Land of False Gods


Isabella Fountain '25, Writer

They did not know my face was under that hood. They did not know that I was the demise of the Aged. They did not know that I got rid of criminals because they were thorns on the Supreme Secretariat’s side. They did not know that I was a murderer. 


No one knew; not even my dear wife, children, brothers, and sisters. They only know that I, Josiah, was assigned an excruciating task, a task of which I could never speak or write to any man about. Every single person in our class was destined to bear one. The Supreme Secretariat justified their cruelty by one explanation: we were nothing because we were born. I discovered this at eleven years old, and it still leaves me restless at night. Now that I have left that horrid place, I am free to write about these experiences.


A perfect race lived within the Great Ramparts, which obscured our homes in a shadow so dark that grass would not grow. They who lived there were called the Middlemen and were like gods amongst men. I learned that they spent their days feasting, drinking, dancing, and reveling from the whispers of the older ones. Every day I would peer through the windows of the classroom while I was supposed to listen to my teachers. The teachers, thinking I was greedy, took me out to the fields to make an example out of me. 


“Subject V-VII-L, do you not know that you have sixty years to spend on this earth? How dare you wish for it to continue any further!” They scolded as I limped back to the Academy, my classmates sneering at me from afar. 


“It is not our destiny to live a day more, for we must atone for our untimely existence. We were only born to serve the Supreme Secretariat. Our value lies in that alone.”  Nonetheless, I no longer carry the fear and shame that dwelt in my bones as a youth. I understand why they chastised me, and it has led me through a slew of offenses that brought me here.


My duty for the Supreme Secretariat was as a warden in the Hall of Offerings. Those who lived there experienced tremendous dread. Those of old contemplated never had time to contemplate what happens after death until it was too late. However, the felons marched to the gallows with their heads raised high. They knew they would die, and they were proud of it. I used to have great disdain for criminals who chose to make their short lives even shorter, but I always pitied the Aged.  I learned as an apprentice, from a master who secretly felt the same way as I did, to recite this phrase to myself: They shall not remain wretched for long. Your noose liberates them. I recited this under my breath every day for fifteen years 0until one night of last year when my soul had a mind of its own.


Set them free, it whispered. This greatly perplexed me.


“They shall not,” I fearfully answered the darkness, not intending to speak aloud. “Th-th-they shall not remain–”


SET. THEM. FREE, it demanded. 


I fought the whisperer, but its words rang through me with every pound of my heart. I mustered the strength to pry open my eyes, but my blood soon became ice. In the cell before me was a rugged man with blazing green eyes and gray whiskers that tumbled to the ground. His shoulders were straight and rigid, and his back refused to hunch. A moonbeam squeezed through a window and gleamed on his bald head. Unlike all the other Aged I had slain, he never languished in his cell.


Do not free him, my mind begged me. That man must pay tribute, for he is of age. Such is the life of the Born.


NO, the voice persisted. Set him free. SET. HIM. FREE. 


It was like my mouth had been sewn shut, yet I readily ripped the seams apart. I must not show my face to anyone while working, but my hood slipped from my face. I did not wish to break the laws, but I did nonetheless.

“Father,” I gasped. “What have they done to you? What have they done to us all? Why must you die at my hands?”


At my words, his head swiveled. His body cowered and the fire in his eyes extinguished. At last, a phrase left his lips.


“Josiah…my son,” he stammered. “I didn’t lose you. My greatest fear is gone.”


“What do you mean?” I demanded. How had he remembered my true name after all this time?”


The prisoner laughed heartily.


“The Supreme Secretariat never killed your spirit. Your back has many scars, which you will carry for the remainder of your life, all because you never took things at face value.” His tone then became much more solemn. “You chose suffering over conformity. You readily bore the pain a man must endure for his freedom, for his life, for his dignity. Now, it is time for you to carry the torch I have set alight. Use it to burn down a legacy established on lies.” 


“What lies?” I always knew deep in my heart that we were told many.


“The Secretariat members were born from a mother as we were, and they are of another world. Where they live, towers are the color of the sky by day and a gleaming gold by night. Enormous white birds carry them across the sky. Creatures with large glowing eyes carry them over paths of black stone. They communicate with magical mirrors the size of a hand. They came here with sticks that shoot rocks and used them to usurp our king. They may appear to be gods, but all of them are younger than the universe. I am not yet sixty. I lie in this cell because I have seen this world with my own eyes and discovered the truth about man.” 


“How long do they live for?” 


“Some rumors say seventy-five years. Others say eighty or ninety. I met a woman who was one hundred and two years old. They stop working at sixty-four and then spend the rest of their lives in relaxation. They die on their own, usually without pain, and no one wishes to cut another person’s life short when he has grown useless.” 


Right then, I decided that I must commit another crime. My hand reached for my pocket and drew a key. The click of the lock was the only sound in the corridor except my distressed breathing, but this was not my crime.


“Let me come with you, Father, and let me bring all of your sons, daughters, and grandchildren who are willing. Show me how to reach this place.” I committed the crime at that moment: willingly defying the Secretariat’s will for me.


“I cannot go with you, and they cannot come yet. I may be strong for an old man, but I am slow. They will find me with you and kill us both, then our discovery will be gone. Yet, I can tell you this. Leave tonight when the sun is fully set and everyone has gone to sleep. Walk far past the Lower Walls until you are at the foot of the mountain. Walk while keeping the mountain to your left until you find a cave. Venture deep into it until a large iron box is before you. Open its door and press the little tablets that show these numbers.” He grazed the dirt by his feet with his fingers and traced odd symbols on my arm below my name. They were a series of curves and straight lines. They were as follows: 




This is how I arrived here, at my desk on this computer. I will do my father’s will and expose the corrupt Supreme Secretariat, who reside in this world as people called “billionaires” or “tycoons” and travel back in time to make their goods. I will one day go back to the city and deliver every single man, woman, and child from that land of false gods. They will come to this wonderful place called the Future, where men may live out as many days as they can last. However, they will not live for the good of those who already have plenty, but out of love for one another.