Cyberpunk Challenge: Nightfish Part 11

Story Part 7

Sohl had never witnessed a livelier debate between the priests than he did that night.

“It is not evil for a father to hope his son turns out a good person.” A priest said.

“No, but it is evil for a father to hinder his son’s natural spirit.” One of the three votaries present countered. “Sohl is making the transition from rambunctious boyhood into disciplined young man. We were all young once. We have all said inappropriate things or felt contempt toward others whom we believe have wronged us. Most of us, if not all, have raised our closed fists in anger against another.”

“What Sohl’s father is doing is putting Sohl into a place of specific expectations.” Another priest reasoned. “This is tantamount to a father who excelled in sports, wanting and perhaps forcing his son to follow in his footsteps, to become a greater athlete than he ever was. Sohl may never meet his father’s high expectations.”

“But a shepherd must return a wandering sheep to the flock.” The first priest argued.

“If a sheep strays too far, it may never find its way back.” Another priest added.

The entire group looked to the two elders.

“Sohl’s father is right to mention to Sohl that he has made a mistake.” One elder said. “This matter should be discussed privately between father and son. What I don’t agree with is that Sohl’s father went to a higher authority to punish Sohl.”

“Perhaps his father felt he could not approach Sohl directly?”

“Then counseling is appropriate, but not the punishment.” The votary said. “Punishment happens when counseling has failed. What has happened in this case is that the transgressors have not been reprimanded, but the victim has.”

“Was Sohl’s fist pure and holy when it struck Rory Magdan?”

“Evil must be stamped out.” The elder spoke out. “Or would you say that Rory and Dirk Dilhus were pure and holy when they made disparaging remarks about Sohl’s mother?”

A votary addressed the young man. “Do you get along with your father?”

“No, not really.” Sohl answered. “I get along with my mother.”

The second elder entered the conversation. This was the man he’d spoken with earlier. “Let us hear from Sohl. You were angry with Rory and Dirk, and now you are angry with your father for butting in. Tell us your point of view.”

“I have more than one.” Sohl admitted.

“Then tell us more than one.”

“Okay. I was not showing off when I got into a fight with Rory. I did that because Rory keeps picking on me. We must have fought twenty times by now. Sometimes it is a long fight, and sometimes a short fight. My Dad knows this, but he doesn’t like it. He’s told me that a couple of times.”

“It bothers you that you cannot satisfy your father’s hopes?” The elder questioned.

“Yes, it bothers me. I’m not deliberately trying to disappoint my Dad. It happens that way because Rory likes starting shi— starting strife with me. I walk away sometimes. I take shepherd duty by myself, if I think Rory might come around trying to start something. If Rory goes out hunting, I’ll go farming. If he stays in the archology, I’ll go outside. This is pressure on me that I don’t want. Rory is hindering me from being happy a lot of the time.”

“This could be over once we move past Spring Festival?” The first elder asked.

“It could be. I hope so. Then again, what if Rory decides to start up over something else? Am I supposed to let him push me around? We’ve been fighting for like two years now, and I don’t see anybody putting a stop to it from Rory’s side. If I stand up to Rory, I disappoint my Dad. If I don’t stand up to Rory, I disappoint myself. I’ve been thinking; what if my Dad was my age and he ratted me out to Katt Steward? I think… I really think I would fight my Dad and tell him to get out of my business. I understand that I’m giving in to anger, to evil, but if I don’t get past the problem, the problem is going to follow me around until I do something about it.”

“To speak of striking one’s father, that is good reason to punish Sohl by taking away his merit points.” The first priest said.

“Are all fathers perfect and do no wrong?” The votary rebutted. “I know mine was not.”

“The eternal flame of Ahura Mazda is pure and holy.” The second elder said. “Can we agree on that?”

Everyone in the room said yes.

The elder continued. “If you reach out to that flame to strike it with your fist, what will happen to your fist?”

“The flame will burn the fist.” The priest said.

“And by burning the fist, does the flame become impure or unholy?”

“The flame remains holy.” The first elder said.

“I believe Sohl’s father has undermined his son by overreaching in his punishment.” The votary decided.

“And I believe his father was right to discipline his son as he thinks fit.” The priest replied. “But I also believe Rory and Dirk have earned a greater punishment than Sohl.”

“And I think Rory and Dirk were selfish and arrogant to insult Sohl’s mother.” The second elder said. “They provoked a violent reaction from Sohl. This was their intention all along, and that sort of manipulation is evil.”

“Don’t fight your father, Sohl.” The single priestess present said, bringing about grins and chuckles from the others, lightening the mood.

When things settled down, the entire group went into meditation.

Sohl thought of many things. When he farmed, he enjoyed the hard work, even if he wouldn’t see the results of his labor for months. When he hunted or when he fixed something, the recognition and approval came much faster. At that moment, however, sitting with the priests and talking things out, even personal things, more than ever before he felt that he belonged with this group of people more than he did with any other group.

Rory’s end of the hall was unusually quiet when Sohl finally made his way into Brown Building. It was nearly ten at night. He made a pit stop at the toilet, deliberating over whether or not he should take a quick shower. Apparently it was government mandate that showers had to be built. The original founders of the arcology were perfectly happy to bathe in the stream, but certain living standards had to be met to ensure the public health.

Sohl was glad he didn’t live in Triumph, where people were always looking over each other’s shoulders, and the government was always taxing people and telling them what to do. He finished relieving himself and strode down the hall to his room. The solar-powered lighting was on sensor mode, brightening an area of five feet across all around him, and turning on light after light in the direction he headed.

Before he entered his room, he looked toward the dark end of the corridor. Part of him felt bad, felt guilty if it was true that Dirk had broken his arm. He would have avoided any violence if he could have, he knew, but Rory loved riling him up and that’s why things had gone bad. A moment later, he stood before his door and let the scanner identify him. The door lock clicked and a hydraulic piston slid it open. The lights turned on inside.

Sohl was glad he didn’t have a roommate. He could come and go as he pleased, and he wouldn’t bother anyone or wake them up or interrupt whatever they were doing. At the same time, Sohl was conscious of his surroundings. Most people who didn’t have roommates would fill up the entire room with their things. Sohl used only as much space as he would if he did have another person living with him.

He took off his day clothes, catching a hint of stink from his armpits and wishing he had taken a shower after all. He put on his micro-fiber sleeping shirt and shorts, and coupled with his duvet of the same material would be kept comfortably warm all night. A couple of minutes later he was in his bed and telling the room to go into sleep mode.

In the dark, he spoke to god. “If I had to choose a career tonight, I would choose to become a priest. I know I go back and forth about this a lot, but that’s because I want to be the best I can at whatever career I do end up choosing. Ahura Mazda, you know what kind of person I am, and what kind of temperament I have. I am positive that I don’t want to get married at sixteen, even if certain people are trying to pressure me that way. As far as a career, if you don’t want me to be a priest, I would be grateful if you sent me a sign pointing me in a better direction.”

Sohl continued his prayer, giving thanks for all the good things he had experienced that day, including his time with Dessa and the priests. He asked for increased patience in dealing with the likes of Rory and Dirk, and also with his father and Katt Steward.

“May tomorrow be brighter than today.” He concluded, and shortly after he settled down and went to sleep.

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