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Creative Writing

The Corruptibles

The cool morning breeze caused the lilac curtains of the Labelle’s home to sway, blowing back into the bedroom where Monsieur Julien Labelle lied asleep. He had been away, meeting at the Salle du Manège with the Legislative Assembly until the early hours of the morning.

His wife, Alouette Labelle, waited patiently downstairs to hear the verdict of the meeting. Unfortunately, she had fallen asleep while waiting for her husband to come home. She had awoken just an hour ago, tucked into bed with Julien’s arm wrapped around her waist.

    Though patient, she couldn’t sit still. Her hands shook, she paced back and forth in the kitchen, and she continuously glanced towards the staircase. She wasn’t going to wake Julien up, but she craved the answer to her burning question. What was the verdict?

    She couldn’t stop thinking. All of the possible outcomes turning and twisting her mind over. What if he’s guilty? What if he’s innocent? What if he’s put to death?

    Alouette knew better than to hope. The past 10 years she had been hoping, all to be let down in the end. 

    She was happy with her new life. She was happy that the republic had been achieved after years of struggling with the monarchy. She was happy to have her loving husband. But, she wasn’t happy with herself. 

    Oncle Max for a long time had been the most important person in her life, even after she married Julien. She considered Oncle like a second father. Her father and Oncle Max were close, and both cared deeply for Alouette’s success. However, the two treated her differently alone.

    Her father, Gabriel Robespierre, allowed Alouette to have a tutor. Gabriel had the motivation to educate his daughters to the same level as his son. If they couldn’t have the same rights as him according to the government, they could at least learn the same things. 

    Oncle Max offered to be Alouette’s tutor. To young Alouette’s delight, Gabriel agreed. 

    The two studied the moon and the stars, how plants grow, and how the Americans had just recently won their revolution and were becoming their own nation. Oncle had always gotten excited when they learned about revolutions. 

    Alouette snapped out of her day dream as she heard the stairs creek. She looked over as Julien came down the stairs. His hair was disheveled, though he was dressed for the day. The dark bags under his eyes had become more prominent since the day before. 

    “Good morning,” She said, turning her attention back to the mixing bowl she had taken out when she first came downstairs. She had forgotten in all of her worrying that she was going to bake fresh bread. 

    Julien slowly walked over to his wife. He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, his chin resting on her shoulder. He lied his cheek against her dark golden curls.

    Alouette smiled, wrapping her arms around herself and placing her hands on his biceps, “How did you sleep?”

    “You wake up so early, my libellule,” he said, placing a gentle kiss on her collarbone, “I wish you stayed with me longer.”

    “Well someone had to wake up and make breakfast,” she teased, leaning her back against his chest.

    Julien smirked gently, glancing around them, “I don’t see any breakfast, libellule.”

    “Well, I was trying to make my wonderful husband a delicious meal…” Alouette trailed off,  leaning against her husband as he held her close. 

    After a few moments of silence, Julien could feel Alouette’s tense shoulders leaning against his chest.

“What’s wrong, Alouette?” he asked.

She hesitated, tightening her grip on his arms, “I… What was the verdict, Julien? What is going to happen to Oncle Max?”

Julien’s body became rigid for a moment, but he relaxed and continued to hold his wife. They had debated the answer for hours, but it became clear what they had to do. 

“Julien?”

“He’s going to be executed in 3 days, Alouette.” His voice was cold. 

Alouette stepped out of his arms, turning towards Julien and reaching her arms to his shoulders, “Executed? Couldn’t he just be imprisoned?”

“Alouette, it had to be done. He’s a menace. Thousands of people have died at his hand-”

“I need to see him.” She interjected. She stepped away from Julien and walked towards the front door. 

Julien followed her, reaching for her arm, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Alouette. I think that you should stay here.”

She continued towards the door, grabbing her black flats off the floor and sliding them onto her feet, “He’s probably wondering where I’ve been, Julien. You don’t understand, I need to-”

“Alouette,” Julien reached for her and grabbed her arm, “I don’t want you to see him.”

She turned towards him, taken aback by his strong grip on her arm, “What? Julien… He’s my-”

“I know he’s your ‘Oncle Max’, Alouette. But I told the Assembly that you cut ties with him.” 

“You what?” Alouette pulled her arm out of his hand and looked into his eyes, “Why the hell would you tell them that?!”

“Because ever since we got married they’ve been suspicious of us! Of you and your family! For god’s sake, Alouette, your uncle is a psychopath! He’s had 25,000 people killed because they were his enemies! I’m trying to help you! It’s not a good idea for you to go and see him,” Julien pleaded, “Please, for the love of god just listen to me for once. He is not a good man, Alouette. He’s never been a good man.”

Alouette stared at him for a moment, then turned away and pulled the handle on the door, “Don’t you dare talk about Oncle Max like that, Julien. He was a good man.”

“Alouette, get back in this house, I am your husband-”

“I don’t care, Julien!”

“Alouette! Listen to me, I am your husband!”

“I. Don’t. Care!” She shrieked. She left her husband standing in the doorway as she marched down the steps. She ignored him calling her name as she walked towards Place de la Revolution. It was the quickest path to Oncle Max’s house. 

Oncle Max had worked day and night for years to make the revolution as widespread and powerful as he could. Julien had seen how hard he was working. How could he change his mind so quickly? Her mind moved faster than her feet did. How could Julien be so wrong? Alouette would never marry someone who thought so poorly of her dear Oncle. Why did she even marry him in the first place?

As Alouette walked, she thought about Julien and the words he had said. Had Oncle Max been a good man at one point? Or was Julien right, that all of this time, he was putting on a show for her?

As she neared the Place de la Revolution, she passed the Salle du Manège. She stopped and looked up towards the building, and she was reminded of how she met Julien there. 

Her thoughts faded back to January of 1793, when the trial of King Louis XVI had come to an end. The King was to be executed by guillotine.

Alouette waited outside of the Salle du Manège for father and Oncle Max. Snow was falling slowly over the darkening city, the cold nipping at her fingers through her wool lilac gloves. She stood underneath a street lamp, the oil burning brightly. She hugged her books to her chest. Her hands beginning to warm underneath her arms. Snow stuck to her golden hair.

She watched as the front doors opened, and slowly men began to walk out of their meeting. Some were putting on their coats as they were exiting, eager to finally be leaving. Some worried glances were shared between men, but Alouette’s eyes only noticed as she scanned for her family.

She saw Oncle Max’s powdered wig before she saw anyone else. He stood out among the crowd, the only man in the meeting to still wear that type of wig. He was talking to a man that Alouette didn’t recognize –  a man with bold words and a smile plastered across his face.

Alouette smiled as she saw her Oncle, and she walked towards him as he stood with the man, the two still under the cover of the overhang. 

“Oncle,” Alouette said cheerfully as she approached him, “How was the meeting?”

He turned to her and smiled, “Hello, my dear. My, how long have you been waiting out here? Your face is all red.”

“Only a few minutes. How was the meeting?”

“The traitor will be executed in 2 days time.” Oncle Max was smiling wide “Finally, we’ll get the republic that the people of France deserve! No more monarch to push us around!” He turned back towards the man he was speaking to before, “Daniel, I’d like you to meet my niece. Alouette, this is Monsieur Daniel Labelle. We’ve been working together now for some time now.”

Alouette curtsied and smiled politely at him, “Bonjour Monsieur Labelle.”

Daniel nodded to her, taking her hand and kissing it gently, “Bonjour, Mademoiselle Robespierre. You’re just as lovely as your uncle said you were.”

“Thank you very much,” she smiled.

“There you are Maximillien. It’s not like you to rush out so quickly.” Alouette heard her father say. When he noticed her, he smiled and approached her. “Alouette, you’re never late, are you?”

“Bonjour Papa. I heard the good news!” Alouette smiled at her father and kissed his cheek, “The traitor will really be executed? The Jacobians succeeded?”

“In 2 days,” her father said, his teeth resembling the snow as he smiled, “Daniel, where is your son?”

“He’s coming, don’t worry. He forgot his gloves underneath his seat.” Daniel responded, his voice low and strong. He chuckled, “I told him not to make me wait too long.” 

The doors opened as if a strong gust of wind had pushed them. The last person to leave the hall was a flustered boy, his hair disheveled and his dark eyes wide.

“There you are,” Daniel teased, “Took you long enough.”

“I’m sorry, Papa… I went as fast as I could, our seats were rather far away,” The boy said, out of breath and pulling his gloves over his hands.

“It’s alright, my boy,” Daniel smiled, throwing his arm around his son and turning towards Alouette, “This is my son, Julien. Julien, this is Gabriel’s daughter, Mademoiselle Alouette Robespierre.”

Oncle Max smiled, “My lovely niece. She’s the girl I was telling you about, Julien.” He took Alouette’s hand in his own and brought her towards Julien. He was proud of Alouette and showing her off to a potential suitor was his way of showing it.  

Alouette could remember the other times that Oncle Max had tried to pair her with other gentlemen. He had always tried to play matchmaker for her, but he never quite succeeded in choosing the perfect match. Nevertheless, he continued to try and find the one for her. Alouette felt this was because he never found his match, and he didn’t want her to suffer the same fate. 

Oncle Max had always said he couldn’t find the one because no one could understand him when he spoke – that he was much more intelligent and women couldn’t understand what he would try and explain to them. 

Julien looked into Alouette’s bright blue eyes, and suddenly the flustered boy had become much more confident. He stood up with his shoulders pushed back, and smiled, “No, I haven’t had the pleasure,” He replied coolly. He took Alouette’s hand and kissed it, smirking gently up where she could only see, “and my, what a pleasure it is…”

Alouette’s blushed, smiling politely at Julien and quickly glanced over him.

He was taller than his father, but shorter than Oncle Max. He was pale but his cheeks were rosy from the cold. His dark hair was falling around his face, concealing his dark brown eyes that had many bags under them, much like he had been awake for days. But there was something about him that Alouette felt drawn too. Was it the dimples that appeared on the corners of his mouth when he smiled? Was it the spark of motivation she saw in his eyes as they were introduced? Whatever it was, Alouette enjoyed it.

“The pleasure is all mine, Julien.” She said, smiling up at him. She liked the confidence that filled him when he looked at her.

“Julien is one of the newest members to the legislative assembly,” Oncle Max began to explain, “He quite a bright young fellow. His father tells me that he is constantly studying his books when he isn’t out trying to make a change in our society.”

“I wouldn’t say that I’m that bright, sir,” Julien said with a chuckle. He hadn’t let go of Alouette’s hand.

“Oh hush,” Daniel replied, smiling at his son, “You’re a wonderful boy, Julien. I raised you to be so.”

“Especially becoming a Jacobian, my boy, it’s one of the brightest things you’ve done.” Oncle Max smiled between Julien and Daniel, “One day, you could be a leader in the new republic we’ll create. I’m sure of it.”

Alouette glanced up towards the large gold clock that sat at the top of the building. “It’s getting rather late, and the snow is becoming heavier..”

“Let’s get you home, Alouette,” her father said, looking to his brother, “Would you like to join us, Maximillien?”

“Please?” Alouette pleaded, looking up at him.

Oncle Max smiled, looking at Gabriel, “How could I refuse?”

Now, over a year later, she stared up at the same golden clock. She stood where Julien had kissed her hand. Alouette looked at her palms, smiling gently at the thought of when Julien first held them. 

Alouette loved her husband dearly. But sometimes he could be so stubborn. 

She pulled herself away from the building and began to walk down the sidewalks of the cobblestone streets. She took the same path that she walked when she and Julien were walking to the execution of Louis together just two days after they had met. 

His hand kept hers warm as they walked. The two had been inseparable since they had met. They joked together that Daniel and Oncle Max had planned all of this beforehand, but they didn’t mind. Alouette liked the bubbly feeling in her stomach whenever she was near Julien. She couldn’t keep herself away. 

The two entered the Place de la Revolution, where the massive crowds had already gathered. Though they were behind many people, they could see the guillotine from where they stood. 

Julien had Alouette stand in front of him so she could see better. He had an easier time seeing over the heads of the people in front of them. 

“Louis Capet, you have been found guilty of treason. Your sentence: execution by guillotine.” This echoed through the now silent square.

The two had watched Louis walk up to the guillotine. They listened to the blade fall on the monarchs neck. They watched Louis die – the monarch had been executed. They cheered when the world around them cheered.

The Jacobians, and the republic, had finally won.

Julien walked Alouette home from the execution, he was giddy with excitement. 

At the house, they met with Gabriel and Oncle Max. Both were excited, but Oncle Max was much more so.

    “This is a wonderful day,” He said, drinking the glass of wine Gabriel had given him, “The monarch is dead. The crown is dead. The republic is alive!” He laughed to himself and looked at Julien and Alouette, smiling, “Your love can flourish under a government that the people want!”

    Alouette smiled, blushing as well, “It is wonderful, Oncle..”

    Julien nodded in agreement, sipping his wine as well, “When shall the assembly create the new government?”

    “Oh, very soon, my boy,” Oncle Max was smiling wide and laughing. Alouette had never seen him like this before.

But now, Alouette stood staring. There were no people surrounding the guillotine.

For the first time in over a year, no one was there. The guillotine was empty. 

She took a deep breath, and she stepped into the square. She walked towards the guillotine. 

The Committee of Public Safety had been created after the death of Louis. Now that the republic had been achieved, someone had to take charge in the beginning. Oncle Max had become the leader of the Committee of Public Safety. Daniel had also become a member. 

This group had control over all of revolutionary France. Alouette listened silently as the revolutionaries cheered. They didn’t care anymore – France had a republic, and it didn’t matter who was in charge of it. 

Alouette was reminded of this as she walked deeper into the square. She could see Oncle Max’s house in the distance; all she had to do was get through the square. 

Her father didn’t like the Committee. 

“I love Maximillien, don’t get me wrong…” he had said, “But there’s something about power… it always goes to people’s heads.”

She looked at her father in disbelief, “I don’t think that’s true, father. I think Oncle Max will make the committee what it needs to be. He’ll be a wonderful leader.”

“I’m not saying that he won’t, Alouette, I’m just worried about him.” Gabriel looked towards Alouette, who was sitting at the dinner table reading one of the textbooks that Oncle Max had brought her, “I’ve already seen him begin to change.”

“What do you mean?” Alouette asked.

Gabriel sat down across from his daughter, looking at the textbook, “When I asked Max to become your tutor, he was more than willing. I wanted you to have a tutor so that you could expand that wonderfully bright mind that you have.” He smiled nostalgically at his daughter, “You’ve always been so smart, you know…”

“I don’t see what that has to do with Oncle Max and power going to his head, father,” She looked up from her book and into her fathers nostalgic gaze, “How does him being my tutor have to do with anything you’re saying? With power?”

“I’m giving you an example, darling. As your tutor, you two spent much of your childhood and your teenage years together. He always talked with me about your discussions that you had. All of those wonderful ideas you would share with him. He loved every session you would have together,” Gabriel’s smile faded to a frown, “But he took this as a chance to control you.”

“Papa, that isn’t true at all-” 

Gabriel interrupted her, looking into his daughters eyes, “You consider him more of a father figure that you do me.”

Alouette was taken aback by this statement, “Father, that is not true.”

“Max’s first power trip was taking the reins on your life, Alouette. He’s the one that taught you just about everything you know,” He gestured towards the book, “He took control of trying to find you a husband, to marry you off.”

Alouette down at her wrist, where the bracelet Julien had bought her rested. 

Gabriel stood up and walked to the other side of the table, sitting down next to Alouette. He took her hands in his and looked into her eyes, “I know, I should’ve stepped in sooner. I should’ve gained control of your life back sooner, and let you make the decisions you wanted too on your own. But don’t you see? You were his first power trip, Alouette, you were his first project.. and France, I’m afraid, is going to be his next.” He squeezed her hands in his, “I don’t want to lose my brother to the republic.”

She was silent, looking into her father’s eyes. 

She was silent to Julien during this time as well. He was enthusiastic about the Committee and what they could bring to France. Daniel was part of it, and one day he hoped to be too.

As Alouette walked towards her Oncle’s home, she looked to her right. Passing her was a group of soldiers. They marched in unison, with the same haunting beat. 

Alouette’s beloved Julien was drafted nine months prior to this day.

The Committee of Public Safety in August of 1793 made it mandatory for able-bodied, unmarried men between 18 and 25 to serve in the largest citizen army in Europe. The levée en masse, it was called.

Alouette could feel her eyes sting with tears, much like the day Julien broke the news to her. 

“They want to send me to the borders…” Julien had said, holding Alouette’s small hands in his, “I don’t want to leave you, Alouette, I love you…”

“Please… let me talk to Oncle, I’m sure I could do something for you…” She had been whispering. If she spoke any louder she would’ve erupted with tears. 

“There isn’t anything you can do… I’ve tried everything. I’ve begged Papa, I pleaded with your uncle… But, your father said there is one thing that you could do, my love…” Julien was looking into Alouette’s eyes, his hand gently caressing her cheek.

Alouette met her eyes with his. “What is it..?” She asked.

Julien kept hold of her hands, getting down onto his knee, “Marry me.”

As the soldiers marched past, Alouette gazed down at the small diamond ring on her finger, and the wedding band next to it. Her hands were shaking and her head was spinning as she stood in the square. 

Alouette watched the soldiers march past her. A few looked to her, to what she felt like were threatening glances. She was scared of them.

She was scared of them calling her out in the streets, scared of them arresting her just for being related to Oncle Max, and she was scared of what would happen to her after the execution of her Oncle.

Julien was right – the assembly had been suspicious of Alouette’s relationship with her Oncle. She could recall times where Julien’s friends gave her odd looks. Once Julien had told her to stop coming to the assemblies and waiting outside for them to finish.

“It’s because of Max, my love,” Julien had told her, “They believe that you may tell him who is untrustworthy, and perhaps that’s how he decides who goes on his ‘list’”. He held her hands in his when she looked away from him, “It wasn’t my idea. I told them that you had nothing to do with his decisions. But they would feel safer if you stopped coming..”

Alouette agreed to stay home and wait for Julien to return. It was the least that she could do for him – he never asked much of her. She could follow this one request that he had. 

She pressed on, however, staring straight ahead towards her Oncle’s home on the hill. She had to see him. She had to say her goodbye to him. No matter what he had done, she needed to see him. 

The shadow of the guillotine covered her face. She looked up towards the guillotine, and her heart stopped. 

The blade shimmered in the sunlight, the blood stains prominent  against the cold steel. 

And Alouette remembered why her Oncle deserved death.

“There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the rights of man…We must exterminate all our enemies.”

Oncle Max caused thousands of people to die. Thousands of innocent lives were ruined. Thousands of innocent lives were gone because of the man Alouette loved so much.  

Because they were his ‘enemies’.

“Virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent.”

The Reign of Terror lasted for eleven months. It began a month after the draft.

Everyone was scared. Maximillien Robespierre, during the assemblies of the Committee of Public Safety and the National Assembly, would call out the names those who were his enemies. He demanded to have them put on trial, “There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the rights of man. We must exterminate all our enemies!” He would call out. 

Alouette feared for what had happened to her Oncle, and why he was so afraid of the republic falling apart. 

At first, the members of the Assembly were excited to execute the enemies of the revolution. They changed their opinions of their fellow members, they changed their minds on their votes. 

The Reign of Terror started with a few dozen executions. 

As Alouette stared up at the guillotine, frozen in thought, she thought of the only execution that mattered to her. The last man to be executed by her Oncle’s hand.

Gabriel Robespierre. Her father.

The argument that night was one that Alouette would never forget. 

She had come to visit her father just about a month before. Oncle Max came to visit as well. It was the first time Alouette had seen him in months. 

His eyes were wide. His hands shook. He ate slowly. He was cautious.

He wasn’t Oncle Max.

Her father was silent as well. The three ate their meal as such. Alouette was the first to speak.

“Can you pass the pepper, Papa?”

Her father passed it slowly to her. He glanced towards Oncle Max.

“Why are you looking at me, Gabriel?”

“Because you’re my brother, Maximillien. I can look at you.”

“I don’t want you to.”

“Then why did you come to my house?”

“To see my niece, Gabriel.”

They sat in silence again. Alouette could feel the tension between them. 

As her father took a breath, Oncle Max looked towards him, “What? What is it now?”

“I think you need to take a break, brother.” Her father said. His voice was calm. He spoke slowly. 

“A break? Why would I need a break?” Maximillien barked. He spoke quickly. 

Alouette watched the two. She watched their body language, not listening to the words they were saying. Please, don’t escalate.

Her father didn’t move his hands. His body stayed in the same position, his eyes were fixed on his brothers face. He wanted to help his brother.

Maximillien stood up from his chair, the force knocking it down behind him, “You’re a traitor!”

Alouette snapped out of her trance and stared at her Oncle, shocked at his outburst.

“Excuse me?” her father stood up from his chair slowly, “Max – I want to help you. I just think that you’re getting a little excessive with the executions-”

“Of all people I thought I could trust… And now you’re turning on me! You’re turning on the revolution!”
    “No, Max, I’m not! I want to help you!”

Oncle Max turned towards the front door and began walking towards it, screaming obscenities. His whole body was shaking. His face was red. His eyes were angry. 

Alouette was scared of her Oncle. 

He opened the front door and turned back towards the two in the dining room. 

“You’re next, Gabriel! You’re next!” he yelled. He stepped out and slammed the door shut. The lilac flower wreath on the back of the door fell to the floor.

Alouette looked towards her father, who was still staring at the doorway. “Papa…?”

His hands were shaking, “Dear god…”

Alouette could hear the last words her father said to her echoing in her mind.

Dear God.

Dear God.

The guillotine never looked so threatening. 

The tears escaped Alouette’s eyes and fell down her face. 

Alouette fell to her knees, staring up at the guillotine and cursing at it. 

“Why did you change? Why?!”

She sobbed into her hands. Her body shook.

Dear God.

“Why did you have to kill him…” Her voice shook, and citizens walking by stared at her. 

Though some were concerned, they did not stop for her.

Alouette couldn’t recall how long she sat there. Her fingers began to prune from the tears. Her face was red. 

Alouette took a deep breath, her voice was quivering and she felt herself gasping for breath between the tears. Slowly, she forced herself to her feet. She felt paralyzed. 

She turned around and looked towards the homes outside of Paris. She wanted to go home. She wanted to go home to her husband and cry to him. He was right. He was right about her Oncle. He was right. 

Her feet were heavy, but slowly began to turn back on  her path and walk towards her home. Oncle Max didn’t deserve to see her. He didn’t deserve to see the girl who had loved him unconditionally until that day where he murdered her father with his words.

The further she walked from the guillotine, the heavier she felt herself become. 

She could hear her father in her ears. His voice was echoing.

Dear God.
    Dear God. 

Dear God.

Alouette stopped in her tracks and stared at the shops in front of her. It was her duty to her father to see Oncle Max. No matter how close Oncle Max had been with Alouette, she owed it to her father to tell her oncle how she felt.

 It was her duty to tell him that she was saying goodbye for the final time. 

It was her job to officially cut ties with one of the worst men in Paris. 

Alouette, now filled with this new found motivation to avenge her father, turned back towards the guillotine and ran past it. She ran as far as she could from the guillotine. 

She passed dozens of shops in the Place de la Revolution. She passed more the further she ran into Paris. 

The only shop she took into account was Mademoiselle Ethel’s Jewelry Emporium.

Oncle Max had bought Alouette a gift there when Alouette had married Julien. He had presented  his niece with a gorgeous amethyst and diamond necklace. Her favorite gems, and her favorite colors: Lilac and crystal. 

It was the last good deed he had done for her. 

Even now, as she ran through the streets of Paris towards Oncle’s, the necklace bounced against her collarbone, hidden underneath her dress. 

She saw his building approach in the distance. The gray bricks were cracked and falling apart. The windows were covered with white curtains. The black bars on the windows kept that seemed to shut the world out. His house was bleak. 

She slowed down as she approached. She took her time walking towards the large grim white door. The glass had been broken in that door for years. As she stood on the steps, she stared at the lion paw door knocker. The gold paint was chipping.

Alouette took a deep breath, and with her eyes closed, she picked up the knocker and slammed it against the white door three times. 

She waited, with her eyes shut. 

She felt as if an hour passed, with no response coming to the door. 

Alouette knocked on the door again and waited, this time with her eyes open. 

“Oncle?” She whispered to herself.

After waiting another few minutes, she knocked louder, and leaned into the door as she did.

“It’s me. It’s Alouette. Please, let me in. I need to see you.”

After a few moments, she heard the door click on the other side. Alouette looked down to the handle of the door and placed her hand on the fading gold paint. Slowly, she pushed the door open. 

The lights were off inside the house. When Alouette shut the heavy front door behind her, she had difficulty seeing. There was a faint candle glow in the room at the back of the house.

“Oncle?” Alouette called, glancing around the rooms around her. There were papers scattered across the floor. The large bookcase that stood in the front foyer of the home was empty now. All the novels, encyclopedias, and journals that filled it were scattered across the floor. Some were ripped, while others were tossed carelessly to the next room.

Alouette slowly walked towards the faint candle light. She was taken by surprise when her Oncle began to speak. 

“Alouette? You came to visit?”

“Yes, Oncle,” Alouette said, “I came to visit you. I need to talk to you.”

She watched as her Oncle stepped out from the candle lit room. His hair was dark and disheveled, as he was not wearing his beloved powdered wig. He was still in his night robe. His hands were still shaking and his eyes were still wide.

“Alouette, it’s been so long…” He approached her slowly as he spoke. He took her hands in his and looked down at her, smiling, “How are you? How is Julien?”

“He’s good, Oncle, I’m fine as well…” She allowed him to hold her hands, but she didn’t squeeze back when he did. 

“What brings you to come visit me?” He asked her, “Why now?”

“Because you’re going to be executed, Oncle. I needed to see you before…” Alouette looked up to him, her voice broke, “I needed to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye? Alouette, I still have a few days until they-”
    “I need to say goodbye now. Julien… I… I told the assembly I cut ties with you.”

Oncle Max’s eyes softened, the anger fleeting for a moment, “You what? Alouette…”

Alouette squeezed his hands for a moment, then let them go and took a step away from him, “I can’t be associated with you anymore. The assembly has been suspicious since Julien and I got married that I would influence him with your ideals…”

“But Alouette-”

“Please, Oncle,” Alouette pleaded. “I love you. I have always loved you. Since the day I was born you were my favorite. You were so good to me; I was your little prodigy. But… the revolution… The revolution changed you, Oncle.”

“It has not changed me, Alouette. I am still the same person I’ve always been. I don’t know why you’re-”

“The old Oncle Max would never have his brother executed!”

He looked at his niece, he tried to defend himself, “He was an enemy! He was going to-”

“He was not an enemy! He wanted to help you! He wanted you to do better!” Alouette could feel the tears pooling in her eyes. “You had him killed because he loved you. He only wanted to help you… That’s what he always taught me. To help those you care about. To help those who love you.”

“Alouette. You’re too young. You don’t understand.” He said, reaching for her hand, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She pulled her hand away, “I do know what I’m talking about. I know what my father taught me.” She took a deep breath and turned away, “I didn’t want this to go like this, Oncle. I love you. But I need to take care of myself now. I stayed up all night worrying about you. I haven’t slept for days. I defended your every movement and idea… And you… You just… Changed. You changed. You’re not the Oncle I loved.”

“Alouette, please don’t do this…” He started to beg, walking after her as she walked towards the door, “Please, stay. Talk to me. Talk to me, please, Alouette, you’re all I have left!”

Alouette opened the front door, looking into the bright sunny world outside of the dark house, “I’m sorry, Oncle. I can’t stay.”

She stepped into the light and turned to face him, and said her final words to him. “Goodbye, Oncle. I loved you.”

***

While this story is based on real historical events, all characters are to remain fictional for the integrity and preservation on the real world events.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Redemption

“Please, I can remake it.” Jaelyn was stood before Dr. Snow, Orion, Dr. Hyber, Andromeda, and Mars. “I can. I just need a night.”

            “Your project can’t be judged with the others,” Dr. Snow explained with no empathy in her voice. “You can’t.”

            “Why not? I’m not the one who destroyed it!” Jaelyn looked over all of them all and begged “I can get it done in a night. I can. And then it can be judged.”

            “Judging already started,” Andromeda explained. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other students if you got more time than they did.”

            Jaelyn felt the anger start to hit a boiling point. It had been since nearly the beginning of the school year that she had been working on her project for the International Space Society. How could they tell her now that it wouldn’t count?

            “It isn’t fair that my project got destroyed by another contestant,” Jaelyn retorted.

            “She has a point,” Mars said. “If she can get it done in one night, why shouldn’t we give her the chance to remake it?”

            “It was made at a professional level, Mr. Addington,” Dr. Snow cut in. “She can’t recreate that.”

            “I can,” Jaelyn added. “I can do it. Please.”

            Glancing between each other, Mars looked at Jaelyn and said: “Can you step out for a minute so we can discuss?”

            Jaelyn nodded and walked out the doors behind her.

            She couldn’t hear what they were talking about inside the room. Even if she could, she felt like her heart was pounding in her ears. They needed to give her the chance. They had too. She needed a shot at winning this.

            Sure, there wasn’t any professional staff members there at this hour to help recreate the prototype. Jaelyn knew she didn’t have any idea how to recreate what they did, but she knew she had too.

            She didn’t work her ass off to get her scholarship for nothing. She knew she was capable – she was one of three people who got a 100% on the test. She got a 100%, the only one in her school for that matter, on the first draft of the prototype. She never let Tanner treating her like garbage stop her. His words were knives, but she pushed their pain and cuts deep into herself and kept the surface clean. She never let the garbage she lived in stop her.

            This was her only chance to get out of the slums of her homelife. She wasn’t guaranteed anything after secondary school was over, but with this internship she could get a full ride to university. She had to keep reminding herself that’s what she was putting all of her blood, sweat, and tears into. She needed to escape.

            Andromeda came to the door to let her back inside after a few minutes. She walked around the table and say back in her place. “We have decided that we will give you the opportunity to recreate the project.”

            Jaelyn felt a smile creep across her face “Thank you. Thank you-”

            “-However,” Andromeda continued, “You will get the blueprints that were created by the lab assistants. You have to recreate it exactly to what they made it. If anything is different, you will be disqualified. You have one night.”

            She nodded. “I can do that. I understand.”                

            “You will be supplied with the materials.” Dr. Snow stood up and adjusted her black turtleneck. “I will overlook the blueprints when you are done.”

            “Can I get to work now?”

            Dr. Snow nodded.

            Jaelyn looked at Mars. He was smiling at her. Jaelyn turned and walked out of the room, speed walking down the hall to where the lab was where her creation was built. She knew she had to get to work immediately if she wanted to finish before sunrise.

            She didn’t know what time it was when she took a break. There were no windows in the lab. The clock was behind her. She was too invested in the recreation to turn around. Even though she gave herself a break, she couldn’t stop looking at it.

            There were so many little pieces. Her project wasn’t much bigger than a refrigerator, but it felt like every little computer chip and the solar cell was the size of a blade of grass.

            Doubt began to creep into her mind. There was no way that she would be able to finish this before the morning. She wasn’t even a fourth of the way done, and she felt like she had been in the lab for hours. Her eyes hurt from straining them to look at the little pieces. No wonder three people built this together – one probably barked directions at the others.

            She heard the door slide open behind her. She didn’t care to look. It was probably one of the security guards going on their nightly rounds. They knew she was there. They would just close the door and leave.

            But they didn’t do either.

            Jaelyn waited to hear the door shut. When she didn’t, she turned and looked over to see who it was.

            Delta.

            “What are you doing here so late?” Jaelyn asked. She turned back to her work.

            “Orion told me about what happened,” Delta said softly. “I’m really sorry.”

            “Not your fault I was lied to by someone who I thought was my friend.” Jaelyn picked up a bolt and checked for the serial number.

            “He told me they’re giving you a shot at rebuilding it, too…” Delta stepped into the room and shut the door behind her.

            “Yeah. I have until sunrise. But there are so many tiny little pieces-” The bolt slipped out of her hand and rolled away. “Oh come on!”

            Delta picked up the bolt as it rolled to her feet. When she handed it back to her, Jaelyn noticed her outfit.

            White lab coat, non-slip shoes, and leggings.

            “Why are you coming into your internship so early?” She asked as she took the bolt. “No one is here. Just me and the security guards.”

            “I know,” Delta said as she sat down next to her.

            Jaelyn looked at her and asked, “What are you doing?”

            Delta pulled her hair back and tied it into a ponytail. “I’m going to help you?”

            “Why?”

            “Why not?”

            Jaelyn rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, considering Ember destroyed my project, I didn’t think anyone would want to help.” She added, “And, this is a competition.”

            “It may be a competition, but it’s not fair that your project got destroyed.” Delta slid the blueprint in front of her. “I want to win, but I want it to be fair. You deserve to be here as much as the rest of us do, you know.”

            Jaelyn looked at her and said after a moment “Thank you.”

            Delta nodded and smiled at her for a moment, before turning her attention back to the blueprint.

            It was easier with two people. Jaelyn knew what it was supposed to look like, and Delta had experience building similar inventions. Delta taught her how to install solar cells properly, where to stand when installing something above your head, and how to slide a wrench into the tightest of spots. The later the night became, the closer they got to completing the project.

            Jaelyn rubbed her eyes. She yawned and leaned back on the wall, overlooking the project. “I think we did it.”

            “We did.” Delta leaned back against the wall next to her. She stretched and said, “What time is it?”

            “I have no idea.” Jaelyn looked for the clock.

            Delta pulled up her sleeve. “5:23 AM.”

            “I haven’t stayed up this late in years.” Jaelyn half smiled and asked, jokingly “Is this what a sleepover is like?”

            Delta chuckled “I couldn’t tell you.”

            “There’s something we have in common,” Jaelyn replied. She overlooked the shiny metal exterior.

            “I hated you when I met you,” Delta said after a few minutes.

            “Because I smeared chocolate on your dress?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Ember convinced me that you were a bitch. So I took her word and hated you too.”

            The two girls laughed together.

            “You’re nice,” Jaelyn said.

            “So are you.” Delta looked at her and asked, “When all of this is over, we should talk.”

            Jaelyn didn’t say anything.

            “After,” Delta repeated, smiling gently, “so we don’t have to worry about the stress of this project anymore. Maybe… we could find out what those sleepovers are like.”

            “I would like that.” Jaelyn looked at her.

            “Then it’s a plan.” Delta stood up and said “I should go. If they catch me here, we’ll both be in trouble.”

            “Thank you again, Delta.” Jaelyn smiled at her.

            “Of course.” Delta smiled for a moment. She flattened her jacket, and she left the lab space.

            A few minutes passed when the door opened again. Dr. Snow walked in and looked at the creation in front of her. “Are you all done?”

            Jaelyn stepped forward and nodded. She handed her the blueprints.

            Dr. Snow took them and opened it. She observed the outside of the machine first. She examined the doorways, vents, bolts, and bracing. She looked at the inside after. Jaelyn swore she could see her counting the number of computer chips, which she knew there were hundreds of.

            It took longer than she expected for Dr. Snow to overlook every aspect of the machine. She even turned it on and listened to the way that it sounded. When she turned the machine off, she said: “You did it.”

            “I did?” Jaelyn smiled and asked, “So I’ll be judged with the others?”

            Dr. Snow nodded. “I will say, I am impressed that you were able to do this work in one night that took three people two weeks.”

            “I really want a shot at winning this.” Jaelyn rubbed her eyes and said, “Does this mean I can go home and go to bed?”

            “Mars has a futon in his office. Ask him if you can sleep there. Falling asleep on the monorail isn’t a good idea.” Dr. Snow placed the blueprints on the workbench. 

            Jaelyn smiled a bit. It was the first comment Dr. Snow had made to her that was a kind, genuine comment.

            She took the elevator up to Mars’ floor. She stepped out and knocked on his office door.

            He opened the door, smiling. He said, sounding chipper “Good morning, Jaelyn. Did you do it?”

            Jaelyn nodded.

            “Yes!” Mars smiled and continued “I am so proud of you.”

            She smiled, then asked “Can I nap on your futon? Dr. Snow told me that you had one in here.”

            Mars chuckled, and he let her come into the office. Jaelyn saw the small futon in the corner. Her body dragged her there, filled with exhaustion. She collapsed onto it and shut her eyes immediately. She was conscious long enough to feel a blanket be draped over her body, and a pillow be tucked under her head by a gentle hand.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Trials of Identity

The doctor standing above my body was smiling. It was all I could notice in the first moments of coming back into consciousness. There was a dull pain in the back of my head, sending waves of agony to the back of my eyes.

I closed my eyes again and felt the world around me begin to fade back into darkness. There was a shuffling of papers at the end of my bed.

*****

The next time I woke up, the doctor was gone. In his place was a tall nurse. Her hair was pulled back and I could see the blinding light above my bed glisten on her gray hairs. My eyes shut again, and I focused on trying to stop the spinning in my skull. The pain was still there. I couldn’t get it to go away.

I didn’t remember why I was there.

*****

When I woke up a third time, the nurse was next to my head, kneeling.

She spoke softly “Can you hear me?”

I glanced at her, unmoving. My mouth drooped open, but I couldn’t speak. I shut my lips and nodded slowly.

“The doctor will be in soon.” She looked at me and asked, “Do you want to go back to sleep for a while?”

I watched as the nurse walked around to the side of my bed. I tried to turn my head to watch her but found the pain in my neck prohibiting me to do so. Something brushed against my arm. I saw the little clear tube that stuck out of my skin. Was she added more pain killers? God, I hope.

 I faded back into the darkness and felt myself go weightless. I could hear her stand up and stride out of the room, her sneakers squeaking.

*****

“How are you feeling?” He asked me, a clipboard in his hands. The doctor smiled down at me and nodded as I spoke. When he came back to my bedside was a blurred memory now, but I was glad he was there. He scribbled down notes and muttering to himself, “Disoriented… pain… can you rate your pain for me? One to ten? Seven? Okay, I’ll write that down.”

The blonde nurse stood on the other side of my bed. I felt a gentle tug on my arm as she pulled on the IV attached to me.

“How about your drowsiness? Is that better now?”

I shook my head. It was difficult for me to even keep my eyes open. They would flutter shut and snap open every other second. Anytime I woke up from my inevitable slip into a nap, my head would be pounding. I thought I was dying each time. I would press the alert button over and over again. The nurses were sick of me at this point.

“Do you remember where you are?” The doctor asked. He pushed his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose.

I knew I was in the hospital. It wasn’t a normal hospital.

I didn’t have my own room, which I thought was strange at this point. I had been here for almost as long as my memory would allow me to know. The only thing separating me from the other patients was a thin beige curtain on either side of my bed. The one at the foot of the bed was pulled open so that the doctors could watch me. I didn’t know why they wanted to do that. I didn’t know much.

“So, you’re saying that you don’t remember much? Do you remember what procedure we performed?”

No.

“Not at all? Do you remember your name?”

No. Maybe something that started with a C?

“What is today’s date?”

February 23rd? Judging by the way he is looking at me, I must be wrong.

“It’s February 29th.”

There aren’t 29 days in February. Unless I can’t remember that either.

“Do you know what time it is?”

There’s no clock in the room. How am I supposed to know?

“It’s 9:30 PM.” The doctor scribbled something down on the clipboard and said without looking at me “You’re going to be staying overnight for observations.”

Fair.

The nurse came around to the other side of the bed, standing next to the doctor. She had her hair tied up as if it was a cinnamon bun on her head. God, when will they feed me?

“Your name is Cadence, dear,” Her voice was like honey. Specifically, honey used as a sweetener in tea. Why is my throat so dry? “Cadence Rockland.”

The nurse turned around and opened a neon green bag. I watched with half-lidded eyes as she proceeded to pull out what looked like a wallet. She slid out a card and handed it to the doctor, saying “Show her this.”

The doctor turned the card around for me to see.

The name of the girl was Cadence Rockland. She had black hair cut in a bob. Her eyes, though they were fuzzy, reminded me of chestnuts. She wasn’t smiling and her nose looked curved. I didn’t know why she wasn’t happy in the photo. Those pictures stay on your license for years, you should at least try to look nice. I didn’t know why she had that haircut either – it wasn’t flattering in the slightest.

The one this I did know was that the girl in that picture was not me.

The nurse gave me a funny look when I stared at the photo. “What?”

“That’s not me.”

“Very funny, Ms. Rockland,” the Doctor rolled his eyes and scribbled away on his pad.

“That’s not me. That’s not me.” I felt myself getting frantic. I knew that wasn’t me in the photo.

“Hmm…” the doctor rubbed his chin, turning to the license, and then he looked back at me. “You must be experiencing some side effects from the surgery.”

“It happens all the time, dear.” The blonde nurse came back over to my side. “Once you’re feeling better, you’ll start to remember.”

“That’s not me.” I looked up at the nurse. They had to have grabbed the wrong bag.

“This is your license,” The doctor said, examining me out of the corner of his eye. “On this paper, it says that your name is Cadence Rockland. Is that you?”

“That’s not me.” I didn’t know if the name was right or not. I only knew that it was not me.

“You seem to be experiencing amnesia, Ms. Rockland,” the doctor explained, “this is you. This is your license. It is in the bag that you put your things in before the surgery. You are the one who put that wallet in that bag. No one else.” His voice was beginning to slide. Or was it always that deep?

“That’s not me. It isn’t.”

The nurse leaned over to the doctor and whispered something into his ear. The doctor rolled his eyes, but he nodded. He placed down the clipboard on the tray furthest from my bed, and he said: “I will be back in a few minutes.” He left the ‘room’ quickly after, the nurse following him.

How did I get here? I don’t remember putting my stuff down. Where the hell did that green bag come from? And who the hell was that woman on the card? I could feel the pounding in my skull get louder, deafening my senses as I clutched the sides of my head. Who the hell was I? Why were the doctors lying to me?

They were supposed to be helping me, why the hell would they suddenly hide my actual identity from me? There had to have been a mistake. This isn’t how hospitals are supposed to be. I knew who I was, they didn’t.

I sat myself up and rubbed my temples, trying to alleviate some of the pain that was radiating through every inch of my body. The white blanket fell off the bed as I stood up, collecting in a pile on the floor. The thin yellow socks were barely protecting my toes from the shiver-inducing tile floor as I stumbled towards the green bag.

I looked at the ID in the wallet, again. Maybe I was crazy, and maybe I just could not remember what my face looked like. Maybe I was reacting poorly to the anesthetic that they used for the surgery. Yeah, that had to be it. It had to be that I just didn’t remember. Hospitals are supposed to help people, not hurt them. It must be a side effect, just like the good doctor said.

The picture still sent my stomach into a knot. I knew, deep down, that wasn’t me.

I gripped the edge of the bed and stared at the photo. They looked nothing like me. I knew they didn’t. If that was me, which it wasn’t, I hadn’t looked like that in a long, long time.

“Hon, how come you’re standing? The doctor said that you were barely able to get your eyes open.” I turned my head as the old nurse spoke. Her eyes matched her vibrant blue scrubs. She stepped towards me. “Do you need to go to the bathroom?”

I nodded. I needed to know who I was. I needed to remember.

“Well, let me help you walk, then.” The nurse came over and took my arm in her hand. Her palm was gentle, but her spidery fingers wrapped around tightly like she was suffocating me. The grip of her hand led me between the curtains.

I squinted my eyes and scanned the perimeter, keeping an eye out as to where my doctor could be. Or, whatever he is. I wasn’t sure he was a doctor anymore, or that this was a hospital. Why would they let me walk free like this if it was a hospital? Why wouldn’t they show me my actual ID, and show me someone who was trying to pretend to be me? None of this made sense.

The old woman pushed the bathroom door open and flipped on the light switch. She looked at me and said “Do you need any help? Or do you think you’ll be okay?”

I didn’t give her an answer as I stepped in past the threshold of the door, closing it behind me. I turned and faced the mirror at the sink.

The person staring back at me had gaunt-looking eyes. Their collarbone could be seen through the baby blue hospital gown. Their hair, while dark, was shaved and spiky along the top of the head. The look they were giving me sent chills down my spine. It was hopeless, with any sign of life drained away. Behind them, in the mirror, was a wall of swirling red water. I could only call it a river to hell. I was in hell.

I stumbled back, bumping into the wall behind me as I stared. I gasped, sinking down on the ground. I’m in hell. Oh, fuck, I am in hell.

“Everything okay in there?” I heard the old woman say. She knocked on the door.

After a few minutes, I heard another familiar voice on the other side of the door. “Cadence, you shouldn’t be up. You need to come back to your bed.”  The doctor sounded like an angry now. I leaned my body up against the door to try and keep him away. If I was in hell, then I didn’t want him anywhere near me.

“Ms. Rockland, open the door. Don’t make me ask again.”

I could hear them whispering through the door. Bits and pieces of their conversation came to me.

 “-them and get them here, now.”

“But won’t that upset-”

“I don’t care anymore. She is a danger to herself and the staff.”

My heart pounded against my chest. I was shaking and breathing heavily, finding it difficult to hold the air in. My throat and lungs burned. My arms began to tingle, radiating through my body until I was having my own mini earthquake.

It wasn’t hard for them to open the door once the key was placed in. The door was able to sweep me away towards the wall. The old nurse knelt down in front of me and looked into my eyes, asking “Are you ready to go back to your bed?”

“That’s not me.” I couldn’t stop shaking.

The two nurses, old and young, lifted me to my feet. My legs were like jelly beneath me, and the feeling of walking made it nearly impossible for the shaking to cease. I needed to run. I needed to get far away from this place, and they wouldn’t let me.

They brought me back to the curtained room. I lied in bed, and the nurses pulled the white blanket back over my body. The doctor stood at the foot of my bed, watching my every move.

“Now, Ms. Rockland, you need to relax.” He sounded like a father speaking to their toddler. “Further action will be taken if needed to ensure your safety.”

“That isn’t me.” I looked at the doctor and repeated it to him. “That wasn’t me. This isn’t me.”

The doctor smiled, with his pearly white teeth hiding a venomous snake behind them, and he stated: “You’re just having a bad reaction.”

I didn’t realize that the blonde nurse had placed a clear surgical mask on my mouth and nose. The last thing I saw before fading away into the comforting black abyss was his bright white smile.

*****

*This piece, though stemming from a true nightmare, is a work of fiction.*