The Future King

peabody

© Google, 2017 – Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University

Twelve-year-old David Cohen experienced a rare moment of awe standing in the George Peabody Library. He’d been accepted in the Cantate, a part of the Peabody Children’s Chorus, certainly a tremendous honor, but a secondary achievement.

He had started reading at age two, mastered algebra at four, spoke five languages by six, and written his first symphony by eight.

His goal now was to devour the contents of this library in under six months, just as he had already consumed most data sources accessible online.

His mother used her influence as the President of the National Academy of Sciences to conceal David’s “talents.” If the government found out his IQ was rated somewhere between 300 and 450, they’d turn him into a lab rat when his ambition was to cure the ills of the world.

But even he had no idea that one day, he would be called King and Messiah.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Of course, I looked it up, but it wasn’t until I paid more attention to the image above and imagined myself standing in the middle of that library that I got my “hook, or rather part of it.”

Of course, the information about the Peabody Children’s Chorus figured into my tale, as did the ScienceTrends.com article Here Is The Highest Possible IQ And The People Who Hold The World Record.

But there was still one piece missing. What sort of goals should David have? I’d picked his last name at random, but then I realized that if one were to become the long-awaited Messiah, one would certainly have to train for it.

Unlike Christianity, in Judaism, the Messiah isn’t a supernatural being, but rather a wholly human Jewish male of the line of David and the tribe of Judah, who would grow to become both a great military leader, and a person of remarkable wisdom and piety.

150 words didn’t give me enough “space” to describe his religious training and accomplishments, so they’ll have to be assumed.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

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31 thoughts on “The Future King

  1. You left open one possible genealogical hole in your story, or rather, in your protagonist’s projected future destiny. You presented him as a Cohen, which would be a descendent of the Aaronic line of the tribe of Levi. Those Jews bearing the name Cohen are almost invariably so named because their family has assiduously preserved the memory of that family line, because it was so crucial to Jewish survival. The Messiah ben-David must be of a different family line, from the tribe of Judah.

    Now, it would be fine for his mother’s line to have priestly lineage or in-laws, but tribal lineage is legally through the father who transmits the legacy via his surname. Surnames of that lineage often have been obscured deliberately to hide potential Jewish king candidates, to keep them from being targeted throughout the past 20 centuries by those who would wish to ensure against any possible restoration of a Jewish kingdom. Among the more recognizable possible family names are those like Davidowitz and Davidov among Ashkenazim, and Daoudi and Dadon among Sephardim or Mizrachim.

    Of course, it is somewhat less likely that you would have placed a Mizrachi Jewish boy in the Peabody library or the Peabody children’s chorus — or in any American institution at all. It is, however, somewhat more likely that such an obscure Jewish boy would appear as a grown man some years later, seemingly appearing out of nowhere, as if he had dropped out of the sky itself. I won’t venture to project what sort of miraculously formidable army may accompany him in his quest to restore the Jewish kingdom.

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    • I thought about the last name “Cohen” after I published the tale and chose not to edit it. I presented the story from a more traditional Jewish perspective rather than involve my personal perspective on the Messiah.

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      • Which traditional Jewish perspective is that? The traditionally-awaited Messiah ben-David is a son of the Davidic line (tribe of Judah), not a Cohen (tribe of Levi). I mentioned a few Davidic surnames in my last post, but I neglected to offer even one of the obscure alternatives by which the Davidic line has been guarded. One such example of which I’ve heard is the name Friedman or Freedman, though there is no certainty that any particular Jewish family of that name is of Davidic ancestry. One would have to investigate an individual family’s orally-transmitted lore.

        Further, I know of no traditional reason whatsoever to expect him to be of Ashkenazi extraction rather than from the equally large or larger Sephardi and Mizrachi segments of the Jewish people. Also, you mentioned that the word-count limitation inhibited any description of this prodigy’s religious training and accomplishments. Since just over half the population of world Jewry now resides in Israel, and the quality and depth of Jewish education is unquestionably the greatest here, I would suggest that it was shortsighted and parochial to imply that your messiah-candidate protagonist is an American Jewish boy — regardless of what your own personal perspective on the messiah might be.

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  2. I hoped (and am glad) we could count on you, PL, to speak up about the name Cohen.

    Generally cool story, James. It used to be standard that people who tested in the genius range weren’t supposed to talk about it outside their family and possibly other closely relevant people (I still find that the going proper rule). It was gauche and rude and self-involved. Now some people brag and cash in as celebrities (rather than simply being good at something or many things, and rather than existing among humans). I liked that, for whatever reason, this young man wouldn’t be acting that way (and his mom wouldn’t be either). PLUS, the library idea is quite — I don’t know — enchanting, for lack of a better word. Participation in choir ain’t shabby either.

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  3. That’s certainly an intriguing take on the prompt, James. It may say more than you intend…depending on how much statistics you know. The interesting article on IQ to which you pointed us makes it clear that the highest likely IQ for a population of 7 billion, is between 190-200. An IQ of 300 would be such a statistical outlier that it essentially guarantees that David is not human. It would be rash to rule out the possibility that this could be the result of a mutation to an otherwise normal human – however, while there is clearly a genetic element to IQ, it is linked to many genes, not just one. Simultaneous beneficial mutations on the scale needed would be hugely unlikely. Which makes David (and presumably mom and/or dad) alien…

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    • When a person is destined by a millennia old prophesies to become the King of the planet and inaugurate a worldwide peace, after fighting in and ending the final war, he’s got to be pretty unusual. Thanks, Penny.

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