Devil’s Waiting

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.

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Strayed In Nowhere

The world wasn’t always darkness. In fact, the last thing you remember was white light. Mesmerising, blinding light of the brightest might. Then came the time when there was nothing but black.

These days, it is impossible to tell where you are. Nor can you know the time for sure. Day and night have become one in the absence of the skies. Your senses are of no help. The air smells of nothing but sanitised steel that you can almost taste. Pain comes in short bursts, too brief to mean a thing.

You try holding onto the voices around you, and barely do. Your own is easy enough. The others are strange and out of reach, as though from a different place altogether. One that is now lost to you. And so you put your hands out, longing for the solace of familiar touch. They find cold, hard concrete. But there is no door on these walls, only gaps that lead onto nothingness.

You feel your way around the labyrinth, praying for a road out. But so many times, you meet a dead end. You double back, with no way of knowing if you are only running in circles. All this time, you try not to let the troubling thought get to you – that walls are all there are.

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Duality

Letting my last cigarette fall to the floor, I slip into Helena’s favourite night club by the back door. The sudden rush of electronic noise and flashing lights made me wince. Ignoring the growing throb in my head, I sit by the bar and scan through the mess of dark shadows lost in reverie. Lee isn’t there. I take another swig of my dark beer.

The night goes on. My search is in vain. As I slam down my fourth pint glass in frustration, I almost gasp when I see Helena in its reflection. But I recognise my inebriated self in seconds. A version of me. Thick eyeliner and cherry red lipstick have turned my face into a mask of my sister. Every strand of my brown frazzled hair stays hidden under a blonde wig that smells like smoke.

The guise works perfect. Still, I feel ill at ease. I felt the same way when Helena had dragged me out here on our last birthday. Sisters we might have been, we shared little in common. Decadence that I run from, was what Helena chased. One never knew what the other was thinking, though we had always been told that twins ought to. We led two different lives, which held two different fates.

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War is Hell

With fear is no way to live for a child. But in Spero’s world, survival is the only way he has ever known. This is what war does. It moulds tired soldiers out of the innocent, heedless of age. Every corner he turns, his ears prickle at the scamper of rats by the drains. Not a second passes without his eyes darting towards shadows of patrolling soldiers.

It is his third night on the road. Not once has he rested, fearing that he may not make it to the city centre in time. His mother had told – no, begged – him to stay home. It will destroy her to lose another child, she had cried, and cried. Her whimpers were pitiful. But so were the groaning of his sick father. Spero knew that if he did not get medicine soon, Father would never make it through the week.

Spero understands the risks of being out here, perhaps more than Mother. But the 13-year-old boy also knows that he has no choice. Father will never survive the trip to the hospital. Besides, if anyone knows about the man laying immobile while the world is at war? Never mind his chronic illness. Father will be a traitor in their books.

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Bedtime Monsters

Reid had always felt different. Not by choice. At the age of two, he related more to numbers and trajectories than songs and doodles. When he grew older, he took his father’s advice and started to mirror what he had observed in others. He got quite good at that. He learnt to behave like the well-liked ones, even if he never quite understood their specious acts.

Still, Reid was different. There was an air about him, the others could always tell. And so he was to lead a quiet life like an invisible, insignificant dust speck. One where no one even knew his name. In fact, he was not sure if anyone ever saw him at all. Between classes and recesses, he existed like coarse sand shoved aside for castles, kicked down to make way.

No one knew who he was, what he liked, and what he hated. Reid was now nine years and two days old. He liked yellow cereal, chain puzzles, old films that flicker, and black crows. He hated many things, like smiling, greeting, and waving. Most other things, in fact. But he never told anyone that, because he was never asked.

Even so, the boy eventually found belonging. The group was one that was different all right, and he snugged tight in it. He never told anyone, because this was a group that he knew no one could and would understand. He knew that it was to be his secret, for what is misunderstood is easily denied.

To start with, there were just two of them: Reid and Dab. The latter was five years, three months and four days old. In many ways, Dab was special too. For starters, it could not even pretend to be human. In fact, it was clear that it had come from somewhere else. It did not talk much, so Reid never knew where. A fact, accepted though unverifiable, was that it was possibly the last of the species.

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Into The Mirror Black

In strangers we meet, tales we read and words we heed, inspiration inhabits every corner of our lives if we know where to look. Sooner than later, melodious notes assemble familiar tunes and stories end up descending into unintended pastiche.

Everything that can be done, has been done. An author’s biggest enemy becomes monotony, and following that, the unforgiving chase of deadlines. After all, to those who had never seen more than ink in a pen, the importance of esteem over cash renders as meaningless white noise.

In my errant mind, another budding idea collapses into smithereens of drivel. Trains of thoughts collide, leaving only debris of impractical distraction. The paper falls victim to my mounting frustration, landing scrunched above a mound of long fallen ones.

Years ago, this is all I had wanted. To write. Yet that zest has gone, leaving behind recurring ire towards words. It is as though the tools, and not the one who wields them, are to blame. The blank page taunts me. It is dismal how we all end up hating what we once love.

Weariness takes over, calling it a night on my behalf. I shut the tinted windows, kill the lights, and trudge to bed. Humid air becomes still. Sleep comes easy and a muddled dream soon greets…

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