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This is the ultimate punishment: Abyss.
It is an endless hole that has lain like a gaping mouth in the outskirts of the city for as long as people can remember though no one can remember exactly when it had started to be used as a means of execution but all who live in the city can remember witnessing at least one execution of this manner. Every soul who is born into this city has the silent law of seeing one man or woman being forcibly tossed into the endless, dark hole that is simply called Abyss.
I remember the one that I had witnessed almost perfectly. At the age of seven, my parents had taken me and my two older brothers to the outskirts. The outskirts were a forbidden place; said to be filled with monsters with horrid teeth and claws that would swallow children whole so that they lived forever in their bellies. It was the thing of nightmares but I do not recall being frightened as we were lead to a massive platform that had been filled to the brink with hundreds of people. I remember the rich being at the front and the desolate, which was my family, at the back. Some of the rich were even hoisted up on floating platforms so they could see well. Even now, I can feel the hate that had been ignited when I had first laid eyes on those flashily dressed people high in the sky and had spread down to every single being around me. Deep, dark loathing that had filled my small body with blinding fury.
How I hated them. A child of seven who had never heard of this form of execution before, who had only the faintest aspect of what an execution was, had looked at all those people and had loathed them. Even my parents and my brothers, they had all appeared despicable to me. My father must thought that it was boredom that was ailing me because he lifted me up onto his shoulders so that I could have a better view.
Whom I saw at the very end of the platform is the most vibrant in my memory: a tall, thin man who was dressed in the rags of a prisoner. Long, black hair was wafting viciously in the harsh wind but he seemed to pay it no mind. Facing the masses before him, his head was raised high and a look of stern amusement was the only expression that I could detect from so far away.
The moment I saw him, a sense of cold dread plagued me. I understood immediately what was happening and with every fiber of my being, I had longed to run away but my father had been holding onto my legs; my mother held my right arm. After that moment, I never looked at my parents the same way again. Their faces pale and gaunt, a look of utter dislocation upon them that had made my stomach curl inside me. The same expression was upon all who stood around us. It filled me with such grief that I had begun to weep. No one noticed. I was just a small child in a cold, frightening place. They probably just supposed that I was hungry or tired.
There was one who noticed it though. The man with the raven hair noticed. I do not know it was perhaps my imagination or if it truly happened, but I could swear on every living soul that the man had looked at me and I back at him. I could swear on my own life that I had been the last living being that he had ever seen. Is this a childhood fancy? I do not known but it is an idea that has comforted me these past few days for I have found myself in the exact same place as that man.
That same expression as the one that had so sickened me on that day ten years ago is on the faces of the mass of people behind me. It was just the same as it had been. The rich are hoisted up or standing directly behind me and the poor, my own people, stand behind them. I know this by instinct, not by sight because I cannot bear to look at them. I cannot bear to look at my mother, my father and my brothers. They are amongst the crowd, blending into the grey but still completely visible to my eyes. I know where to look and what to expect to see.
No grief or sorrow or anger or hate. It will just be an empty void acting as a human face. Oh, how it pains me. They don’t even realize how much pain I am in at this moment and I am unsure as to whether that should make me angry or sad. After all, this is what I receive for trying to make them realize what is true and false in this world. This is what I receive for trying to be free.
How many times have I told the story? How many faces have I looked into with a hope that there will be some emotion there when I spill forth the tragedy that would have put Shakespeare to shame? And how many times have those hopes been dashed when the same grey face looks back at me when I finished? Too many to count and something that I do not wish to count.
I suppose that had been my downfall. Telling so many people when I should have kept it to a smaller group. How stupid and childish of me. I had thought that I could change something. I had thought that I could have made a difference.
Had he thought the same thing? Had that raven haired man done the same as I or had he been more inconspicuous in his actions? I do not know and I suppose that it does not matter anyways. If there is such a thing as an afterlife then I will be meeting him shortly. I can just ask him then. What a silly thought to have but they say that when one is on the verge of death, one is bound to have silly thoughts.
“Adrian Moss!” A voice boomed out from behind me.
It is exactly the same as my memory though I do not recall the name that had been called out to address the man. It had started with either a K or a C.
“You have been tried and convicted of treason against the Great Lord. Your crimes include conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to disturb the peace and conspiracy to overthrow the Great Lord as well as possession of forbidden materials that have been banned by the Great Lord since time began.”
“Liar.” I whispered, feeling a hot rage burning inside my chest. “You worthless liar.”
“Your crime has been reviewed by the second highest authority in the land and it has been deemed that you may one last chance to repent.”
It is all the same. I remember it so well. These exact same words were said to the raven haired man. Those words are said to every person who stands in this place. The chance to repent, I have been told that of some people who have repented and were never heard from again. Many say that they are taken to the Great Lord and absorbed into him. I am unaware as to how the population feels about this but I have heard rumors of the rich actually paying high congressman so that they could be absorbed.
It is sickening.
“What is your answer?”
What had he said at this point? I am sure that it had been in the negative but I cannot recall his words. I remember seeing him speak, his eyes moving over the crowd but those words have escaped me. What had he said? Had it been something brave or just a good-bye?
“Adrian Moss, you must answer!”
But I remember that moment so clearly because his eyes had settled directly on me when he had been speaking. This I know truly happened and it is the snapshot memory of those eyes that have pushed me forward in this futile quest. It is funny, I cannot remember the color. I have imagined a color for them many times but have never gotten close to how they had truly looked.
Had it been love in those eyes? It had surely felt like it, perhaps understanding and consolation as well. Yes, that had been it. I am almost certain of it. Those eyes had settled on me and had looked to comfort a weeping child. He had known that it was he that I had been weeping for. What a silly fancy but it is so comforting to think that way. To think, the raven haired man had been a complete stranger to me and he had impacted my life in such a way. Even now, remembering his eyes brings me such calmness that I am able to turn around to face the mass of emptiness that is presented before me.
The man who had been addressing me is foolish looking. His head is too large and his body is too thin. It is strange to see such an obviously powerful man be so thin. Usually, they are fat with the gluttonous lifestyle they lead. The man’s bead like eyes glare at me from beneath thin, black brows. This anger is the only emotion that I can detect in the entire crowd. I allow my eyes to roam over them. All are silent and all are still. The rich have stopped laughing. The poor have stopped talking. Not a single being moves besides the man addressing me. He is obviously annoyed at my antics.
Striding forward a few steps, he roars, “You have been given a chance to repent! Will you take it?”
For a moment, I simply ignore him. Their eyes are so lost. They look so like children that a painful sorrow wells up into my chest. How stupid and ignorant I had been, to think they could have been freed by words alone. No, that is not something that would pull these people out of the dreary grey that permeates their lives.
“Adrian Moss, will you-“
“Repent?” Whose voice is this? Certainly it cannot be mine. This voice is far too strong and brave. My voice could never sound like that. “No, for what would be the use? I would not mean it. I could never mean it. To bow down to something as evil as the Great Lord, how could I ever stand it?”
A murmur of shock raced through the crowd. The silly looking man in front of me grew red with rage but I paid no mind.
“So no, I do not repent. But I would like to have my final words now, if you don’t mind.”
He stood there for a moment, his hands clenching and unclenching by his sides. Finally, he ground out between clenched teeth, “Convict Adrian Moss has denied the glorious option that would have been offered. He is therefore sentenced to death and will now speak his last words.”
The raven haired man had had no last words that had been spoken aloud. Instead, his last words had been spoken with his eyes. Those last words had been spoken to me in a split second of mutual understanding. How I wish I could remember your name and what you had truly said when offered a chance to repent. If I could remember, if would give me so much solace. Alas, I find myself on this precipice with no hope. A great void of nothingness stands before me with no help offered anywhere.
What will I say? What would be good enough to say in these final moments? That I am sorry? No, that wouldn’t be true. That they were all wrong? No, they wouldn’t be true either. You cannot be wrong if you don’t know what is right. No, that isn’t very true either. What should I say? What would be good enough for this last moment?
“Mother! Father!” The words escaped my lips before I even realized that I was speaking, “There is one thing that I wish to say to you two: I have hated you for a very long time. Ever since the first time that I was brought to this horrid place to witness a horrid aspect of this society, I have despised you. No child should ever be brought to see the darkest side of society. But that is not the only reason that I began to hate. No, it was that you two held me there even though it was no plainly obvious that I wished to leave. Now, you stand there in the crowd while your child is about to die and what do you do? Nothing! You do not weep, you do not scream and you do not fight. Even these words are not reaching you in any way. How can you justify that? How can you justify this entire world? Look around you!
“Are you so blinded that you cannot see the horrors that this society has? Look at the buildings that are completely without creativity or life! Look at the streets that are littered with trash and human remains! Look at the homes that so many have died in because no one will do anything! Look at the people surrounding you! What do you see in their faces? Nothing! You see only complete and utter surrender to the evil tyrannical force that you call the Great Lord. If he is so great then why does he allow his people to suffer? Why do the rich stand high with their bellies full while the poor rot in the infected slums? WHY?
“It is because he needs us to suffer! If we do not suffer then he will not have food! Do you not understand? This so called Great Lord cannot survive unless he has tortured souls to feed on. We, as a society, function as a slaughterhouse to him and nothing more. Why does he dote on the rich? Simple, he needs souls that are used to luxury because they make wonderful sounds when they are eaten by him.
“Mother and Father, I hate you so much for exposing me to this but at the same time, I love you. I love you so much that it pains me because you are so child-like. You are all so child-like. How can I truly hate people as simple and foolish as you all? It is not possible. If it was, then I wouldn’t be standing here today. I tried so hard to save you but I ultimately failed by my own foolishness it seems. And for that, I am truly sorry for I do not know how any other way to save you. I am not someone of action, only of words but it seems as words cannot reach you. Just please remember this, I love you so much. Every single one of you, I love with all my heart.”
I looked down at the silly man and smiled, “Expect you, servant of the imposter. You I hate so much that if my hands weren’t tied, I come down there and strangle you.”
The look that came across that face was hilarious. Feeling that I had the right too, I threw back my head and let out my first real laugh. The feeling of my chest expanding and contracting was an overwhelming experience. Black spots appeared before my eyes but it did not frighten me. No, it brought forth the vision of those eyes looking at me.
Red. The raven haired man’s eyes had been red. I remember know because I had thought that those red eyes went so well with your name: Cain, the same as the first man who had defied God. Such a suitable name for the man you must have been. With my head still thrown back so that I was looking at the grey sky, the smile faded from my lips and I screamed at the top of my lungs, “SAVE ME!”
I pushed myself backwards. My feet left the edge of the platform as though in slow motion. A huge wind came rippling through and I swear that I can hear the sound of mother screaming my name. The feeling of slow motion ceased. I could now feel how fast I was truly going, by both the wind screaming past me and the increasingly small dot that was the opening of Abyss. Just before blackness over took me, I was allowed a few fleeting glances at the sky. Tears stung my eyes as I watched it disappear.
Cain, I want to be with you. So please, save me and take me to where you are. Save me. Don’t let him devour me. Please. Please. Please. PLEASE! I need you! I love you! Take me away from here. Take me away from this fate. PLEASE SAVE ME!