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svgfahmesvgJune 16, 2022svgFiction

The Killer Literature

As a would-be doctor, splashes of blood weren’t supposed to be a gruesome sight to Ema. Though she has seen and handled blood so many times at the trainhouse, they never showed anything in the night yet. Now that she had come of age, they would train her night as well. But she had just made her debut before they had the chance to be the first one. To her surprise, Ema noticed that the color of the blood feels a shade different than usual when splashed in front of fire, under a moonless night. The surprise didn’t last one full second though, for she was way too numb to entertain a surprise anymore.

The sorting ceremony & the punishment for suicide

“I will definitely end up as a medic.”, Ema told Brahim as they climbed up the ladder of the basic trainhouse. Today is their last day in this house. They have received their basic training for the last few years here. Now that they are on the verge of reaching 12 years of age, they will get promoted to the advanced trainhouse. But before that, the division ceremony will take place. “I hope to get sorted in the group of administrators, of course”, Brahimi helped Ema to leap over the final thread of the rope, as he had already pulled himself up slightly before her. “Come come, the ritual is about the start”, a golden-haired boy was waving excitedly towards them. He had bright blue eyes and felt a bit intimidating at the first sight. “Hello, Nero”, smiled Ema. Brahimi gave Nero a high 5, among boys this is very common. Together, they moved among the kids who are just one year shy from their teenage. Today, they would be divided into 6 sections- administrators, soldiers, farmers, medics, engineers. They will receive only subject-specific education for the next 7 years in the advanced trainhouse. Most of them would be put into the army. After all, in this world, the army is the key to everything. There are more than 100 clans in this post-apocalyptic world.

They have learned in their basic trainhouse that the foolish ancestors of humankind blew this planet up. Sadly, it didn’t happen due to the clash of enemies. Rather it happened after some clinical betrayal among some allies. The whole system broke down and most of the people on the planet died. Those who lived established their own clans and made sure that there are no friendships among those clans. There is absolutely no relation among the clans, not even the neighboring ones. You make your own food and tend to the people of your clan. If you don’t have enough resources, you invade another clan. Due to the lack of resources, there are some inbuilt mechanisms to keep the population in check. For example, any crime was punishable by death. There was only one judgment- guilty or not guilty. If someone is proven guilty, he has to die. “See, Ema got chosen as a future medic, she always thought she would be this”, Brahimi said to Nero. They were watching enthusiastically as Ema was coming back with a smile on her face. “Yeah, she will have the duty to make sure nobody has more than 2 children, haha”, Nero said. It is officially banned to bear more than 2 children. Also, if somebody bears more than 2, a gruesome fate awaits them. “She would better do her job well, else you will have to do that dirty thing to those extra children,” Brahimi winked, “What? You would definitely be a soldier! I know it! Everyone can sense it.” Nero felt solemn. Soldiers are the most privileged group among all. They lead the society, for obvious reasons. They keep the clan in shape, maintain order, acquire or loot other clans, and protect their own.

Brahimi was right. Nero got selected as a soldier. Brahimi would be starting his training in the advanced trainhouse of engineers. Three friends have got what they expected. This calls for a celebration. So, they chose to rush to the cave they discovered during sunset yesterday.

As soon as they reached the clan square, they stopped. There was a gathering of some sort. “What happened?” Nero asked one of the bystanders. “The only child of the Ruster family has killed himself,” he whispered under his breath. “Ah, apocalypse”, bellowed Brahimi “Now they would send the parents away to the border as part of the rule.”

“I think it’s barbaric”, Ema sighed. “Why would you send the parents for slaughter on the very day when their only child commits suicide?”

“Part of the policy for containing the population, you know”, Brahimi always knew what to reply. “Also, they are taking the pain away immediately. They don’t have to suffer too long. Weird rule, but makes sense if you consider the situation of the clan. We don’t have enough resources to feed the growing population, and rules are rules.” Nero seemed to agree with Brahimi here.

“You can say that, Nero. You are not the only child in your family. Some of us are!” Ema seemed furious as she led the way out of the square. “Why is she mad? You are also the only child, Brahimi, not only her”, Nero kept his voice down, not wanting to cause another outburst from Ema. “I’m awesome!”, Brahimi grinned and hurried along in reply.

The cave

The trio would always find solace in adventures. They were known for sneaking into here and there together, having fun (cause mayhem), and leaving without leaving a trail. They have discovered many interesting things in some of the caves they have found. These all were the underground safe houses before the apocalypse. Once they got a skeleton of a small size cow. It should be almost 1/10th of the baby cows. It had only one solid bone, that was in its head. “Weird body structure”, said Ema. The other day they had found a rectangular object made with glass and plastic. They didn’t understand, but Brahimi had guessed that it must have been some sort of boards to write stuff on. But who uses glass to write things? Glass is valuable!

Today’s cave, well, it has surpassed all the previous experiences. “Look, there’re more books here!” Nero was pointing to another trunk Ema just opened. “It says… bestselling N-o-v-e-l. What in the name of apocalypse is a novel?” Nero shrugged. He had no idea. “I have got a few in here”, Brahimi said. “Book of P-o-e-t-r-y. What is poetry?” Nero shrugged again. Books would be on practical things. Farming, Engineering, military, medicine, etc. There were no books in the central book depot of the clan. Brahimi started pacing in the cave, reading a few pages. “Well, I think I have figured it out.” Ema and Nero rushed in. “What is this? What are these?” Ema’s eyes were glowing in interest. “These are the books that our founding fathers banned.” Nero frowned, “You mean… they are in the segment of arts?”. “Yes I’m afraid so”, Brahimi said. “Useless things, they used to turn people insane. They are one of the reasons that caused the apocalypse. People got affected by their made-up words and acted irrationally, without logic’’.

“Always the history lesson, eh? Shut it!” Ema snapped. “I am taking a few of these ‘n-o-v-e-l’s with me”. “I am interested in the section Brahimi discovered”, Nero said. Brahimi seemed a bit blank, “Umm.. I’ll take a bit of both but guys, should we be doing this? I mean, we do our own quick adventures once in a while and we are good at those, but these books will have to stay with us for a time, and if we get caught with these banned books…”

“Oh, Brahimi!” Nero smirked. “Your soldier Nero would protect you!”

“You are not a soldier… yet. You will start your advanced training only tomorrow.” Brahimi replied.

“And you are not an administrator yet as well. Come on, let’s not worry about this now. Let’s grab these and go.”

“Yeah, we can take turns in reading them. The amount of books we have in here is huge!” Ema had dreams in her green eyes.

The courting by combat

Ema is turning 18 today. It is a bittersweet moment. She would be starting her practical training and be ready for real-life challenges. Practical training is the highest level of training that is given and it takes place at night. But albeit the excitement, this would have to wait one more night. Because tonight, she will get married. Girls are considered eligible for courting as soon as they are 18. Everyone knows it, so, Ema had time to prepare herself mentally. Even so, she was tense. A marriage means, somebody might have to die today. She walked slowly towards the notice board of the arena where the ceremony will take place. “Ceremony! Huh, more like a slaughter,” she thought to herself. The rule was, when a girl/ boy came of age, suitors can demand their hand immediately. But if they are more than one, they have to fight each other to death in the arena while the would-be-partner watches. That’s the ritual. Ema reached the black notice board and noticed 7 names in there.


That means 6 people have to die today!

Because of the system…because of her.

Before sadness could take a grip on her, something else happened. She jumped.

It..can’t be.

Her best friends for years and buddies in adventure — Nero and Brahami both had wanted her hand in marriage.

Luckily Ema could catch Brahimi for just a moment before entering the arena. He had a couple of long knives held by fancy straps around his waist. Ema scolded him immediately. “What in the name of the apocalypse, Brahimi?” Brahimi cocked his head, “What, didn’t you know that I fancy you?” Ema snapped, “It’s not about that, you fool! Nero is also on the list! All these years of friendship… now you’re just gonna kill each other? That too, over a friend of yours?”

“Over a pair of green eyes, Ema.” Brahimi was smiling mysteriously as he waved her goodbye, “But yeah, look out for surprises! You never know what’s gonna happen!”

Ema was still in shock as she took her seat on the top chair among the audience. She was frantically searching for Nero. Perhaps she could talk him out of this madness.

Nero was confident. He had been one of the finest with swords in the training house. He was expected to be a capable soldier soon. There were a couple of senior soldiers in the fight as well. But Nero had a plan. He entered the arena, a hand rested idly on his sword butt, looking confident. As a would-be-soldier, he knew that he couldn’t show his tension on his face or posture. It would only weaken him. He wasn’t tense about the fight, he was rather nervous about the aftermath of his other plan which he didn’t disclose to anyone. A big surprise was on the way.

Ema became stiff as she watched 2 of her best friends getting ready for the fight to begin. It almost felt..unreal. All her childhood and teenage years flashed in her memory. Even after they had been sorted into separate training houses 7 years ago, they continued their friendship, doing little mischief once in a while. And then, there were those books.. poetry, novels, and other things. They were called “literature”, they have learned from the books. They took turns to read all of them. They wanted to get rid of the books after all of them finished reading. But Ema wanted to keep them to read once in a while. So, they made a system where every month one of them keeps them in their possession. Rather get exposed alone than get everyone executed. All these memories, secrets… now they are at each other’s throats? For what? Ema shivered as the fight commenced. There was a medic among the 7 suitors. He fell first. The 2 soldiers were definitely the top among all others. But in a mess like this where every fighter is up against 5 others, it is difficult to call a favorite.

Brahimi watched from a distance as the soldier yielding the massive hammer put it down over the head of the other boy who was supposed to an administrator. The boy had a good looking face even before 5 seconds, he thought to himself. On the other side, he saw Nero in a 3-way clash against a senior soldier, and a sour-looking farmer. 2 down, 4 to go. He glanced at Nero. It is time.

Nero dodged a blow from the senior soldier and leaped towards the farmer, trying to get him down. The soldier sensed his window. A smile came into his mind as he juggled his sword. It is a long one and he knew he could pin both Nero and the farmer together to the ground with it. He was probably a bit too occupied with the happiness of the opportunity presented. So, he didn’t notice the light shadow which jumped with a couple of long knives from behind, dipping them deep into the two sides of his neck. His smile didn’t quite vanish from his face as his body fell to the ground, dead.

Nero finished the farmer off and pulled himself up. The soldier wielding the massive hammer eyed them with visible disgust. He had finally figured out that Nero and Brahimi had been working together. But it was a little too late, maybe and the revelation only took seconds. “I will at least finish one of you rats!” he thought to himself as he charged towards Brahimi, the much easier target. And their dance began.

Brahimi couldn’t stop that monster on his own. But Nero’s quick well-directed slash saved his life as he rolled away. The soldier was good…really good. Even with their joint effort, it seemed like an impossible task. He would keep attacking both of them at a time as he swings that heavy hammer with ease. It almost felt like the hammer was a mere wooden stick, judging by the way he handled it. Brahimi couldn’t see an opening here. He didn’t have much of an experience regarding battle. Nero was the expert and he was hoping his friend would do some justice to his name. And Nero responded. He understood that they can’t hold this brute off for long. Already Brahimi had slipped multiple times and Nero had to save him there. He could only keep doing this for so long. Their foe should have more stamina for a good amount of time. If they kept defending, chances were they would get knocked off by any directed or even offhanded, strong blow. Biding time was risky, so Nero took a different path. He attacked.

The viewers sitting around the arena grew loud. It seemed as if they wanted to compete with the cringy sound of metal crashing with metal in front of them. Nero was fast, but his foe was skilled as well. He parried away all of Nero’s attacks one by one. Nero stepped back and glanced sideways for a split second. Brahimi picked up the signal. He tried to attack from the side. Their foe was ready, and he raised one of his legs to kick Brahimi off. Exactly at this moment, Nero brought down his sword, with all his might, he knew the soldier would block the attack with his hammer, and he did. But this time, without pulling off the sword and striking a new blow, Nero pushed with all his strength on his sword. But as he was partially occupied with Brahimi on the side, one of the legs was already in flight, he couldn’t stand uptight with the demanding blow. He lost his footing and fell.

Nero didn’t take even a second to bring out the small dagger hidden in his waist and dipped it deep inside the chest of the fallen man. Brahimi let out a sigh of relief, it did work, after all! I didn’t go exactly how they had planned it, but the outcome was achieved anyway. Nero left out the dagger to finish sucking the life out of his victim, stood tall, and nodded towards Brahimi. At that moment, Brahimi felt a sudden chill across his spine.

The plan ended here. He didn’t know what would happen. Nero had told him that he won’t let Brahimi die and requested him to assist him in killing the other contestants. Brahimi didn’t have much of a choice. He wasn’t a professional fighter. Without Nero’s help, he was almost as good as dead before the brawl even began. He knew that and he trusted Nero. Nero moved towards the direction where Ema was standing with her hands over her face, trembling slightly. “Don’t worry, Ema,” Nero spoke, “Everything will be alright.” He then turned his face slowly around the arena- towards the spectators. People from all sections were there. It’s the perfect audience. Nero reached inside his battle robe and pulled out a small book. Even from such a distance, she could identify the book. After all, it was her favorite poetry book.

To everyone’s horror, Nero opened the book and recited a poem about love in a ghastly voice. Then he closed it and looked up towards Ema. “All my life I have loved you. We have a society where literature is banned. But we have no problem killing each other off on a daily basis in the name of preservation. Why can’t we have a society where a person can simply express his/her love towards someone normally? I can’t and won’t kill Brahimi, he is our friend. I have expressed my love for you. Now you decide, would you choose me, Ema? After all. You also love po-”

The dagger ran straight through the vocal chord of Nero. He couldn’t finish the words, nor the sentence. “Can’t let him drag us in his shit as well, no one needs to know that we know poetry as well”, Brahimi thought to himself as he got the dagger out of his friend’s throat whom he just murdered. It all happened in a matter of seconds. Brahimi murmured, “Sorry, mate. It’s nothing personal, just.. self-preservation.”

He didn’t know how to do it, but he knew he had to. He had to give a speech.

“Can you believe it? He just uttered literature here! I can’t believe that I have been friends with such a blasphemous person!” He couldn’t look at the dead body though. But he couldn’t let anyone notice that, so he made the last part really short. “I believe I have done justice to our clan by getting rid of this evil person. Also, I have become worthy of Ema. I am the only contestant standing.”

But Ema… what would she think?

In truth, she couldn’t think. She fainted.

The Guilt Game and The Surprise

She would understand. She had to.

Brahimi was a bit scared as he entered the room. There was one possible outcome that was worrying him. It was a distant thought. As soon as he thought about it, he discarded it almost immediately.

Ema was sitting in the middle of the room, with her back towards the door. She wouldn’t face him?

“Look Ema, I don’t know what to say. I am sorry it had to be done. But what choice did I have? It was us or him.” Brahimi thought the best way to face this is by direct confrontation.

“It wasn’t us or him. He wasn’t going to kill you. Don’t you dare speak about him that way!” Ema snapped without looking towards him.

Okay, that was a good sign, at least she was speaking.

“Oh, so you have to swing a sword to kill someone in this clan, right. What do you think authority would have done if they learned about our little secret regarding literature? He was just about to tell this to everyone! All 3 of us would have been slaughtered after that! Would you love that ending instead? ” Brahimi had his answers ready.

Ema turned around, slowly. She stood up at the same time. “Nero trusted you. You broke that trust. For what? A girl like me? How do you think I’ll live with that guilt?”

Ema was holding a knife firmly at her belly.

Brahimi’s wild guess has come true. Ema was always against suicide, especially when she knew how the clan treats the parents of the only child who had committed suicide. She was furious regarding watching a ceremony when The Ruster family fell victim. She would never do that to her parents. Maybe the grief, the shock had taken over her. Brahimi had to stop her. He jumped towards her…

… and made the greatest mistake of his life.

Ema flipped the knife. It caught Brahimi mid-air. Ema knew exactly where to strike. She was a would-be medic, after all.

“That’s how I will live with the guilt, knowing that I have avenged him. I will frame this as suicide and you will suffer.” Ema’s voice was cold as ice.

“Ah, apocalypse. I thought it would be a Romeo and Juliet, at worst.” Brahimi was dying.

Ema watched as life slowly popped out of those dark eyes of Brahimi.

“Nah, it was a thriller, I never liked a romance. Tell this secret to Nero. He also didn’t have a clue.”

Ema sighed. “Clueless, foolish romantics. They have been perishing since the beginning of ages, before the apocalypse and beyond.”

The surprise happened for one second. Then it was gone. Blood kept flowing like tears, not the other way around.

svgMistborn Mysteries: Shock Checklist
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