Those who were on the inside, never realized their situation, as such. It was those on the outside, looking in, who observed that there was an ‘us’ and ‘them’- that there was a difference.
And so it was with Crandid. He had been on the other side for as long as he could remember, and had always looked in with a mixture of pity and jealousy. To be that content, he thought, at least to look that content, would be worth a time on the inside.
Everything had a price – Crandid knew that. Everything had a cost and he knew that if he were ever to penetrate behind the walls, then there was sure to be some sort of sacrifice. Some means of extracting a part of him, in order that he could live in contentment with the majority. Was it just compromise or was it selling your soul? Was it worth selling your soul to be content?
Just how happy were the folks on the inside? Thought Crandid. It’s not as if he could ask them until he was actually in there – then what? Would they tell him the truth? Would they know the answer themselves?
That was when Crandid came up with a plan. At around 2am until 2.15am, the security personnel in his sector would leave the vicinity of the outer wall. Most went to the bathroom, some still smoked. The fifteen minute break in every twelve hours was decreed by the Provost.
This gave Crandid the time to paint his slogan on the wall:
‘Your life is a lie.’
He made it back over the wall without incident before the security folks came back.
Crandid knew there would be those who couldn’t see it, and those who didn’t read words (and perhaps those who didn’t want to see), but the rest would have to come face-to-face with it at some time in the day.
Standing on a high hill not far from the wall, Crandid could watch the reactions of those who were inside.
The first to pass that morning was Mister Jasper, the banker. He lived with a frozen face – a face that only reflected contentment. That was when Jasper saw the phrase on the wall.
He felt his stomach sink – someone out there knew. Knew his secret. Knew that he had never wanted to be a banker – he’d always wanted to be a gardener. To create and raise things from the soil. He was lost. He ran the World bank, a job he despised.
Crandid saw a rather well-dressed gentleman, read his slogan, break down in tears and throw away his business case.
A little later, a woman dressed in expensive clothing happened to walk by. She was smoking a cigarette and was talking on her phone. She looked at the slogan and not only did she stop talking, she dropped her phone.
She felt a shock run all the way through her body. Who knew? She thought. Who the hell knew?
Every night she played the role of the contented wife, and every night she did what she had to do, to be a good and happy wife – but who knew she was also having an affair with the woman across the hallway? Who?
Crandid caught the sight of a woman running away from his slogan. She looked anxious – a look he had never ever seen before from one who lived over the wall.
Early in the afternoon, the Provost of the Highland Sector was sitting writing his next speech for the Assembly. As he looked at the sun, he read what Crandid had written on the wall.
His heart almost stopped. Who knew his secret? Who knew that he had lied about his college degrees, that he had lied about his time as a medical doctor? They were coming for him now, he was sure of that. There was only one thing to do and that was to confess in his speech to the assembly this very day. The Provost ripped up his papers and started again.
This action confused Crandid but one thing was for certain, in all three cases, those who had read his slogan had lost their contented look and replaced it with a face more serious.
Perhaps, thought Crandid, no one was really content. Perhaps all those on the inside had sold their souls to live there, and the false face of contentment was their price.
That was when Crandid decided he was happier to live on the outside. You didn’t have to lie out there.
Out here was for the brave, and for those who didn’t depend on others’ opinions to be alive.
As he walked back to his home, he felt sorry for the people he had seen today.
bobby stevenson 2016