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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