by Rebecca Thomas, Age 16, United Kingdom
The fiction prompt for November was to include the line: “She watched with fear and anticipation running through her veins.”
The Sun Rises in the East
She watched the sun rise with fear and anticipation running through her veins. Fear, of course, was now a familiar, if unwelcome, background to everyday life. Krysia was used to it.
Anticipation and hope were new.
There was rarely a reason for hope in the camp. Every day was spent much the same way as the one previously, and the one to follow: roll call, work, roll call, sleep, occasionally punctuated with a meal or random execution as the guards saw fit.
No reason for any hope of any kind. Though maybe that was about to change.
As Krysia trudged up the valley with the rest of her bunkhouse, carrying only her pitchfork and canteen, the mist that congealed throughout the forest like spilled blood was gradually burned away by the hazy sun. It was almost symbolic, Krysia thought. A beacon guiding her away to the East.
As the group rounded a corner, the guards suddenly halted as one. Krysia rose onto her toes to see. Before them, a cart had spilled over, its occupants uselessly trying to right the heavy vehicle while their mules stood patiently nearby. Although Krysia couldn’t make out their features and probably wouldn’t have recognised them even if she had, some part of her knew instinctively that this was the signal they’d been told to wait for.
Krysia glanced at her work partner, Aron, who surreptitiously slid his hand under his threadbare shirt to retract a mallet, usually used for driving stakes into the ground. Her throat turning dry, Krysia clenched her pitchfork.
It came not a minute later, as the guard nearest Krysia swore in exasperation and began to move towards the head of the workforce. The tallest farmer straightened and doffed his cap with an air of excessive gratitude as the group edged closer. His eyes seemed to meet hers as he replaced the cap and gave the slightest of nods. Krysia was already swinging her pitchfork as the “farmers” drew their rifles.
The next moments passed in a flurry of motion, noise, and violence. Screams of fear and exhilaration sounded almost identical as they rang through the valley to the background thump of gunfire and heavy objects cracking human skulls. Something caught Krysia in the side of the head, sending her reeling with an inarticulate cry of surprise and pain. Darkness rushed into her vision as she hit the ground; all the voices and gunshots faded into a barely perceptible murmur at the back of her mind.
It seemed an eternity until she surfaced from the murky darkness.
Krysia’s cheek pressed into the hard ground; her mouth and eyes were full of dust. Half expecting a bullet to embed itself in her brain the instant she moved, she rolled over. When she had completed the agonizing rotation, there was still nothing: no gunshots at all, directed at her or otherwise. The area had fallen silent.
Her pitchfork wasn’t visible, though it could easily have been on the other side of the uniformed corpse that lay not a foot from Krysia’s face, its lifeless eyes staring back into hers. It wasn’t disgust that made her rise–she’d seen enough bodies over the past months–but a pressing need for a weapon.
The area was a battlefield. The dust was a continuous dark red, only interrupted by the dozens of contorted bodies and blood-stained weapons that littered the ground. Mist was still hanging in the air, and its tendrils had begun creeping onto the road, curling around each of the dead in a ghostly embrace.
The entire world seemed deserted.
There was still a danger, of course, that some guards had escaped the massacre.
The pitchfork lay next to a familiar prisoner lying face down on the unforgiving earth, a small red hole at the base of his skull. There was no remorse or sorrow as she knelt down to pick up the tool from Aron’s side. She’d seen enough friends die before, and there would only be more in the future. She couldn’t afford to get sentimental.
With the pitchfork in her hands, the surrounding foliage didn’t seem quite so foreboding. She didn’t even cast a last glance at the scene behind her before pinpointing the wavering sun above and following its lead through the dense trees.
There was no guarantee that the East would be better–there never had been. But as she made her way through the murky forest, she felt something rise in her chest.
Rebecca says, “I love to write because of the different worlds and people you can create.”