Short Fiction

A meeting at the Council of Chaos
Monday, January 14, 2002
Matt Johnson
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The Council of Chaos met in a rather large room with soft red carpet and off-white walls that were lined with potted plants. A huge bay of windows bathed the room in bright sunlight and usually offered a magnificent view of the city. Today, however, the billowing smoke from the burning floors below obscured the view.

The six council members were gathered at a long table with a shiny, black surface that was almost completely covered today by a several stacks of paper. Each council member had his own chair, though none of them were using theirs—they each stood and screamed at one another, jabbing fingers in the others’ faces, fists clenched and teeth bared as they argued over what to do with the Council of Order. The six councilmen had been squabbling for more than an hour when a woman burst through the double doors at the far end.

“The building is on fire!” she told them as she gasped for another breath. “We have to get out of here! There’s a rescue chopper that can save us if you all follow me to the roof!”

The council stopped long enough to give the woman a dirty look and a sneer, and then continued their verbal assault on each other. The woman stood there dumbfounded as the heated debate continued. A distant smoke alarm emitted a squeak that was deafened by the council’s arguing.

“The Council of Order is a threat to our very existence!” shouted Uproar, waving his arms to emphasize the point. “There is nothing they want more than to see us destroyed! We have to strike first!”

“Why waste the effort?” Rebel snarled. “I say we ignore them! Those busybodies can follow their own stupid rules all they want! They are a bunch of insipid lemmings who follow some lofty notion of what’s good and right without questioning why. Eventually they will all fall off the cliff of intolerance and we shall be rid of them!”

“Didn’t you hear me?” she woman called out over the din. “The building is on fire!” A few council members glanced at her, but the rest continued to quarrel.

“What do you know?” Uproar spat. “We can’t ignore them, not when they’re doing everything they can to impose their ideas on us! The other day on the elevator I heard Reason saying to Canon that laws and truths are universal and affect all people, whether they believe them or not! We can not allow that kind of intolerant thought to spread!”

The others hissed their approval.

“Excuse me,” said the woman loudly, stamping her foot. “We have to get out of this building!” None of the councilmen responded to her this time. They either did not hear her over their own shouting or they were deliberately ignoring her this time. The pungent smell of smoke that permeated the room grew stronger and stronger as the councilmen continued to bicker back and forth.

“The Council of Order is a bunch of closed minded lemmings!” Rebel sniffed. “They still hold to the ridiculous notion that there is a difference between right and wrong! They’ll never change, so we should we even try?”

“We could persuade them!” argued Tumult. “We could show them how liberated they would be if they only abandoned their outdated laws and tenets. After all, we’re the ones who are truly free! We aren’t confined to any laws because we’re free to make our own!”

“Get real!” sneered Discord. “Rebel is right; they are a bunch of mindless lemmings! They still believe in that old fool, Newton who thought that everything that goes up must come down. How foolish is that? What about our satellites that orbit the earth every day? They never have to come down! We are enlightened enough to know that gravity only exists if you think it does! Those mindless lemmings at the Council of Order won’t even entertain such an idea—they only want to follow their leader right off a cliff!”

“We have to get out of here!” the woman pleaded with them.

“Discord is right!” shouted Frenzy. “Those intolerant, blue-nosed puritans can’t be persuaded—they want to impose their rules on the rest of us! Now is the time to fight!”

The smell of smoke was so strong now that the woman’s eyes began to water.
“I agree with Frenzy!” roared Uproar, banging his fist on the table. “We have to destroy everyone who is intolerant if we want to survive!”

“What should we do then, declare war on them?” Tumult demanded.

“Why not?” proclaimed Discord. “They’ve declared war on us!”

“It’s not worth our time!” sniffed Rebel.

“It’s them or us!” declared Uproar. “Whose side are you on?”

“I smell smoke!” said Turmoil said suddenly.

“Smoke?” asked Discord.

“I smell it too,” said Tumult quietly.

The council went silent. They froze and started to sniff, looking around curiously as if they could spot where the smoke was coming from. The distant alarm continued to wail, and the councilmen seemed to hear it now.

“Do you think there’s a fire?”

“That is what I have been trying to tell you!” the woman snapped at them. “The building is on fire and we have to get out! Right now!” The council turned and stared at the woman in terror. Blood drained from their faces and they stood rigid for a few moments before wheeling on each other and exploding in hysteria.

“How will we escape?!” Turmoil cried in anguish.

“Wait a moment,” the woman began.

“We’re all going to die!” Rebel screamed.

“We can all get out safely if…” the woman tried.

“I don’t want to die!” Uproar moaned.

“Please!” the woman pleased. “Just listen!”

“We’ll all be burned alive!” Tumult wailed.

“Stay calm! Don’t panic!” said Frenzy.

“Wait a moment! I have it!” Discord cried excitedly. “If the laws mean nothing—even Newton’s laws—then we have nothing to worry about! All we have to do is break open a window and float away to safety!”

The rest of the council cheered in approval and the woman stared at them in disbelief. Discord heaved his chair at the bay of windows and it burst through with a shower of glass shards. The council members dashed to the broken window and kicked away the dangling pieces that were left.

“Follow me!” Discord called over his shoulder with as much confidence as he could muster, and he jumped out of the window. The others followed in single file and plummeted to their deaths into the rising smoke below. The woman stepped close to the ledge and shook her head sadly as the rescue chopper—which had been hovering above for some time—flew low to pick her up.


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