Pilandok falls into the river
We met Pilandok, Mindanao’s trickster deer, in these pages two years ago (“President Pilandok,” 6/7/16).
Promising to pay King Crocodile with his own liver to take him downriver, next he wandered into the sultan’s palace. Sneaking into the throne room, he told the sultan about gleaming treasures he glimpsed underwater. Mesmerized, the sultan followed him to the riverbank. There, without a moment’s hesitation, the trickster pushed and drowned His Majesty.
So quickly did it happen that the royal guard were left doubting whether it was foul play or, as Pilandok recounted, the sultan had rushed to the river so eagerly, there was no time to warn him about its sudden steep drop.
So eloquently did Pilandok recount the “accident” that the royal guard took him to repeat his tale all over the kingdom. Before anyone knew it, a loud cry rose from a tearful people: “But who will lead us now? Be our sultan, Pilandok!”
“He captivates crowds in a way that no other could. The people have been hypnotized. There is danger in someone with both authority and charisma,” a native philosopher darkly observed.
And so, a vagabond living by his wits became sultan, living in the lap of luxury with the finest food, all the concubines he wanted, countless slaves to do his bidding, and even a special opiate to soothe his nerves. Above all, he loved every minute of public adulation.
Woe! This was the key to Pilandok’s inner darkness.
So offensive to his royal nose were the smelly poor, who were trying to forget their poverty with drugs, that he had them killed by the thousands. Then he sent spies throughout the kingdom, with ears tuned to anyone muttering against their new sultan.
Equally offensive to Pilandok were those who dared compare clever him with the sentimental old sultan. Why, he was powerful enough now to rain curses on anyone he pleased, from the poor to fellow rulers aghast at his violence.
He made one exception, though—the Emperor of the Middle Kingdom tightly controlling his industrious people and producing an avalanche of goods for the whole world to buy. He was very rich—a great example, thought Pilandok. He’ll likely make me very rich, too.
And so, greed swept over the palace. High officials began emptying the treasury for themselves. It was never enough, so, like their sultan, they eagerly worked with his friends from the Middle Kingdom, buying up islands. These friends, who grew rich from trading the drug the poor loved so much, gifted the sultan with his own special opiate. What they didn’t tell him, though, was its price: losing one’s mind.
As his wealth grew, Pilandok was slowly losing his hypnotic spell. Completely dependent now on his Truth Twisters Team to disguise his loss of control, he kept demanding, “What new story do we tell to keep the people distracted?”
“Something to calm their fear,” suggested his Truth Twister-in-chief.
“Hmm,” said the Sultan. “Like clear the streets of all loafers who might be killers?” It was no sooner said than done.
This new scandal of throwing all loiterers to prison, however, paled in comparison to what Pilandok’s creeping delirium whispered next: “Now let’s clear the way for my absolute rule. Spread the word. Kill all who oppose me, not just the poor, but even priests, provincial officials, all of them. Let’s make sure my reign never ends. Our main target is what my predecessor called the Rule of Law.”
But Life would not be fooled. One evening, the kindly old sultan hovered over Pilandok, tugging at his blanket. Half asleep when he saw the ghost, Pilandok quickly stood, ran and slipped on the carpet to the balcony, falling straight into the river. There King Croc waited to eat the trickster’s long-promised liver.
Sylvia L. Mayuga is an essayist, sometime columnist, poet, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist. She has three National Book Awards to her name.
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