My name has never been on a ballot paper.
I’ve never run for office.
You’ve never seen my face on a campaign poster, but I am the one who makes the decisions that influence your everyday life.
I come from a long line of people, males mostly, who have performed this service. We are paid handsomely, but we do not live a lavish life, and we don’t do it for the money— I am of service.
The elected leaders of our country come to me for advice, and the advice I give them is always accurate — always. Sadly they do not always take the advice that is given — even though they know that it will benefit our people. Politics and greed get in the way. All sides of politics know that I exist and they know that my view of the world is evident, just and honest, and still, they do not listen.
My training started at an early age — I’m the eldest son of an eldest son, and so it has gone for generations. Occasionally the eldest daughter carries the burden, but for many years it has been the eldest son’s obligation to take on the family business.
You probably think that myself and my family are surrounded by security guards — protected around the clock. That is not how we deal with it. We hide in plain sight — a simple suburban home in an upper-middle-class suburb. Our house sits on a hill affording us an excellent view.
All great civilisations had an Oracle — someone who the leader would consult with before making momentous decisions. “Should I go to war? Or should I form an alliance?” The Oracle would have been chosen and trained from an early age. It was a dangerous occupation because the ruler would often dislike the answer given, causing the Oracle to be replaced by someone more compliant. This was usually a deadly consequence.
Political leaders come to me — usually at night in an ordinary taxicab. Business leaders sometimes arrange for me to meet them at some little cafe away from the business district.
You are probably wondering why the press hasn’t discovered my existence, or that of my ancestors — they have, but a bit of skilful obfuscation and the press is led in a predictable, but wrong direction. Over the years, when my ancestors and I have been drawn into the light, we have been passed off as meddling relatives, idiot half-brothers, gay lovers or disgruntled taxpayers. The more lurid the story, the more likely it is that the members of the fifth estate will fall for it.
Earlier I mentioned Oracles. I told you that by way of giving you an idea of what role I play, but it is essential for you to know that, unlike the Oracle, I do not foresee the future — I see things as they are right now — I know the best course to take in any given situation — I know that I know and I am never wrong. That is not arrogance speaking; it is a statement of fact.
Sometimes, when dealing with a challenging elected official, I will give the impression that I can foretell the future just to bring him into line, but this is rarely necessary. They are in awe of me, and this fact is usually enough for me to do my job with a minimum of fuss.
No-one in my line has ever spoken to an outsider.
You are the first person to hear about the real ruler of our people. I know from the look on your face that you are wondering why I am telling you this story, and I will get to that, but before I do, I need to tell you about last Friday.
My diary was empty for the day, so I went into the City by train. I planned to drink coffee, meditate in the park and generally have a quiet, introspective day.
I managed to achieve all of those things, and I was sitting in a little cafe near the station waiting for my train to arrive when an average looking man in a light coloured coat approached me. He laid what looked like a copy of the Evening News on my table and said, “You’ll find page 53 particularly interesting.” He gave me an enigmatic look and walked away.
I was curious, as you would have been, so I leafed through the paper, and it contained the usual mix of shoddy journalism and fear mongering that most major daily newspapers provide — old news, until I got to the hinted at, page 53.
It included a Late Breaking News Item about an explosion at a petrol station that is located very close to my house. We can see the roof of the building from our front verandah. The article gave the approximate time of the accident and told of the death of the out of control vehicle’s driver and the injuries to the station attendant.
This incident and everything that was written on the remaining three pages had not yet happened. I know this because time has passed and I watched these events unfold. We stood on our verandah at the appointed hour, and I waited for the bang.
“Come and watch the fireworks,” I said to my beautiful wife. I was joking because I did not expect anything to happen — it was just a bit of fun.
The flash from the exploding petroleum lit up the sky and engulfed the surrounding houses. A gentle breeze was blowing in our faces, and the smell of burning petrol assailed our nostrils. We watched in horror as the flames leapt from one house to the next, edging ever closer to our safe haven. I turned and looked at my wife, and I could see the look in her eyes — it was time to run. I grabbed the dog, and she grabbed the photo albums, and we piled into our car and backed, somewhat dangerously, out of our driveway. We made it out of the street nearly colliding with a fire truck that was turning into ours.
We spent the night with friends and waited until the morning.
Their house was warm and inviting, and we sat in silence after the initially excited conversations had died down. Our friends were frightened, and so were we. They were in no danger, but their vivid imaginations had propelled them into a world where their haven might be threatened — no-one wants to live in that world.
“Do you want breakfast before you go, you two, or do you just want to go?”
“Breakfast would be good. The house survived, or it didn’t. Breakfast won’t hasten or delay its fate. Toast and coffee would be lovely.” For a moment there was the slightest hesitation at the mention of toast, but I just laughed, and the conversation went back to normal.
The fire crews were still mopping up when we arrived back at our street in the mid-morning.
The fire had been stopped because of our unusually broad street. Some minor damage due to flying sparks, but otherwise okay. Our dog didn’t want to get out of the car, so we left her there with the door open. She would come inside when she was ready.
My wife put the photo albums away, and we sat for the longest time and held each other. We drank coffee on the front verandah and looked out over the surreal view. The smell was terrible, but nothing was going to drive us out of our home.
The newspaper that had been thrust under my nose on that Friday afternoon was still lying on the kitchen table. Over the next couple of days I ticked off the occurrences as they occurred — the fallen tree that temporally blocked the main road, narrowly missing the car with old lady driving to visit her husband in hospital — police arresting a local politician for misappropriating funds (I’d given him a reading about six months before and suggested that he set up an account for all the critical projects whereby two signatures were required for significant withdrawals) — work began on a community playground — the government announced that it will extend the rail line to the south.
Who was the man who gave me the newspaper? Was it some sort of threat or was it a warning? Does he know what I do for a living? Why go to such lengths to get my attention, and what sort of insight does this person have that they can tell the future? Does he want my job? Does he seriously think that he would survive very long in this world if people found out that he can foretell the future?
The crowds would tear him apart.
Being right all the time causes enough complications — foretelling the future in a world where money and power are the twin gods is a formula for disaster.
I’ve been back to that cafe a few times — same day of the week, same time — no contact. Whatever he wants, he isn’t sharing that with me.
If he came to me in my official capacity I would tell him to stay hidden — his life depends on it.
He may disagree, but I’m never wrong.