs.

"The beat of their hooves would be terrible."

Each of their cloven footsteps burned with a magnesium glare.

"Their voices will cause mothers to be struck deaf."

They called to one another in a cursed tongue. The birds in the trees fell to the ground and the fishes in the stream leapt skyward into the coarse rocks along the water.

"Fathers will tremble at their sight."

Thatched roofs burst into flame and flowers withered as they walked, two by two, through the town.

Bartleby closed his book and carried it outside. His young son followed him. The demons stood before his house in their hellish glory. Plumes of volcanic smoke from their breath blotted out the sun and stung Bartleby's eyes.

Just as his history recorded, he trembled before their might.

"This band of demons arrived before the scribe's house and did address his son," he read.

"Youth, for what purpose have we come?" the largest asked in a voice echoing the cries of dying men.

"My ball is in the tree," said the boy.

The demons burnt the tree down and with mastery over flame unrivaled by any mortal, kept the bright red ball from being consumed by the bright red flames. It sat like a spherical ruby against the blackened pile of ash that used to be a tree.

"And they did receive tuppence for their troubles, to add to their damned coffers," Bartleby said, fishing out a handful of coins and handing them to the demons. "The scribe's wife would have offered them lemonade, but she had been stricken deaf by the demons."

"What are you talking about?" asked Betsy, Bartleby's wife, carrying out a tray of glasses and a pitcher of lemonade.

"But the demons strike mothers deaf! It is written!"

"Oh. Right. Whoops."

"What's the meaning of this?"

Betsy smiled at Bartleby.

"Are you his mother?" he asked, nodding at the boy.

Betsy shrugged.

"Where'd he come from if you aren't?" Bartleby asked. He was the only scribe who could write the history of the future so confusion was as foreign to him as lemonade to demons. Not that he was present at the birth of his child - there were some things that even a scribe of his stature didn't do.

"Oh. Well. Um. See, I was never actually pregnant. I'm barren, as a matter of fact. Oh, I'm sorry to tell you like this, but I know how important it was to you so I pretended to be pregnant and then when the time came I adopted this boy."

Bartleby gaped. "The scribe must have a natural born son! It is written! Right here!" he wailed, flipping through his book.

Betsy patted his shoulder. "Just because it's written down doesn't make it true."

"I wondered why my newborn son wanted to go play catch when he was only two days old," Bartleby said.

The boy had jammed his ball into another tree and was tugging on his father's robe.

Bartleby looked down at his son, and at Betsy, then scribbled in his book.

"And the demons did construct a pleasant cottage nearby the scribe's house so that they would be on hand to retrieve the ball for the scribe's son."

The Moral: the future is but the history of the past that is yet to come

Prev # Next