The wind blows through the trees as the boy, wearing only ragged home-made clothing, walks through the densely vegetated forest. He watches a young deer drinking from a small, crystal clear creek. The crow glides down from a tree, landing and walking alongside the boy as he asks his latest question.
“What, exactly, is the difference between wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence?”
Stopping and reaching a hand into the creek, the boy smiles, watching a small fish swim between his fingers as he responds, “A wonderful problem you ask me this time, little one. Do you realize how many never even find the question, let alone the answer?”
The deer looks up in alarm, then bounds away in fear. The boy removes his hand from the brown, murky water, brushes some mud off his rubber boots and sits down on a stump.
“You’ve heard of the term ‘a train of thought,’ have you not?”
“I have,” replies the crow, perching on another stump opposite the boy.
“Excellent. Then I shall use that to explain.” The boy shifts in his chair as he straightens his silk tie. “Picture a train. What would you call a train sitting completely still?”
“Useless,” says the crow as the tree behind him falls. “It doesn’t go anywhere.”
The boy smiles, stretching his legs on the cement beneath their table. “Precisely. Why have a train if it doesn’t go anywhere? Now picture that train moving. Faster and faster and faster it goes! So great is the adrenaline rush of speed, no one notices just how fast the train is moving.”
The crow sips his tea. “That doesn’t sound very safe.”
“Indeed. If no one considers using the brakes to at least slow the train down, and it keeps going faster, what do you suppose will eventually happen?” the boy puts out a cigarette in the ashtray in the center of the table.
“Simple,” interrupts a new voice. The contents of the ashtray blow in the breeze created by the cat jumping on the table. The ashes are caught by the wind, blowing toward a rather oddly shaped cloud in the distance. “The train derails.”
“Precisely.” The boy smiles yet again, straightening the sleeve of his elegant, jewel covered robe.
“As interesting as this is,” the crow remarks, “I don’t understand what it is you’re saying.”
The boy casually watches the distant cloud grow upward from the ground. The wind shifts directions, and the boy’s hair is blown out of his face as the cat responds to the crow’s confusion.
“He is telling you that knowledge is like the train. Left unchecked, it will continue faster and faster, endangering the passengers and those near the tracks. The brakes are wisdom, for only they can keep knowledge in check.”
“What about intelligence?” the crow inquires, flapping his wings against the wind.
“Intelligence is the destination,” explains the boy. “With knowledge and wisdom together is the only way to reach intelligence.”
The boy stands as the crow is blown away. The cat leaps off the table as it, too, is swept away in the strength of the unnatural wind. As the cement, skyscrapers, and everything else crumbles and blows away, the cat speaks to the boy.
“If a single passenger realizes the brakes must be used, it does the train no good. None of the others will understand why that passenger is trying to put on the brakes, to slow the train. They will likely throw that passenger off the train.”
The boy nods as all vision is obscured by the flying dust, dirt, and cement. “That is why the passenger must first convince the rest of the passengers that they are going to die. Unless they change.”
“And if they remain unconvinced?” The cat purrs as it finishes the question, just before giving in to the wind.
The boy, alone now, stares ahead without expression as the wind returns to a low breeze. “Then God help us all.”
The breeze blows through the dirt as the boy, wearing only the rags of a silken cloak, walks through the barren wasteland. He watches a small cockroach scurry across the desolate ground. As he kneels by a pile of parched bones, he looks to the horizon, watching the silhouette of a train crossing the magnificently red sunset.
This story was written in 2002, and can also be found at AdamTheAlien.com.