THE DICTATOR knew he was dying.
He calculated that before the six moons rose from the choked sea of the planet Primus, he still had time to say his goodbyes.
He was, by Primate reckoning, relatively young but he acquired power early and the power had swallowed him whole. As he lay on his deathbed, the Dictator plotted how to overpower Death. He was certain that even before the death rattle sounded in his throat, his most trusted would throw out his not-even-dead-yet body and fight, down to the last standing ape, for power.
So after the first moon rose wetly from the sea, he invited all the Premium Primates of Planet Primus to see him personally for his goodbye gifts. The line stretched beyond the Palace.
First to bend an ear to hear the Dictator’s whisper was his personal doctor. The Dictator knew the fool had at least an excellent talent for his own survival. He gave the quack a paper appointing him the Most Official Physician (MOP), with power over all healers.
Fearing that he would be blamed for misdiagnosing the Dictator, the MOP’s first act was to wipe out every healer. When the second moon rose and gobbled the first, it would have wrinkled its nose (if it had a nose) at the stench rising from the diseased and the dead strewn all over the planet.
The Dictator enjoyed saying goodbye. To the Chief Orangutan of Palace (COP), he gave a blank check for intelligence funds after whispering he was weary of listening to the birds’ intrigues.
In Primus, communication, from announcements to intrigues, was coursed through the birds. They were the only ones whose tongues were not tampered with (birds’ ears are covered by feathers but the COP, who swapped Science for Obedience remedial, was not even curious to Google this).
So the birds followed the healers. By the time the third moon cornered and gulped down the second moon, such a din rose from the planet, where the survivors gabbled without cease after forgetting, in the absence of messengers, how to listen.
Fast forward to the gorging by the sixth ravenous moon. There are just two visitors now waiting outside the Dictator’s room (actually in the entire decimated planet).
The Dictator did not recognize the girl at first. He lost count of the moons since he last saw his subjects.
But he always distrusted the female ones. Rightly so as, without waiting for his goodbye, the girl gave him hers: she took out a quill and with its sharpened end, slashed her throat so a bright, red smile widened and glinted back at the Dictator.
Death then stepped inside the room and gently cradling the girl, walked away. Halt! cried the Dictator. What about me?
No one was left to answer the Dictator.
*First published in SunStar Cebu’s August 2, 2020 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”