Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Part 3: Aaron #TuesdaySerial

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

 A Brilliant Little Fire

Part 3:  Aaron

Aaron made his way up the hill toward the two figures. The first rays of the sun felt pleasantly warm on his back; later, he knew they would cause his wounds to itch and burn. He cautiously approached the elderly couple on the hillside and raised a hand in greeting.

The woman's lined face broke into a smile.

“Good morning, Aaron.” She beckoned him closer, and he seated himself on the wet grass.

“Have you recovered from your flogging?”

Aaron felt his face flush, and yet there was nothing but an inquisitive look on Anna's face. The ways of Renaissance were still a mystery to him; all crimes were punished by public whippings, painful and humiliating, and yet afterward the perpetrator was treated as a member of the community once again, as though nothing had happened. Some took it as a blood baptism, a chance to start over with a clean slate. Others, who could not or would not change their behavior, sustained beating after beating until they were either incapacitated or died. Still, it was a system that seemed to work. His scars would remain as a reminder to himself, and everyone else, that he had both erred and paid his dues. Today would be a new beginning, to do with as he chose.

“I'm sorry,” he muttered to her, still feeling embarrassed. A newcomer to the town, he'd crept through a window in their cottage a few days before and stolen things that he'd needed; food, a blanket, a lantern. And one thing he hadn't needed; a leather bound book he'd found lying on the table. The Decline and Fall Of the Roman Empire. A touchstone from the old world, where life was nothing to him but an opportunity to drink, chase girls, and drag himself to boring lectures every day. A careless existence, until it had been swept away in a matter of days along with the bodies of his dead mates. He fancied a whiff of those long ago funeral pyres was tickling his nostrils.

Anna shifted her position, laying her husband Will's head in her lap and kissing him gently on the cheek. He was deeply, irrevocably, asleep.

“I would have given those things to you, had you asked,” she said sadly. “However, it's done, and so we move on.”

“I wish I could, you know, make things up to you both.”
“It isn't necessary for us. But it is, perhaps, for you. And so there is something that you can do.”

Aaron descended from the hill, the lifeless body of Will Mentzer draped tenderly in his arms. At the edge of town, he stopped.

“Go on, Aaron,” she urged. “There's nothing to be afraid of. He died a peaceful, natural death and that will be obvious.”

“It's not that,” he said miserably. “I can feel the blood on the back of my shirt. I hate the idea of everyone staring at me, knowing.”

“Dear boy, nearly everyone in Renaissance has flogging scars.” The rumble of Mayor Joseph Grey's voice reached them from the loudspeakers.
“Even the Mayor.”