The Unrighteous live in the village of Blinkham, part of a small principality nestled among snow-capped mountains. There is very little industry and manufacturing. The people engage mainly in herding goats and making exquisite cheeses so delicate that they cannot be exported and which they wrap in leaves of fragrant herbs and sell in the market square. There are abundant orchards of fruit of the pome variety which are suitable to the northern climate.
Artisans create whatever they need for practical, aesthetic, and spiritual purposes.
But a few generations ago these simple folk suffered a terrible tribulation. It rose from relations with several church employees gifted in ecclesiastical music. They were an organist, two zither players, a choirmaster, and a flautist (who was the principal trouble maker). The church musicians were always highly esteemed in the village and well-treated. Their wages were not high but almost as high as the schoolmaster’s. They also received living quarters (each was provided with a well-built chalet) and all the cheese they wanted, as well as quince jelly and a quantity of sharp cider made from pears.
But they were not content. The flautist persuaded them that their wages were not consistent with their talents or up to the prevailing rate in the principality. Under his influence they demanded collective bargaining , but the town council (which also oversaw the church) refused to come to the table. It was fruit harvesting time and they were too busy. They suggested the matter be postponed until the winter and perhaps they would agree to provide a goat or two every year to each musician.
The musicians were enraged at this treatment. They listened to the plan of the flautist which seemed worthwhile to them as it included both vengeance and profit. Details were worked out to the agreement of all. The group announced that they had made arrangements to give the children a treat. They would take them on a picnic on the nearby slopes. Parental consent was given and on the next Saturday morning the children lined up outside the church and gaily headed off for their treat.
Late that day as the parents were wondering why the children were so late returning, a small boy limped into town and told them the horrible news. As the children approached the pass leading into the next valley they were told to leave the trail and follow the musicians to the entrance of a cave. The young boy, in his difficulty in keeping up, tripped and fell, and to his horror watched as the singing children, following the flautist playing his instrument, were led into the cave, immediately after which the musicians emerged, and using levers, rolled a giant boulder into the entrance, completely blocking it. The young boy watched as the musicians disappeared over the mountain, unaware that he was lying on the ground nearby, bruised and sobbing.
Frightened and sore he made his way home alone. The parents, on hearing this tale, and knowing of the cave near the pass, immediately made their way there and tried to move the boulder. It would not budge, however, and seemed cemented in place. They decided to hold a meeting in the village hall to decide their next step. The schoolmaster had a suggestion. At that time a large overseas country had sent special forces to fight terrorists in the small principality. He suggested that they would have the equipment to move the boulder and set off to contact the military forces.
In a few weeks’ time he returned with a tactical attache and a squad of demolition experts with great experience in blasting into blocked caves and they set to work. The parents requested that they be careful not to hurt the children within and the experts said they would try not to, but they might be a bit stunned.
It was not long before the squad succeeded in unblocking the entrance. They entered with weapons drawn and in a short time returned leading the blinking, confused children into the daylight and into the arms of their joyful parents.
For a while the townspeople, overjoyed at being reunited with their children, did not notice anything amiss. But soon they began to feel uneasy. Their children had begun exhibiting behavior unlike anything their parents had seen. They were strangely quiet and docile. They never laughed or sang or played loud music which in the past had brought on migraine attacks in their elders, or gleefully danced the rhythmic, stomping steps which they had loved. Although strangely obedient in performing their chores they did not hesitate to rebuke their parents for what they called “unseemly” or “unholy” behavior. They were also strangely familiar with the Book of Truth, upon which their religion was based, quoting from it with great facility.
When one father, in a state of high spirits, burst out in the lusty yodeling for which their land was world-renowned, his daughter stopped him, saying, “Sing not in the voice of braying asses, for the Lord of All despiseth falsettos. Hepsipah, 6:8”. And when a wife criticized her husband for not wiping his shoes after returning home from milking the goats, their son cried, “Speak not, woman, in tones of displeasure to your husband and master, for a woman is born to serve and obey, smile and be silent. Chronicles of Abjah, 8:11-12”. And once, when engaged couples, enjoying some fine weather, spontaneously began whirling and capering in their distinctive native dance, some youths cried out, “Dance not in this valley of tears or thou shalt dance for eternity in the fires of Beldoroath, Hezekinad, 12:4”.
Amazed, the parents, who had never seen their children voluntarily reading the Book, asked them how they now seemed to have read it from cover to cover. Oh, no, the ever truthful children told them, they had never done so, but had been provided with pages of quotations extracted from the Book of Truth which they had to memorize and quote when appropriate. When asked who had so instructed them they answered, "Our shepherds,” and more than that they would not say.
Even worse, the children, who dutifully attended school, would now disrupt classes throughout the day with demands to pray. When the schoolmaster ordered them not to interrupt their studies as they had plenty of time to pray in church or at home after finishing their chores, they became irate, pointed their fingers at him, and shouted, "Tool of the Evil One.”
Outraged and worried, the people again sent the schoolmaster to the Special Forces to inform him that the children who had emerged from the cave were not the ones who had so merrily left home that fateful morning. They demanded that their own children be returned to them. The schoolmaster returned to the village with a message from the Tactical Attache. In it he told them that when they had rescued the children his men had secured a large cache of documents from the cave. From them their experts had learned that the church musicians had been in the employ of a group of terrorists known as “The Righteous.” These people who were trying to pass off their irrational and dangerous beliefs as being grounded in The Book of Truth were attempting to take over the principality by various legal and illegal means, including the control of the minds of children.
The children were taught that the Book was totally without error or contradictions and every word must be believed at peril of losing their immortal souls. No questioning or suggestion that anything in it could be interpreted symbolically, as poetry, or in the context of the time of its writing was tolerated and other groups holding even slightly different beliefs were cursed and told they were apostates headed for eternal damnation. The Lord of All was vengeful and imposed dreadful punishments on his beloved children if they strayed. Complete obedience to their pastors or “shepherds” was demanded at all times. No real friendship or close relationships were possible among the believers because they were instructed to listen for heretical ideas and inform on their friends and relations.
The Tactical Attache further informed them that the Special Forces were well on their way to completely rooting out cells of the Righteous throughout the land but there still remained the battle to cleanse the children and others of their strange teachings and keep them from spreading. He did not, however, explain to the parents how they were to do that.
The desperate parents, however, held a meeting and arrived at some ideas for turning their children back into the carefree, playful youths they had been. For example, when a child rebuked others with quotations from the Book, the parents would shout, “Don’t take it literally!”
Fathers played concertinas constantly in desperate efforts to induce their children to regain their childhood. Sometimes the children’s limbs would begin twitching and feet would begin rhythmically stomping, until at times, distraught at such unholy behavior, the children would fall on the floor and roll about pitifully.
Then the schoolmaster was sent again as an envoy to the Special Forces to request help in this dire situation. The Tactical Attache assigned a staff sergeant to help out. She told the schoolmaster, “Tell your people that I will design an after-school program that will have those kids acting like their normal, boisterous selves in no time.”
In a few days the staff sergeant arrived with a truckload of equipment. She began teaching the children athletic activities and at first met with resistance. However they were soon awed by her military bearing and kindhearted but firm pursuasiveness. Soon they were playing soccer, badminton, jogging around a track, and running races. When the parents heard their boisterous shouting from the playing fields they joyously raised their voices in thanks to the Lord of All.
And the people from then on lived contentedly in their beautiful valley.