Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week Fifty Five: March 21st - March 27th

Mischief, and To That Extent, Its Punishment.

        My name is Pietr, and on a chilling night in the middle of fall, I died, alone, outside the walls of my home. You see, I made a career of crying wolf, and for toying with the townsfolk, I was ultimately punished. I spent months waking up men and women, who were rushing to save a life, only to be confused when nobody was there. To make amends, I suppose my mortality was stripped from me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I didn’t deserve what happened, I just wish it didn’t hurt so much. Of all the bad things I can remember, that pain stands out the most.
     It’s funny, isn’t it? That the only memories that never go away are the worst ones? It seems that every good thing that has happened to me in life has gently caressed my cheek, and then was carried off by the wind. The bad memories though, they cling to you like scars, and follow you like ghosts, always right there behind your every waking thought. I’m going to tell you a story now, about a young boy named Pietr, who was very much a ghost himself.
     Our story takes place in another time, a time that has yet to exist, or perhaps never really will. Global civilization is no longer, and the world now has boundaries. A small town exists, guarded by strong stone walls, and they are the end of the world. To leave these walls is certain death, and a sin against Xi, the supposed god that protects the town. Not all men and women are able to believe though. This tale is about a young man named Pietr, who lived in the town of Worldsend, who was punished for breaking that taboo.
     “Have you heard the news? About the demons that have been appearing at night?” a fat women in a bland, brown robe whispers to an elderly man in black. “Yes, I hear that it appears In the dead of night, screaming for help, but disappears before anyone can-“said the man in black, before suddenly being interrupted by a man with a tall gilded walking stick, and voluminous white robes.
     “What is the meaning of this Marhidal? Cayn? It is blasphemous to speak of such acts,” said the man in white. Lowering their heads in shame, they whispered apologies, and Father Ordenson placed his hands on their heads, and continued walking down the muddy lanes of the poor part of town, elaborately throwing his arms up in praise of Xi.
     “Regardless what the father says, I’ve heard the screams myself, and there is something happening in this town of ours. Something big” the women whispers to the man, before departing. From the alley behind them, a child sits against the wall with his cloak shut tight, and his hood drawn up. Through a shadowed face, a white smile flashes from the depths of the hood. The boy stands up, and deftly trudges through the mud, his balance never wavering an inch.
     A shrill scream lights up the night sky, as panic wrecks through the surrounding buildings. “Help me! Please help me, dear god!” a voice weeps. The noises of bodies filing from the buildings, rushing to the scene to help out are heard. Holding in the laughter, the boy from the alley closes his eyes, and places his hands on his stomach. When he opens them up, he’s back in his alley, vomiting onto the frozen mud of the roads.
     Wiping the bile from his mouth with a grubby sleeve, he falls backwards into a symphony of laughter. Drumming his feet on the ground, he finally stops to catch his breath, and looks up at the sky. “Another night accomplished” the boy says to himself, wiping tears from his eyes. Standing up, he disappears inside a window, and curls under his blankets in his bed, ready for a sound nights sleep.
     “Father! We must do something about this!” a voice yells from the mass of people inside the church. “Yes, we need to catch this fiend, and punish it for Xi!” another yells. Father Ordenson stands at his podium, staring down at the angry throng of people. Under his gaze, they quickly calm themselves, and sit down, but the buzz of quiet conversation fills the room. Clearing his throat, the entire group of men and women quit their talking, and look up to him. Silence passes for several minutes as they look to him expectantly.
     “You wish me to catch this demon?” the father asks, and people roar their approval. Every form of punishment, and torture were tossed out for the beast. The father shook his head slightly, and looked around the room until they quieted themselves again. “You wish me to capture the beast, and no matter what form it shows itself, and you wish for us to punish it?” the Father asks. Again, the crowd throws up their hands in joy, and a cacophony of agreement fills the air. Looking down at them from the podium, the father asked a question they weren’t prepared to hear. “What if it’s not a demon?” the father asked, and rising voices started to mouth their disagreement. “What if I told you it was a young boy?”. The silence was so heavy, it weighed down the air, and turned the oxygen thick.
     Standing in a new corner of the town, the boy lets loose a wild scream, and starts yelling for help, but no one shows up. “Please! It hurts so much, he’s killing me! Help!” is screamed by the boy, but still no one shows. For the next three nights, this continues, all the while the boy becomes more and more infuriated with the situation. It wouldn’t be until old Marhidal and Cayn met in front of his alley, that he would learn the truth of what happened.
     “The father says that by ignoring the boy, he will run out of steam, and eventually return to normal life.” The old woman says. “Yes, it sure is hard to sleep at night, but much easier knowing there really isn’t a demon out there” the old man, Cayn, chuckles. Both laughing to themselves, they broke off, and headed their own ways, getting back their daily lives. From under the robes of the boy in the alley, the knuckles of his hands show white.
“I’ll show them” the boy said to himself. “I’ll show them all”
     Clenching his eyes together, and holding his hands to his stomach, the boy imagines the world outside of the walls, and opens his eyes to a world of strange plants and soft dirt. He looks around surprised, before the food in his stomach comes up, and he chokes it out onto the ground. Raising his head, he finds a peculiar dark purple plant, with a spiny tail-like appendage stuck into his arm. Plucking the base of the plant, something hot shoots into his arm, and the boy starts to thrash and scream on the ground.
“Help me!” he screams. “It hurts so bad, please, somebody help me!”
     Gathering near the nearest wall, the townspeople are near riot, crying out for someone to save the poor boy. Father Ordenson stands up on a wooden platform, and clapping his hands, begins to talk down the crowd. “Father Ordenson! That’s just a young boy out there! We must pull him inside!” a voice shouts. Numerous other voices strike up agreement, as they throw their arms into the air. “For 300 years” the Father starts to speak, quieting the crowd instantly “We have been protected from the disease, and the pain that the outside brings us, and you want us to bring him back here? No, Xi would not be happy to see such an act happen, and what about the punishment you all spoke of just a few days ago?” The crowd, trying to form words, held down their arms, and collectively started to whimper half-hearted excuses.
     “No, I think not my friends. The child has been possessed, able to disappear at will. Is this not the power of a demon like you all feared? Is this not the sign that the boy is not one of us?”. Shouts of agreement now start to form patches in the quiet crowd. “Should we risk the lives of many, all for the sake of one who would cause us such harm?” the Father spoke in a stirring, strong voice. The majority of the crowd now starts to scream out “no!”, and the father puts on a gentle smile, and says “it is a shame to lose such a young member of our society, but we shall learn a lesson from him, and never stray from our faith again! Praise be to Xi!” and with that the entire crowd roar their cheers. Turning around, the gentle smile on the Fathers face now arcs into one of malice. “My biggest regret is that I couldn’t see you suffer myself” he whispers. Throwing his head back, he belts out a loud laughter, and the rest of the crowd follows him.
     Waiting, the boy looks around, but sees no one coming. Crying, he tries to push himself up, but his arm is now a hideous, blotchy mess, smelling of rotting skin and pus. “So they are afraid to help me are they?” he breaths into the dirt. “Well then, I’ll just have to bring myself to them!”. Closing his eyes, he places his hands on his stomach, but opens his eyes to same place. The very real grip of fear washes over the boy.
     Closing his eyes, again and again he tries to disappear back to the town, but to no avail.
The skin on his arm now hangs loose, covered in holes as bone and muscle show through. Screaming as hard as he can, the boy sobs into the dirt, and yells his apologies at the town; however, they still fall on deafened ears. The infection now crawls onto his chest, and the boy whimpers on the ground, all his strength gone from him. The last thing he remembered was a cold, fall breeze blowing on his body, and wondering what he did to deserve this.
     Now that you’ve heard my story, you can make your own decision on how I came to be. Is the corpse of a child sufficient punishment? Or did I deserve everything that happened to me? I’ve been floating above the town of Worldsend for many years now, asking the very same question, and I still cannot find the answer. Was this a story about mischief, and to that extent, its punishment? Or was this a story about a poisoned man, who let a small child die to gain power in a town. I’m not sure anymore, but the only thing I have to be thankful of, is that I no longer feel pain.
     I did it all because I was lonely, and that pain alone, was more terrible than any infection that could have ever eaten my body. The pain of having my own community leave me out to die ate away at me more than any disease ever would. The pain of seeing that man live out his remaining years happy, hurts me more than any death could present me. I have felt real pain, and I have lived through real misery. Still I float here, without any of the answers to my questions. What does it take in this life to understand it all? Why was I born so broken?

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