Glen found the table in the Great Hall set for six with tableware that looked to be pure silver and gold. The goblets were fine crystal – jewel embedded. The food on serving platters and deep dishes looked steaming hot and smelled delicious. There was fish, bird, meat of some kind, potatoes, rice and at least a half-dozen vegetables. There were cheeses and fruits of all sorts so that Glen was not sure he could name them all. The wine was decanted, both red and white, and there even appeared to be brandy and six glasses on a tray for after.
Glen spun slowly all the way around. There were no people to be seen, no cooking fires or stoves or so much as a cupboard for all the priceless dinnerware. How that feast came to be there, Glen could not imagine; but then it did not seem to faze the residents of that cave community one bit.
“Dinner.” The leader came out into the Great hall and hollered, while Glen stared. The Chief Officer and Treasurer quickly joined him beside the table, and Glen did not quite know what to do. He felt he ought to be invited, but he needed to be invited first.
“Citizen.” The leader did invite him, but not to the table. He clearly pointed to down below, off the ledge where the table was. He waved Glen to stand in the inch-thick dust that had not been disturbed for years as no one came there and no one but these three lived there.
Glen complied, but slowly, and imagined there might be some ceremony before he would be included at the table. There was a ceremony, but not what he expected.
While the Officer and Treasurer bowed their heads, the Leader tore off a small chunk of bread, picked up an ordinary cup of red wine and turned to face the gallery in the great hall, a gallery which consisted of Glen alone.
“Citizens. As we partake today of our noon dinner, let us remember the great sacrifice your officials are making on your behalf. We work hard for you all, to see that your needs are met in every way. We do our very best to take care of you all. We spare no labor in our body.” He held up the bread. “Neither do we spare our very life’s blood for your sake.” He held up the wine. “Let us give thanks for those of us who are here to watch over you and provide this great and bountiful feast.” He leaned down in Glen’s direction and held out the bread and cup. “Here, citizen. Share in our bounty.”
Glen took the bread and cup and spoke softly. “Thank you.” Then he watched while the three up at the table took their seats and dug into the food with abandon. They spoke some to each other, but never so much as looked again in Glen’s direction. After a moment of disbelief, Glen found a place in the stones where he could sit. The bread was very good and the wine warmed him, but it was not enough to sustain a bird. And he decided while he ate that he had indeed fallen into a loony bin and wanted no more of it.
Glen stood when he was done and stepped to the cave entrance. The sun was bright, but straight up overhead and it only took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He was just about to step out when one of the three above noticed and shouted.
Glen turned to listen.
“I do not advise going out there,” the Leader spoke first.
“Going into the outside is not allowed,” the Officer added. “It is against the law.”
“You can’t go. There is work to do,” the Treasurer added.
“Thank you, but I am going,” Glen responded.
“But you’ve been paid,” the Treasurer shouted as Glen turned away and stepped out from the cave.
It was desert outside. Nothing much grew there and probably nothing much could grow there. While that made Glen doubly curious as to where the feast might have come from, it did not stop his feet from walking. He headed straight out from the cave and was only partially surprised when he heard the shuffle of three sets of feet not far behind.
When Glen paused, the feet paused. Glen looked to the ground and saw the remains of an old path. It might have been cobblestones once upon a time, but it was hard to say. The stones were too few and spewed from the earth at odd angles.
“Where does this path lead?” Glen wondered and shouted the words, though he did not turn his head.
“To disrespect,” he heard the Leader.
“To the end of choice,” the Officer said.
“To poverty,” The Treasurer added, and Glen smiled.
“I’ve been once to the Pit of Poverty. This may be my way home.” He walked at a good pace and the others did their best to keep up.