children huddled around the hunched-over figure in the rocking chair. The room
danced with shadows from the crackling fire, amply lighting the small chamber
and the group of characters within it. A somber and gloomy atmosphere hung over
old woman rocked back and forth with a steady,
unnerving rhythm. The creaks and groans that her movements caused on the
floorboards were occasionally accented with her own creaks and groans.
children," she murmured through swollen gums
and cracked teeth, "who would like to hear another story?"
question was rhetorical. She wasn't asking for a
little girl, her pixie-like face weathered from far too
many of the old woman's tales, feebly raised her hand. She was Hope, and wished
for the strength to endure another story.
old woman's eyes fixated on the girl. A deep-seated
fire surged behind her gaze, sparked by the desire to unleash a barrage of cold
words on the child.
good. This one I call Hatred."
the frigid words spewed across the room the children cowered against one
another. They felt no warmth from the fire, and even less from the story
assaulting their ears.
boy dared to stir. He was Courage, and despite his diminutive size, had stood
up against many an imposing adversary.
old woman stared him down without pausing in her dark tale, biting words
continuing to flow from her cracked mouth like so much fetid water.
boy hesitated in his defiance, and then became still.
girl sitting next to the boy reached over and wrapped an arm around him. She
was Compassion, and sought to comfort her companion. She wore an expression befitting
her benevolent stature.
woman snarled at her. "Be still, young fools!" she blurted out.
Impatience stained the already dark visage she threw about the room like fire.
"Be still until my tale is complete!" She then continued with the
telling of her story, periodically stealing a glance at her captive listeners.
girl promptly removed her arm from the boy's shoulder.
her story was finished the old woman leaned back in her rocking chair. Her gaze
roamed over the children's faces, pausing for a moment or two on each one.
saw Friendship and Understanding. She saw Patience and Honesty. She saw
Integrity and Caring. She saw Love. All of mankind's virtues were displayed
before her in the form of the children trapped in her room.
crooked smile creased her aged face. "I can see by your expressions that
I've succeeded in taking away some of your influence." Her words were
thick with venom. "One more nightmare for the world to digest, and with it
a little less of each of you."
dream up a new nightmare for the world to