Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge Is Power

By Yamna Boukaabar

Third Prize Winner, 2016-2017 Young Writer’s Story Contest

Download a PDF of Knowledge is Power

I am so scared, so very scared. I have done nothing, yet I am being persecuted for five violations I have
committed. I have twenty-four hours before the Council comes after me and sentences me to my doom. Twenty-four hours
to figure out the five crimes that I have supposedly committed. I am trying to remember what I spent the past couple months
doing: who I spoke to, where I went, anywhere and anything that could help me save myself. The letter clearly stated, that
by means of five parts, I broke the Code five times in the past three months. Perhaps I could ask a Council member what is
meant by “parts”. But in my village, the Council members do not speak to civilians; they only communicate through letters,
such as the one I received. And letters take weeks to be approved and cleared; only receiving approval after the sender
passes a variety of tests and trials to prove their pure intentions. A criminal like me, due for a trial in 24 hours, would never
be approved.
The Council consists of seven members, all who earned their positions. They are free of malice and evil; they are
the epitome of perfection. So by this, I know that if the Council has determined me to have committed 5 actions in violation
of the Code, I must have done something. So the goal is not to prove myself innocent, rather to figure out for what I am
being tried so that I can properly defend my actions.
I am in my poorly furnished house, sitting on my only couch, racking my brain for anything that could help me. An
hour has passed since I received the letter at midnight. All of a sudden, I hear a knock on the door. I don’t know what to do.
What if it is a guard coming to imprison me in my final hours? Or worse, what if it is another letter, one bearing even worse
news. I decide to open the door. It is my neighbor, Allysse DeMacelli. She is a tall and beautiful woman, who looks no older
than thirty, but as everyone knows, is much older. To be honest, I am a bit scared of her. She has an air of mystery about
her and walks around like she knows everything about everyone. She gives off an aura of confidence and acts like nothing
could hurt her.
As soon as I open the door, she pushes past me and glides right in, her luscious black curls bouncing with every
step. “Jessica, Jessica. Can’t say I’m surprised.”, she says, in an almost mocking manner. If she somehow knows about my
upcoming trial, I honestly am not be surprised. “It’s always the quiet ones, the ones always buried in their own thoughts.
They always make the mistakes.”, she says. She looks at me, waiting for a response. I don’t have time for her games, so I
am a bit rude in my response, “What do you want, Allysse?”. She laughs, a beautiful fairy laugh, and says, “Why Jessica, I’m
here to help. Unless of course, you don’t want my help.” Upon hearing this, I smile. With Allysse’s help, perhaps I have
chance. Perhaps she already knows what I have done.
I look at her, really look at her, for the first time since she’d entered my house. She has made herself at home, with
her feet sprawled on the couch. She is by far the most refined thing in the room. “Do you know what I did?” I ask, in an
almost desperate tone. I feel so small with her around, even though I tower over her, as she is sitting and I am standing. I
am jittery, waiting for a response. She is just watching me, eyeing my short stature. I feel insecure, as my broad forehead
and prominent nose are the first things she probably noticed. I am sure that no detail has escaped her gaze. She finally
speaks, “Jessica, my dear, I don’t know if you are aware, but I have the entire Code memorized.” She says this calmly, as if
she is telling me that she knows how to cook or that she can dance. I am shocked because I don’t think anyone has
memorized the Code, not even the Council members. “Don’t look so shocked, darling. The Code is very short, its only 604
pages. Anyways, here’s what you need to know: The Code consists of 2 parts: one of them is refraining from disobedience,
and the other is performing acts of obedience. You my dear, have failed to refrain from acts of disobedience. Now, how did
you commit these acts of disobedience, well with your limbs of course…” She is talking too fast and her voice starts to fade. I
think she slips in a few words in Cibara, the ancient language that the Code was originally written.
It is the sound of Allysse clapping that finally pulls me out of my thoughts. “Tsk, tsk. Always lost in your thoughts.
Perhaps if you were engaged more in reality, you would know what you did. Or maybe you legitimately have some sort of
health issue…” I start to get irritated. Allysse has been of no help whatsoever and is just insulting me. My feet are tired as I
have been standing for a good 15 minutes. “Allysse, if you know anything useful, please tell me, if not, you are welcome to
leave.”, I say. I then proceed to shove her legs off the couch. I find that, after listening to her ramble for 15 minutes, I am no
longer as scared of Allysse as I was earlier.
Now she is the one who is irritated. She gets up and walks towards my bedroom. I follow her, as I don’t know what
she is doing. I stand at the doorway and watch her. She walks towards my armoire and opens it. She pulls out a locked box
that I have never seen before. She beckons me over and tells me to take off my necklace. I do so and am shocked to see a
key dangling from the necklace. “I’ve never seen the box or key before. I swear. Allysse, you have to believe me.” I am
crying now and my palms are sweaty. “Stop crying.”, she orders. She does not try to calm me down, instead she starts
unlocking the box. “Stop. Allysse, don’t.”, I plead with her. I have a feeling that whatever is in the box is not going to be good.
But it is too late and the box is opened. It is overflowing with…letters? I am so confused. Allysse looks at me and says “The
pen is one of two tongues.” I take a closer look at the letters and see they are in my handwriting. As I skim through them, I
realize that they are filled with secrets. Secrets that are not mine; secrets that I should have had no way of knowing. “Look at
me”, orders Allysse, “The means of five parts: the eye, the ear, the tongue, the foot, and the hand. With the eye, you have
seen what you were not supposed to. With the ear, you have heard what you were not entitled to hear. With the tongue, you
have uncovered truths that were hidden with good reason. With the foot, you went to places you were not supposed to go.
And you have used your hands to record the secrets of others. You have done this all with evil intentions. You spied on
people, blackmailed others, tricked unaware witnesses and did so much more; all so you could become the all- knowing, the
all-aware. You have betrayed the trust of everyone in this village and for this, you will be tried. The parts of your body are
your subjects, and you should have payed attention to how you governed them. You are answerable for your actions, and
your limbs will testify against you.” Her face is stoic, void of emotion, yet I cannot shake off the feeling that she is happy
about something…
She is crazy. I have no idea what she is talking about. I didn’t spy on people just to find out what they were hiding
in their hearts. I thought Allysse would help me, but she has only told me a bunch of lies. “You are crazy. I did not do
anything. I thought you said you would help me.” I yell at her. She walks over to my full length mirror and points it in my
direction. I gaze into the full length mirror and looking back at me, I see a tall, beautiful black haired woman, who looks no
older than 30. I look at Allysse, and I see a short, brown haired girl with a broad forehead and prominent nose. I am so
confused. I close my eyes in disbelief. When I open , I look around, and realize I am not even in my room anymore, but in
somebody else’s. “What sorcery is this!” I yell. I am so confused. “Darling, your trial is soon, you should prepare.” Allysse
tells me, with a huge smile plastered on what I thought was my face…
And then it hits me. She is in my body. I did not spy on anyone, but Allysse did. And I am going to take the fall. I
look at her, and she laughs, “Well darling, I guess you have things all figured out. I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not. You
were going to amount to nothing, so I’m actually doing you a favor. Anyways, I should head home now.” She looks around
one last time and then looks at me and says, “Quite a shabby place you have here. Good luck tomorrow.” She says this all
with an annoyingly smug smile on her face.
As she starts to head out, I grab her arm. Since she is in my body and I in hers, I easily overpower her. I guess it’s
a good thing that I wasn’t very fit. “Why? Why me? How!!!??” I ask. I am so scared, so very scared, and I need answers. She
smiles, “You were always in a very passive, dazed state. It was quite easy to cast the necessary spells since you noticed
nothing.” So that’s what she was saying in Cibara. I realize that it was my own stupidity that put me in this dilemma. But
there is still one question I have. How was she able to use magic? No one can use it except the Council members. So I ask,
“How were you able to use magic?” She stares at me and whispers, “Knowledge is power, my dear.” The secrets she was
gathering, that knowledge, that is what gave her the strength, the power to do what she just did. I am dumbfounded. She
takes my shock as the opportunity to twist out of my grasp and walk away…
I am left by myself, and my hours are slowly trickling away. I need a plan. Or maybe I should just give up, as I have
been doing throughout my life. Allysse was smart to choose me. My whole life has amounted to nothing; I have contributed
nothing to this world. Perhaps I was going to just waste away in my ‘shabby’ house. I had no goals in life, no friends, no
family. I had nothing. But if I do nothing, Allysse will walk away with the power to destroy everything and anything. I cannot
let that monster roam free. For the first time in my life, I need to actually think. I have to save myself and stop Allysse.
Then it hits me. I look down and I see the letters all over the floor. Allysse used the secrets of everyone to become
stronger. She used my weak state of mind to manipulate me. Perhaps, this whole ‘magic’ thing is a matter of will. A matter of
how strong you are mentally. I read one of the letters. What I learn about the one person whom the letter is written to
astounds me. I feel like I have power over that person, like I could destroy them with one thought. Like I could engulf their
whole life in flames and turn them into ashes if I wished to do so. I look down, and the letter is burning, and I realize that it
was I who willed it to burn. And I read more and more, until not a letter is left. I know everything about everyone now. I am as
strong as her.
This village was built by knowledgeable people, but they used their power for good. They were pure and innocent.
They followed the Code and they set up the Council system. Allysse will ruin all that if I don’t stop her. She will return this
society to the dark ages. I have to stop her before it’s too late.
Using my newly developed powers, I track Allysse down. She is still in my house. The plan is to switch back into
my body and then help the Council deal with her. I am aware that it is not a very good plan, but, like I said before, thinking
really isn’t my forte. I’m just hoping to surprise Allysse because I am sure she will not expect me to have read the letters. I
bet she thinks I have given up and I am sitting in a corner crying. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m not doing that.
As I prepare to leave the house, I hear a knock. “Allysse DeMacelli, you are ordered to open the door so you can
be escorted to your trial!” a guard announces. I lost track of time! The door is knocked down, and I find myself at a
crossroad. I can either use my powers or I can go to the trial. But I am not Allysse. I cannot hurt others with such
indifference. I have no choice but to go to the trial. A guard walks over and binds my hands with some sort of magically
enhanced rope. I am ordered to walk outside and then enter some sort of metal box. As soon as I go in, everything goes
black.
I wake up and I find myself already in the trial room. It is a simply furnished room and everything is made of the
same metallic, magically enhanced material. I am tied up in a chair and the seven Council members are seated in front of
me. The one in the middle speaks first: “Allysse DeMacelli, are you aware of your violations?” I have never seen a trial
happen before because mostly everyone blindly obeys the Code, but I know that the safest thing to do is a say yes. “Yes, I
know what I am being tried for.”, I reply. “Then you may defend your actions.” says a Council member. His voice is calm and
he is very soft spoken. All of the Council members are. The Council members highly encourage honesty, so I decide to tell
the truth. I tell them everything, omitting nothing. They look perplexed, as if they don’t know if I am telling the truth. So they
order Jessica Kemps to the trial room.
In all honesty, I do not think she will come. She will probably find another way to escape. But lo and behold, she
does come. She is brought to the stand to present her version of the story. I look at her and try in vain to get any sort of clue
or information, but she is a master at hiding her emotions. She looks directly at me and begins speaking, “Well, well, well.
What do we have here. Seven charlatans pretending to be pure and good, all for power. And then we have Jessica here. I
truly am shocked, darling, that you figured it out”, Allysse says. She stops talking and takes a long look around the room,
trying to gage everyone’s reactions. I do so as well and I notice that the Council members look… scared. They are scared of
Allysse! If they are scared, then I should be petrified.
Then Allysse does something very unexpected. She walks over towards me and removes the rope. She begins
talking to me, but she is so passive, it is almost like she is speaking to herself. “Jessica, Jessica.”, she mutters, “You and I
are more alike than you realize. Two woman, both alone and abandoned, living alone in their homes with too much time on
their hands. And to think we lived side by side the whole time. Oh the irony. Now, I really would like my body back…” I close
my eyes for less than a second and realize that I am back in my own body. I am relieved to be in my own body, regardless of
how imperfect it is compared to Allysse’s.
Allyse is still talking. At this point I am not even listening to her. This woman sure has the whole evil villain
aesthetic going for her. I realize it would be smarter for me to hear what she has to say and I start listening. “…Did you know,
that the seven frauds up there are the real villains. They have taken control of the whole village, playing everyone for the
sheep they are”, Allysse says. I am sure she has more to say but a Council member suddenly speaks out. “Don’t listen to
her. You have to defeat her.”, he cries. He seems so sincere and so… My thoughts are suddenly interrupted by Allysse’s
snapping fingers in my face. “Jessica. For once in your life, use that brain of yours. Nowhere in the Code does it mention
anything about a Council. Those people have done horrible things to get the power they have…” Allysse says. I zone out
again and start to think. If the Council members have power, why aren’t they using it? Maybe they really are fakes… I start
listening in to Allysse’s speech again, “…me and you, together, we can rid the village of these criminals, and rule this town
as it should be ruled: through the Code!”
The Council members look pale and terrified. I realize that they have no real power, not like the kind Allysse and I
have. I look at Allysse, and she is smiling, perhaps because she already knows my decision. I look at the Council members,
and with one thought, I sentence them to the death they deserve. I look at Allysse. She smiles. This is a different smile. It is
a horrible, evil smile. With that one smile, I realize that I have been tricked. I picked the wrong side, and now, I am all that
stands in Allysse’s way. If only I had known better. Knowledge really is power. If I was smarter and payed better attention to
what was going on, things might be different. I try to change things, but it is too late…

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