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It’s the Lord. I need to confront him. I need the truth. Need—
Flashing light. You twitch.
A train. Sitting on a train. Where’s it going? You don’t even remember getting on the train or why you’re on a train. Look at the map above the seats, maybe that will tell you where you’re going.
Next stop: City 776.
The capital. Why? What’s in the capital? Is she there? Impossible. She’s dead, remember? They killed her. Who’s they?. Is that where you’re going? To find them? Too many questions. You’re getting one of the headaches again. Stop thinking; relax. Close your eyes. Listen to what’s around you.
Listen to the Voice. It’s so soothing. The newspapers don’t lie when they say she has the voice of an angel. It’s better than an angel. Angels have voices full of sorrow. How could they not be sad, seeing the death and destruction of humanity below them? But there’s no sadness when you listen to the Voice. All you hear is beauty in her voice. Just listen. Don’t think, just listen.
“We bring you joyous news, citizens. The Insubordinate has been found. He is dead. The people are once again safe thanks to the Lord. We send him our thanks for protecting us. The Insubordinate is guilty of numerous crimes against Our State, including the murder of several high ranking officials, arson, robbery, espionage, murder of several citizens, and conspiracy to destroy the Lord. Reports at this time indicate that the Insubordinate was killed by the Lord himself after he learned who the criminal was. The Insubordinate was better known as Dr. John Spencer. The Lord fearlessly—”
--No! John couldn’t have been the Insubordinate. He can’t be dead. You were friends for years, never thought…never knew….he never once said that he hated the Lord! The Insubordinate was crazy. He killed kids! You saw the bodies, you wrote the articles about them! John couldn’t have done that. But the Voice can’t lie. The Voice is the Lord’s voice, she can’t lie. Unless the Lord is lying. But the Lord can’t—
Flashing light. You twitch.
Great, another headache. Wait, a train? Why are you on a train? That doesn’t make sense. Look at your watch. It’s almost midnight. You should be at the office, typing up the latest article. The boss is going to kill you. Wait, you’re on assignment, aren’t you? Why else would you be on a train at midnight? And going to the capital. You must be doing an interview. With who? Check your notebook, stupid.
Remember the gun.
What the hell? Why were you talking about a gun? Maybe it’s a joke. Remember the gun. You’ve never seen a seen a gun in your life.
Except for John’s gun.
John’s dead. Suicide. You saw the body yourself. John shot himself. He killed himself because he couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t live knowing that he had helped the Insubordinate. He had helped the Insubordinate escape the Lord. No one lives after defying the Lord. It was either his own gun or the gun of the law.
“The body of Dr. John Spencer will be burned in City 776, an example for those who wish to defy the Lord. The Lord himself will appear to receive the State’s thanks for his fearless execution of such a dangerous criminal.”
What’s she talking about? Is the Voice lying? John wasn’t executed, he committed suicide! You know he did. You saw the gun, saw the body, saw the note. But why would the Voice lie about John?
The trains stopping. You should probably get off. Except you still don’t know why you’re here though. For John’s funeral?
Stop thinking. You’ll make your headache worse. You’re in the capital, City 776! Enjoy it. You haven’t been here in years.
The stench hints you much stronger than it did years ago. It’s worse too. The last time the scent of rotting food and rotting bodies was masked by some sort of perfume. It was the Lord’s attempt to prove the city wasn’t rotting slowly from within. That’s poetic. Can’t write it though. That could get Jail. No one returns from Jail. No one actually goes to Jail. They just get executed. The Lord lies about—
Flashing light. You twitch.
Where are you going? Follow the crowd. Are you in the capital? God, does it smell. There is no God, remember? Only the Lord.
The Capital was once beautiful. You can see it as it was years ago, when you first came here with your father. Shining buildings that reached to the sun. Back then, the sun was the Lord’s beaming face, smiling down at all of us. But now, the sun’s gone, both metaphorically and literally. No one sees the Lord any more. He’s gone into hiding. He’s scared.
Wait, why would the Lord be scared? He’s the Lord, protector and master of all of us. What could he have to be scared off?
The same thing everyone’s scared of—the truth.
What truth? Your head is pounding, relax. Look around you. You’re off the train, in the middle of City 776. Not only is it rotting but it’s decaying. The structures around you are falling apart, just like the government. Buildings are being held up by the smallest and flimsiest of wood and metal. The government is barely standing by the smallest and flimsiest of lies.
That’s why you’re here! The lies!
You dig though your backpack. Move aside the empty candy bar wrappers and soda bottles, toss out the crumbled notes from previously written articles. You’re looking for your notebook but your fingers run over something cold and metal. Something that you don’t need to see to know what it is.
Your fingers jumped back like you’ve been burned. Why do have you a gun? Was it John’s gun? Finally, your notebook.
Skim past the articles, the notes for assignments. You’re definitely not doing something for the paper today. This has to be personal. You have a gun, why would you need that if you’re just doing a normal assignment? There’s something more going on here.
Flashing light. You twitch.
Your head is going to split open. The pain makes you swoon slightly and the people around you notice. There are a lot of people around you. A TV screen above you tells you that you’re in City 776. Your hands are digging for something in your bag and your hands brush the gun again.
A sudden thought flashes through you brain, causing more pain. You’re here to kill someone. Who?
“Proud citizens of City 776, the burning of the Insubordinate will begin in the center of the City.”
In the City, the Voice seemed somehow both more and less appropriate. The beauty in her voice became far more thrilling because of the dirt around him yet it did not. It was so pleasing that hearing it made the dying city around you seem even more rotten and corrupt.
Corrupt! That’s it! The Lord is corrupt! That’s who you’re here to kill. You look back at the notebook in your hands. There it is, scrawled on the last page.
They lied about John. They lied about the Insubordinate. John was helping the Insubordinate, but he was good. They’re going to tell you that John is the Insubordinate so that people will think he’s dead. The government killed John, but not the Insubordinate. The Insubordinate knows the truth. He told you the truth. The Lord is the villain. He’s a tyrant, a dictator. He had chips implanted in your head. If you don’t think what he likes, he resets you until you forget. You can only think when he’s away from the screens. He can read your every thought on those screens but if he’s not looking, he can’t reset you. He doesn’t care about anyone other than himself and his power. He killed Elizabeth because she got to close to the truth. He killed her, he killed John and thousands of others. Now, it’s his turn.
There it is. The truth. But why haven’t you been reset yet? Shouldn’t the Lord have seen your thoughts?
You’re in the center of the City along with thousands of others. They’re all here to see two things; John burn and the Lord. Of course. He hasn’t reset you because he’s away from the screens. He had to leave them to come to the burning. He’ll be in the middle of the City and he can’t control you anymore.
The center is where the rotting of the city begins and it’s worse here. It’s nothing more than a giant hole. John’s body is in the middle, lying on something that looks like a funeral pyre. Around the hole, people are gazing down at him. And up there, on a balcony above all others, stands the Lord.
He looks like the millions of posters that you see plastered on the walls of every building. Tall and sharp, he’s more of a statue than a man. Even alabaster skin makes him seem like something carved out of marble rather than flesh and blood. The only reason you know he’s a man is that dark black eyes that scant the crowd. He’s smiling. His expression is a mockery of joy rather than the emotion itself. You hope to God that his smile stays when you kill him.
The Lord’s speaking but you don’t pay attention. It doesn’t matter. The words that come out of those lips are all lies and you can finally end them. But where to—
The hole burst into flames and the crowd cheers. John’s being burned. Part of you wants to watch, to mourn you friend, but you know that it’s useless. You spot what you need; a building, partially standing. It’s near the balcony where the Lord is standing, receiving his applause. No one notices as you duck through the crowd and into the building.
It’s unlocked. All you have to do is open the door and run up the stairs. Several steps are missing and even more creak and crack below you but you don’t slow down. You can’t afford to.
You make it to the top floor with a speed you didn’t know you had. It’s the adrenaline. Your heart is trying to fight it’s way out of your chest and the window you are staring through reveals eyes that have become brown lines rather than circles. They’re narrowed as you pull the gun out. It’s John’s gun.
You’re not the best shot, but the building is so close you don’t see how you can miss. The Lord’s just standing there, basking in undue glory. You’re watching him through a window, which you’re going to have to break before you can shot. You hope the noise of the crowd is loud enough to block the noise of the shattering glass.
You punch your hand through it. The glass shatters beautifully, the shards slicing through your hands and dripping rivers of red. The applause below covers the noise of the glass. Or maybe breaking buildings were so common that no one thought twice about it.
You take aim with the gun. Your hands have begun to sweat, but you ignore that. Some of the sweat is mixing with the blood that’s fallen onto your hand. The gun has red hand marks on it, preserving your guilt for the future.
Click the safety off. It’s unnaturally loud in the empty building. The click is like a bell, warning you it’s the final chance to turn around. You don’t. Instead, you pull the trigger.
The recoil sends your hand flying back and you drop the gun. You realize too late that if you missed, dropping the gun wasn’t the best idea. It doesn’t matter. You look through the window and watch the chaos unfold below you. People are screaming. Some are crying. The children don’t seem afraid, only the adults. The adults are the ones screaming and crying because they know what’s happened. You killed the Lord. His body is dangling over the platform where the blood runs like a red banner from his head. The adults are the ones who know what the death of a leader means. It means chaos, like the years before the Lord. It means years of anarchy and wars before someone else, maybe even someone worse than the Lord, takes control.
Below you, something you hadn’t expected happens. You watch as everyone, the entire population of City 776, twitches. It looks like everyone has caught the same chill but then, suddenly, they collapse. No. The Lord is dead, so how can anyone be controlling the screens?
“You really thought it would be that easy?”
The Voice. It can’t be the same Voice. This one has a different beauty. Rather than something gentle and soothing, the sound of an angel, this has the beauty of a great disaster, like a fire or volcano. There’s a malice in there you’ve never heard before.
“Oh, bravo for you. You’ve killed the Lord. You’ve killed the sixth Lord that has been in power in the past twenty six years. You’re not the first to figure out the truth. You’re not the first to kill the Lord to make people open their eyes and see.”
The Voice laughs. It reminds you of the glass breaking as you shattered the window.
“People don’t want to see. They would rather live in ignorant bliss than be forced to think for themselves. The Lord will be replaced. No one will know he ever died. They will rise from this and go about their lives.”
No. No, no, no, no! They can’t! They have to know the truth!
No! “I know the truth!” you cry but it’s only in your head.
You don’t twitch. Instead the light keeps getting brighter. It’s inside your head and pushing it’s way out of your eyes. You know what’s happening. You’re being killed.
The light disappears. Everything’s black.