Twelve men stood abreast in front of the strong stone wall that separated Aversano from the Hill Country, watching. Always watching. Laws prohibited the men from scaling the wall, but their object was never to climb, it was only to watch. To watch for movement, for a breach, for a defector, for anything that would give them an excuse to satisfy their curiosity and peer over the ominous stone blocks. They stood by the wall every day from mid-afternoon till the sun disappeared behind the lavender horizon, oblivious to the young eyes that watched their backs, wondering what was so important about this huge wall.
Special guards, hired by the company that commissioned the construction of the wall, patrolled the perimeter day in and day out, giving the wall watchers a reason to feel fright. They stood a foot taller than most men, with muscles bulging from massive forearms, torsos, and legs. Dressed in pure white garments, they held no weapon in their hand, as theirs was not the way of violence. Every so often, a guard would pass by the spot where the men stood, watching the wall. Seeing their plight, he drew close to the first man, and rested a firm hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Come back with me,” he said gently. “Away from the wall.” Then, with a little more urgency in his voice: “There is nothing to see here.”
The first man looked up at the guard clad in white and immediately turned away, fearing a harsh rebuke or severe punishment. The guard merely stepped aside to let him pass, and then moved on to the next man.
A hand on the man’s shoulder, the guard repeated his plea to the first man.
“Come back with me. Away from the wall. There is nothing to see here.”
One by one, at the guard’s encouragement, the men began to drift away from the wall, back to their homes deep within the town of Aversano, back to their families and careers, their curiosity quelled for the moment. They never imagined they would be back at the wall again, but the guards knew, and they would remain on patrol, waiting. Patiently waiting.