In Fiction on August 5, 2013 at 11:20 pm

pink flowers on a white marble floor


The philosophers stood in their burgundy robes and burgundy slippers, hands clasped and eyes downcast. At the center of the white, marble floor, a pool of crimson blood was creeping from the youth like a halo in some medieval triptych.

“What was his error?” the Master asked. Fingers of red found the stony cracks and raced outward. The philosophers stepped back.

“His conclusion didn’t follow from the premise,” one proposed. “The logic was weak.”

The Master sniffed.

“More exactly, his premise was false,” he said, and he began to quote: “‘Life has inherent value. The cogs are living. Therefore, the life of a cog has value.’” The Master turned. His eyes were calm. “The cogs are living, yes—even if it is a mean life, devoid of understanding—but the first premise: ‘Life has inherent value.’ There was his error. For life’s value lies solely in perception.”

The Master lifted the gun, which had until then hung at his side, and pointed at the first philosopher in the crescent. The philosopher did not flinch.

“Your life is valuable to you because without it you cannot have thoughts. It may be valuable to your family and colleagues, but only if they have not properly learned the discipline of our philosophy. There it ends.” He indicated the pale-skinned youth on the floor. “When your life is gone, the world is unchanged from every perspective but your own. It therefore has no inherent value.”

Beyond the philosophers’ tower, the sun was setting behind dusky clouds. The endless churning of the machines in the Anthes was little more than a muffled pulse through the thick marble walls. The cogs were nearing the middle of their shifts.

“You are dismissed,” the Master said quietly. When the philosophers had gone, he turned once more to the youth on the floor and wondered how his son had formed such queer notions about life.

Somewhere below, a nameless cog raised his head and cried out, unseen, to the dying sun.

I think for next week’s Trifecta Challenge I’ll try to return to happier lands, but for now this is what I’ve got. The word this time around was weak.

Check out the stories from the other (obviously more balanced) writers over at the Trifecta page, and let me know what you think below!

  1. Beautiful writing, Brian. Your phrasing and cadence are superb, and haunting given the brutal theme. And as always, you’ve woven the prompt in very well indeed. :)))

    • Thanks Jo-Anne! The sound and rhythm always seem primary for me, so I’m always glad when someone points it out :). I’m looking forward to checking out your piece for this week

  2. Jo-Anne’s right: haunting’s the word. This was sad on several levels – mostly because I have a very close friend who thinks like the philosophers. Their logic has something to be said for it, but you end up with a life devoid of those little sparks of happiness.

  3. That’s some hard truth placed into a creepy setting. Great job.

  4. This made me think – a great deal. I like it when that happens. The voice of this piece is excellent.

  5. Wow, how thoughtful and thought-provoking. I love that. I too admire the cadence and language of the piece. I can envision it, and hear it. Terrific work.

  6. One more argument for philosophers not being kings. 🙂 As Jo-Anne said above, the rhythm of this piece is lovely–it begs to be read aloud. Now I’m going to go find that cog and give it a bit of propping up.

  7. Thought-provoking piece. The statement, “When your life is gone, the world is unchanged from every perspective but your own. It therefore has no inherent value” made me pause.

  8. Both thought provoking and haunting. I really like it.

  9. I was chilled by the father’s detachment from his son. I was awed by your description of fingers of red racing toward stony cracks. I know a few philosophers-and I’m steering clear of them from now on;)

    I thought this was an excellent bit of writing!

  10. Such a hard way of looking at things.
    This is very good. Thank you for linking up!

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