Once upon a time, in a land far from us but close to our hearts, there lived a violinist named Antonio whose love for music was the only freedom he had. The country he lived in was ruled by a cruel dictator who took control after a military coup and repressed any dissent. Antonio hated the government he lived under and hoped for change, but he was afraid to protest or resist.
One day, while playing his violin, Antonio looked out his window and saw two students marching in the street, protesting the horrible conditions their families worked under. The police tried arresting the students, forcing them to the ground and choking them, but the students resisted, huddling together to protect each other. So the police beat the students with clubs, one mercilessly hit after another, until the young bodies were lifeless. Antonio was shocked by what he witnessed, but he stayed in his apartment. The next day the state newspaper contained no mention of the students' deaths and warned the public to stay away from any agitators.
Antonio kept thinking about the students and could no longer play his violin. He talked to his neighbors, but they were too afraid to do anything. Days later more students marched in the street to protest the death of their friends. Antonio went out to the street corner and stood nervously watching the march. Without warning, the police came and attacked the students. At first Antonio hesitated, but then he rushed to defend the students. He fought with all his spirit, but the police beat him, breaking three of his ribs and opening a large gash on his head, and they took him to jail.
The dictator enjoyed torturing any resisters, a delight few can fathom even in their most hateful moods, but he didn't want to leave evidence of killing. So he had many prisoners shrunk by a magician and placed in green capsules that were shot deep into a forest, where the prisoners were left to starve.
"Where am I going?" Antonio asked, as two officers led him to the magician.
"You're going to a different prison," the first officer replied.
"Can I make one request?" Antonio said. "I would like a violin to take with me."
The first officer laughed. "It won't help you where you're going," he said under his breath.
The second officer felt sorry for Antonio, hoping to give him whatever relief he could. "Do it just for fun," he whispered to the first officer. "I want to see him delude himself."
The officers found an old violin stored in the basement of a worn down building. Despite keeping a few ancient treasures, the dictator always demanded new things, ordering most antiques destroyed or tossed into storage. The violin was made decades before by the wife of an aristocrat who dedicated herself to the fine arts and created many beautiful musical instruments. She was a gifted woman and had more luxury than the peasants, but she never had the freedom and power she so desired. The violin was roughed up, but Antonio was relieved when he touched it, and he knew in his heart it was special, even though he didn't know where it came from.
The officers took Antonio to the magician. Sitting next to the magician was the dictator's young son, Victor, who loved watching the magician work and enjoyed mocking the prisoners. Victor saw Antonio and said, "What are you doing with that dirty violin? Let me hear you play something."
Antonio looked away from Victor, holding the violin close to his chest. Victor grabbed the violin, but Antonio pushed him away. Instantly, the second officer knocked Antonio down and stood in front of Victor. "Don't touch the child!" he yelled.
"Take that violin away from him!" Victor ordered.
"Let this fool have his filthy violin," the second officer said, kicking Antonio's head against the cement.
Blood poured out of Antonio's head as his body curled up on the floor. He wanted to protect himself, but his shaking hands remained tightly wrapped around the violin. Victor was angry, but his attention quickly turned to other prisoners. Then the magician shrunk Antonio and the violin, and placed him in a green capsule, with just a crumb of food and a spit of water. He was put with the other capsules and shot deep into a forest by a large sling.
Antonio knew he was going to die, but he rationed his food and concentrated on his music. The old violin was rusty, but the craftsmanship was so good that it was the best violin he had ever had. He could barely sleep and was very tired, but he played hour after hour, and he played with such passion that it was the most beautiful music he had ever made.
Days later he ran out of food and was very low on water. As he grew weaker and weaker, the passion in his music intensified, encompassing all his love, fears, dreams, and memories. He played and played, and then his music became so intense that the interior of the capsule expanded. Antonio was surprised, but he didn't stop. He kept playing, and the capsule expanded into a golden city. The city was filled with beautiful architecture and works of sculpture that appeared to have floated down from the heavens. A long road of golden steps winded past dome buildings and courtyards filled with engraved walkways until it reached a tower, which contained terraces decorated with purple and white billowing curtains, glowing murals, and a long staircase embedded with thousands of jewels, wrapped tightly around the outside of the tower. Small cottages sat at the edge of the city, and parks with rock gardens nestled between rolling hills. Antonio had never seen anything so wonderful in his life, and he finally felt at peace with the world, but he didn't understand why the capsule wouldn't explode or open up. He kept playing, and the city grew and grew, but the outside of the capsule remained tiny. He walked through the towering buildings, appearing like an ant crawling across the sun, searching for any food or water to satisfy his hunger and thirst, but he couldn't find anything. Finally, he became so weak he could no longer play his violin. Soon after that he died.
Years later an assasin killed the dictator. Victor became ruler, but rebels were in control of a small part of the country. There were different factions of the rebels, with the largest group led by a brother and sister named Octavio and Sophia, whose parents were killed by the dictator. Battles engulfed the country every day, killing thousands of soldiers and peasants, and the fighting escalated into a civil war, resulting in the rebels taking over the capital city.
Victor still controlled half of the country, including a few cities and ports, but he hid in a forest with part of his army. He was demoralized by the war, witnessing the death of hundreds of his friends and loyal soldiers, but he felt he had to preserve the government, and he knew the rebels were killing everyone they caught who previously served in the dictator's regime.
One day Victor was walking in the forest when he saw one of the green capsules. He picked it up, thinking about all the prisoners that he laughed at as they were sent to their deaths. He remembered how the magician used to spin the capsules to close them, so he spun the capsule until it broke open, and he stared at the tiny bones inside. Then he looked around for more capsules, and an hour later he found another one under a log. He opened it up, which caused a bright light to shine in his face. It surprised him, and he examined it while turning it in his hand. As he turned the capsule, it became bigger, so he kept rolling it until it became as big as he was.
Victor entered the capsule and saw the golden city. He was overwhelmed by its beauty and walked around admiring the golden structures, but he didn't know how it got there. He didn't think the old magician had this type of power, but he figured he must have made this city for someone to discover in the future.
Peace filled Victor's soul for the first time, and he understood that others deserved it as well. He walked through several ornate buildings, and then into a rotunda, where he saw a tiny skeleton and violin on the floor. At first he didn't know how a violin got into the capsule, but then he remembered Antonio. He was still confused, but he felt Antonio's presence all over, and he knew in his heart that Antonio was responsible for the peace flowing through the city.
Victor left the capsule and called for his soldiers. The soldiers came and entered the capsule. They wandered around the golden city for hours, forgetting about the war and singing songs for the first time in years. "We are all rejuvenated, Sir," an officer said to Victor. "Now we have something more to fight for."
"No," Victor said. "I don't want more bloodshed. We must let the others enjoy this great city and live in peace."
They showed the capsule to other soldiers and to some peasants, who all felt peaceful when inside the golden city. At first the peasants thought it was magic and were frightened of the power behind it, but they were also sick of war and hoped for anything that could end the violence.
Word spread about the capsule, and the rebel leaders believed that it was a powerful weapon. Victor sent word to the rebels that he wanted peace, but Octavio wouldn't listen. "This is their last hope before we take over the country," Octavio said. "The peasants are weak and desperate. That is why they believe this. We must strike now."
"I should meet with them to get a close look," Sophia said.
"No, it's obviously a trap," Octavio said. "I'm not prepared to lose my dear sister. You are all I have left."
Sophia grabbed her brother's hand and looked into his eyes. "But we need to know what is in the capsule," she said. "Rumors are all over the country and everyone is upset. We can't risk losing everything."
Octavio finally agreed and hundreds of soldiers escorted Sophia to the meeting.
Days later she met with Victor. Victor saw the hatred in her eyes, but he hoped seeing the golden city would change her mind. Sophia was skeptical, but she entered the capsule and was mesmerized. As she touched the statues that stood in the plazas between the majestic architecture, she felt her dreams had come true, but she couldn't believe it. "How long have you kept this secret?" she asked.
"It isn't mine," Victor replied. "It is the heart of another, and we should honor and respect that."
Victor told her Antonio's story, showing her the tiny skeleton and violin. "I heard about prisoners being shrunk, but I never believed it," she said.
Victor set conditions where he would concede all territory he controlled, and he agreed to every security measure that Sophia demanded. She sent word for her brother to come, but he refused, so she took Victor and the capsule to him. On the way they showed the golden city to more soldiers and peasants, who were inspired by it and hoped for peace.
When they met Octavio, Sophia told him what she had seen and asked him to enter the capsule. But he refused.
"This is our only hope for peace. This is what we have always wanted," she said.
"I have always wanted freedom!" Octavio shouted, staring at Sophia. Then he turned to his soldiers. "Kill him and seize the capsule!"
The soldiers attacked Victor and prepared him for hanging. Sophia tried to stop them, but the soldiers held her back. "What's wrong with you?" Octavio asked her. "We have fought for years and our people have been murdered. He must answer for his crimes."
"Octavio, Just look in the capsule!" Victor cried out.
A minute later Victor was killed. His body dangled from a tree. Everyone was silent. The soldiers relaxed their hold on Sophia, so she broke away and ran into the capsule.
Octavio entered the capsule with his soldiers and told them to arrest Sophia. The soldiers were overwhelmed by the golden city and did nothing. "Arrest her!" Octavio ordered.
The soldiers didn't listen. They just walked through the golden city, admiring the beauty around them. Octavio felt love flow through him, but he was still filled with hate. He knew he could control the country, and he was enraged by his sister's betrayal.
"This is what I dreamed of," Sophia said.
"You are such a fool," he said. "We have won. Now arrest her!"
The soldiers looked sympathetically at Sophia. Octavio couldn't bear their disobedience, and the rage built up inside him until he pulled out a dagger and ran at his sister. Sophia fell back on some marble steps, her eyes frozen on Octavio. Quickly, the soldiers tackled Octavio and knocked the dagger out of his hand. They held him down and helped Sophia to her feet. As the soldiers held Octavio, he looked at the wonders around him until all his anger was released.
The soldiers protected the capsule and showed it to everyone in the country. The different factions of rebels proposed a new government, and they worked out an agreement with Victor's army and the peasants. For days everyone marched through the golden city. They marched and marched until the golden city was released from the capsule and shined throughout the land. It became their new capital city and inspired them to always live in peace.