I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
Such is the mantra, spoken quietly in hope during clandestine gatherings, or whispered in the darkest moments outside of them, when dreams of life lived to the full fall beyond my control and are squashed like bugs in the mud.
For certain, this mantra is against the teachings of the Regulators, who have ordained that all situations should be ordered, all people confined to the roles and responsibilities, as dictated by The Book of Rules they wield so forcefully as a weapon against us.
But many yearn to break free of The Rules, and they meet in dark, secret places. Places where imagination, creativity, innovation and the freedom simply ‘to be’ are encouraged and enabled instead of being stifled and kept for an elite few. Where a lowly clerk of numbers can become a musician; an under-aged whore become a student; a rough-handed farmer in burlap become a tailor of silk or satin.
I was one of them, but discovery put paid to my resistance. The mantra is all I have left now of my defiance, and I cling to it as fiercely as a drowning man clings to a broken plank.
I will whisper it when they lead me to the stake to burn me on a pyre of my own making. As the words I crafted into forbidden stories of love and hope and dreams help to fuel the flames at my feet, I will scream this mantra until the smoke rips my voice from my throat and my tongue blackens and cooks.
And I will write it for the last time, here, now. In my final hour, on a stolen scrap of parchment, in the hope that it will be read after I am gone and the reader will take up the mantra for themselves.
Reader, break free of The Rules and the Regulators! Discover what your heart yearns to truly be – and live!
You are the master of your fate: you are the captain of your soul.
As I have been mine.