In the lands of the blind, only those who see should rule.
|The silver-gray light revealed little of the man in the shadows except for his shape against the wall. Aisha was bound to the stone chair in the middle of the chilly room. The floor beneath her bare feet felt like stone. |
"Why did you bring me to this place? What do you want from me?" She was more curious than frightened, despite the circumstances. Her heart still aching from the indescribable agony of her boyfriend's betrayal left her numb to the fear that the situation should have provoked.
"I want to tell you a story of love, betrayal and hope. Once you have heard it, I will let you go your way, but my hope is that you will choose to stay."
"You kidnapped me; why would I choose to stay?" Aisha asked, puzzled by the mysterious man's words.
"Maybe the story can explain that," said the man.
"Go on; you have a captive audience after all."
"Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a great palace with lots of servants. She was a princess, but that was not the main reason she was special."
Aisha, despite herself, was intrigued by what sounded like a fairy tale.
"The girl had an American mother, an Arabian father, dark brown hair and brown eyes. Her eyes were magic eyes. The king's wise men said it had something to do with additional photoreceptor cells and special neurochemistry, but magic eyes were what they really were because this was a gift that was not just biological but also spiritual. It was a gift of discernment that allowed her to see the world more deeply and more clearly than anyone else."
Aisha realized with shock that the man was talking about her own special gift—the reason she had been recruited into the CIA in the first place. The reason she was in this dangerous place was to spy on the king. She was not the daughter of a king but rather an orphan adopted by a neuroscientist and a psychologist back in the USA. Still intrigued, she continued to listen.
"The little girl was kidnapped by nasty men in green uniforms carrying guns while she was a baby. Her father wept for many days. He searched for many years, but he could not find her. As the years grew into decades, he despaired of ever seeing her again. Until one day, he heard a song on the radio. The singer had a lovely voice; she sang in English, but what was special was that she sounded just like her mother, the Queen, and the King's wife. She was the lead singer of a band, and her music was published just last year.
He started to sing:
I see you and your colors dance
Around my troubled soul
You take my strange and make it sound
Like angels singing hymns of praise
Like lovers reaching for each other's hearts
Aisha was puzzled; that was her song. Her original had been weirder and stranger, but Jake, the lead guitarist in the band and her boyfriend of the time adapted it for the ears of normal people and made it into a hit. Was the man in the shadows just a fan, the ultimate stalker?
The man continued, "The lyrics speak to me on so many levels because, I also see the world, that people try to hide behind their masks, in colors. Someone who sees so much and so deeply will always seem strange to those around her because they are simply blind. I bought your album and saw the marvelous picture cover that you drew yourself. Only someone with the sight could have drawn such a picture. You were a hit and a wonder; however, your adopted parents had never intended you to be a pop star, had they?"
"So you are talking about me, but I am still missing the link with the princess in the palace."
The man continued, "When I read about Jake's betrayal in the magazines and how he went off with that backup singer, my heart bled for this princess, yet so also it rejoiced as I knew, like her CIA parents, that she was never meant for such a public stage even though her gifts gave her artistic insight that could shake the world to its core."
"My parents were not CIA! They loved me!"
"Yes, I am sure that they came to love you. But a neuroscientist and a psychologist who were given their adopted child by the people they worked for on the basis of her genetic traits and the known abilities of the father from whom she was kidnapped does seem like a suspicious combination, doesn't it? They must have been scared out of their minds when you went off with the band in a fit of adolescent rage. They knew you needed the space to find your own identity; they thought that your music would be too strange for people to accept, but they never reckoned on how Jake could translate your gifts into something so powerful as to make you such a successful pop star.
"For years, they had trained you and developed you. They employed tutors to give you the tools to process the insights your gifts gave you. They knew about how you could read people's emotions as colors and trained you to distinguish between the different colors of different emotions. The local pastor, who just so happened to have a doctorate in philosophy, trained you in theology and philosophy so that you had the structures to read people's thought frameworks and a grid by which to interpret the morality of their thoughts. A retired CIA profiler trained you in psychological profiling and gave you a grounding in politics. Your mother's so-called sister, a professor of English literature, gave you an understanding of literary characters and their stories and the tools you needed to assess their motives, words, and actions. An illustrator taught you how to draw what you saw in pictures. All of these people were working with the intelligence agency and were deliberately placed in your life."
Aisha wanted to protest this but she could read no deceit in the man's voice.
"John and Joy, your elder brother and sister, kept you company and taught you 'normal.' You vetted their boyfriends and girlfriends and sat in the mall with them to tell them stories of the people walking past. They gave you a fun childhood in which you were trained to be a spy. When you rebelled and went off with the band, you gained traction so fast with the music industry that there was little they could do about it. Well, until a CIA operative who could sing seduced your boyfriend and broke your heart."
"The backup singer was a CIA plant!" The truth resonated with Aisha's own suppressed instincts. Jake loved her; she knew that with some certainty and then he betrayed her by sleeping with that woman. The seducer had been a professional. Did that make it better? Not really, nonetheless, Jake's songs ever since were tinged by a sense of irretrievable sadness and loss, as if he had betrayed not only her but himself when he had slept with that woman.
The voice continued from the shadows, now more welcome as a source of truth and revelation. "You came back to your parents as a broken woman fed up with fickle fame. Then they knew you were ready for the vocation that they had prepared you for, to spy on your father."
"How can you be my father and yet keep me tied to this chair?" Aisha asked.
"Tied?" the man's voice replied. He flicked a switch and electric shutters rolled back allowing the sunshine to bathe the room with light. The floor and chair were made of white marble, not stone. Aisha's wrists had scarves laid across them, but they were not tied. She moved her hands, studying them for a moment before looking up into the man's face. His eyes were brown like hers and he looked familiar; he was Arabic and noble in appearance and his face matched the picture of the man she had been sent to spy on. This was the king.
"How did you make me think I was tied?" she asked.
"I can teach you; you can also plant suggestions in people's minds. It explains the ten million downloads of your songs in a few months as a pop star. You have all the gifts you need when you inherit my throne, but all things in God's good time."
"Wait, you are a tyrant suppressing the democratic aspirations of your people; you sponsor various terrorist groups opposed to the interests of the USA; why would I want to be a party to such oppressive evil?"
"Blind mob rule and blind dictators are as bad as each other? Is it not better that the one in charge can actually see where the people are going? Are you sure that the groups you call terrorists are actually terrorists killing innocent people?"
It took a while for Aisha to process that answer. She had been told many stories of terrorist atrocities by groups sponsored by the king; she had been shown pictures, though how far could she trust this evidence?
"So you see yourself as a philosopher king and the groups you have sponsored have only hit legitimate targets. You suggest CIA propaganda has altered their actions into something more sinister."
"American interests in the Middle East are basically about preserving American hegemony in the region. I love America but see that hegemony as counterproductive to the interests of my people and a reason that we struggle to integrate into the world economy and why so many are so poor."
The king clapped his hands and a servant appeared. He ordered the servant to prepare the breakfast. He offered his hand to Aisha, who accepted it and rose from her chair, turning with him toward the door. It opened onto a broad balcony lit by the morning sun. The view was of palm trees and fountains. A palace wall lay about a hundred meters further off and beyond it was a view of the desert. It felt like home. There was a brunette with penetrating blue eyes at the table. She rose and moved toward Aisha. Aisha could read a mother's love in the woman's eyes. They embraced.
"Mom." The word escaped her mouth involuntarily before she could process it, though she knew it to be true.
After a prolonged, tearful hug, they sat down. Aisha laughed when she saw the breakfast they had prepared; it was coco pops, her favorite breakfast cereal, on fancy china with silver spoons. Maybe she was a princess after all.
She did not feel like a prisoner, yet she had to ask, "Am I a prisoner here?"
"You can return to your normal life in the USA whenever you like," the King replied. Aisha sensed the nervousness in his voice and, again, the love that he felt for her, that same love and concern was there in her mother's eyes. Her heart filled with a thousand questions and she knew that all the answers were here. There was no normal life to return to now.
"Normal!" she exclaimed, "I've strayed so far from normal now, I'll never find my way back.
And the truth is, I no longer want to."