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The Morning and a Victim
This is a sequel to another piece, 'The Morning and a Fugitive'. Make sure you've read it before starting this one.
April 28, 2110
I woke up on the day I was meant to die with no intention of doing so.
Unfortunately, my plans went wrong the instant I opened my eyes.
I was groggy, and a little disoriented. My head was pounding. I blinked, trying to see what was happening. I had to get up early, if I wanted to get out of here-
But I wasn’t alone. There was a group of three men- in that blue and black uniform. Guards. What? They seemed to be waiting for me to wake up. This wasn’t supposed… As I tried to sit, my arms were grabbed and I was yanked to my feet. I felt my hands being cuffed behind me as I tried to figure out what must have happened.
I wasn’t going to fall asleep for more than a few minutes last night. I’d planned to get up in the middle of the night, unscrew the inner workings of the cell door, use the keycard (which I’d palmed last night off a guard who locked me in) to open it, and get the heck out of here.
But what had happened? Here I was, being dragged out of my cell…just before dawn, I thought. What had happened? I mentally rewound. Last night, I used the restroom, sat on the bed, drank some water, laid down and pretended to sleep… the water. I remembered how it had tasted unusually sweet- I’d been drugged. C***.
And now it was too late. I was being pulled through the corridors, bright white, and I knew where we were going. My gut twisted. No. It couldn’t happen. Please, no…
Twenty-four hours after I was captured, and here I was on my way to my execution. No trial. No anything. And they wonder why they’re so unpopular…
They threw open a door and dragged me outside into a courtyard. The sky was pinkish blue- predawn. Silhouetted against it were the gallows. I swallowed. Old West, anyone?
There were a hundred more efficient, a hundred more painful ways they could have done it. But this wasn’t about efficiency, or making me squirm (although I’m sure it would have been very satisfying to quite a few people). This was about leaving an indelible image on everyone’s mind: me kicking, jerking in midair- ‘This is what happens when you mess with us’.
I knew I was being filmed. I counted at least three cameras, probably more. I was huge news while I was on the run- they’d want my execution as public as possible.
There was nobody except one guy by the gallows, me, and the three men pulling me. And maybe a couple million watching live from their own homes. They shoved me up the steps. I stumbled.
This couldn’t happen. No. no. no…
I twisted, but their grips were too strong. One guy smacked me on the side of the head- my ears rang. Second head blow in twenty-four hours. I would be lucky if I didn’t get a concussion.
Oh wait, it didn’t matter.
Before I knew it, I was on the platform. It was silver metal, along with the crossbar. The rope was ordinary brown. It went over my head and was tightened- I could feel it press uncomfortably as I swallowed. My heart was pounding, hard. I was standing on the trapdoor- it led directly to the incinerator. Once…once it was over, they’d just cut the rope. No body. No mess.
I twisted my head, trying to see behind me. There was a large button on the side of the crossbar- red, of course. One person stood next to it, and the other three retreated.
I looked away, breathing hard. No. It couldn’t be over. I couldn’t die. I couldn’t. No, please…
My internal panicking seemed a little pathetic. Vainly, I tried to keep myself together- I was, after all, on national TV.
I was lightheaded. My hands were shaking. The sky was cold.
With no warning, the trapdoor beneath my feet vanished. My stomach (and the rest of me) plunged. I gasped, but I was cut off halfway through by the rope- it jerked around my neck, and…
I was falling. Down, down, into a cold deep blackness. The light faded…
I slammed suddenly into something hard and metal. It was so sudden, unexpected, and actually painful that I yelped.
What the heck…
I lay for a moment, stunned. Dark. It was warm here, and smelled like smoke. The rope was still tight around my throat, but not suffocating. Where was I? Was this death? I sat up slowly, taking stock of my situation.
It was pitch black, and the space seemed to be the size of a small room. It was entirely metal. As for me, my neck hurt, I was still tied up, and… unbelievable… I seemed to still be alive.
“What happened?” I wondered aloud.
The last thing I expected was an answer.
Suddenly, a small door swung open and light flooded in- I saw, in black letters, the words ‘Maintenance Hatch’. There was a silhouette in the glow that I squinted at. She climbed inside the room, brown hair catching the light. Brown hair that always reminded me of wood stain. Unbelievable…
“I rigged the rope to snap,” Andra said.
What? Whoa, wait. She…saved me? No. This wasn’t the Andra I knew-she was the one who turned me in in the first place.
“Why?” I asked, finally.
“Because that keycard you stole is worth quite a bit in the right hands and right now you’re the only who knows where it is.”
I blinked. “Keycard?”
“Don’t play dumb,” she snapped. “Last night, while you were being locked in for the night, you picked the guard’s pocket. Where is it?”
I just stared at her. “How did you see that?”
“I was…doing some unauthorized exploring.” Sure enough, I glanced at her hip- she had a mechanical key ring that I doubted was given to her voluntarily. “Saw the whole thing on surveillance video. But that was ten hours ago, and I bet you’ve moved it since then. Where is it?”
“You… saved me,” I said, still trying to figure this out. As I glanced around in the light, I saw flame nozzles set in the floor and walls- I’d ended up in the incinerator. She’d probably made sure it wasn’t lit.
“Stop messing around. Where is it?” she demanded, drawing her gun. She pointed it at me and removed the safety catch.
“I’ll shoot,” she warned. “I honestly don’t care if you live or not.”
I sighed. “It’s still in my pocket.”
She leaned over, grabbed it out, took a moment to verify its authenticity and then turned to go.
I was in the incinerator, any second now the entire prison would be searched, my hands were still bound and the broken rope was dangling annoyingly around my neck. But I could fix that- Andra had been careless when she leaned over me. I fingered the key ring silently as she climbed out. “Bye,” she said offhandedly.
“Andra,” I said. She stopped but didn’t turn around. “I don’t get it. One day you turn me in, the next you save my life. Whose side are you on?”
My sister turned and smiled deviously at me before disappearing. “Mine.”