Monday, August 31, 2009

Chapter Two

Dedicated to Serena, who thinks I can write.

We sat in squirming lines across the unforgiving concrete, whispering behind our pudgy hands to our neighbours. Our bright giggles and twinkling eyes hinted at colour and the sparkling individuality of youth, yet we were all identical: the same dreary grey pinafore; the unvarying tight plait snaking down our backs; the way we all responded to 'Sister'. Even the timid school teacher matched her students perfectly, marked out only by her age and her colourless cheeks.

‘Silence, girls!’ Her reedy voice was not enough to dispel the excited murmurs. She coughed delicately into her hand, and tried once more. ‘Girls! Attention, please!’

All eyes turned to her expectantly, and she bit her lip. ‘Welcome to your first day of school, class. I hope each one of you will work diligently at your studies here in order to become a functioning member of our society.’ Her voice was dull and passionless, as though she was reciting a well-learned speech. ‘We are all new here, even me…’ She paused to mop at her clammy face. ‘I expect you all to be on your best behaviour.’ We nodded in mock serious, all amused by her apparent nerves.

She paused for a few moments, recollecting herself, rummaging through her lesson plans. ‘Okay, girls. Today we’ll start off with reading.’ She picked up a stub of chalk and moved to the blackboard, almost stumbling over her own feet. The chalk screeched as she scrawled out two words.

‘Does anybody here already know how to read?’

My hand immediately shot into the air, my tender age allowing me to feel no shame in showing off. ‘I can, Sister!’ She nodded at me, beckoning me to stand up, and I scrambled to my feet.

‘Tuh… Heh… Eee…’ I felt the sounds vibrate in my mouth, the familiar vowels and consonants melting on my tongue. ‘The… Buh… Bruh… Brotherhood!’ I beamed at the teacher, proud of my accomplishment and expecting the same exultant praise lavished on me by my sister. But she merely gave a curt nod, and bid me to sit down.

‘The Brotherhood, girls. What is the Brotherhood?’

‘The Brotherhood is God’s own society, the sons and daughters destined for eternal life. We are the saved and the forgiven, we are the Holy Ones.’ The words fell smoothly from our lips, having heard them everyday at each church service from the day we were born. They were meaningless to our young minds, merely a chant, but they drew a slight smile from our teacher.

‘Excellent, girls. Now tell me, what lies beyond our walls?’

‘Beyond our sacred walls lies hell on earth, the pit of the damned, those who are destined to eternity with Satan.’

‘And how can they be saved?’

‘By forsaking their lives and joining the one true Brotherhood to work under the wisdom and guidance of our Leader.’

Her face creased into another smile; though instead of giving her features a sense of warmth and cheer, it made her seem distorted, even threatening. Her lips pulled back tightly, baring her slightly stained teeth, and her dark eyes squinted meanly: the face of someone who had forgotten how to laugh. My classmates recoiled from the sight, but I merely felt pity tug at my heartstrings, what was she like before she came here? What was her name?

She began to write again, but was interrupted before the chalk could even squeak against the board. ‘Oh, my…’

A row of cheeky faces lined the window which lay between the girls’ class and the boys’. A glance through the glass at the disorderly classroom showed that the teacher had taken her leave, foolishly leaving the young boys to their own devices. They pulled faces at us, their crossed eyes and poked tongues making us giggle and squeal in delight. Our teacher shook her head nervously, biting her lip as she hurried out of the classroom. ‘Boys! Boys! Settle down!’

With our teacher gone, a wave of chatter and laughter swept over the room. ‘They are so funny!’ shrieked one girl, bouncing up and down with delight, her blonde plait swinging wildly. She rushed to the window and stood on tiptoes, staring into the chaos of the classroom over. ‘Come look!’

We quickly joined her, our small faces peering over the windowsill, laughing wildly at our teacher’s attempts to calm the boys. She grabbed one by the shoulders, but he squirmed out of her grip and kicked her in the shins. We gasped and giggled, quickly bobbing down out of sight when she looked over to us.

‘They’re so silly!' The same blonde girl clapped her hands, almost overcome by mirth. ‘I hope they do that again and again and again. School is so boring.’ She heaved a dramatic sigh, and the class lapsed into silence.

‘We should have some fun!’ A petite redhead piped up from the back. ‘Let’s…’ She faltered. Luckily for our teacher, we weren’t as rowdy as the boys: a wave of schoolyard destruction didn’t appeal to us as much as it did to them.

‘I know!’ I grinned at the rest of the girls. ‘Let’s tell stories!’

‘You mean like the stories at church? About Jesus and stuff?’

‘No no no. Fairytales! Fun stories! Like Cinderella!’ My suggestion was met with a crowd of blank faces, and my smile faltered. ‘Rapunzel? Snow White?’ You’re never heard of them?’

‘Nope.’ The blonde girl frowned slightly, shaking her head. ‘But you can tell us!’

I grinned and motioned for them all to be seated. ‘Today I’m going to tell you the wonderful, magical story of Rapunzel!’ I scrambled onto a tabletop, spreading my arms dramatically. ‘Once, there was a beautiful lady called Rapunzel. She had the longest hair ever…’

I continued my tale in the same lavish fashion, swinging my arms wildly and acting out the characters’ dialogue. I could barely remember parts of the story, but improvisation served me well, and my captive audience didn’t notice. They stared in wonder, having never heard such a tale before. As I progressed, my acting became increasingly dramatic, eliciting laughter and gasps and shrieks from my classmates.

‘And then the prince said, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your –”’


The girls screamed and ran back to their desks. I stood paralysed with shock on my makeshift stage, staring at our teacher. Her formerly timid face was contorted with rage, and more red and flushed than ever before. ‘FIRST I HAVE TO DEAL WITH THOSE BOYS, AND NOW I COME IN HERE TO YOU… YOU…’

She grabbed me by my arm and pulled me down. I staggered and tripped, falling to the ground on my knees, shaking with shock and fear. She put her face close to mine, her cheeks once again white, her eyes flashing with anger. ‘What were you doing?’ Her voice trembled with rage.

‘I was… I was just telling a fairytale…’

The teacher cried out wildly, aiming a blow at my head. I ducked and pulled at her hand on my shoulder, attempting to free myself.

‘And where did your first hear that fairytale, my dear?’ Her low voice dripped with malice.

‘My… my sister gave me a book…’

She released me with a shove, and I made a hasty dash to the door.

‘Get out of my classroom, you stupid child!’

I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, barely noticing inquisitive students peeking out of classroom windows. My cheeks burned with shame as I sprinted, not knowing or caring where I was fleeing to, just knowing that I had to get away.

‘She did WHAT?!’

The school teacher cowered before him, her pasty face turning an even more startling shade of pale. She staggered a few steps back, frightened by the ferocity of his outburst. ‘She... She was quoting fairytales, My Le... Leader.’ She stumbled over her words, her expression a curious mix of terror and morbid delight.

‘The young blonde girl? The sister of... of her?’ He shook as he spat out the question, and the teacher nodded quickly, immediately understanding to whom he was referring.

‘She said her sister gave her a buh...’ She flushed red, and leaned in to whisper in a scandalised tone. ‘A book.’

‘DAMN HER.’ He shot out of his chair in a temper, grabbing the edge of his desk and overturning in roughly. It landed with a sharp crack on the cement floor, drawing a terrified squeak from the teacher.

‘Oh, get out of my sight, you foolish woman!’

She stammered out a hasty farewell, and fled.

Finally alone, he sank against the wall, clutching at his chest. He shuddered as he was overcome by wave upon wave of hoarse coughing, his lungs and throat burning. The fit finally subsided, leaving him crouched on the floor with fear, gazing desperately at the blood in his hands.

But no. There was no time to wallow in self pity. He needed to save his flock from that she-devil.

He hurriedly wiped his hands on a tissue, and surveyed the mess he had created. Oh well. That’s what servants are for. He shut the door with a smile.

He walked swiftly to her dwellings, with no need to ask for directions. He had traversed the route so many times in his dreams that it felt as though it was tattooed to the insides of his eyelids.

He swung open her door furiously, half wrenching it off its hinges. She stared up from her sewing, eyes wide with surprise. She looked so alluring, with her soft blond waves of hair cascading over her shoulders, her full red lips, her ethereal blue eyes...

Damn the witch.

‘Books?’ He snarled, striding towards her. ‘You’ve been giving her books to read?’

She quivered slightly, yet stood up to meet him with defiant eyes.

‘Do you realise what you have done? You have exposed a five year old child to the evils of the outside world! You have tainted her pure soul with ungodly thoughts!’ He stepped closer, backing her up against a wall. ‘There is a reason we do not allow books into this society. Stories fill the reader’s head with false hopes and dreams, making them unsatisfied with being the obedient servant of the Lord!’ He gave a bitter laugh. ‘Books will make them willingly flee these walls, sending them straight into the waiting arms of the Devil!’

He moved even closer, his mouth pressed against her ear. ‘You have corrupted an innocent child,’ he hissed, ‘and for that, you deserve death. However...’ He broke off, and leered menacingly. ‘I am a lenient man.’ He brought up a hand to caress her cheek. ‘I’ll turn a blind eye if you’re willing to –’

‘NO!’ She fiercely shoved him away, catching him off guard and causing him to stumble backwards. Her eyes shone with terror and fury. ‘Don’t touch me, you filthy piece of scum.’

‘HOW DARE YOU?’ He roared in outrage, and swung his fist at her delicate face. She was thrown to the ground by the force of his blow, and lay there in a trembling heap.
He growled, and spat at her. ‘You worthless dog. Get up!’

She lifted her face to him slowly. Her cheek was rapidly colouring into a mottled bruise, and blood streamed from her nose, which looked decidedly broken. He grinned, baring his teeth like a wild animal, the sight of her filling him with sadistic satisfaction. ‘I hope you have learnt your lesson, Sister.’

She wiped at her face with the back of her hand, accidently smearing blood over her cheeks and chin. She stared at her soiled hand in horror, then boldly raised her eyes to meet his. Her usually placid features were contorted with hatred, and her dainty mouth twisted into a sneer.

‘You shall never call me Sister again.’

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chapter One

My story begins with a five year old, her sister, and a book of fairytales.

She presented the hefty book to me with a flourish and a smile, a strange delight making her eyes sparkle. I gazed at it in awe, my eyes feasting on the elegant tome. It truly was beautiful: cursive silver lettering set against black leather binding, with shining gilt edging on each page.

She heaved me onto her lap, and began to flick through the book at random, pointing out each picture as she came to it. ‘See here, baby?’ She gestured at a picture of a beautiful lady leaning out of a tower window, her long blonde plait trailing down to the ground. ‘Isn’t she pretty?’ I sighed my agreement, pressing my face to the page. I wanted to breathe her in, devour her, keep her beauty within me forever. ‘Her name is Rapunzel.’ She smiled down at me, and kissed my forehead. ‘Isn’t that just gorgeous?’

I frowned up at her, my small brow furrowing in concentration. ‘What’s a name?’

She blinked down at me, confusion briefly crossing her features. Then realisation dawned, and a slight sadness settled over her eyes. ‘Oh, you poor child.’ She clasped me tight into her chest, burying her face in my hair. ‘They have taken you completely, haven’t they?’

I squirmed in her fierce grip, repeating my question. She turned me to face her, peering solemnly into my wide and innocent eyes. ‘A name, sweetheart, is something that people call you. It’s special, and belongs only to you.’

‘Like how we call all the ladies Sister, and all the men Brother?’

‘Something like that.’ She bit her lip. ‘Except that everyone has a different name. Just like Rapunzel has a different name to Snow White, who has a different name to Cinderella.’

‘Oh...’ I looked back down at Rapunzel, tracing the outline of her face with a pudgy finger. ‘Do I have a special name, then?’

‘No, baby.’ She smiled sadly, stroking my hair. ‘No one born here does.’


‘It’s what the Leader says, darling, and we all have to follow his rules.’

‘That’s stupid.’ I sighed heavily, making her giggle. I grinned, and entwined my fingers in her long, blonde locks. ‘You have hair like Ra... Ru... Rapunzel. Is that your name too?’

She smiled again. ‘No, baby.’

‘Well, do you have a special name?’

‘I did, once. Before they,’ she pronounced the word with surprising venom, ‘brought me here.’ She sighed gently. ‘But it was so long ago. I was your age, and I’m seventeen now. Too many years passed, and I just forgot.’

‘Oh.’ I wove her hair into a clumsy plait, copying the girl in the fairytale. ‘So then, what do I call you?’

‘Baby, you just keep calling me Sister.’

‘I call every lady Sister, even Mummy.’ I paused. ‘Are you my real sister?’

‘Yes I am, darling. We have the same mother; I was there for your birth.’

‘So you’ve known me all my life. Five years.’ I proudly displayed five fingers. ‘Onetwothreefourfive. I’m really good at counting, aren’t I?’

‘Yep. Just as good as me.’

I nodded gravely, satisfied with her answer. ‘Can you give me a special name?’

‘I would baby, but if someone heard me calling you by a name, I’d be punished. Very, very badly.’


‘Because we must always obey the Leader.’

‘Okay...’ I wrapped my arms around her neck. ‘I don’t want you to be punished, Sister.’

‘Now, why’s that?’

‘Coz you’re my best friend.’

She pulled me into an affectionate embrace, and I could feel her tears pressed against my cheek. ‘Well then,’ she murmured softly. ‘I guess we have to stick together.’


He grasped the pulpit with both hands, glaring at each one of his congregation in turn. ‘What,’ he bellowed, ‘is a name?’ His thunderous voice echoed off the high vaulted ceilings, and made the delicate stained glass windows tremble as though in fear. ‘A name is deceptive; it may seem harmless, but it is really the work of the Devil himself!’ He paused for breath, his broad chest heaving with exertion.

‘A name turns us into an individual! With a name, we reject that we are one unit, all the same, none of us different. None of us are special, none of us stand out of the crowd. We are all CHILDREN OF THE LIVING GOD.’ Here he broke off, reaching for a handkerchief as a fierce cough racked his body. Ugh, he would kill for a cigarette. But no, must keep up appearances.

‘If we reject this truth and try to lead separate lives, we will no longer be part of God’s chosen flock! Names will send us to Hell, to be mocked by the Devil FOR ETERNITY!’ He snarled, scanning the crowd once more. His eyes came to rest on her again. She sat perfectly upright, her blank expression barely concealing her disgust. Damn her. It was bad enough she haunted his dreams, but this ill-disguised contempt made him sick.

She held her younger sister on her lap, occasionally soothing the irritable child with loving whispers. The sight of her gentle words and caresses filled him with inexplicable rage, and he pounded his fist against the pulpit.

‘Call each man Brother, and each woman Sister, for you must never forget that we are one and the same! ONE FAMILY, ONE CHURCH, ONE BROTHERHOOD!’

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I am nobody.

I am not a friend, a daughter, or a sister. I am neither a lover nor a fighter. My clothes are not fancy, and my smile does not sparkle. I am not talented, special, or even remotely unique.

But then, who am I?

I am the face blending into the crowd, tracing the footsteps of all those before me. I am just one voice of many, chanting the words fed to me since birth. I am the girl in the dungeon: unneeded, unwanted, uncared for, unloved.

I am No Name, and this is my story.