First published June 2005 in Bleach Magazine, #6
The Cadre Of Loyal Assistants
Atilla has an ant farm, or, rather, Atilla is an ant and owns/leads a farm/army of ants. Atilla is well-aware of his leadership skills. He practices them in front of the mirror when he is home alone. His manipulations are exquisite. He always achieves his goal, no matter how complex or devious, while always feigning reluctance or indifference. Obviously, his success is aided by a cadre of loyal assistants, all of whom understand Atilla's stratagems, all of whom strive for his level of complexity, polish, and apparent restraint. None achieves the grace of Atilla, nor even comes close. For this reason, the cadre of loyal assistants understands that their supreme mission is to preserve Atilla's life and to maintain his position as absolute leader. Should they fail at this and allow Atilla to die or allow some upstart to seize the throne, all would be lost. The cadre of loyal assistants would certainly divide themselves, forming quarreling factions and mischievous sub-groups, weakly allied to petty leaders, leaders trying in vain to emulate the ruthless natural grace of Atilla. The leadership of the ant farm would disintegrate, the elegant interiors of the royal palaces would begin to fade, the beautiful marble fountains would dry up, the legendary topiary of the palaces would grow wild, no more rare wines or exotic dishes for the members of the loyal cadre. The perfumed boys and girls who attend the cadre of loyal assistants may well slit someone's throat beneath a silk sheet in the silence of the night, in the shadow of the moon, for the moral center of their universe would be gone.
Over time, the cadre of loyal assistants has evolved into a society of supremely well-mannered connoisseurs. Rather than using the bald language of mercenaries, they quote lengthy passages of poetry from memory. Yet this veiled communication never misses its mark. Atilla's order is carried out. In the morning, the head of the outspoken peasant leader hangs by a hook through its tongue, hangs from a limb of an ancient oak in the lawn of Atilla's largest palace. Thus, peace prevails. The cadre of loyal assistants understands it paternalistic function. The great mass of peasant ants working the ant farm may believe that they want revolution. The cadre of loyal assistants knows that the disorder that such a change would make in their own sphere would devolve in ever more brutal waves upon the peasant ants. To avoid the rape of aged grandmas, the torture of children, and the senseless slaughter of animals, that is, to avoid the types of behavior that erupt when the ant farm loses its hieratic calm, the cadre of loyal assistants ensures that peace prevails, always.
For this reason, Atilla will always lead and never die. The cadre of loyal assistants will diligently assess its own body, carving out tumorous growths as soon as they are spotted. Not one member of the current cadre of loyal assistants was born during the lifetime of Atilla. Every member of the current cadre of loyal assistants hangs on Atilla's every word, emulates his every gesture, memorizes his every feature.