A tear rolls down the woman’s cheek.
“Your name is Talia Marcus-Sawyer,” says a hypnotic masculine voice.
“My name is Talia Marcus-Sawyer,” repeats the woman, lips trembling and eyes unblinking. Another tear streaks down her face, splashing silently against the ground in the darkness. She wonders if anyone can see her crying.
“Talia, do you know where you are?” asks the man.
“I –.” Her voice cracks; she swallows, attempting to regain her composure. “I don’t know where I am,” she whispers faintly.
Her skin is bare and unclothed, and the tiny hairs on the backs of her arms stand on end as they are exposed to the cold air. She shivers, moving to cross her arms over her naked body.
“Where am I?” she asks softly. She looks about desperately, and a deep panic blossoms within her as she realizes that she cannot see anything.
A terrible laugh resonates from the depths of the claustrophobic darkness, metamorphosing into a dreadful cackle as it echoes freely about. “What do you think?” The man addresses an invisible audience. “Should we tell her? Should we tell Talia where she is?”
A crowd roars from someplace far beyond, a hundred incoherent voices bubbling into one enormous wave of sound. Suddenly, a blinding white light flickers to life, the concussion of the switch adding rhythm to the cacophonous chanting.
Talia shields her eyes, shocked further into submissive silence by the overwhelming luminosity. Slowly, the world comes into resolution beyond the tremendous light, and her eyes focus upon a shimmering crowd of bodies, each convulsing sickly as they scream lewd slurs at her, fists pumping in the air as suggestions of vile fates fly.
The woman sinks to the ground, attempting to cover her nude body from the eyes of the grotesque onlookers. She clenches her teeth together in a grimace as she begins to sob, her long black hair draping her shoulders.
“Well, Talia, do you still not know where you are?” Again, the man laughs, and the audience laughs with him. Talia doesn’t answer, remaining collapsed motionless on the floor. “Welcome to the Reckoning.”
12 hours earlier
“This is just sick.” The woman turns away from the television screen, her dark skin flushed with vehement fury. She turns to her friend, midnight black eyes wide and angry. “How the hell can they get away with this?” she asks. She impatiently brushes a strand of loose black hair away from her face and turns away from the friend. Instead, she marches up to the window and looks outside at the twilight city beyond. Millions of people, breathing, thinking bodies, all trapped…
“They can’t do this,” she whispers. “They can’t just pluck people out of their homes, drug them, and then pretend to give them a trial on public television. They can’t do this, they can’t do this…” She bows her head and sighs. When she faces her friend again, there are tears in her eyes. She gestures angrily to the television.
“They have a little girl up there,” she sniffles. “They have someone’s little girl up there, alone and frightened and degraded in front of millions of eyes. Anyone, anyone who watches this and does nothing is just as guilty as the people who put her there.” Obstinately, she wipes away the tears.
“Amy,” she says, striding over to her friend. She crouches to the ground, eye to eye with the blonde woman sitting in the flimsy wooden chair. “Amy, we can’t let them get away with this; we have to do something. Will you help me?” Her black eyes stare deeply into the coffee brown ones of her friend. “Amy? Will you help me?”
Amy stands up silently and walks over to the now unoccupied window. “And what are you going to do?” she asks weakly. “The government, the military, the entire god damn legislation supports this broadcast. So, what are you going to do?” She turns her head to face Talia, awaiting an answer to dissipate the icy silence. Talia purses her lips. Slowly, she opens her mouth, struggling to push words past them.
“I’ll blow it up,” she whispers. “I’ll blow up the studio.”
Amy shakes her head. “No, no, no, are you insane? And how are you going to do that?”
Talia takes a step closer to the woman. “Amy, you work in advertisement, you have connections to the studio – you could get us in, and I could make the bombs, and…”
“And what, Talia?” Amy crosses her arms. “We get caught and then we get tried for treason, executed in front of millions of people just like those people on the show. What good will that do?”
It is Talia who shakes her head this time. “I can’t believe you Amy,” she says incredulously. “You’re just going to stand by while they kill innocent people.” She turns away from the blonde woman, suddenly a stranger. “People die – that’s part of any revolution. Without resistance, without blood, we won’t ever be free.” She looks beyond her curtain of frizzy black hair to the woman behind her. “So, Amy, are you going to help me or not?”
There is silence for a moment, a long, painfully tangible verbal vacuum. And then, Amy speaks. “I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I’m so sorry, Talia…”
Talia turns suddenly to face her. “What do you mean?” she asks, fear sprouting within her bosom. “Amy,” she murmurs lowly, “No…”
The apartment door is kicked open suddenly, and a blow from behind sends Talia sinking to the ground. Another blow meets her head, and her peripheral vision fades as hot blood pulses from her forehead. Behind her, she can hear the shouting of men and the clicking of weapons. She can feel her hands being bound behind her back, and from her sideways perspective, she gazes up from the legs of the blonde woman to her clouded face.
“You traitor,” she slurs her vision fading despite her attempts to remain vigilant. “You stupid, lying bitch…”
“Good bye, Talia,” says the woman. She nods her head, and a man kicks the wounded woman in the face. Her world fades to smothering, black nothingness.
Stand up, says a voice inside the woman’s head. Despite the terrible, dull ache in her limbs, and the merciless searing pain her head, she forces herself to her feet. She straightens herself out and stands up tall in front of the hideous, screeching crowd. She clenches her jaw and curls her hands into fists, ramrod straight at her sides.
“Talia Marcus-Sawyer,” says the announcer. “You are being tried for the heaviest of all crimes in our New Order – treason. You have been discovered plotting to blow up a government-controlled building, and in the process, to kill hundreds of innocent men and woman. If found guilty, your crimes are punishable by death. Do you acknowledge this?” Talia remains silent, eyes filled with unabated, raw hatred. “I said, do you acknowledge this?” A man kicks her from behind, sending Talia stumbling to the cold ground once more. Laughs and catcalls arise from the audience.
“Yes,” she hisses, trembling on the floor. She struggles upwards once more into a standing position. She staggers, but remains upright as one of the armored guards punches her in the face. Slowly, she turns her head to stare past the audience, refusing to directly acknowledge her attackers as fresh crimson blood flows from her nose and the corner of her lips.
“You will speak with respect to the court,” says the guard acidly. Talia doesn’t look at him. More laughter flares from the audience.
“How do you wish to plead?” asks the unseen announcer. Finally, Talia looks at the faces of the crowd, the mob, her jury. Men and woman, drunk and cackling, jump up and down and scream hideous things. The woman feels sick as she recognizes a few faces in the audience; coworkers, shopkeepers, even a few people whom she believed had been her friends.
Resolutely, Talia looks up towards the black, indeterminable ceiling, silent tears flowing and mixing with the blood, stinging her lacerations. “I plead guilty,” she spits. A collective shriek arises from the audience, and people begin to throw refreshments and food towards her. She doesn’t even bother to move when they start throwing deadlier things; rocks, even a poorly aimed pocket knife or two.
Talia grunts as she is grabbed from behind, attempting to cry out as she feels a syringe enter her neck, a hot, searing liquid invading her blood.
“No,” she groans, trying to kick and punch at the guards. “No, no, no, no…”
The world begins to spin madly, and once more she is falls to her knees. Again, blackness and silence envelop her.
“Very well,” says a twisted, distorted voice through the murkiness. “You have been tried and found guilty as charged. Punishment will be put into effect immediately.”
The other side of the city
The eyes of the woman on the television screen are dull and lobotomized, hinting at some sort of former intelligence and free will which no longer remain. Instead, they stare ahead, unseeing and unknowing at a blank white wall, her black hair shrouding her bloodied face and shoulders.
“Talia Marcus-Sawyer has been tried and found guilty of treason,” says a clean-shaven young man facing the camera. “Her heinous plots and insidious ideas have threatened the way of life of the people of not only this city, but this nation, and she will be punished. Today, one model citizen, Amy Tiller, has the honor of carrying out the punishment. We shall all honor and salute Amy’s brave actions to protect the people of our country. Thank you Amy.” The announcer gestures to a blond woman behind him. “You may proceed.”
The camera cuts away from the man and to the two women, one naked and bruised on the floor and the other standing triumphantly above her, showered and neatly dressed. Slowly, the blonde woman raises a black gun, the click of the safety trigger being removed seeming to echo terribly throughout the room. Heavily, she aims the gun between the subjugated woman’s eyes.
In that last moment, something happens. The other woman, Talia, seems to return from her cloudy nowhere place, drawn back to reality by the sound of the safety. Her dark eyes focus, and some light of recognition seems to dawn upon her face. However, in that final second, the blonde woman pulls the trigger. With a bang, Talia Marcus-Sawyer is dead, her eyes lifeless once more.
The camera returns to the smiling man. “Well, that’s it for tonight folks,” he says with false gaiety. In the background, beyond the view of the camera, the blonde woman’s eyes blur with tears, and her arms drop to her sides like dead weights. “Keep in mind,” continues the man, “it is people like Amy Tiller who keep us safe. If you know someone like Amy who you would like to honor, please contact our studio. Until then, ladies and gentlemen, good night and stay safe.”
With the push of a button, the television screen flickers to black, and the blonde woman, Amy Tiller, drops the plastic remote to the floor faintly. Silence fills her lonely apartment, sealing the cracks of her emptied soul in the process. Legs like lead, she sluggishly makes her way over to the window, looking out at the city lights below. A lone tear falls from her eyes, painted blue by the illumination of the blue apartments beyond. She closes her eyes and breathes in the air, taking in the layered sounds and sensations of the urban night.
There is an explosion somewhere in the distance, but Amy does not open her eyes. Instead, a sad smile sweeps her face. “This is for you, Talia,” she whispers as she pulls the trigger.
"The Reckoning" is (c) copyright Hannah Smart, 2013
Music that helped to inspire the story:
"Roslin and Adama Reunited"
Also, in my mind I sort of imagined Talia as looking like Rekha Sharma as Tory Foster from, you guessed it, Battlestar Galactica. Again, it is more of a superficial correlation; Talia really does not bear much semblance to the personality of Sharma's character, or at least in my opinion.
Yeah, you can DEFINITELY tell what I've been watching lately...