Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)
TITLE: The Crime, the Criminal
By Carol Sprock
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“Emmee, Emmee,” her son mewled hoarsely, and she could almost see the sound rippling through the atmosphere, causing the speakers to burst out a painfully grating screech. Somehow the crowd became even stiller, and the silence grew into a writhing being. Micker’s orange-speckled, velvet green ears flip-flopped every which way. Torn from the red, red meadow of their valley, he could make no sense of what was happening.
“Shh, shh, Micker. Don’t draw attention to us.” The late afternoon sun cast a dark shadow where she and Micker were staked by an enormous granite column. Scattered about the arena were her friends, the ones who had whisked her to unexpected safety. Two years ago, when she could no longer hide the dark freckling which spread across her body, she had been served notice of Admin’s order to report for cleansing of the unlicensed pregnancy. That very night, following heart-prompts from Yishvre, she had triggle-raced away with no idea of where she could hide but thereby committing the crime always punished by slaughter-hold. She now stood condemned for flouting the Mandate, for running and not being still for cleansing.
She shook herself, jingling the chains in dismay. What was she thinking? This was no way to be alive. She joined in as the other Vree triggle-hopped, defying the Mandate, buzz-whistling, worshipping Yishvre, the forbidden god above all gods, of which there were none, the one who had led her and her rescuers through riddle-rumors into the fragrant, verdant shelter of the fabled valley of Tringtonia.
Then the speakers pinged a single, solemn tone, and the mute crowd stood as one, raising their arms as if in a giant salute before hurling sling-jacks at the Vree. All seven of her ears pricking outwards at the sizzle-whine descent, she firmly knocked Micker to his knees beneath her blue-striped chest, frantically wrapping herself around and over him. Confused by the swathe that signaled sleep time, he vibrated in place, murmuring raw-sharp emmees to her. Ducking her head over his, she burp-honked, “Shout, shout, my precious one. Be free and alive.”
A sling-jack ripped into her right shoulder, releasing its malodorous ink-gel. Ignoring the aqua rivulets burn-slicing into and beneath her hide, she immediately began shabahting Micker, her tongues clicking rapidly across his face and ears, her tail and arms flickering along his body. With relief, she determined he had only minor acid gashes; she had prevented the poison from penetrating the under-skin of his hide. He had survived the first wave of slaughter-hold, but what about the next? Her esophagus was already wrinkling into itself as the jack did its work, eliminating her voice box as it invaded her first lung. She tail-stroked Micker like she had when he was the tiniest of all soft-hooved foals.
Shout, shout, loveling. Be alive; be free, she mouthed to her child. Her breaths slipped into wheezing gasps, signaling the jack-acid had entered her third lung. Soon she would be slaughtered. If only Micker could be saved—oh Yishvre, spare my son.
Crumpling to the ground, she watched a dozen breakers suddenly dart into the arena. The Springtowian Vree must have heard of their capture. One broke away, air-scooped Micker into its belly, and whizzed from the stadium. Ahh, Yishvre, an if-only for Micker. All shouting and living be to you. More sling-jacks thundered into the air, and a breaker caught in the bombardment slowly drip-melted away.
The wheezing stopped and the inner veil locked over her blue-gold eye. Slaughtered. Into the vibrating, sparkling silence, she heard Yishvre’s crescendo-bellow, “Shout, shout. Be free, my loveling, and alive with me forever. Shout and triggle-dance!”
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