The Poison and The Potion

I heard an analogy some time ago in effort to explain the one side of a particular argument. It was an interesting observation, so I have expanded upon with a fun little cautionary…and unfinished…tale. Gather around, boys and girls…

Once upon a time there was a town.

It wasn’t a perfect little town, but was still a wonderful place for the people who lived there, and offered many chances for the townsfolk to make it better.

The town had a leader. He, like every other leader before him, wasn’t perfect. Yet, he loved his town very much, and was making some changes to help the people improve it.  

However, a strange poisoning swept in one Spring day, and began to destroy the town’s crops. As a result, some people became sick and hungry. A few even starved to death.

Everyone was scared. Some people realized the best option was to simply wash the poison off the crops, and grow some new food of their own. Much of them turned to the leader to “save them.” The leader, in turn, turned to a group of wizards who said they had some magic spells…provided the townsfolk “did everything they were told”.

As time wore on, much of the townsfolk grew tired of being forced to perform magic rituals that didn’t seem to do anything. Yet, the wizards had become drunk on their power, and didn’t want to give up their control over the town. This was even despite the townsfolk learning the poisoning wasn’t that hard to clean up. The Wizards insisted on creating a “magic potion” for everyone to become protected from the poison.

The leader, having never dealt with poisons or magic before, trusted the Wizards, and gathered all the townsfolk together to announce there would be a potion that would stop people from starving. Soon, they could come to a special restaurant to take the potion. Then, everyone would be safe.

This, the leader soon learned, was a mistake.

Some of the townsfolk weren’t so sure a magic potion was the answer, especially since the poison seemed to already be wearing off the crops. Not as many people were starving as they thought. They decided to wait and see if the potion would even work before taking it.

A group of the towns elders, many of who secretly worked for the Wizards, pretended to agree, and told everyone the potion was bad. This leader was trying to kill them all.

The elders and angry townsfolk tossed the town’s leader out of power. Many blamed him for the poison plaguing the town. Soon, a new leader took over, and immediately opened the restaurant for the very same potion. Not only did this leader announce the restaurant would open soon, but those who didn’t eat there would surely die of starvation.

Not long after, the magic potion was released, many of the townsfolk lined up to get it. Others, who still wanted to wait and see, were soon told they weren’t allowed in the main town square if they didn’t drink from the potions.

Town criers and court jesters begin writing ballads in praise the magic potion. Some townsfolk even wished those who didn’t take the potion would be poisoned and starve to death. Children of those not taking the potion weren’t allowed in schools or near others who did take the potion. They didn’t want to be poisoned and starve, after all.

This went on for several weeks, then several months, and those not drinking the potion went from being made fun of, to being threatened by the elders. They were told they would lose everything they had. Some were rounded up and put in a special “camp” when good citizens found out about them daring to avoid taking the potion.

It seemed this would be the way of things until…. the first change occurred.

It was in the village square. One of the elders was shopping. She was a highly respected member of the town, and made sure everyone knew it. This elder was also one of the first ones in line for the potion on the opening day of the restaurant. She loved to brag about how many times she visited the restaurant, and kept a checklist of every time she drank the potion.

“Those who only tried it once, after all, might as well not have had any,” she would boast.

As she was picking out a dress to wear to her next visit to the restaurant, a tentacle suddenly sprouted from her head. Everyone in the market was shocked, as they witnessed one of the most reputable members of the community standing there, with large, green, flaying squid-like appendage dangling from her head.

“What are you looking at,” she snapped, acting as if nothing happened. “At least I haven’t starved to death.”

Over the next few weeks, more changes begin to happen. Some people grew tentacles, others, big floppy donkey ears and even others a grimy elephant trunk. Those who hadn’t changed, lived in secret fear they would anytime. There were all kinds of ideas as to what caused it. Was it the weather? Perhaps it was the heavy rains. Did a witch come in and put a spell on all those disloyal to the new leader? Maybe it was simply a result of being sad from dealing with all those horrible, unclean people who won’t take the potion.

They knew one thing for sure, it couldn’t possibly be the potion.

Anyone daring to question — or even mention — the magic potion was soon shushed, or even shamed into silence. The potion was a miracle, not a curse.

Wizards know best. Don’t they?

It didn’t matter who the town leader was, it was the Wizard who were in charge, now.

Over time, too many people were seen walking around the town with animal parts pouring from their heads and bodies. It was getting hard to ignore.

People finally begin asking if the potion was the problem. Those who didn’t go the restaurant certainly weren’t starving to death. They weren’t even spreading poison. Why did they need the potion?

Because, Wizards know best. Well, that and the Wizards were making quite a bit of money off their restaurant. Admitting the potion might not actually have anything special in it to keep people from starving might lose them much business.

“Too many people were seen walking around the town with animal parts pouring from their heads and bodies.”

Also, if the townsfolk found out the potion might contain a small amount of cursed water, there would be a large revolt. All they worked for would be for nothing, and there would be no more controlling people. Their power over them would be completely shattered. Instead, the Wizards decided to try and convince everyone to take more and more of the potion “just to be safe.”

Meanwhile, in the town, some citizens begin opening the camps, letting people out but without apologizing. That would be too embarrassing. More people became suspicious, and demanded answers. Did the potion do anything at all to help them? Was it causing the “changes.” Were there really so many affected by the poison, the potion was even needed.

One day, a town hall was called by an anonymous citizen. When the people arrived, many trying desperately to hide their various animal appendages, they were surprised when a young Wizard stepped up to the podium. This Wizard, it was revealed, had expressed concern that the potion was nothing but a way to make money for the Wizard’s council. He had been was banished from the restaurant for speaking out.

He looked at the sad, angry and in some cased desperate faces of the townsfolk, and didn’t know what to say.

Should he try to comfort the townsfolk with excuses? Give them another reason for the changes? More people would be hurt from the potion.

Should he tell them the potion might be the cause of the change? That might cause a reaction of violence and anger. People would turn on each other, and possibly kill him in the process.

He thought hard about what to say, but nothing could come to mind.

The Wizard turned from the podium, quietly walked out the back door and into the night. He never returned to the village, and the answers to this day are still unanswered.

Now, I ask you, reader, what would you do if you were the Wizard. What would you say?

How about the townsfolk, no matter whether or not you drank the potion. What would you do if he told the truth?

Well, we know one thing for sure.

The Wizards are still not talking, and the townsfolk are still afraid to ask.

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