A Religion of Words

The marketplace was bustling. Every morning the people would flock to the shops and the kiosks that crowded the heart of the town. It was here that the vendors would shout out their wares and the hunters would display their catches. Wives and mothers could be heard bartering with the shop keeps and with each other. Children weaved in and out playing games. Some were singing songs.

In the middle of the market square was a fountain. The water had long since dried out. There was a statue of a nameless goddess holding a vase. A relic few thought of. It had been there too long and for that reason alone would likely never be torn down.

On top of the vase sat a small boy. He was not an orphan but he didn’t belong to anybody either including the town. But he was there all the same and had been sitting on the vase long before the market had opened for the day.

He sat alone, unnoticed and unmoving. His eyes were closed, but he could hear it all as the din rush over him. He could pick out the voices and who they belonged to. He didn’t know their names. He didn’t have to.

The newlyweds. She hemming and hawing at the jewelers. Him fawning over her. Their new bliss.

The runt who twisted his ankle while chasing another boy. He was sniffing, trying not to cry. He could not find his mother in the crowds. From the waist down everyone looked the same. He just wanted to go home.

The new girl who worked at the fish stand. She’d been homesick for the longest time. But the more she worked the more home faded away. She loved what she was doing. From the smells and the sizzle the fish made as she dropped it in the oil. To the old-timers that taught her to sliced and butcher. She loved the feel of a knife in her hand as she cut and chopped. This was her purpose.

Atop his perch the boy listened. He heard their words and their stories. The petty disputes and the joys and the melancholy as the day went by. Everybody just went on with their day. They were far too busy to notice a boy.

Eventually the vendors closed up shop. the crowds thinned as the sun went down. The wood carver, always the last to leave, looked over his work with a satisfied grunt and headed home. Only then did the boy open his eyes.

He hoped down from the statue and sat on the edge of the old fountain. There was an apple on the ground that had rolled away. He picked it up and held it to his forehead. He could feel the coldness against his skin. He thought of all the people that he had heard and he said a prayer. For them and for himself.

When he was done with the apple, he stood and looked up to the starry sky. Then he began to dance. It was slow at first. There was no rhythm or beat. It wouldn’t have matched up to any music. Jerky movements that quickened in pace. He danced among the empty stalls and the grounds where so many had been. He began to whoop and to holler. No one was around to hear him. He went faster and louder. More out of control. He danced and he shouted for those that would not hear him.

And then he went away.

He never came back.

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