Manfred Kyber - Silent Pleas

The flock of sheep crowded together nervously.

An old sheep told a story.

My grandmother saw it with her own eyes, it said, it is something magnificent, terrible.  One doesn't know what it is.  Also, she didn't see it all of it.  She passed by as she went to the pasture.  It was a gate that lead to a dark room.  At the dark room's gate, it smelled of blood.  There was nothing to see.  But she heard a wether's cry in there, a terrible cry.  So she ran back to the flock, shaking.

Everyone shivered.

One doesn't know anything certain, the sheep said, but there has to be some truth in that.  In any case, it is dreadful.

Your grandmother doesn't live anymore?, a young wether asked.

I don't know, the sheep said, it is a long time ago — then she was picked up.

That is supposed to be the beginning, then one never returns, some said.

The shepherd dog barked yapingly and drove the flock to the pasture's other side.

There stood the shepherd and spoke to a strange man who didn't look like a herdsman.  They bargained.  Then the strange man went into the flock with firm steps and examined the pieces one by one, with expert eyes.  They were not the eyes of a shepherd.  Now his hand reached for the young wether who had asked beforehand.  A cold shiver ran down the animal's back.  The hand felt different than the shepherd's hand.

The wether got a leash around the neck.

I take this one, the strange man said and drew a filthy bag with money out of his pocket.  He paid.  The living life belonged to him.  He had bought it.

He grasped the leash and pulled the wether from the pasture to the country road.  The flock gazed after the one who walked away, startled and uncomprehending.  The wether turned his head.  His eyes were looking for the relatives and playfellows.  Something inside him was clenching — something inside him shouted at him to break free and run back.

That is the beginning, one is picked up, he thought.  But he didn't fight.  He was helpless.  What would it be good for?  It needn't be the Terrible, he consoled himself, there are other pastures.  Maybe, I will be lead there.

That was the trust that animals have who were held tame.

They turned around a corner now.  The flock came out of sight.  The pasture disappeared.  Only from far away, one heard the dog barking and the shepherd flute's sounds.  The wind carried them away.

It was a long way.  The strange man walked fast.  He was in a hurry.

I am tired, I would like to rest a bit, the wether begged.

It was a silent plea.

They went on.  It was hot and dusty.

I beg for some water, the wether said.

It was a silent plea.

Finally they came to a little village.  They went through narrow, winding roads where there were no pastures.  So this hope had not come true.

They stopped in front of a door that lead to a dark room.  An ugly smell confronted the animal.  The wether turned his head and bleated plaintively.  He shied away from the smell and from the dark entrance.  A fear woke up in him, in the subconscious, a boundless fear.

I would like to go home, the wether said and looked at the strange man.

It was a silent plea.  Silent pleas are not heard.  With a skilful grip, the man wrapped the leash around the animal's hind legs and pulled it forward.  The leash cut in.

Yes, yes I am already coming, the wether said, startled.  The tired, stiff legs hurried up.

There were only a few moments, but they seemed very long.  Then he was in a dark room.  It smelled suffocatingly of blood and scraps of meat — of corpses of his kind.

One does not consider it necessary to remove that beforehand.  It is only livestock — animals for slaughter.

Then, the wether was seized by a helpless, paralyzing horror.  A horror that made all previous silent pleas forget.  A horror that held sway all by itself.

The wether quaked all over his body.

Now the Magnificent comes — the Terrible, he thought.  And it came.


The world is full of silent pleas that are unheard.  People do not hear them.  It seems impossible to count these silent pleas.  There are so many.  But they are all counted.  They are booked in the book of life.

Big and questioning, the eyes of the Gautama Buddha are looking at the European culture.


From: Das Manfred Kyber Buch, Rowohlt, December 1985
Translation: Ulrich Messerle, February 2003
Published on:

Text version: 2005-10-08 (a)