Tell A Tale in 500 Words

The Last Speech of Herman Brown By Will Hodgetts

His followers crowded around, and his friends wrestled closer. The room seemed to wax and wane in rhythm with hollow breaths, and it was becoming harder to tell where the groans of the dying ended and the wails of the mourning began. Quiet words stroked the listening ears.

‘Purpose is an antonym of pain, but frequently they come hand in hand. And so the key to change, brothers, is not changing: for your burden will be as light as a feather and everyday bear joy

like the fresh fruit of a summer tree if you yourself are convinced your tasks are worthwhile.’

Herman coughed like a coal engine expending itself all at once; eyes glazing like sugared icing and face suddenly, skin weary of tone. His arm flitted suddenly out from the blanket with unsettling conviction. The doctor saw the light of a hundred dying stars enter his unblinking eyes and all the pride of man spread across his face. His splayed-out hand contorted at first, turning swiftly into a single curled finger, beckoning. Their eyes locked, and the speaker rushed back, suddenly muted, awaiting an order.

‘I promised you I would die on my feet.’

Herman seemed more worried by the lack of a reaction than any mark of his condition. He cast aside the blood pan and all the sinews in his head directed themselves to spit on the floor in front of his bed-guard.

‘If you’re expecting a withdrawal, you shall be sorely disappointed. Damn you, so help me Clarence’

Arms sprang forth like branches bent backwards. Life seemed to cautiously inch back through the chamber as if to sound these words out of respect. Hoisted before the crowd like the Son of Man across human beams, he began to speak for the last time.

‘Friends! Give me this if aught. Who here is a local?’

Several fists pierced the air in response.

‘A foreign man? Factory worker? Farmer? Old, young, godly, otherwise.’

At each word, hands came up and down as bows following their conductor.

‘For we in this room are all of one kind: those who see change and seek to enact it. As a soldier might crest the firing line to attempt to rescue his comrades, every act of my life – every choice I

have made was made with the approach that we might one day have fairness in our society. Friends, when I first set out – before any of you knew me – on this journey, I was told it could not be

done. Not only was there no hope, there was no way. I never had a choice. You never need look for the light at the end of the tunnel if the light is shining from your eyes.

Some men, my friends, are travellers. We, however, chose to become the road. Good night, all of you.’

Appreciating the dignity of the room and with perhaps an hour of breath left well in him, Herman Brown chose to end his journey here instead.

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