It’s a box… that echoes, obviously
Everybody’s second voice
Second talk, second mind,
Echoes back a righteous choice
Zion! Zion! To Zion we shall go! Infidels cannot hold Zion against its rightful heirs!
Billy sat and played with his toys. Mother’s echobox was on again, firing its angry nonsense words down the hall. It seemed like it was always on, even when she slept. He wanted to close the door, but he knew if he did, he would get in trouble. She would take away the toys.
Billy… What a stupid, average, nothing name, he thought as he piled brick upon brick. Slowly the castle he held in his small mind would take its recognizable shape in the physical world. He had run out grey bricks of the correct size, and so had to fill in some gaps in the castle wall with blue and red, but he didn’t mind. He imagined that they were decorations put there by the powerful king who built the castle. He saw two of the blue bricks next to each other, and an image popped into his mind.
He tore down the wall and started building again. This time, the blue bricks formed an image in the wall, of a blue wolf with red eyes (formed by a few small red bricks).
No king was ever called Billy. He pulled one of the little men from his chest. He put a crown on him. William. King William Wolsfbane. He put the little king on top of the wall. He imagined the dull, brown carpet of his bedroom was an expanse of wilderness before the fortress.
The dark army of Abaz will have to get through all these wastes to assail these walls. These wastes… they are our home! William the boy put more men on the walls. These he armed with spears and axes and shields. They were smiling. Men at war do not smile, unless they are certain of victory. Abaz will destroy himself upon these walls! He cannot wrest this sacred land from us! We are the rightful heirs of the soulforge. Our blood is in everything –even the rocks are our kin.
“What’s wrong with you?” She said. “Maybe I should do what Helen said and take you to a shrink.” Billy stared back blankly. “Never mind. I need to run down to the salon to get my hair done.”
“You’re hair looks fine,” Billy said.
“No, it doesn’t. Listen to me. I’m leaving your brother in charge while I’m out. Go down to the living room so he can keep an eye on you.”
“Why can’t I just stay in here? I’m not going anywhere.”
“Because I said so. Now get downstairs, and don’t bring your little toys. Your father hates stepping on them.”
He’s not my father. Billy stuffed the thought. He would get into trouble for saying that. “I’ll clean them up.”
“No. Now stop being defiant, or I’ll ground you.”
“If I’m grounded, do I have to stay in my room?”
“Downstairs, Billy!” Her voice echoed in the little room, with its little bed and its little window, and its carefully picked out little boy posters of sports stars its resident had no knowledge of. Billy pushed himself up quickly. His mother pinched the bridge of her nose, closed her eyes, and shook her head as her son ran past.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat again
Everything is the same old thing
All your ideas coming back in
Nothing new worth noticing
The wilderness was vast and barren, but William Wolfsbane and his band of hardened knights new where to find water. Plants that seemed dead often hid secret life, if only you had the skill to make the right cut. Their life was with the land, which had given birth to them and would take them close again when their end came. In the earth, they would rest. Abaz, however, commanded a vast force. He had magic at his disposal, and many wizards and soldiers willing to die for him.
How does he get them to do his will? The king pondered. How do you convince a man that his life is worth more in death serving another than it is for himself?
Mind control is some dark magic, William. Michael, William’s best friend from childhood, stood beside him. Taller, and more far-sighted than the king, William relied on him to temper his own zeal.
Yes, but how does it work? You of all my knights have studied most closely the methods of the enemy in his conquest of Nod.
Michael Shrugged. If you repeat something enough, people will start to believe it.
Surely there is more to it than that.
Michael cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted in the canyon, Even we, the very rocks, will bleed for our king! After a few seconds, a choir of voices returned.
You are lucky that we are outside the scouting range of the Armies of Darkness.
Whose voice is that? Michael said. Mine, or the rocks?
Yours, of course, William said.
Are you sure? If a rock did say that, how would you know? This is the secret of mind control, my king.
I see now. If only we could use it against them.
This power is too vile to hope to use for ourselves. If we were successful, we would merely have changed who Abaz’s slaves call master; we would not have freed them.
You are right, of course. Nothing good can come of evil. Moreover, we might fall under his spell ourselves, forgetting which voice was ours and which was our own.
Wise words, your highness.
It always speaks what you already think
Like talking to yourself on the phone
So who would know if it happened
To sneak in an idea of its own?
“You’re so weird, what’s wrong with you?” Mike wriggled his hands into the narrow space between Billy’s ears and his head. He began to pry the fingers away.
“Stop it! Leave me alone!” His hands left his ears and Billy’s mind was filled with the sounds his brother had come to love. He scarcely saw Mike now without noise drowning out any hope of a real voice. Loud. Braying. Endlessly repeating. Boring. Boring. Stupid.
“Seriously, kid! We’re just sitting here, why do you have to act like this?” Mike pushed Billy’s knees down. Finally, his younger brother opened his eyes.
“Because I don’t like it. It’s stupid.” Billy saw flashes on the screen. He couldn’t make much out. He thought he saw a woman dancing, but something about her made him uneasy.
“No, it’s not. It’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid!” Mike punched Billy in the arm. It hurt. Billy turned away. Mike hit him again. “You’re just too young to understand good music.”
“Don’t hit me!” Tears welled up in Billy’s eyes.
“It’s on the arm, you’re fine, you big cry-baby.”
Billy pushed himself up and ran back toward the stairs.
“Where are you going? Mom said you had to stay down here.”
“Why can’t anyone just leave me alone?”
“Because you’re weird. Mom’s gonna have you sent to shrink, you know.”
“Then I’ll go live with dad.”
“Pssht. Good luck with that, crybaby.”
Billy turned and ran up the stairs. The steady, almost hypnotic beat of Mike’s ugly music followed him up and through the hall.
“I’m not going to lie to mom and say you were down here, crybaby!” Mike’s voice echoed.
Billy got to his room and slammed the door.
All its ideas you call your own
All your ideas are its creation
You give voice and echo the echo
Echobox- Indecipherable reverberation
“I only gave you one instruction, didn’t I?” Billy’s mother stood at the doorway. Billy continued to stare at the carpet. Ugly, brown, worn-out carpet. A wasteland. “Answer me when I speak to you!”
“I didn’t leave,” Billy said. “I was in here the whole time. I just couldn’t stand that noise – um, Mike’s music – that’s all.”
“Don’t try to blame this on your brother. You’ve been getting worse. I was talking to Helen at the salon, and she gave me a number of a child psychologist. I made an appointment.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!” Billy said.
Billy’s mother sighed. “I just want you to be a happy normal kid. You may not see it yet, but we’re only doing what’s best for you.”
“How could you know what’s best for me? You don’t even know me!”
Billy’s mother stuck her finger out. “Quiet! I haven’t punished you because you need help, but if you keep talking back, I will. Now clean up your toys.”
“They are cleaned up.”
“No, they are not. What about your Legos?” Billy’s mother kicked the castle. Part of the tower fell over.
Billy rushed forward. “No!” He picked it up and tried to put it back in its place.
“Wolfsbane Castle! You’ll ruin it!” Billy tried to place the pieces carefully back where they went. He scooped up a few of the men and put them back on the wall.
Billy’s mother humphed. “For Christ’s sake, Billy, they’re just toys!”
“No, they’re not!”
Billy’s mother grabbed the plastic tub that held the rest of the Legos. She pulled the castle away from Billy. The large building fell apart as she picked it up. She threw one half, then the other into the tub. All of its towers and parapets shattered. It’s gate broke. The foundations came apart. All of the soldiers fell away into the sea of colored bricks. They still smiled, but it was no longer because of confidence.
“No!” Billy said. He burst into tears.
“You can play with them again tomorrow. After we go to the doctor.” She pushed the tub up onto the top shelf of the closet. “You’re grounded for the night.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“I really don’t care,” Billy’s mother said. “Do your homework, which you should have been doing anyway.” She sighed. “What am I going to do with you?” She went to the bedroom door and walked into the hallway, slamming the door behind her.
Billy sat down on the bed and wiped away his tears in silence. Downstairs, the dull thud of his brother’s noise could be heard. Voices echoed in the hallway.
Never a question, only a statement
Debate merely two sets of words passing again
Going round and round to where they started
Like trains on two tracks, a blur in the rain
King William – could he even call himself a king anymore? – stood away from the ruins of the mighty castle Wolfsbane, the home of his family since time immemorial. Fires burned in the sunset. Stone lay scattered about the plains. The holy land, which William had ever thought of as a wasteland to the unwary, had been truly laid to waste. It was burned black for miles about. The life-giving roots had been purged, the soil salted.
The dark army of Abaz the tyrant had proven too strong, too relentless, even for the warriors of faith to contest. The rocks of the holy land cried, but they could not stop the onslaught. One by one, all William’s men had fallen. There was no end to the ranks of the dark ones. Cut one down, and more would rise, as if echoes in the canyon. Abaz’s magic, of endless dark whispers that polluted the very soul of his enemies, was stronger than any could have imagined. Miraculously, only William among all the mighty warriors of the realm had resisted and survived. In the end, his friends threw themselves into the fires as the walls crumbled.
Even Michael, once faithful friend, had been turned by Abaz, leading the armies of conquest as captain of evil. William hoped to find the faith to forgive him one day. One day, but not today. Today had been far too cruel.
The fires burned as the sun set. None of the bricks of the castle would be permitted to remain above the ground. They were testament to the limits of Abaz’s will. He could not stand their sight. William sat on a rock and removed his mithril gauntlet. He wiped the grit from his forehead.
He could hear, only softly, the steady beat, the repeated words of the dark sorcerer. He had withstood the song of vanity… perhaps that is why he survived. He wondered how long he could hold out against the echo, the endless repetition of lies that assaulted his sanity.
All William could do for now was cry. Maybe, someday, he could rebuild, in a land with good stone and good soil, but at that moment, all he could feel was despair.
Drowning away the feelings
With echoes – pleasant seeds sown
Pleasant enough to make a man kill
Though the thought was none of his own.