The Council
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    In the Palace of People, there were many rooms. Some rooms were home to the poorest people alive, while others - considerably larger and more ornately decorated - were the abodes of the richest people alive. There were many mazes in the Palace, and anyone who failed to navigate them would be eventually starve to death within their confusing bowels.

    But there was one chamber where none of this mattered - precisely, perhaps, the chamber where it should have. The council chamber was a large, high-ceilinged room. In the middle was a long table in the shape of a semicircle. It sat on a perfectly-shaped raised area.

    Sitting at the table were old men: the men of the council. The only extraordinary thing about these men was how lacking they were of extraordinary things. No one knew how many of the men there were; they were so boring, anyone who tried counting them would become enormously disinterested before reaching the number "ten." All of the men looked exactly the same - or, at least, ordinary poeple could not distinguish between them.

    The old men spoke an arcane language no one else could understand in feeble, monotonous voices. To understand this language, one had to be an old man, and it took years to study. One hopeful of one day understanding the old men was standing to one side as the proceedings took place, listening intently and rapidly taking notes, which, to ordinary people, looked like the scribblings of a madman.

    As for ordinary people, they were sitting in plastic chairs before the council, but they were not paying any attention to it. Instead, they were swinging on their chairs. Some were playing hangman or tic-tac-toe on the back of their briefing papers. Others were drawing smiley faces on in the condensation that clung to the windows. Still others were having whispered conversations. All kinds of distractions happened in this room.

    When a paper aeroplane soared through the air and hit one of the old men on the forehead as he was delivering his opinion to the rest of the council. He didn't react at all. It didn't seem like he had even noticed it. He simply plodded on in that excruciatingly dull drawl of his.

    The council was in session twenty-four hours a day, every day. The old men never stopped talking and debating - not that any onlooker would have gotten the impression that a debate was actually happening. For years, the council never stopped. Seasons shifted and still, they were talking in their thoroughly uninteresting language. Wars began and ended as they sat there. Occasionally, the Chief of the Palace, who wore a set of golden armour in all circumstances, would enter the chamber, bringing a motivator. A motivator was someone who tried to encourage the ordinary people sitting before the council to listen to and study what the council was saying - but they always failed.

    At one point, one of the old men stood up. Crumpling a piece of paper, he spoke in an angry voice. His hands trembled with rage and he was red in the face as he threw the piece of paper on the floor. The audience was vaguely amused by this, but shortly after, the man's temper had died down and the audience had sunk back into their prior distractions.

    One member of the audience, however, elected to watch the council. He had no real intention of studying the old men, but he quickly found himself trying to work out the meaning of certain words the old men used. He was a slightly stupid man, to invest his time in trying to grasp the matters of the council.

    He was strangely absorbed in the council's proceedings. That had never happened before. When his hangman partner nudged him, he didn't respond. She tried speaking to him, but her words had no effect. The increasingly absorbed and very unintelligent man had tuned out everything but the old men.

    Two years later, when the man tried to explain to his former hangman partner how important it was to understand the council, she slapped him across the face, and he deserved it. There was now a clear, red imprint of her hand on his cheek. She raged at him, shouting and screaming her displeasure. Only the rest of the audience - save for the infatuated man - paid any attention to her. Eventually, when he refused to yell back at her, she sat back down and pressed down hard on his foot with her high heeled shoe. The obviously impaired man didn't respond to this either.

    A few more years passed. Eventually, the fat, ugly, inconceivably stupid man stood up and joined the hopeful standing to the side. He got a notebook and began making his own notes and comparing them to the other man's. He was ignoring the obvious fact that the language of the old men wasn't actually a language at all; merely a system of grunts and moans; his notes were useless, and so was he. He had been sucked into the befuddling influence of the council that never decided on anything. Tempting illusions of progress were all that kept him going, until he died a creepy, disgusting old man.

    The woman, who had not died by virtue of being sensible, proclaimed danger to the audience. She propped the old man's body up against the council table as a warning to those who would become obsessed with the council.