In today’s episode of Chuck Wendig made me write it, I was given a choice of ten titles and told to go forth and write a story to match one. Go here to see the list of titles and what other writers have created. Here’s my story.
Sometimes we leave bits behind. Pennies. Stubs of pencil. Bites of bread. Things we tuck into our pockets to save for later. Things we forget about, at least on the surface.
The things are shaken loose when the rope snaps tight, our weight heavy on the noose. The rebound bounce of our bodies frees the prizes. Or the rustling of the boys as they swing our bodies, cut the rope, drag us away.
Sometimes we leave. But our bits are there, lying on the ground. In the pit.
It’s disgusting. The waste. Worse, the attitude. Helena and her boys have so much that they can’t be bothered with the bis we leave behind.
We pick up after ourselves.
Today I watch. Like always. Yes, our presence is mandatory. But most of us avert our eyes, or just turn our gaze inward.
Most of us can’t bear to watch.
There is no way to avoid the sounds. The smack of wood on wood. The rush of skirts falling through air. The sharp crack of spine.
I find it easier to take if I can see the drop. I can blot the sounds a bit if my eyes are full.
Plus I can see the bits. See what falls, where it lands.
I am careful to keep my eyes away from her face as she stands waiting for the floor to drop. Meeting Sarah’s eyes would only speed the cycle. So I watch her hands. Sarah’s fingers twitch, memories of the signs and symbols that put her in he noose dancing through them.
My hands echo hers. I clamp the damp fabric of my skirt to silence them.
The floor finally falls.
I watch the hem of her skirt. A bounce. A continued sway.
Two objects fall from her to the pit below. Two bits of Sarah. Two bits of us.
I stand silent and staring as the crowd filters away, the sea of skirts retreating home. The boys come then, joking and jostling as they pull Sarah down, cut her free, drag her away. They don’t notice the single skirt still standing in the square.
Once they are gone, I slip forward, slide down into the pit. A glint of silver catches my eye. I let my fingers graze the surface of the the soil, the water, the fluids and lift the shiny.
I polish it on a fold of my skirt and turn it on my palm. A small mirror. Twice the size of a penny. Infinitely more valuable. I lift it to my lips and press a kiss to the glass. Into my pocket it goes.
Two bits fell.
I scan the muck, looking for the missing piece of Sarah. I don’t see anything. No sparkles. No shines. Not even a nub of brown bread.
Just mud. Endless mud.
I shuffle forward, sifting with my naked toes. Grit. Slime. Nothing with any sort of form. Nothing of substance. Nothing of Sarah.
Where is it?
I lift my hem and drop to my knees, plunge my hands deep. I close my eyes, let my fingers do their work. They dance, sing, call through the soil until the bit is in my hand.
I have Sarah back.
I open my eyes and smile, lift my face to the straggling rays of the sun.
“Oh, looky. Another one.”
My smile drops away. Two of Helena’s boys stand at the edge of the pit.
They watch as I scramble out of the pit, slip the bit into my pocket, smear the slop from my hands onto my skirt.
Then their hands are on me, wrapped tight around my arms as they pull me away.
I wonder which of us will come to retrieve my bits.