The Revolutions of Time
By Jonathan Dunn
Public Domain Books
Chapter 1: Past and Present
My name is Jehu. Most probably it sounds foreign and unfamiliar to you, devoid of the qualities of affection and personality which give character to a name. It is a harsh name, cold and inhuman, like something out of the night, an unwelcome intruder into the warmth of familiarity. It inspires no blissful memories, nor does it kindle fond feelings in the bosom of the hearer, instead the heart is hardened to it like the feathers of a duck to water, repulsing it, leaving it to run off into the ditches and by-ways of the long forgotten past, to trickle dejectedly into those stagnant ponds where so many words of wisdom are imprisoned: out of sight, out of mind, out of heart, out of history. Yet while history is forgotten and misconstrued, it is repeated, for what is life without water, which nourishes and sustains it, and what is life without wisdom, which protects and cultivates it?
Jehu is my name, though it no longer brings the quickened pulse and keen anticipation of happiness to the hearts of any, not even my own. For what deference can be given to a name, though not in itself a thing of dishonor, which represents the failure to derail the evitable fate which wrecks the race of man again and again. Not that I myself embody such a failure, nor even that I gave birth to the dreaded fate’s latest momentum, but as is seen time and again throughout history, one name is brought to represent the tide of change, for better or worse, the doer of deeds which were done not by him, but by a mass of independent doers, yet it is written in the annals of history as the deeds of but one man.
While I had little to do, consciously, with the doom of the earth, I will always be fingered as the villain, as the ambitious Napoleon or the barbaric Atilla, the arrogant Augustus or the fearful Cyrus. Someone has to bear the burden of shame on the pages of history for the people of his time, and in that sense, maybe I truly can be called their kinsman redeemer. Perhaps it is my fate to bear witness to the wrongs of a people, of which even you are not wholly innocent.
And yet can an individual be blamed for the faults of a society, can personal responsibility be extended to the members of an unknown multitude? How the enjoined conscience of one longs to say no, but in good faith it cannot be said, for in this case the mask of ignorance cannot supersede the face of guilt. Indeed, ignorance in this case only adds to the shame of the guilty, this being a crime not of misdeeds but of negligence, twisted together with the vices of humanity into a thick and sturdy cord, a rope that cannot be pulled apart and individually examined, yet must be taken as a whole. Insularly, the strand of ignorance could be easily snapped, remedied by but a little education, yet when woven together by one’s own hands with prides and prejudices, it forms an unbreakable rope, which is placed about our neck to hang us: through means of our own doing is our fate foretold. If but one or two of the strands were omitted, the result would be a feeble rope, easily broken, and we would live. But by our own vices is our mortality made manifest, by our own wrongs are we wronged.
By now you may be beginning to feel the impulses of indignation arising in your breast, for who am I, the admittedly despicable Jehu, to group you as my fellow convicts, my co-conspirators, in a sense? And you are right, for I am not your judge and neither do I wish to be.
Having said that, I now request of you to put down the book and discontinue reading.
“Surely,” you say to yourself, “He is mentally deranged, for what author in his right mind would encourage his readers to disperse, what writer does not thrive on the digestion of his words by an eager audience?”
Here I must make a revelation to you: if my manuscript has indeed been found, then I have long since been dead; and I assure you that in whatever form my existence takes in the present, I have little desire for your intrigue or goodwill. Do you think Melville is consoled in death of his miserable life by the vainglorious praises of the living? Or do you think that Poe is comforted by such avid attentions in his present abode? In truth, Melville’s only rivalry is now within, and Poe’s only raven that daunting memory of those truths which had escaped him in life, but which now are opened to you.
More importantly, if this manuscript has been found, it proves that what is contained herein is the unerring truth. I do not write this to exonerate myself, however let me say here that I am more the Andre’ than the Arnold, for I was but the emissary of history, not the traitor to humanity, and if not me then some other would have filled the void. Let it be remembered that it was Andre’ who gave his life for his deeds, and yet it is Andre’ who is recollected with a sweet sorrow, and though Arnold lived, he had no peace. Yet while history is vivid and encyclopedic, in itself a living organism, it can speak only through the mouths of men, who often misrepresent it for their own partisan and prejudiced plans. It is strong and steadfast, though, and in time is always victorious over its menial opposition, for what is history but the past tense of truth, and it is justly said that veritas numquam perit, truth never dies.
Going back to what I said before, namely that at my manuscript’s discovery my demise will itself be history: I am assured that such is true, for even now as I write this my death is near at hand. How wide the abyss of time that separates us is I cannot tell, but I do know that it is beyond the reckoning of men, such an unknown barrage of hollow, formless years. Yet as you read this it is as if I were speaking directly to you, despite all of the desolation between our times. That is what makes history an organic being, and by history I mean all of the past, or all of the future, depending on your viewpoint.
A book is a connection between times and peoples, more so than any other medium. As I put these words down in writing, it is as if I am imparting my very self into the pages. And as you read them, the name Jehu slowly forms into an image, into a personality, and from the empty word Jehu comes the great well of affection springing from a personal intimacy. A book is an enigma in which no time exists, and as it is read it brings the reader into its eternal being, for while it sits closed on a shelf it is no more than a forgotten memory, yet when it is opened its contents come to life and its characters and locations are once more existent in the same state as when they were written, the story becomes once more reality.
While I have long been deceased, when you read this I am brought to life once more, and with my rebirth I tell you my story, and make known to you the truths contained therein. The words of this book are a rune gate, a portal to the past, and as you read them, your present fades away and you are drawn into my present, this very moment in which I now write. Then you connect with me intimately, and for a brief time the gulf of mortality is transcended and the depths of my being are laid open to you. We commune together and you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, merging your existence with mine.
Come to me now, my friend, come to me across the gulf of mortality, for I await you. Come, and in your spiritual peregrination meet with me, in this land of the past which is so foreign and unfamiliar to you, but which will become for a time your home. Come to me, my friend, and let me tell you my story.