For years, summary executions have been routine in the city of Vouna. There are no trials, no judges. President Arete has given the police force full authority – to purge every man he deems a sinner. That was what the voters had wanted, until they saw what it truly meant.
But regret comes too late. Violent arrests curbed the riots, and people started disappearing from detention centres. The country no longer belongs to its citizens, who are now simply tenants borrowing the walkway beneath their feet. Bodies strew the paths, and the national press broadcasts these murders live as a daily warning.
Arete watches the screen intently, his fist wrapped around the cross worn around his neck. He looks at the cop, who has just snatched a teen from his home. Arete knows what will come next. It is his signature on the Execution List after all. Still, he shudders as the cop shoots the teen at point blank range and lets slip a callous smile.
Turning away from the television, Arete reads the dead boy’s name and crime off the Execution List: Deaton. Drug possession. The fact that Deaton was young – no more than sixteen – bothers him. The orphan was also an unwilling perpetrator, forced into the drug trade by poverty. When handed the death sentence by the former judicature, his sister had taken the rap for his crime and given her life.
Arete feels a lump in his throat as his eyes return to the still body on his screen. Under his rule, he has ordered the prosecution of retroactive crimes. This means unnecessary deaths, but he needs more dead souls. It upsets him that Deaton had to die. He is no more than a victim of circumstance, whose kin had sacrificed for nothing.
What hits Arete hard is Deaton’s resemblance to himself. Once, Arete was an orphan too, with nothing to his name. He was roped into a gang, who guaranteed him money and safety. That was until the strange man came to him with a better promise. He saw caveats in what looked like a perfect deal. Still, fortune is easy temptation to those who have little.
“Whatever it takes,” he said back then, to the man he knew as the Devil.
Now, he is not so sure. He has made a bad deal and he knows it. The Devil was, and is, a liar. For the riches Aretes desired, he is made a corrupted dictator. His longing for fame comes in the form of notoriety. The respect he wanted, spawns from fear. His name will go down in history, only alongside the worst in humanity.
He is ready to give it all up. Riches, power, and his name. All he wants is a quiet future, where his deeds may be forgotten. But he can never get away that easily, and he knows it. While the Devil may be the one who guides his ways, he is the one with blood on his hands.
And so the formless Devil remains a constant voice in his head. There is nothing Arete can do about it. No matter where he hides, the whispers will follow. That for each day he wants to hold onto his soul, the souls of others he must sacrifice.
Daily Prompt: Notorious