The Whisperer

PC: Pinterest

Whilst reading Biko’s blog (Bikozulu), I have come across truncated mini-stories on ancient Rome; of a Slave whose only work is to whisper ‘you’re mortal’ to The General’s ear whenever he came back from a triumph. Yes, that’s his job. To make sure The General doesn’t get his head swelled. It piqued my interest and I looked it up. Boy was it not fascinating. I made a miniscule tale out of it, so here goes, nothing, something, you choose.


Perhaps, he wandered into enemy territory hot on his heels hunting a hare, his dog in tow and was captured. Maybe he was captured as a prisoner of war when he realized the futility of putting up a fight. Outnumbered, he slid his visor up, went to his knee, waved the white flag and was apprehended; because soldiers don’t kill guys who have surrendered. Imagine slaying a defenceless guy, his eyes rheumy from fear, guys who have resigned to a sour fate. So he was yanked away and shackled, together with other prisoners of war, or rather cowards of war. He thought about his dog and what would become of it – would it stray and join other rabid dogs? And later, after reality really dawns on him and tugs to his mind he realized that he is going to unfamiliar turf, as a slave and won’t ever get to see his family. He thought about his wife – and how she’ll remarry after his name is read in a listicle of fatalities or guys unaccounted for. His name will be read swiftly and briefly, accounted as nothing – just another statistic. His memory will be buried, with naught, not even a swath of his garment. He thought about his children. And the diminutive time they would have spent with their father, that they might be raised by another man, a man who he knows not how he would treat his kids.

He thought about his mother, every man thinks about their mother. How she pleaded with him to feign ailment so as not to be enlisted, since he was her only son, beads of tears racing down her creased cheeks. Instead, he stepped away from her mother’s cry and sauntered to the army base. Being drafted as a soldier is something you wear on your forehead for everyone to see – a badge of honour, who is he to say no? And at that moment, when foe soldiers are closing in on him. Their swords drawn. In a knee jerk cry for help, he will scream ‘Mamaaa!’, notwithstanding that she is miles away, praying to the gods of war to spare her son. When you yelp out ‘Mamaa’ you’re helpless, at the apex of desperation, where death flirts with souls.

See, I have not substantial ideas of how he came to be The General’s slave, could be he had been hounding him for eternity and he acquiesced and said ‘alright, just don’t croon in my ear’, then he ran away gleefully to break the news; I am The slave who whispers in The General’s ear.

Word has gone round. The General is coming back from a conquest; a war. He’s triumphed and he’s on his way back, in full regal of victory. The streets are teeming with throngs; children, men, women, animals – even them seem to be cognizant of The General’s imminence. Folk are clamouring, in the wonted high-jinks spectacles like these exude. Stern-looking soldiers have formed a man barrier in front of the fringe rails to hold back fool-hardies who would want to get more of a sight, piece, maybe a whiff of The General and his procession. Some people are passing out, from suffocation. Many, at the front are pressed so hard against the steel rails. A little harder and they’ll be disembowelled.

The General’s procession comes in sight, the crowd grows even more tumultuous. Everybody screaming their lungs out, at the highest register one’s voice could go. For bad timers, who begun their fun early, their voices have degenerated into gasps of air – and even that doesn’t deter them from trying. He sits in a golden chariot; open on the sides, partly closed at the top. Save for head gear, he is in full body armour, just like he left and conquered. The horse’s hooves clank on the concrete, the chariot wheels rattle against the floor. Coins are thrown to the crowd by the soldier’s accompanying him. Beside the chariot, a man walks, with a severed head of a foe, a cluster of flies buzzing around it, poor man.

“Take my wife General, take her,” a man blurts. Frantically waving a scarf in his hand.

“That’s a good offer General, I would be tempted to take it, but don’t take his wife. What will he be left with, he’s just in the moment, people say things. You’re just a man, like them,” He says (The Slave) to him, so close to his ear. Trying to diminish his self-grandeur, seated adjacent to a man to whom the earth kisses.

The sun is writhing. He offers The General a glass of grape wine and fans him, you don’t want The General too hot. Droplets of perspiration forming over his eye brows and nose. This isn’t what he had in mind as a potential job when he was younger. He thought he’d rear an orchard, of miscellaneous fruits which he’d supply to a farmer’s market and make a living out of. He promised to inherit his father’s carpentry business; heirloom that had ran across generations. He later reneged when he grew older, wood didn’t quite tickle his fancy. He has been good at playing the flute for as long as the sun has risen from the east, but you can’t eke a living out of it, art isn’t a mercantile venture. So here he is whispering into the ears of a powerful man. Sometimes, he errs and his lips touch The General’s ear.

A couple of women at the forefront throw petals on the passage – could admiration be shown any better? Some throw their frocks, the brazen ones hurl their knickers in excitement, their betrothed on the side, baffled but hands tied because – it’s the General.

“You are the greatest Rome has ever seen,” one damsel yells.

“You are good, but there have been great men too, more will come after you. Don’t let it get to your head they’re blowing smoke up your ass my general. Remember you are mortal,” the slave counters.

The procession proceeds to the palace, multitudes still on the streets. Casualties from a stampede being heaved onto gurneys, some will live to see another triumphant procession, others won’t be so lucky. A couple of soldiers are hiding a man who dared jump over the rail, he is curled up trying to protect himself from the wrath of the clubs and metallic soled boots. Inebriated folk, lurching their way back to their homes singing in gibberish.
The General steps out of his chariot for the first time. His slave next to him. Just before he walks into his swanky palace he hands him the now empty glass. The slave leans over to him and whispers.

“My General, the people love you they adore you. You’ve brought victory to this realm called Rome. Children will be named after you. Shindigs will be held in your honour. Blood will be shed in sacrifice in your name. A lot will happen – I might even get some tonight back at home, eh. No matter what, you are a man. Just like everyone else. You are mortal. The same heaven that begot you begot me. The rain that pours here, pours for everyone. Etch it in your mind, you are nothing more but a man.” He’ll then walk round the back to the servant’s entrance.

Later on in the evening, he will go back to his wife at the squatters. Jaded, beat from the noise and whispering sense in The General’s ears. He’ll think of his breath if it was fresh enough through the day. His wife will take off his cloak, hang it in the closet and ask him how work was, whilst massaging his neck gingerly, like the traditional subservient wife that she is. He will plonk his legs on the chair and squirm, his wife hitting the right spot, the whiteness in his eyes hogging out his pupil, ecstatic. ‘Work was alright,’ he’ll reply. “If you aren’t too worn out, perhaps we could go to the bedroom,” his wife will croon – in his ears, amorously. “Look at me, I’m The General now,” he’ll quip and titter. His wife will walk away, sick of this banal joke. Not appreciating the remark of this guy who whispers in the General’s ear.

3 thoughts on “The Whisperer

  1. “they’re blowing smoke up your ass my general”😂😂😂😂😂wooow wooww😂😂😂 “the whiteness in his eyes hogging out his pupil, ecstatic” if you ever get your hair washed in a salon😂you’ll struggle not to portray this emotion because u never know those mamas and their mouths😂😂 “Look at me, I’m The General now” classic😂she shouldnt be sick of that joke😂😂😂


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