I wrote this with a good friend of mine
I take the dusty book down from the shelf and open it on the first page. To my horror its covered in blood. It’s as if someone dipped their fingertips into a can of it and smeared it all over the inside cover and page one. I turn the page and discover that the first letter and page number are also written in blood. I start trembling involuntarily and my breathing quickens. I begin to read, my curiousity getting the better of my fear.
“It has always been this way, and it always will be. Every year, someone must climb the fence.”
I know exactly what this means. Once a year, somebody is randomly chosen to climb the tall fence that surrounds our village. The barbed wire has caused all those who tried to be stabbed through the heart. None have survived. Everyone knows this, and hence, nobody reads about it here. Our village operates around that fact. Live while you can. I am here because of an unusual dream. That I would be next to have to climb. That I would be the next life taken by the fence. I reluctantly turn the page and keep reading.
“The tree that grows in the center of the village once bloomed with pink flowers. As a tribute to those who have died climbing the fence, one flower is pained red with their blood. When all of the flowers are red, the village will be safe.”
This is it. Tomorrow they will choose the last to climb the fence. One last person must die for the tree to be completely red.
“The tree will stand forever red as a memorial to those who’ve died.”
I close the book and return it to the shelf. It is the only book in the otherwise bare libary. I walk out of the dusty hall which was once a libary, that is, before the burning. Before all other books were fed to a monstrous fire, as a sort of sacrifice.
Sacrifices and blood. The two things that play such an important part in this village.
It is dark outside apart from the twinkling stars and the red spotlight cast upon the village by a blood moon. A blood moon promises violence the next day. I pass the memorial tree on my way home. Fireflies whir around it in graceful swirls of light, making the tree seem almost peaceful. Maybe it would be peaceful if it wasn’t painted with the blood people I used to know. I used to know my older sister too, but not anymore. Not since two years ago. Not since she climbed the fence. Not since the fence took har life, adding her to the list of sacrifices. A cool wind ruffles my short blonde curls and sends a shiver down my spine. I walk down the rest of the path on my way home. I arrive at my home with its cold clay walls providing little heat and the roughly thatched roof drips with the raindrops of yesterday. Inside, I pass the stove, my parents’ bed and the now empty bed that was once my sister’s. My heart suddenly can’t handle it antmore, and tears run like salty waterfalls from my eyes. My stomach feels as if it was suddenly tied in knots, getting tighter and tighter with every ragged breath I take. I leap onto my sister’s bed, my head resting in the shape her head made into the pillow the night before the sacrifice. The last night I saw her reassuring smile as she blew out her candle. I fall into an uneasy sleep. The same dream as last night flashes before my restless eyes. My sister screaming, my mother’s horrified expression, my name being called out by our minister, the barbed wire that tops the fence that is already stained with enough blood to fill a bathtub.
I wake to the sound of my own screaming. My parents are presumably already outside. I stand up, shaking from head to toe. I cross the single room that makes up our house, and head towards the closet. I open it and get my best dress. An elegant red and orange skirt that flows like the flicker of flames. The backless white top with yellow and orange straps. I put it on, and the moment I see it in the mirror, I can’t help but smile. If I am to die today, I will die in this. Once a year, I my hair is released from its usual short ponytail and I let it fall, framing my face, resting on my shoulder. I take two deep breaths before the mirror, like my sister did on her day of sacrifice, and head for the door, slipping into my stained white hightops with their open laces.
I trudge down the street towards the eastern edge of the fence where sacrifices are chosen. I join my parents in the crowd and stare at the fence, the dried blood that was so vibrant in my dream. More people join the crowd until all citizens have been reported present. The minister arrives last, standing on a wooden pedestal and prepares his notes. He clears his throat and silence falls immediately. Children sit on their father’s shoulders to get a better view. Others stand on tiptoe, craning their necks to see the minister as he begins. “The last sacrifice. One more must die for the village to be safe.” Nobody seems to notice that this text is taken directly from the book I read yesterday. “We sacrifice you, lucky one, not because we hate you, but because you are our last chance. If you survive, you will head towards the east for four days, and will find the city of prosper. You can alert their president to knock down our fence, freeing us all from our fate. If you fail...” He trails off.
His hand moves from the flashcards he was reading off, and towards a box made of the darkest timber. Inside are the names of every person here. He reaches in and pulls out a piece of neatly folded paper. He opens it, and from the confindent movements of his fingers, you can see that he has sentenced countless to their doom. He reads out the name, but I cannot hear him over the pounding of blood in my ears.
Everyone turns to me. This time, the minister reads it and makes sure I can read his lips. “Adira, daughter of Eidel” My heart stops. My mother, Eidel, grips my wrist. Her face is drained of all colour. She lost my sister, and now me. At least she is not about to lose her life. My legs give way and I’m sobbing on my knees.