In an unknown mountain region, on a plantation, there lived three slaves. They were enslaved to toil from morning till night. Sometimes to level a field, sometimes to clear a path, sometimes to lift heavy stones.
Being human, they could not help but reflect on their daily lives every once in a while.
The first slave was an obedient one. He did what he was told, and enjoyed the meals, the shelter and the bonds of his family. He knew that if he rebelled, his family would suffer from hardship. He wanted to become a more privileged slave, an overseer. He always saw the "silver lining" in every cloud, and was the eternal optimist. A day of heavy work, and he would look forward to an easy one. An easy day, and he would play with his children.
The second slave was a rebel. He thought that rebellion was a necessity, given their fate. He knew that his family would face difficulties, but he thought for the next generation, and did not want his children to have the same master, who he thought was unjust and cruel at times. He wanted them to travel, to seek their destiny, and to choose a kinder master. He even had wishful thoughts of a master elected from a community of slaves.
The third slave was in the habit of asking "Why?" and "For what?". For any outcome, particularly a happy one, he thought for a second longer than either of his slave friends, and commented: "But death awaits in the end," and ruefully lamented his mortal fate. He frequently thought of suicide, but even that he concluded to be a meaningless gesture and not worth the drama.
One hot summer day, all three slaves were resting in the afternoon in the shade of a large tree. Their backs resting on the earth, their faces upturned to the view of sunlight shimmering through the leaves, their legs aching from the long march of the forenoon.
The first slave was deep in the thoughts of his wife who he imagined was waiting for him in the evening. He did not mind the tiredness much. He knew that the other two slaves called him a buffoon and a simpleton and a lackey, but since his wife loved him, he was happy.
The second slave was engrossed in thinking of ways to escape the plantation. He thought that any place must be better than this, where he had little choice in how he spent his day. He regarded his wife at home as a weary and sad creature, a conformist and a seeker of certainty, who prevented him from being a true revolutionary.
The third slave was tossing and turning. He could not imagine a worse place to be, but he could not also imagine that another place would be better. He had still not finished his meal, as every morsel reminded him of the death of the living thing which was now his food. He had had a wife once, but she had left him.
An old man, himself a slave of yore, was passing through the plantation and stopped to rest near that large tree. He looked at the faces of the three slaves and casually asked all three: "So how's life?"
The first slave: "It is nice to rest for a while, innit?"
The second slave: "How is life over there, beyond the hill?"
The third slave remained silent and turned his face away.