“Well, where is it?” said Comrade Whipp. The frustration and impatience he was trying and failing to mask seeped into his voice. “We were told this was a hall for venerating your ancestors, or some such feudal garbage. Where is the armor?”
We stood in a loose semi-circle outside the hall, shifting uneasily on our feet; none of us made eye contact. We all knew exactly where the armor was.
Comrade Whipp growled and spun on Granny Warmbread, who stood nearest.
“The People’s Republic does not approve of superstitious rituals or worship of feudal idols! The armor must be destroyed!” he roared. Granny Warmbread recoiled from his hot, rotten breath. She stared him down until he turned away.
“No,” she muttered under her breath. “You just want Sir Chanticleer’s four hundred year old armor to melt into bullets.” Comrade Whipp was too apoplectic to hear.
From inside the temple came the heart-rending sound of wood cracking and tearing and clattering to the flagstones. They were pulling down the hand-painted plinths and murals. Smoke rose up from the courtyard as they burned the ancestral records. It stung our noses and brought tears to our eyes.
Valory Chanticleer fidgeted in her mother’s gaunt grasp. Her father had fought for the People’s Army. Was this how they showed gratitude? By tearing apart his tomb? She looked up at her mother, but Mrs. Chanticleer kept her gaze resolutely forward.
“If you aren’t going to help us now, shoo!” Comrade Whipp shrieked, eyes rolling. “We will be inspecting your homes next! If we find even one shred of backwards, feudal, superstitious nonsense lying around you will be marched through the streets and all will know your shame!”
Startled by the manic edge in his voice, we dispersed. We had hidden our relics weeks ago, when we heard what was happening in Wyvern-on-lea. Their ancestral hall fared worse—it had been burnt to the ground.
Back home, Valory Chanticleer couldn’t stop herself. She raced up the ladder and stood in the attic, surrounded by rows of hanging hams. She looked up to the rafters, squinting through the darkness at the thatching. Knowing she oughtn’t, she swung herself up and stood on a beam. She pushed aside the thatching and there it was, the helmet of Sir Chanticleer, her ancestor, safely nestled in the straw. How lucky that they had been repairing the roof when the armor needed hiding! It would remain there, safely hidden until the madness was over. Valory did not know that the madness would ever end as she stood there, perched on the beam like a little bird. But she did know, deep in her heart, that the Great Chairman had to be wrong about labeling something with so much history and significance as “superstitious” and “feudal.” She still felt this way long after she forgot what the murals had looked like, and how the epic poems went.
Comrade Whipp and his cadres never thought to look up, and therefore never found the armor of Sir Chanticleer. But they took their vengeance out on just about everything else. Later, historians tried to pass the entire, decade-long disruption of traditional culture off as nothing more than a cock up.
Let me know what you think of this piece in the comments! Thanks for reading~