Sheelo the ProphetSheelo. That name echoes through the streets it echoes through the hearts of the people. It is whispered in secret, carefully hidden away from the ears of the wealthy and powerful.
For the wealthy and the powerful do not tolerate any whispers of Sheelo. They do not tolerate anyone looking up to her. They do not tolerate anyone holding her up as a symbol. And they definitely do not tolerate anyone worshipping the religion she brings to the world.
But that doesn't stop people from doing it anyways.
It doesn't stop people from crowding together in the streets, keeping an eye out for the guards, excitedly hearing their neighbours talk about the stories they heard people tell them or even claim they saw for themselves. It doesn't stop the excited shine in the eyes of young maidens as they tell their friends about everything they heard. It doesn't stop the smiles of young children as they make up their own Sheelo stories. It doesn't stop the way that Sheelo is ever present, everywhere, in the minds and hearts of the people.
They say that Sheelo learned how to read from sneaking into her master's library when she was but a young child. They say that Sheelo stole medecine from the royal pharmacy and handed it out to the people. They say that Sheelo stole books from the sacred library and handed them out to the people. They say that Sheelo impersonated a factory manager and declared work done for the whole week. They say that Sheelo snuck into the banks and walked away with bags full of glittering gold coins.
No-one can verify any of this of course. No-one even has proof that Sheelo even exists. But the stories are coming from somewhere, they have to be coming from somewhere, there has to be someone who is at the centre of all of this.
And so the people believe. They keep on believing and they keep on dreaming and they keep on hoping.
A young woman with hair as dark as the raven's wings frizzing in the morning light looks up towards the sky. There is a smile on her face and gladness in her shattered heart. There is joy on her face. There is a sense of hope in her sparkling eyes lifting up towards the sky. It is as if the heavens above her are coming down to bathe her in their glory.
A group of people get together at an intersection. The only light they have is the light of the moon. They spend the night talking, and talk until the sun lights up the sky and they are forced to go to work. It feels like community, feels like camaraderie, feels like summer, feels like warmth, feels like home.
People make their own stories about Sheelo, and tell each other. Stories about Sheelo's past. Stories about Sheelo's motives. Stories about Sheelo's pain and her heartbreak and her lust for revenge. Stories about all the different ways that Sheelo tricked and outmaneuvered the wealthy and powerful. Stories about who Sheelo's parents must be and whether they will ever meet her again.
These stories are told almost as excitedly as the stories that are presumed to be real, and are passed on from person to person to person. They are passed on until they become honest stories in and of themselves, attributed to Sheelo and her glory.
And so there are many many versions of Sheelo's stories, many different strings of the same tale. And each string of each tale comes together to weave a tapestry that is so grand that it no longer even makes sense. Each tale is more impossible and more outlandish than the last. Each tale borders more and more on fantasy.
But the people still believe it. The people still believe the whole collection of strange, fantastic stories that come along with Sheelo.
Sheelo went up to the emperor himself and made a grand speech about why he should let the people go. Sheelo went up to the emperor himself and gave him the middle finger. Sheelo went up to the emperor himself and told him that one day he will die. Sheelo went up to the emperor himself and told him that his empire will come to ruin. Sheelo got away with all these things.
Sheelo disguised herself as a wealthy woman and got away with it perfectly. She convinced loads of wealthy men to shower her in gifts and money. She married a wealthy man and then poisoned him in secret. She inherited his estate and gave it all away to the regular people. No-one suspected a thing when she faked her own death and disappeared back into the crowds.
Sheelo rallied the workers of a mine to band together and stop working until the mine shaft supports were made stronger. Sheelo set up an elaborate scheme in which the ghost of a previously killed worker seemingly came back to haunt the mine owner. The owner was terrified, and agreed to make better supports.
Sheelo fought three of the city's guards armed with nothing but a piece of broken glass, and fought with such fluidity and agility that she was able to kill them all. She escaped into the darkness of the night, leaving behind only a piece of broken glass shining in the moonlight. She was never discovered.
Sheelo forged a fake will of a great, wealthy, landowning man. In the will she wrote that all his lands and his possessions would be going to his young servant. The elite all around him were befuddled at seeing this will after his death. But it was so perfectly authentic that they could not question it. And the young servant turned her master's lands into a place of freedom.
All these stories and more are all attributed to Sheelo. And there are more stories each day. Stories that are woven from the stories that came before them. Stories that are sequels, stories that are prequels, stories that take place within the events of other stories.
Just as there are stories, there are songs. There are many different kinds of songs. Narrative songs about Sheelo's adventures. Epic songs singing Sheelo praise. Metaphorical songs that compare Sheelo to the forces of nature themselves. Extremely subversive songs about the cruelty of the wealthy and the powerful who Sheelo opposes and the ways that they will have their vengance coming.
The songs, like the stories, pass from person to person to person, from community to community to community, until is not known who made which song or how much of each song is true. The people believe all the songs, as fantastical as they might be. And they especially believe the songs about the wealthy and powerful having their comeuppance one day.
The songs change and morph and grow as they travel through the communities. They take on an aspect of each community that sings them. Until they are patterned with the colours of every community in all of the lands. Until one can feel all the people and peoples of the lands every time the words flow from their tongue.
Older kids tell younger kids the stories of Sheelo under the darkness of night, lying close together huddled under worn blankets. The younger children ask question after question after question. The younger children tell parts of the stories themselves. And they tell whole stories too, under the blanket of night.
Older women who are nearing the ends of their lives spin smaller stories together to form a larger narrative, while small crowds huddle close to them, listening with engrossedness. They answer the questions that they get with sweetness and mirth, and their eyes shimmer with mystic joy as the words leave their lips, as sweet as ripe fruit.
And there are the stories of the stories that Sheelo herself has told the world. Stories of people helping each other, stories of people rising up, stories of people bravely challenging power structures, stories of people keeping their hope alive through horrific adversity. These stories are all told as stories Sheelo told to her own crowds of people standing in front of her.
And these stories are sweet too. They are sweeter than sweet. They are passed from person to person to person as well. They are passed from community to community to community as well. They are hidden from the powerful and the wealthy as well. And they are told to the people who are not either of these attributes.
People make up stores that they think Sheelo might have told to the people. And they pass these stories and pass these stories until the stories have been passed on so much that their source becomes untraceable, until they become just more stories that Sheelo has told.
Many people believe that Sheelo hears the stories people make about her and uses them as inspiration to plan her next heist.
Sheelo is a symbol, beautiful and radiant and shining, to all the people who hear of her, to all the people who feel her in their hearts, to all the people who need her. She is a hope to them, a rallying cry, a protest chant, a song inside their hearts. She makes them have hope that there is someone out there watching over them, someone out there helping them, someone that they can relate to and be one with.
Sheelo is a symbol that the people deserve better. She is a symbol that the people are just as good as the wealthy and the powerful, if not better. She is a symbol that they deserve equality, that they deserve freedom, that they deserve love, that they deserve community. She is a symbol that the people are owed life, that they are owed peace, that they have a right to defiance.
She is a symbol that the people have a right to do whatever they need to do in order to get what they are owed. And a symbol that the people can win, in ways big and small. A symbol that they will win eventually. A symbol that they are stronger than they know and greater than they ever imagined. That their power is immeasurable and their love can conquer all.
Sheelo is a symbol of pain, of injustice, of heartbreak. Sheelo is a symbol of love, of community, of transgression. Sheelo is everything the people have been hoping for all along.
Now, the wealthy and powerful, they hate Sheelo. Even though they know very little about her. They know enough about her to know that she is a dangerous force. They know enough about her to know that she is transgressive. They know enough about her to know that she is a theat to their power.
And so they set out to defame Sheelo in every way they can. They make great announcements about the horrible crimes that Sheelo committed, all the dangerous acts that she actions. They make plays about Sheelo's arrogance and ego, plays that they make the regular people watch. They spread rumours about Sheelo's cruelty and malice.
The powerful think that they have done enough. They know that the people have heard all their lies and their slander. They believe that the people have believed it, and that they themselves can rest easy knowing that the flames of revolution have been put out. They think that the people listen to them, listen to their power, listen to their sureness, listen to their might. They think that the people will not question their slander of Sheelo.
But the people see right through the ploy of the rich and the powerful. They know that whatever they declare about Sheelo, whatever they put in their plays, it is all lies. They know that their own stories are the stories that are the truth. And they know which rumours are started by the rich in order to paint Sheelo in a bad light and which rumours are started by the people themselves, which rumours could actually be true.
And so Sheelo remains a symbol. She remains a symbol to all the people of what they truly deserve. A symbol of rage and vengance and love and protection. A symbol of justice and resilience and rebellion. A rebellion whose fires can never be put out.
And so Sheelo is talked about on the streets everywhere. Carefully out of the earshot of the guards.
But something strange about Sheelo is that no-one knows what Sheelo looks like. No-one knows the colour of her hair or the tone of her skin or the shape of her face. No-one knows her height of her build or the curve of her lips. If anyone asks, the answer always is that Sheelo does not want the people to talk about these things. That she wants the people to talk about her words and deeds, and not her looks.
And so everyone fills in with their imagination what they think Sheelo looks like. And so there are millions of different images of Sheelo, a different image in each person who thinks about her. In this way, Sheelo becomes a shapeshifter and a transformer, who can take whatever shape she needs to take in order to bring the message that she needs to bring. In this way, Sheelo becomes even more transgressive, more transformative, than she could have been otherwise.
The people get more and more inspired by Sheelo and her deeds. They become braver. More confident. Less afraid. They begin to get brave enough to confront the wealthy and the powerful in a much more head-on way. They believe that the times are coming, the times when the empire will fall and the people will rise.
And so they plan protests, and strikes, and demonstrations of all kinds. The guards always come to the protests, but they see the rage and the hate and the love and the courage in the eyes of the people. And they are too afraid to take on the people. They know they are outnumbered. They know they are outmatched. They do not move to hurt the crowds.
The people talk and whisper that Sheelo herself is at all the protests and strikes, at all the riots and demonstrations. They say that she walks with the people, unrecognizable because so many do not know what she looks like. And everyone believes this, they believe that Sheelo walks and marches with them, and they believe that Sheelo grants them get protection against the guards.
And this enrages the wealthy and powerful a great deal. They can feel their power slipping away more and more each day. They can feel their empire crumbling like dust and slipping through their hands. They can feel their end coming. But no matter what they do, they cannot make the guards stand against the people. The people are just too glory-drunk. The people are just too powerful.
It's chaos, in the eyes of the rich and the powerful, just pure chaos. All the rules and the patterns of the old world seem to be slipping away, leaving behind a new world which they cannot comprehend.
One day a teenaged girl, barely a teenager actually, robs a medicine store and distributes all the medicine that she gets to the communities. The medicine slips from person to person to person and is never found again, never retrieved by the guards. People whisper about Sheelo as they pass the medicine amongst each other.
But the girl, however, is retrieved by the guards. They beat her and bruise her and tie her in shackles, placing a collar around her neck. They gather all the people, near snd far, and make them stand in front of a great stage. There on the stage they make the girl stand. The magistrate condemns her for her actions, and everyone can tell that the girl has been crying.
Suddenly someone in the crowd screams out a question. They ask the girl if she is Sheelo herself. The girl, of course, is just a girl. But in another strange way, the girl is Sheelo as well. All the people are Sheelo.
And so the girl pauses for a long moment. She looks out at the crowd, her body still shackled and chained. She looks at the older man who asks her the question. And she thinks. Finally, in a glorious, triumphant moment, she nods her head. And the crowd goes wild with cheering.
/Sheelo! Sheelo! Sheelo!/ They chant so loud that it sounds like a thousand tidal waves crashing into the shore. They chant so loudly that it sounds like a thousand earthquakes breaking all at once. They chant so loudly that it sounds like power, pure power. And they keep chanting Sheelo's name, looking at the teenaged girl on the stage.
The magistrate gets an idea. He thinks that if he can kill this Sheelo right here, the people will be depressed and all their rebellion will die down. He thinks that if he can kill Sheelo right here and now, people will see that she is a mortal who can die, just like them. And the stories will stop. And the inspiration will stop. And the rebellion will stop and things will go back to the way they were before.
And so the magistrate orders the teenaged girl killed. And she dies, painfully and slowly, to the chanting of a horrified and enraged crowd. But she dies with a smirk on her face and light in her eyes. And she knows that her life was meaningful, her life was beautiful, her life was revolutionary. The magistrate does not know that the teenaged girl embraces death happily. But she dies, and as she dies she has the sort of courage in her heart that no-one and nothing can take away.
The sort of courage that she learned from Sheelo.
And so all the people talk secretively about Sheelo's brave and rebellious death. They talk about her act of selfless kindness for the people of the world. They talk about how to the very last moment she had dignity, she had courage, she had the upper hand. They talk about how the magistrate of the empire even could not make Sheelo stop holding her head up high.
And they are wrong about this. Of course they are wrong about this. The girl is not Sheelo. But they are right about this as well. They are perfectly right about all of it. The girl is Sheelo, was always Sheelo, will always be Sheelo.
They do not believe however that Sheelo died. They know that Sheelo died. They know that Sheelo's life was taken. But still all the people are adamantly sure that Sheelo lives on. They are adamantly sure that Sheelo still walks alongside them, still protests with them, still plans adventures and heists against the rich and powerful.
Thefts are at an all-time high. People find ways to steal all kinds of things from the wealthy and the powerful. From their stores, from their houses, from their banks, from their storage sheds. The people distribute the goods and money from all these thefts, and for the first time in a very long time, the people have enough.
All the thefts get attributed to Sheelo, even though it is the people committing them. And the people are not wrong, attributing the thefts to Sheelo. They are not wrong at all.
In the meanwhile the wealthy and powerful grow more and more enraged, as the people steal from them and do not go to their work. They do not know how to deal with these misbehaving commoners. They thought that this Sheelo problem was gone for good. But they realize that it isn't. And they grow more and more afraid.
One day a young man and his boyfriend rob a bank. The boyfriend is able to melt into the crowd and not get caught. But the young man is caught by the guards before he can escape. The boyfriend screams and runs towards the young man. And he gets caught as well. The two men are taken to the stage in the middle of the town square. And they are held in front of the crowd again.
They are held on their knees in front of the magistrate. But they turn their heads and look at the crowd.
A person asks them, once again, if they are Sheelo. But this time the person asks them both. How can two people both be Sgeelo? But two people can both be Sheelo. And all the people in the crowd know that.
This time the couple doesn't pause to think before answering. They both declare together, that they both are Sheelo. And hearing this the magistrate is overcome with anger. And the crowd is overcome with jubilation.
They cheer and they cheer and they cheer. Again, chanting Sheelo's name as before. And this causes the magistrate to sentence the men to die.
Again, Sheelo is dead. Again, Sheelo has been killed by the wealthy and the powerful. Again, the people are told that Sheelo is no more and that they should stop having hope. But the people have been through this before. Their belief grows only stronger, not weaker.
For they are sure that Sheelo still walks among them.
For the next few years tensions rise and rise and they keep rising like the sun in the morning or the moon at night. Civil disobedience grows more and more common, more and more widespread, more and more pronounced. Crime becomes more and more widespread and common too. The guards start killing protestors. Sheelos die in front of crowds and in protests. Many, many Sheelos with many, many names and faces and lives. All this only makes the people more inspired.
By this time the Sheelo stories have become too numerous and too wild and too fantastical for anyone to believe. But the people believe them nonetheless. For the people believe that they are all Sheelo. People believe that she unites them all and transcends them all and causes them to transcend themselves.
And so, eventually, all the tension boils over to open revolution.
The people are fighting their way through the streets, taking on guards and enforcers and military and militia alike. The people use their improvised weapons and their stolen weapons. The people use their vastly superior numbers. And the people take on the vastly more well-armed forces of the empire.
The people are afraid. Of course they are afraid. They are as afraid as Sheelo was each and every time she was brought to her death, in whatever form or forms she happened to be taking at the time. The people are as afraid as they were during all the times that their protests were met with violence. As afraid as Sheelo was during those times.
But the people fight through and overcome their fear. Sheelo fought through and overcame her fear. For the people know that now is the time of the reckoning. Now is the final battle. Now is the day that will bring in a new era, when all the inequality and the injustice and the suffering will end for good and the new generations will inherit a new world. Sheelo knows this too. And so she fights on.
The revolution has the wealthy and the powerful quaking in their shined leather boots. It has the guards and the magistrates raging in anger and contempt. It has the emperor hiding away in his greatest palace. They all know, too, that their day of reckoning is coming and their empire is about to fall. And to them it all seems like pure chaos, like all the rules that they thought that they ruled the world with have simply vanished into the air.
The people gain more and more ground, as more and more people die in the revolution.
Many people die. Young people die. Older people die. People barely old enough to wield weapons die. People at the end of their lives die. People in all sorts of ranges in between that die. Men die. Women die. People who are in between die. People who are both die. People who are neither die. People who are sometimes one and sometimes another die. Lovers die. Single people die. Children die, parents die, siblings die, friends die, neighbours die. Sheelo in all her infinite forms continues to die and live and die and live and fight on.
It is all very horrible and bloody and the grief piles on and on and on. But it is worth it. They all know that it is worth it. Because it is the start of a new day, of a new night, of a new era. The younger generations will no longer have to grieve and suffer and toil and hurt. The younger generations will have true freedom and true equality for all times to come. It is worth it.
The revolutionaries gain more and more ground. They get closer and closer to the walled palaces of the emperor. And they break their way through the gates, squishing all together amidst rivers of blood. And they march as one flowing stream to the emperor himself. And they kill him.
The guards finally stand down, and there is cheering in the streets. Cheering all over. Parents hug their children. Neighbours hug their neighbours. Friends hug friends. Strangers hug strangers. They all join hands and celebrate together, singing songs and chanting joyous chants and yelling out in glee.
They sing about Sheelo, and they chant Sheelo's name over and over and over again, just as they did during the executions. But this time the chants are not defiant, the chants are victorious. This time Sheelo has finally won. She died, many many many times over, but she won. And now they can rebuild the world into a better and kinder place.
And so they do. They build a world based on kindness, a world based on community, a world based on equality. And they tell Sheelo's stories to their children. Children who grow up free and full and well-educated and well-taken care of.
And still, after all of this, the people still do not know where the Sheelo stories came from, they do not know who the first Sheelo was, they do not know who started it all.
But they still chant her name.
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