This week’s work of creative fiction comes from one of Kingston University’s MA Creative Writing students, Amanda McWhorter. She introduces us to a dystopian society and slightly cultish society, where a girl must face the trials of adulthood and death at a very young age. While we are not sure if this is taking place in an antiquated, ancient time or a futuristic world that has fallen back to barbaric tendencies, we are driven by the fear and the sense of the unknown.
It is execution night. The lights do not go out after last meal as they usually do. That is the signal to gather. This is not the first time for you. These are happening more often than before. In the past, they happened every few years. In the last five months, there have been fourteen. Whatever has been happening, it seems to be catching.
Spreading amongst the congregations.
You have never seen any of the others up close. That was the way They wanted it. You never thought it was strange that They did not have a name. Mother had taught you never to question anything.
Young and old, the pale faces all gather together in front of the white wall. Some new faces are amongst the crowd. It is not the faces you do not recognize, it is the numbers. New designees.
No one ever talks here. Not after the old one was taken away. Her red-faced scream was the last thing that was ever spoken in this room. You were not more than eleven at the time. Mother’s gasp when the dark words scrawled across the walls still made you inspect the corners, watching those watching you.
The wall flickers to life. The overheads go out. It has begun.
The girl is naked. A tie at her every limb. Her pained gasps sound hollow. Gashes lance her breasts and stomach. Clotted blood coats the hair between her legs. Sickly green and yellow bruises dance across her freckled skin.
“You do belong.” The voice is stark and hurried as it gasped for breath. The gasping comes louder as the ropes are pulled tighter.
She is sweating. Thin tears sink into her short auburn hair. Bright blue eyes scream from the inside. Her elegant neck strains as she fights the process. It is never good to fight it. No one has ever stayed conscious this long.
You keep your face passive and without emotion, just like Mother taught you.
“Remember.” The woman beckons to the room, the words echoing against the walls.
A thick line of scarlet begins to ooze from her mouth as she grunts. She throws her head back as her eyes begin to roll. One cough, then two. Blood bubbles and splatters across her face.
It is almost over.
You know what is coming. Know that seeing it now is not any easier than the first time. And yet, you cannot look away.
There is something about her.
The gasping becomes a screech as the sound of ripping flesh ricochets off the walls of the tiny viewing area. She is crying. The sobs ebb only to be replaced by the hollow gurgling of death. Lights flicker back to life as the image of the drawn and quartered woman remains fixed. Blood, mixed with urine, torn muscle, and skin decorate the machine like food splattered onto a canvas.
The room is silent. Some of the younger ones have not managed to learn to control their emotions and weep. The older ones sit stone faced, eyes hard and unflinching. You sit in silence, never looking away from the blue eyes. The image dies just as quickly as it came to life.
Shuffling out of the corridor, you cannot resist a backwards glance. Bare white walls gaze back.
I was new.
Void sent me here.
I was scared.
This new place.
How was I supposed to make change?
Silence made this all so hard.
The execution was horrible.
I don’t like them.
I look away from the screen, but I don’t cry.
Taller than the rest of them.
Her eyes are on the woman.
I have to get to her.
She can help.
The woman on the screen screams.
I squeeze my eyes tight.
She has to help.
Void is Sentinel. Void is Belief. Trust in her.
The room is cold. Your feet feel itchy against the sheets and they refuse to warm. Her eyes are still there, burning into you. The clearest blue. When you shut your eyes. When you stare at the ceiling for too long. It is inescapable.
Rubbing at your arms, you turn against the metal beneath you. Everyone else is asleep, far more tired than you. Not replaying the execution over and over in their minds. The bunks are all quiet. No one snores tonight. No one even dares to breathe too loudly. It is always this way after an execution. The fear. It ate away at everyone’s insides. Made them all hollow. Made you hollow.
Turning again, you settle and stare at the ceiling again. But, you do not see blue eyes. You see a light. A red light. Small and nondescript. It is gone. As slow as you can, you look around the room to see if anyone else saw.
Small and no more than seven years old, the boy smiles at you, pointing the light at his hand for a second. He closes his eyes and turns back to the pillow. You watch him, mouth pinched tight. It is not clear what that was. You want no part of it. But, even as you ease into sleep, you cannot help the question that has entered your mind. It floats and drifts in combination with those eyes.
What should you remember?
Void will end it all. We must have faith.
She has been all day.
I glance at her and look away.
Void told me where to go.
I walk through them as they gather for breakfast.
One turn, two turns, three.
The closet is where it belongs.
I open the door and close it behind me.
She has to come.
It’s her job to be next.
It had to be her.
I study the door.
It creaks as it opens and she steps inside.
She shuts it tight.
Words spill from her mouth.
I shake my head.
I lift the fringe of my hair.
Pulling at the strip, I see her flinch.
I hand her the thin piece of paper.
She looks at it oddly.
My hand covers hers.
I turn and leave.
The odd boy shuffles as he walks out the door. Your hand is still holding the note. A note he pulled from inside of his skull to hand to you. The vocal chords in your throat feel dry, that was the first time you had used them in a long time. Years. He did not understand you.
This room is strange. There are no darkened corners. They could not see in here. This is not right. You feel a nagging sensation, deep inside. Fear. You step towards the door but pause. The letter crinkles in your fingers. Glancing around the room, you open it and examine the words in the dull light. The print is neat. You twist your tongue around the letters as you sound them out.
READ ALOUD: X 9 2 8 4 5 3 M 7 G PLUS
On a deep breath, you read the note. The stark white walls begin to move as you finish the last word.
McWhorter has an amazing sense of wordbuilding in this piece, stitching together chaos and discontent through the small details that are only noticed by a young girl. We are left feeling unsettled and uncomfortable, itching to know why things are this way and what the woman must have done to be sentenced to death before an audience.
Come back next week for the rousing conclusion of Blue and take those last few unsettled breaths as you walk further into this strange, disturbing world.