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Vultures and Crows
Toes slicing through a blue highway constructed from forget-me-nots, a flare of summery wind collected Pia’s light, white, cotton dress and whisked it in a sea of rushing air. The clamorous flapping echoed across the large meadow bordered by forest, amplified by duplications of it among the nine girls as all their dresses lifted in accord. Her skinny face ruddy and clammy from heat, the wind seemed refreshing in comparison to the stifling calidity surrounding it. The dress, so light that it felt like she was not wearing anything, refused to be relinquished by the wind.
In the rectangular wicker basket that dangled from her wrist, blue flowers hid a small, leather, dog-eared book emblazoned with a gilded crisscross. Pia knew the importance of this book. It was so rare that the book was, most likely, the last one of its kind. If it were ever seen, it would lead the flowers, the pickers, the book itself, to their decimation. And it was Pia, as the unsaid leader, who was in charge of overlooking this last remaining artifact.
Pia gazed across the meadow, at the other eight, beholding her extraordinary friends and the picturesque setting. No one else knows about this, she thought. If only we could keep this moment, forever. She could never leave this.
Pia still remembered when she was a part of Primeland. No happiness was there. Only pleasing the Prime. Now she could be free to do whatever she pleased. True liberty.
Her focus changed. Squinting at the horizon, she discerned a blemish, triangular and thin. A sonorous bang, and a monstrous silhouette eclipsed the sky; dark stained Pia’s dress black. Whistles blistered Pia’s hearing. Something fell to the earth, causing flowers to fly out of their previously rooted location. Piercing Pia’s fluttering dress skirt, something that resembled a pinpoint thread of sunlight created frayed edges and faint burn marks. Pia’s feet refused to surrender its grip of the ground, and her turbulent heartbeat refused to withdraw. They had found them. They knew what they had absconded from. Their sweet escape could never be used again.
Pia took a slim breath, and then broke into a hare-footed sprint, abandoning her basket. She didn’t care who or what she left behind. She needed to stay alive.
She had arrived at the rendezvous point in the adumbral forest, marked by a tree-tethered forget-me-not. Guilt momentarily clutched and rattled her when she saw that no one had arrived, but she pushed it away, biting her lower lip to distract her from it. Kneeling, she began to delve into the begriming dirt with her hands, calloused and knotty. She could only hope that she had started on the right place.
Her hands greeted a metal box, it still wintry from the cool underground. Unfastening the clasp with quivering, blackened hands, she took out a dagger. She put it to her hair, and sheared her waist length mouse-brown hair choppily. Before cramming the hair into the box, she withdrew a pair of gossamer garments colored calamine pink out of the mass and high stilettos, her grimy fingers smearing dark.
Slithering out of her white dress, she let the wind momentarily create gooseflesh all across her body before donning the sleeveless shirt and vise-like shorts. This was what they wore in Primeland, and this is what she would as well. The crack of a twig eradicated her musing. Her tremulous heartbeat rippled in response. Jamming the hair and dress into the box, she shrouded it in the dirt that had originally held it. All she could think was, they’re coming. They’re coming. She took off like a gazelle chased by a lion.
She attempted to seem like she knew how she was supposed to act.
While traipsing through the forest (carrying her shoes in her hands to prevent a twisted ankle), she had heard a cacophony of people. When she had peeked out of the shawl of the forest, the air-trans station presented itself, along with a small village consisting of, at most, thousands of fifty story buildings on the other side of the rail. Terrified, but knowing that she needed to do something to survive (she had left her usual area, where she knew what she could gather), she slipped away from her shadowed covering to enter the station.
Pia discovered though, while swimming in the mass, that though she wore the same clothes and same style of hair as the other women, she behaved differently. While she sauntered around, sometimes causing a roadblock by stopping to gaze around, they strode through, pushing their way through Pia, if needed. And while all of the women possessed platinum blond hair, her hair was the color of sepia, more similar to the men’s dark hair. They were already assaying her, though they attempted not to make it obvious.
She kept adjusting her shirt and shorts up and down in an attempt to cover more than the material allowed. Flounced around by the passing pedestrians, she struggled to prevent her eyes from widening in panic; she leeched onto a woman ahead of her, mimicking what she did. Pia quickened her pace, in an attempt to match the others, and positioned herself in a way to appear purposeful. As she ascended the air-trans, the woman slapped her hand onto a cloudy disk. The disk flashed a green light, and the door opened. Before it shut, Pia slipped in. Benches on both sides of the wall faced in, full of people. They all appeared like those on the platform. Men in dark suits, dark hair, women in light hair, light garments. The woman took the last remaining seat, leaving Pia standing without any source to use for camouflage. Swiveling, she saw that the door had shut flush to the wall, leaving no chance of escape. As her hand went up to brush it, she fell back, her balance no match to the sudden speed of the air-trans starting. What the heck am I going to do now? She thought.
“Miss,” A man’s voice called down. Pia crawled off the floor and faced him.
“Your name,” A man talked down to an elfin girl from a high stand, her hair matted with blood, sweat, and grease. The girl had already been forced out of her original dress, but she had not received anything back other than a few rags that were nonfunctional. She did not answer.
“I asked for your name.” He repeated emphatically, with more force. Don’t answer, she reminded herself, don’t answer.
“Put her back.” He called behind her. Another sinewy man crossed the clinical room, his collared suit as alabaster as the rest of the antiseptic scene, to grab Gabriele’s tiny arm. Pia, you better be doing something about this.
“Hi, uh, sorry that I didn’t get to my seat in time…” Pia replied before rushing off, hoping that she would be able to find a seat. She needed to blend in.
As Gabriele was forced down the sterile hallway, her arm twisted behind her, she saw Vernetta being dragooned the other way. Gabriele was able to ensnare a glimpse before she was pushed further down. In that, Gabriele observed the swollen face that came from one of their many varieties of torture, concealed by Vernetta’s thick auburn hair. Gabriele knew this would be her fate as well as they opened the door that she had been in only a little before. The one at the end of the hallway, the one with no windows set into the door. She knew what was behind it.
They thought that they could get them to admit their wrong. No. Never would they confess. They knew what would happen if they did.
After waiting for one to vacate, a seat had finally emptied. Pia slouched over the seat, gripping the edges, branding her territory.
Gazing around, she bit her lip and stroked her wrongly colored hair. She didn’t know why she hadn’t been caught sooner. She didn’t fit in. She didn’t even know where she was going.
A buzz sounded across the air-trans, splintering her reflection. The intercom voice began to state in a clear high voice, “Please join us in a noon Prime Prayer.”
Everyone bowed their head, and began to speak.
Pia quickly glanced from side to side, and then ducked her head. She mouthed random words, hoping no one would suspect that she was different.
“Miss, would you like to lead us?” Looking up, she saw a woman, one who seemed to be the same as everyone else, except for a small pin on her shirt.
Mumbling, Pia quickly stated, “Oh, no thank you,” trying to seem like she was just shy.
“But it is such a great honor! Please.” From her face, stern rather than grinning, Pia could tell that this wasn’t something she could shrug off. Rising, she focused on the woman, who nodded. Great, she thought to herself, annoyed, how am I getting out of this one? She started to run through the scenarios and solutions. None seemed like it would work. So, she took a deep breath. And then, she went off.
"NO! NO!” Emmie caterwauled as a hammer threatened to come down. Emmie laid, barely trussed with stripped electric cords (close enough that if she moved, she would irritate the cords, causing them to shock her), upon a white, fully leaned-back chair.
“Than confess to your heinous crimes.” The white-suited man (known as the Cruciator) asked, banging the harmer right next to Emmie’s face, causing her to wince. Another shrill scream, since one of the electric cords touched her oval face, electrocuting her.
“Never! I’ve never done anything wrong!”
“You go against the Prime!” the Cruciator accused her.
"I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG!” The hammer descended on her pinky finger. In instinct, she started to bring it to her chest, until the crack of electricity hit her wrist. Emmie choked on her scream. Breaths started to fade. Dark was filling the white room. Emmie’s body went limp, and once the Cruciator clarified her pulse, he called, “Bring the next one in!”
Pia acted as a football player, knocking into anyone in her way, despite her small build. Until she reached the door. Her way was still blocked. Still flush to the wall. She buffeted upon it, besought for it to open. No! No! Oh, how will I ever survive!
Surprisingly, it opened as she pled, but only to reveal a dark-suited man who filled the space. He grabbed her arm, and took out a large syringe. Before she could block, he thrust the needle into her arm and shadows began to take over her vision. She continued to repeat, No, no, how will I survive, until she became limp.
“You realize what you are? You’re not real; you’re no human. What are you anyway, you person who doesn’t believe in the Prime?”
“Do you realize that that is a lie! I am human! How dare…” As Janette attempted to rise, an electric shock went through her, so powerful, that she continued to shake after the first one, giving her echoing shocks as she hit the wires over and over.
“Turn them off.” The Cruciator sighed. When the cracks stopped, Janette laid flaccid, unable to support herself.
“Are there any more left?”
“Bring her in.” As they dragged Janette, her rust red hair hooking dirt as it dusted across the floor, the door automatically opened upwards. Standing there, with a guard on her arm, Toni stood there, breath sucked in, and mouth agape.
“Sit her here.” He gestured to the same chair that Janette had just occupied, the only thing in the room. Once she was thrust onto it and wired up, another contraption was lowered from the nonexistent ceiling. A needle, miniscule in diameter, but long in length, affixed to a handle and lever.
“What’s your name?”
“T-t-toni…” She allowed herself to say, compressing herself to the chair, throttling her stomach, anything to prevent herself from touching the wires that she could hear the buzz flow through.
On the outskirt of the bumbling forged by the whizzing electricity encased by the wires, she could hear the Cruciator querying, “Would you like to tell me why you’re here?”
“I-I d-don’t know why I’m here. I-I am innocent.” She answered, trying to follow what she had been taught since she had joined the group of believers.
When she had been a part of Primeland, she had lived in the capitol, Mota, where her mother (whom she only remembered the hand of, one which she could remember clutching her svelte fingers, hands hidden by the abscess that gnawed at the remainder of softness) and her lived. They lived in one of those buildings that could not see the ground because the clouds were in the way of its sight. The crisscross stamped book that had since been confiscated by the Prime and his men had originated from her mother’s drawer. Toni remembered how she was told to read to her mother from this, when her mother began to get the migraines that were actually an attempt to show what her mother was really suffering through.
What mattered was that eventually her mother heard from the group that still followed this book that a group of girls were to be sent out, so as to live on. And so she made sure Toni was one of these. Her and the book. She had failed them though. She had let that book get into the wrong hands. And though she may remember the drills she was forced through in preparation, she still winced, and knew she was weak.
Her eyes began to dew. But, the Cruciator continued as if no such drops had ever existed. “If you won’t tell me, we’ll just see how you talk with this.” Pivoting, he diverted his speaking to the person behind him. “Give it to me.” The other man took a hand-held machine, with two grippers.
Advancing upon her, she continued to compress herself, though it became progressively less possible to do so. Before it could hook her eye down, she crushed her eye shut, weaving the eyelashes together so as to prevent them from opening. A fingernail furrowed into her eye to cause them to pop open. Before she could collapse them back, he placed the machine on Toni’s eye, using it to claw her right eye open. Now that the option had been taken away, she realized that she needed to blink. She could feel dust particles settling upon her cornea. Pirouetting around, the green iris encasing her pupil settled upon the Cruciator clasping the lever connected to the needle and pulling it forward.
A jagged breath scratched her throat before any other point could, and she shrieked, “Wait!”
Pia ducked her head down, looking over imaginary glasses, and asked me, “What do you do if you’re ever asked about this place?"
The Cruciator yanked the needle backwards.
“Will you confess?”
I responded as I knew the answer would be.
"Yes! I confess to the crimes!”
I replied confidently, waiting for Pia’s up nod, “I will say nothing. I’m innocent of any crime,”
As Toni’s head fell, exhausted from the always-existing punch in the stomach.
She gave the up nod and smiled. I had not failed.
“Cruciator!” A white-clad guard barked.
“Yes!” The Cruciator cried, still triumphant in the confession.
“Another has been found.”
“Perfect.” The Cruciator said, a sly smile slipping in. Toni didn’t even listen. Because she knew. I’ve failed.
As Vernetta walked down the hall (escorted, of course), she saw a girl, dressed in a pastel pink boned bodice and shorts of the same color that didn’t seem to go past her high thigh. They had still not taken this away from her. She was fresh.
The girl peered up to see who was approaching, and her gaze mingled with Vernetta’s in the space. The girl’s chocolate eyes swirled with pool water turning to a salty green.
“Pia!” The deep-set eyes were one’s no one forgot. But with the nods of the guards, and the pull away to her room, delivered an alert of danger.
The table held two.
The Prime: his chapped and peeling lips parting slightly so as to utter in a sandpaper whisper, “How is the interrogation going? Have any broken?”
The Cruciator: the smile cracking open his pockmarked face, boasting louder and clearer, “Yes. One.”
The Prime’s jaw was pulled down to the ground, making his wrinkles plow further into his skin. “Aren’t there eight? This needs to move faster. You realize the importance of this?”
“Yes. They need to be put down. They’re threats.”
“But, we can’t be getting any martyrs out of this.”
“Yes.” The Cruciator hissed, “It will be cared for. They will confess.”
“But, I’m worried it won’t be fast enough.” The Prime said emphatically. He sighed, “Can we break any of them enough that they’ll confess for the others? They’re all close enough that they wouldn’t call the others liars. I’ve dealt with those like this. That’s what they do. They’re told one has confessed and they crumble.”
“Maybe.” The Cruciator slid his teeth across his lower lip, and then spoke through his teeth, “But I’ve got one more. One that didn’t say the noon Prime prayer. I think she’s part of the original group. And there’s still one last method I’d like to use.”
“Very well. This is your last chance though. One week. Past that, and we might just have to kill them.”
The door creaked open. Cowering in a corner (there was nothing in the room to cower into but corners), Pia waited for them to grab her and take her back to that horrible chair. They had already sent her clothes through a shredder and given her the remains. And then put the temperature down to the point where the always incandescent room was cold enough that each quavering breath became ice once it caressed the air.
“You’ve got company.” The craggy voice said gruffly. A whimper and a thump stated a person’s rough entrance. Pia peered through her now limited hair to see who it was. The slender body, now bony, and her oval face stated who it was. Emmie. Pia again ducked behind her now knurled knees. This was a trick. She hoped Emmie wouldn’t address her.
“What’s your name?” Perfect, Pia mused, she remembers her lessons.
She decided to respond, so that her voice wouldn’t disappear from this experience. After all, she was expecting to get out of here. “Pia,”
“What’re you in for?”
“Nothing.” And Pia lifted her head and fixated the other side of the wall, her strangely colored eyes staring accusingly. “Nothing at all,”
They had finally seen her take out her head from her knees after seeing who the girl was. And she had glared right at the camera. Right into the Cruciator’s pastel Alice blue eyes.
“Get her out! OUT!” The Cruciator ran out to chase the guards down the hallway, leaving Malcom, his still young dark eyes studying Pia’s. Those eyes described a life, a personality.
He had sworn when he had started at the Academy to protect all people and the Prime. And there was a person.
Light crawled across the floor, disturbing the darkness. Toni’s pulse began to sprint. Though she screeched and kicked her legs, the white suited guard lifted her up.
“Where am I going!” She cried. The guard dropped her and stomped on her face. Her nose started to spew blood, leaking into her mouth as well. The blood, salty, dragged down her throat and into her lungs.
Dragged up, she was brought down the rest of the hallway, this time not fighting. When the door opened, Toni saw that the chair, with its electricity bands and hanging torture devices, was occupied. By Janette. Toni whimpered, but otherwise, did not address Janette. The guard dropped her down by the wall, causing her to land right on her (probably) broken and (definitely) bleeding nose. Before she could recover, the guard took her head and thrust it into a clamp. He then tied one electricity cord beneath her nose.
“If you close your eyes, we’ll use the eye clamps.” Toni shrunk back from the idea of the dreaded eye clamps.
The door slid open, revealing the Cruciator. With himself barely in the room, he unsheathed a knife, along with a vial from his pocket. Behind him, a man followed, holding a table. Once the table was placed, he positioned the vile on it.
“I have decided to kill this heathen here.” Before anyone could speak further, he cut Janette’s wrist, causing her to wince. “The tip is poisoned, you see. But, the Prime,” he paused, maintaining eye contact with Toni for a held breath. “He doesn’t want this. He wants to protect her. But, he needs to be told that you want to protect her. Because she’ll just start speaking deliriously soon. And as her friend you need to speak for her. But for the Prime to help you with this” He waved to the whole room, “You need to abjure your heathen religion.” He pointed the knife at Toni at this. Sheathing his dagger, he sneered. “She has about two minutes. Tell me when you want this,” he picked up the vile, “this will save her life, whatever state she’s in, in only thirty seconds.”
“Don’t admit to them! Don’t fall for their tricks! I’d rather…” The Cruciator took Janette’s head and pushed it into the electric cords. She cried out, but continued anyway, babbling about how Toni shouldn’t bow down to the Prime, without saying explicitly that they were against him. Howls were sprinkled in from the Cruciator’s constant pushing.
Then silence. Her breaths were heard, quick and sharp, infrequently. The Cruciator put two fingers under Janette’s neck.
“It’s slowing.” Gazing at Toni, he picked up the vial, twirling it in his fingers. “You realize that means she will be dead soon. You know how to save her. Do it. Or she dies.”
She would kill me if I said we were heretics, Toni thought, but how can she kill me if she’s dead?
“Please, Prime,” she began to say, before dropping to a whisper, “Please save her.”
“Prisoner 979?” Pia remained silent. “Prisoner 979?” He’s not talking to me. I’m no prisoner. Though they knock on this cell, I am no prisoner. “Please. Tell me your name. Or don’t. But listen to me.” Pia finally gazed at the door, where the guard was talking through. “If you let me, I’ll save you. Just let me know if I can open the door.”
Hoping that when he said ‘I’ll save you’, he didn’t mean ‘save you from what you believe’, she said, “You may,”
In walked a man, smallish, but muscular, wearing the white of every other guard. He put out his hand. Pia picked herself off the floor and strode toward him. Maybe he really could save her…
“Your week is up.”
“Did you get anything?”
“Two have been turned.”
“It’s too late to do more.”
“How would you like it done?”
“As public as possible. Show them all what they want”
“But won’t they be able to tell that…”
"No. They’re too weak to realize. All those that cheer my name. All they know is that. No. There never will be any martyrs, that’s what I’ve realized. Because they don’t even know the word.”
Starla had been spared for the most part from the tortures of the others, other than the initial one that happened when they were brought in. After that, she had been taken to a stainless, padded, white room, and was left to pace under the forever-lit, abrasive lights. She was even left with her original white dress.
She had been thinking why she was kept from harm. She knew the others felt the pain. The room she had been placed in was located close enough to the torture room that she could hear the screams. The howls, the caterwauls, the screeching cries; she could hear them all, going on as long as the lights were on. That was one of her theories. That they thought she would break down from knowing their torture.
She did not know what it was like on the outside. Where all women had her same short blonde hair (women didn’t work at the prison so she could have no idea). She didn’t know that they kept her, waiting for her to say she had been kidnapped and brainwashed. Admission that they could broadcast to show what these malicious heathens were like.
Something broke the calm sea. A ripple, caused by a stone of noise. Starla ambled to the small window that could be used to peer into the hall, her feet squealing as they reacted to the mat floor.
"Pia?” She whispered to herself. She double-checked, but could indeed see Pia jogging down the hall, a shorter man on her tail. “PIA!!” She cried, hoping Pia could save her, as it seemed like she had just saved herself. As Pia ran (though Starla knew she had heard her, as she had turned around for a brief second), Starla went back into the depths of the white, knowing that that was her last chance. And now, all she had left to wait for was death.
“FOLLOW HER! DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY!” the Cruciator roared behind the crazed guards that now chased after Malcom and that girl. He knew that it was too late, but knowing even more that the Prime would have him executed for this. And she had also turned Malcom against the Prime! This is a heathen for you, he reminded himself. Foxes, they are. Can turn the weak against anyone.
Gasping and grabbling for breath, Pia heard the stomps and marching of the guards. She was waiting for the hall to fork, but it seemed like it never would, this endless hallway. The guard who had opened her door, Malcom, had given her a map, which she had attempted to use to memorize the path.
“Are…we…almost…there?” She gasped between stolen breaths.
“Keep going!” Was all Malcom would disclose.
"If you don’t stop, we’ll pull out the scintilla guns!”
“DUCK!!” Malcom cried. Pia bent over.
“FIRE!!” A blast of haze blew hundreds of feet. As the haze settled, it fell onto Pia’s now slouched back. Though she gasped for breath, she now used the little air she had in her lungs to use to scream. Stings, as if a poisoned blade had pierced her skin.
“KEEP RUNNING!!” Malcom bellowed, trying to keep her going. Because if she was left behind this would be a waste. And Pia knew this. And though she knew that if she continued, her bare feet’s skin would have peeled completely off from the pressure and haze, she continued.
“FIRE!” Someone cried once more. Pia bent as far as she could without toppling over. Pins and needles. Escape. Poisoned pins and needles. Freedom. Death. Starla’s pleading face and cries. How can I possibly survive this? She questioned.
Can’t let her get away. Can’t. Death for all. Death for me. Prime shame. How can I possibly survive this? The Cruciator repeatedly asked himself. And so he kept firing, but that girl’s leather back and feet would not let him take her. The traitor would not let him. How can I possibly survive this?
“GAS MASKS ON!” As they slipped them on, he took out of one of his many pockets a small pad. After pressing 1-2-5, he looked up, waiting for the invisible to grab them.
Hissing. And an acrid smell that writhed into her nose. Suddenly, Pia was coughing hard. Crawling was not an option, as the haze had settled on the floor. But she had to go against that, because Pia was falling down, down, seemingly endlessly. But, when she hit the floor it only got worse. Her cuts were now everywhere, the blood staining the gossamer fabric her body still clung to. It gave no protection from the sharp fog, it being too sheer. Through the fog, she saw, the saving silhouette of a guard, his gas mask on his face, now an alien, with its small place for his eyes and the small tubes.
Throwing one down to Pia, he bellowed, “GET UP!” then left her to struggle to put it on. Air now inflated her lungs.
She complied with his instructions, staring down the hall to see how much they had gained. They had left a while before the others knew, but the long hall meant that it was impossible to shake them off by turning a corner. They were only maybe fifteen yards away.
So she sprinted, blood still gushing and hardening on her skin. Even without water for two days (they had taken her off it in the hope she would renounce her beliefs for it), it still gushed. Stumbling, but regaining balance. They were stepping on her heels, tripping her. She twisted and smacked, but that only allowed the guard there to grab her wrist.
I’m dead. I’m dead. Though she had asked for a weapon, Malcom had thought they would have been far enough ahead. She punched the man in the stomach, but her fist just reverberated off.
The hands were off. A knife now stuck out of his stomach. He fell, and Pia ran for it.
The end was coming; she saw it finally. The fork. Malcom turned left and she followed.
"NO! NO! THEY CAN’T ESCAPE!” But they had. There was nothing he could do. The Cruciator slid down the wall and placed his head in his hands, like so many of his victims had done while waiting for his face. “Gather the others. We can at least put my name on their execution before the Prime finds out about this.” Not reacting as fast as he wanted, he revised his method to ordering them, “Get them now. BEFORE I KILL YOU!”
Starla heard the footsteps. Her death was here.
Wielding the ax, Toni knew she had chopped the head off all of her friends. No. Her family. That’s who they were at this point. And she had killed them all.
“I know. I’ve failed you Prime.”
“Yes, you have.” The Prime rose and took out a knife. He then turned to the one standing behind him, dressed in black, as all Primers were dressed, and handed it to him. Leaving, he went off to clean up the Cruciator’s mess.
Her newly blonde-dyed hair her only pillow, she laid on the floor that served as her bed.
“Pia, it’s time to get up. You couldn’t have done anything to save them. At least you did survive.” Malcom pressed. He had been trying to get her off the floor of the vacant apartment room that was all he could suffice without revealing where they were. He knew she was crumbling to pieces right here, but she refused to listen.
She couldn’t. Lamenting took over her thoughts. Gabriele. Janette. Starla. Emmie. Vernetta. Toni. Those were the ones she had seen tortured over and over. She had left them for Death to drop down and slit their throats twice. She didn’t even know if Elicia and Madaline had made it. Forgotten worlds were the only places where they still occupied.
“Why not you get some flowers from the flower shop?” Malcom knew that she had had beautiful bouquets in her original home. He had seen the pictures that had been taken when they were captured. Hoping this would get her off the floor (she had changed herself enough through the use of NCOM, or Never-Come-Off Makeup; she looked entirely different), he asked this without any knowledge of what was happening outside.
Pia dragged herself up. She knew the type of flowers she wanted.
After plucking each small blue flowers with their little yellow centers, Pia left the small Prime-run (as everything here was in Mota) flower shop to the square, surrounded by fifty story buildings (compared to the hundred story buildings that filled most of the the city, which created shadows over the streets and alleys), where she knew a small ice cream stand was (after having ice cream once, she decided it was the greatest thing left on planet earth).
When she had reached the square, with it’s sky-crawling sculptures, swirling and most featuring the Prime’s almighty face, she had been pushed into a crowd, similar to the one that had nearly crushed her on the train station. Once she had waddled her way to the ice cream stand, she asked the man behind the counter what was going on. “Public execution. You know, a bunch of heathens.” He said absent-mindedly as he fixed her ice cream cone. “Like, eight of them,” The number of those who had lived with her
“Why is everyone gathering to see people get executed?” Pia asked, trying to make it seem like casual conversation. She had clearly done something wrong, because the ice cream stand worker looked confused.
“You shouldn’t be saying such things. But, for your information, the reason is the fact that they were found with a book. You know. That book. The one that all of those ignorant people of the past read. You know, the one from before the Prime.”
Pia escaped from the conversation, though the worker called at her back.
Pia got to the front. All of them. Madaline, Elicia, Gabriele, Janette, Starla, Emmie, Vernetta, and Toni. They stood with neck braces laced with electric cords.
Starla saw another one pushing their way up. Another there to witness her death. It was a girl, dressed and colored like the others. Standing strong, Starla locked eyes with her. But then she dropped everything. Her eyes. They were deep-set, with brown in the center, and then spiraling out into blue and then into an emerald green. Unforgettable.
Pia, forget-me-nots in hand, saw as the executioner strolled behind them. He was going to kill them by surprise. No one would know until it happened.
Pia dropped one flower, and left unwilling to see the horror that followed.
Cheers rippled through the crowd. Public executions were always such a wonderful event. The executioner acted as the host as if on a game show. So while people yelled obscenities into the air at the group of eight (such a large number was always exciting), the executioner pressed the first button. Seizures seized the girl on the right. She was shorter than the others, but other than that, no one had any other idea of her identification. Who cared about her name? As long as she died and had been against the Prime.
The whoops and excited howling continued to hit the crowd, and it continued to crescendo as each death came. Until the last one. When the last one made her last twitch, boos poured over the crowd. Oh well. Party was over. The square cleared, leaving nothing but the ice cream man eating the cone meant for that girl who had acted odd.
Their bodies had been left behind. They would be cremated once the vultures and crows had had their time with them. Pia watched over their bodies as men and women took ‘souvenirs’ off their body, whether it be hair, clothes, or body parts. By the time Pia could have her time with them, just about all of them were naked with patches of hair taken off and stubs, the blood now dried, for body parts. Toni had had her stomach slit and intestines stolen.
Pia, shaken from the horrid experience, slowly approached them, eight flowers and a note in her hand. She laid a forget-me-not on each of the gruesome, mangled bodies, gave a prayer for each, and lastly placed the note.
The note was not found until the morning, when the bodies were ready to be burned. When authorities had opened it, they saw, written with a stiff hand: We will never die