The International Writers Magazine: Denial
Eli always rang at nine o’clock on the dot. He would ring once and then hang up the phone. That way Rose knew everything was okay, she knew there was no need to worry. But not tonight. It was already quarter past and the hand on the clock ticked every second to emphasize her predicament. Why had he not called tonight?
A thousand questions swirled around Rose’s head. Eli was supposed to meet with Sammi an hour ago, surely he should be back by now? Rose began to pace. She could call Sammi’s Higher, she supposed, but she was taught that phone calls left a trace before she could walk. Maybe it was worth it just this once, Eli never called late and Sammi’s Higher was the person who would most likely knew where he was.
Rose continued to pace, ripping her nails between her teeth to the skin. Her forefinger began to bleed, she feigned interest, but was actually thankful that it diverted her mind from Eli for a second.
The phone rang. Once. Eli hung up. Rose didn’t care anymore, she had to know why he was late, how things went with Sammi. She had to know, screw the traces. She picked up the phone that had stopped trying to get her attention, and began to dial.
“Hello” said Eli, curiously.
“Why did it take you so long to ring?” asked Rose, clearly upset.
“You know not to call here!” said Eli. “ You will know shortly enough. How could you be so stupid? You already have a black mark and now this!” said Eli.
Rose suddenly felt very small and just a little bit desperate. Maybe Eli was right, she was stupid. She had been conditioned not to think about feelings, that they were not useful.
“Get off the phone.” Ordered Eli, his voice stern but with a trace of sympathy.
“Of course.” Said Rose.
It was one thing to be stupid, but she certainly knew better than to openly disobey a Higher. Eli was kind as far as Higher’s went, but he was still a Higher. She hung up.
“Who were you talking to?” asked James.
“No one. Go to bed. Mum will be upset if she comes in and your still up, and you know who she will be more mad at!” said Rose.
Her brother hung his head and began to walk away. Something stirred in Rose as she saw her brother, something that no amount of training could have taught her.
“Come here.” Whispered Rose.
James turned eagerly and skipped back toward his big sister. She smiled at him and kissed him hard on the forehead.
“Go to bed.” She said again.
Eli let the phone linger by his ear even after he heard the monotonous tone of the dead line. He understood why Rose was so upset, he himself had broken protocol by not ringing her, but still she should not have rung. He sighed and took the phone receiver from his head, the top of it was dripping with blood. Eli winced and felt his head with his free hand.
Eli thought back to his meeting with Sammi tonight. It was irresponsible of him to get hurt like that. She was so much weaker than him, and the marks would show tomorrow and be hard to explain. Tomorrow was going to be a tough day all round, he thought. Firstly the phone call that Rose had made, he should have known not to pick up. Secondly the scratching marks on his face, how would Milton react? Eli thought about it until his head ached, he lay down. The best he could do now was to get some rest.
Even the Highers were made to line up for inspection. Skirts were to be crisply ironed and ties straighter than a ruler. Without turning her head Rose could see the discolouration around Eli’s left eye. Everyone looked at the huge screen in front of them, ready to begin the daily pledge to the party.
As was customary, the pledge was preceded by an inspection by Milton. Milton was a tall, muscular boy with thick, jam jar lenses balanced on his nose, which gave his eyes a ridiculous ratio to the rest of his face. This would have been amusing, but for Milton’s job as head of security.
“What are those marks on your face?” Milton asked Eli.
“Was playing rugby yesterday, Sir.” Said Eli.
“You know Sammi was the latest to be murdered last night, Eli? Apparently it looked like there was a struggle.”
“I didn’t know, sir.” Said Eli.
“She was of the purest blood and mind, just like the rest.” Said Milton, before he gradually moved on. Rose thought Eli had done well not to show fear, then again he could not help it, he was part of the resistance.
It began as an underground rumour, but by the time Rose knew about it, it was settled. She could hear little whispers from other members of the resistance as she passed.
“It’s so soon after Sammi.”
“Apparently it’s Rose that has to do it, she’s so young.”
The whispers soon stopped when she got close.
Rose decided she would see the one person who could tell her. As she approached Eli she felt nervous, he was a higher, and Higher’s had to need to divulge such information.
“Eli, are the rumours true? Is it me this time?” said Rose. Eli sighed.
“What is the most important thing in the world to you, Rose?” Asked Eli
“The resistance of course, Higher.” Said Rose
“Then you have nothing to fear!” said Eli.
“Of course. Who is my target, Higher? Is it…”
Eli turned away from Rose and took a crumpled envelope out from his pocket. He straightened it and slowly removed a photograph . He stared at the image for awhile before tossing it to Rose.
“The resistance.” Was all Eli could say.
“But… You can’t expect me to kill my own brother!”
© Pierre Edgecumbe December 2009
Pierre is studying for his Masters in Creative Writing
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