nce, not long ago, there was a tiny village existing on the barest outskirts of civilization. The village was an awful place, full of selfish people. The people who lived in the village did not work. Instead, they preyed upon the unlucky souls who got lost in the maze of canyons surrounding the village. Many such people found their way to the village, lured by the apparent warmth and light, only to be murdered and have their possessions stolen. Every once in a while, they would let a person go to ease the rumors, but the villagers did not care whether their victims were sick, or dying, or old, or weak.
One especially rainy day, an old man appeared at the village gate asking for a place to stay the night and a bit to eat. He was a very old man, and his face had that look of agelessness which only great years can bestow. His beard and hair were a pure white, unmarked despite the mud and rain. His clothes, which were of a sturdy make, were not torn and only a little damp, even though it was apparent from his fatigue that the old man had walked very far. His eyes were a bright blue, unclouded by age or loss of sight. They were piercing, and seemed able to read a person's soul as easily as a book. The old man owned nothing except the clothes on his back, so the villagers decided to let him stay the night.
Later that night, however, the villagers began to express discomfort with having the strange old man within their houses. His eyes, they whispered, seemed able to discern their deepest thoughts and secrets. Many were afraid that the old man would stumble upon their village's secret.
The decision to expel the old man was unanimous. The villagers drove the old man out with sticks and stones and loud jeers. Though many of the stones hit their mark, the old man did not cry out. He walked slowly, steadily out of the village gate and absolutely no amount of pushing or shoving could make him go any faster. The only thing the old man did was to rake them with that piercing gaze and ask one question: "Why?"
The next day, the first person became ill. It was a dreadful disease which caused the skin to darken to nearly black, the pupils to dilate, and the throat to tighten in a most unpleasant and uncomfortable manner. The first victim was pronounced dead after little more than two hours after the first symptoms had appeared. One by one, the villagers fell to this mysterious illness.
Healers and doctors tried to stop the speed of the plague, but it was unstoppable. By the third day, over two thirds of the villagers were dead or dying. The remaining survivors became very worried. "It's the Old Man's doing!" many said. Nothing could cure the sickness. All the villagers could do was try to ease the last painful moments of their companion's lives.
Very soon, the village was empty. Many of the villagers left after it was apparent that there was no cure for the plague and that it spared no one. The only inhabitants were the dead or the dying.
On the seventh day after the start of the plague, the Old Man came back. Nobody knows why. What he saw was a totally ruined and depleted village. The stables and the storehouses were empty and the houses were unkept. Everybody was gone, either dead or fleeing.
Everybody, that is, except for one man. He was tall and thin to the point of being emaciated. His matted blond hair was dirt and sweat encrusted. He was dying of the plague. When he saw the old man walking through the deserted village, he called out "Old Man, is this your doing?" Spotting the dying man, the Old Man walked over and nodded in response.
"Who are you that has the power to wreak such havoc and destruction?" the dying man asked weakly. The Old Man looked down and waited a moment. The last thing the dying man heard was the answer: "My name is Justice."
© 2002 The Richmond Hill Public Library Board