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Liar Liar

14 Jul

There was a small village that nestled at the edge of an ancient wood. A sparkling river ran through this village and the crops of the farmers grew fast and well and high and full. The weather was good, the climate was perfect and all in all, everyone who lived in the village knew that they were lucky to be there. Every day you could hear the men and women of the village telling each other how fortunate they were and how happy they were to work hard to make their home and a better place. Yes, everyone was delighted with their lives and did everything they could to make things better for themselves and their neighbours.

Well, almost everyone that is. For no matter how idyllic a life may be, there are always people who are not going to be pleased.

One young man was far from happy with his lot. He was forever moaning that things were unfair, that life had treated him poorly, that he could have been so much more than he was if only luck had been on his side. Everyone in the village knew this young man and most of the village liked him or at least accepted him. Even though he was a moaner and a complainer, he was generally pleasant company so he could be forgiven a great deal. But, as time passed, the young man began to think that he was too good for the village, that the people around him were foolish because they treated him nicely and seemed to believe what he said.

He began to tell tall stories to get people to pay more attention to him. He wanted to be more important, more needed than he really was so he would tell of his wild adventures that had never really happened, he would make up stories of the terrible things that had befallen him, things that everyone knew were lies. But, because most people liked him, no-one had the heart to step forward and tell the young man to his face that he was a liar. Time went by, as it has a habit of doing, and the young man’s lies grew wilder and wilder. He thought that everyone believed what he was saying and the people of the village began to like the young man less and instead felt sorry for him, so they still acted as though they believed what he told them.

The young man grew more arrogant in his lies and the villagers grew less patient, but because everything else worked so well, no-one wanted to disrupt the smooth running of the village by arguing with the man. So they listened to his lies, nodded politely and calmly went about their business not believing a word that he had to say.

Oblivious to this disbelief, the young man told his tales of fighting in distant wars. He spoke of the horrible diseases he had contracted in foreign countries and he boasted of exploits both brave and noble but obviously false. Whenever he would speak, the villagers would appear to listen to him but all the while they would catch each others eyes and shake their heads, feeling pity for the foolish young man.

There was, however, one resident of the village who was not as patient as the others, one who did not view the young man with sympathy, but instead with disdain. The old crone who lived on the very edge of the village and kept herself to herself, would scowl at the young man every time she heard his stories and would mutter under her breath whenever she saw him walk past.

“Liar liar,” she would mutter. “Liar and boaster. False and foolish young man.”

But no-one listened to the old crone because she was not really part of the village and no-one cared that much what she had to say. The foolish young man heard the old crone and he was annoyed that she didn’t believe him. So, in his own way, he got revenge upon her and started making up stories about the crone. First he just laughed at her and called her senile. Then he started to say that she was a crazy old witch who had lived forever. And then, when this didn’t seem to be enough, he started telling people how the crone used to live in a ginger-bread house and would lure children to her and pop them into the oven. Of course, no-one in the village believed any of these stories, but the young man thought they were believed and the old crone quickly heard what he was saying about her.

Before, she has just been irritated with the foolish young man, but now this irritation grew into anger, which grew into fury which caused her to leave her house and march into the middle of the village to face the young man and demand that he put an end to his lying. She strode through the village, her black cloak flapping behind her and her black skirt dragging in the dust. Laughing children and barking dogs soon fell into line behind her, keen to see what the excitement would be. The noise of the children and dogs called out to the villagers who hurried after the growing crowd, wanting to know what was going on, wanting to know what was disrupting the smooth calmness of the community.

By the time that the old crone had found the young man, her fury was close to bubbling over and she stormed into the tavern where he was sitting.

“How dare you?” she screeched at him in a voice that cracked glasses. “How dare you make up these lies about me?”

For a moment the young man was lost for words. He could only stare at the old crone and then he realised that the entire village had gathered around him and was waiting for him to speak.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he blustered. “I never said anything about you, not a single word.”

This was too much for the gathered villagers, for every one of them had heard him tell tales of the old crone.

“No!” they shouted. “You’re lying. We heard you. We all heard you. You called her evil. You called her a witch. You said she lived in a confectionary cottage. You said she cooked and ate children. We all heard you say these things.”

Again the foolish young man looked around at the people of the village and the scowling crone. Again he was at a loss for words. He knew that he had been caught in a lie and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to talk his way out of this situation, but still he tried.

“You are all mistaken,” he said in a smooth and beguiling voice. “It wasn’t this woman I was talking about. No, of course it wasn’t. And shame on you for thinking such evil thoughts about this fine young lady. I was speaking of a hideous old crone who lives in the next village along, she is the evil witch, not this good woman here. But it was an easy mistake for you to make and I will forgive you for thinking these wicked thoughts of me.”

The tavern was silent for just a moment as everyone stared at the young man, trying to convince themselves that he had actually said that. This had gone too far, did he really think they were all that foolish?

“No,” sighed the old crone. “You were not speaking of someone else, you were speaking of me. You were lying. Just as you were lying when you told the village that you had been injured while you were a mercenary for King Anthen. Just as you were lying when you told the village that you had caught a terrible disease of the blood while you were working in distant Jerinima. Just as you were lying when you said that you had a secret wife. Just as you were lying when you said that you left the village every day to go to work in the neighbouring village. You lie and you think that we believed you, but we never did. You tell lies, not because you want to but because you don’t know how to stop.”

The foolish young man wanted to admit what he had done, but he still believed that he was the smartest person in the village, he still believed that he could talk his way out of any situation and once more, he spoke.

“Ahh,” he said. “I see what this is. You are afraid, old crone. You are afraid because I have told these people the truth behind your secrets and lies. Your wicked past is now known, is now out in the open and you want vengeance because I have let these good people see you for the evil witch that you truly are. But you won’t fool the people of the village any longer, we know you for what you are. Now we are united against you and your evil ways, now we will drive you out and our village will once more become the place of joy and tranquillity that it should be!”

He looked around the room, hoping to see some signs of agreement, but all he saw was pity in the eyes of the villagers.

“There is some truth to your words,” said the crone. “Not that you knew of them, but even someone like you must be right now and again. You see, I am a witch although I never use my powers for evil, only to teach young and foolish people the error of their ways.”

The foolish young man began to grow nervous now for he was realising just how much trouble he could be in. He opened his mouth to speak, but the old witch, for she really was a witch, interrupted him.

“You have had your chance to speak,” she commanded. “Now it is your turn to listen. For years now you have taken advantage of the good nature of the people of this village. You have thought them to be idiots when in truth they are simply nice people. You thought you had fooled them, when in reality they were simply humouring you. Well, no longer. From this day forward, I lay a curse on you, a curse that will follow you to the ends of the earth.”

The witch leaned forward and pointed one crooked finger at the scared young man. She seemed to grow larger and stronger and the shadows in the tavern gathered around her as she chanted these fearsome words.

Lies and truth, all mixed together

Spoken word, denied forever

False of heart and weak of spirit

All who hear will disbelieve it.

You tell your tales for all to hear

No one trusts you, far or near

Lies you tell, now and tomorrow

Truth is lost no matter the sorrow.

The villagers grew nervous as the tavern darkened. The foolish young man tried to speak, but fear had closed his throat and the old witch’s eyes seemed to grow large and red.

“You shall never be believed again,” she said. “No matter what you say, all people who hear your words will know them for the lies that they are. Whether you speak truth or falsehood, no-one will ever believe you. But you, young man, you will think that every word you utter is believed by all those around you. You will think that you are the smartest, cleverest person there is. That is the curse that I lay upon you and you have well deserved it.”

With this, she turned and walked out of the tavern leaving the foolish young man to stare at the surrounding villagers.

“Well,” he finally said. “I’m glad that’s over. What a silly old woman she is, as if anyone would actually believe that she was a witch.”

“But she is a witch,” cried out the villagers. “We all saw what she did to you!”

“No, she did nothing,” answered the young man. “I am the same as I ever was. She is just crazy.”

“Crazy? No, never. She is the most sane of us all and you, you are so very different from what you were.”

And slowly the young man began to realise what had happened. The villagers no longer even pretended to believe what he had to say and he could no longer fool himself into believing that he was smarter than everyone else. Every time he opened his mouth to say something, he was laughed at and mocked for being so foolish. As arrogant as he was, he could not take this kind of mockery and within hours of the curse being laid upon he, he fled the village vowing never to return.

But things were no better for him in the next township, for the curse followed him around. Everyone he met, everyone he spoke to, saw him for the liar that he was and believed not a word of what was said. At first, the young man realised that no one believed him, but slowly, ever so slowly, the second part of the curse caught up with him and it got to the stage where he did not know that he was being laughed at, he did not realise that no one was believing him. Instead, he would continue to tell his outrageous tales with a foolish grin on his face and he would think that he had everyone believing him, when in truth they laughed and mocked and ridiculed him.

The foolish young man still wanders from town to town, telling his stories and relishing the response that he gets. Now though he is not so young, but still as foolish as he ever was. One day, perhaps, the old witch may take pity on him and clear his eyes and his mind and let him see things as they really are, but then again, perhaps she won’t. It goes to show that if you are foolish enough to think you are smarter than everyone else and you are arrogant enough to think that people believe your every word, then you will be in line for a huge fall.

And it also goes to show that you should never anger and old crone, for you never know when she may turn out to be the witch that everyone secretly believes her to be.