Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 14: Symbols of The Fallen
The prompt this week was to pick one of the listed titles, then write the story. The choices were 1) Road to Nowhere; 2) The Lost Book; 3) Remember the Light; 4) Symbols of the Fallen; and 5) The Last Open Door.
The title I chose was Symbols of the Fallen, and for my story, I decided to take a midnight stroll into the dark side.
Symbols of the Fallen
“Come to order. George, enlighten us on their transgression.”
This is insane. My wife and I decided to go back to the city and were arrested? How many towns jail their residents if they decide to move?
“Daniel, what is this about? Is this some kind of joke? If it is, it is not the least bit fun…”
“Silence! You will have the opportunity to speak. Proceed George. Tell us why these people should be terminated.”
Terminated? What the Hell?
* * * * *
My name is Stewart Dwyer, and my wife’s name is Eleanor. To celebrate our fifth anniversary, we attended a concert at a downtown arena, where we met a couple, Ralph and Suzanne Dotson. Over coffee and cake after the concert, they told us about their town called Mountain View, a few hundred miles to the north. They grew their own food, had their own water supply, and had the equipment necessary to supply their own electrical power. There were schools and shops, and the place was completely self-sustaining. My wife and I thought they were recruiters from a cult, and wondered what flavor of Kool-Aid they served with their cyanide.
We were invited to spend the weekend and tour the town. We decided to take them up on their offer, but made sure they knew we had told all our friends where we were going just in case we didn’t return by Monday morning. Ralph and Suzanne laughed that off. Visitors were free to come and go. We left on Friday evening and planned to return home late Sunday night. Eleanor and I took our own car to make sure we had the means to leave.
My wife and I never believed in the existence of Paradise on Earth until we had visited Mountain View. The residents were charming and helpful. All held jobs with pay; none worked the fields as one might visualize the structure of a cult. There were no fences or barriers of any kind. None of the doors, business or residential, had locks on them. Crimes of any kind were nonexistent. Were we in the Twilight Zone? Nope. Their bank was FDIC-insured. That’s how real it was.
Eleanor and I returned home Sunday night, but only to begin to close that chapter of our lives. Monday morning, I resigned my position as Senior Book Editor, listed our house with a realtor, and Eleanor telephoned and sent letters to our friends and relatives notifying them of our planned relocation. By the next Friday evening, we had packed our belongings and headed to our new home. Ralph and Suzanne had arranged for a rental to get us started. When our realtor wired us the funds from the sale of our house, we planned to purchase one in our new town.
The years passed, and life was good. We wanted for nothing. I enjoyed my new career as a Loan Officer, and my salary was more than adequate. Eleanor loved working with the children at the town’s Day Care Center. My wife and I were both infertile, and we had discussed looking into adoption after we were financially stable, but that time never came; at least, not until now. Even with our wonderful home and terrific friends, we felt a return to the city would be in our best interest. We had lost contact with all our city friends and our family over time. Letters were returned unopened and phone numbers had been disconnected. It had been difficult at first, but we attributed it to the changing times. People just did not remain close anymore.
We told Ralph and Suzanne of our decision to leave, and asked if they would assist with the sale of our house. We had enough saved to rent in the city until it sold. We expressed our appreciation and deepest affection for them, but stated we chose to apply at the city’s largest agencies to hopefully adopt a child to share our home and hearts with. While Mountain View had many resources available, the city had everything imaginable, and we felt it was time to go back to the life we had known and begin anew there as a family. Within two hours of that conversation with our nearest and dearest, Eleanor and I were placed in a cell awaiting trial.
* * * * *
“We have done our best, Daniel, to seal off our newest community members from the evils of the outside world. We have intercepted their mail, rerouted their telephone calls, and prevented anyone not in line with our philosophy and mission from engaging in contact with them. Still, they have been corrupted, and have expressed the desire to rejoin the wicked.”
This has to be an episode of one of those new reality shows.
“This can’t be happening. George Hendricks, you’ve known Eleanor and me for years now. What do you mean seal us off? What’s wrong with you people? What kind of sick…”
“Steward and Eleanor Dwyer? Is it true that you have decided to leave our community and to bring ruin upon us?”
Tears were streaming down my wife’s cheeks and getting ready to spill down my own. I glanced around the room at several of our other neighbors who were present, and their collective malicious gaze sent chills down my spine. I realized at that moment this was no joke.
“Daniel, we’ve been friends for years. Your wife nursed my wife back to health when she had pneumonia. You helped me repair our roof after that awful storm. We don’t want to hurt anyone here. We’ve been very content here and hold no malice against anyone. All we want is to leave as we know others have and resume our lives in the city so that we can adopt…”
“Enough,” Daniel said. “You are both guilty and will be…”
I grabbed Eleanor’s hand and we ran out into the hallway. This building had been used as a community center for town meetings and various events such as bake sales and fundraisers. I had never been in the room that was being used as a faux courtroom, so I wasn’t certain where the entrance was. I decided we would go into one of the rooms, barricade the door, and make our stand there as necessary. These people had been our friends, but I was ready to snap the neck of each and every one of them. No one was going to terminate either of us.
Door after door was locked and I found myself questioning everything I had known. Why are the doors to the various rooms in this building locked when none in the entire town are? Is this how they trap you when you try to leave? You are cornered and executed like an animal in a cage? How could we not have seen this coming? What happened to those who had left? Did they actually leave or were their remains buried within these hallowed halls?
We found an unlocked door and went inside. The room was cold and had no windows through which we could escape. There were no chairs with which to block the doorway and there was no lock on the door. My heart sank. This is exactly where they wanted us to be. The light came on and Daniel and the others came in and closed the door behind them.
“It is fitting for you to be here. Here is where we display the symbols of the fallen.”
The fallen? What the Hell was in this room? There were rows of frames that held what looked like weird tapestry mounted with name plates underneath each. I saw the names of those we knew had decided to move away. There was one for Don Jackson and one for his wife, Marie. They had moved a couple of months ago. But, had they left? What was in the frames? My wife was looking closely at one and suddenly began to scream.
“Oh my God,” she gasped. “There are faces in these frames. Real faces. They remove the skin from the skulls and place their faces in these frames and add their names.”
“How can you call them the fallen?” I could feel yesterday’s breakfast crawling up my throat. “They died by your hand, didn’t they?”
“Fallen from grace, Stewart,” Ralph said. “They wanted to leave. No one leaves, Stewart. No one. Their countenances serve as a reminder to us all about the importance of loyalty. Why mount their faces? Photographs fade. Our unique process of treating the skin lets us remember them exactly as they were.”
Daniel took a hypodermic needle from his pocket, walked over to me and injected something into my neck. Before it all went dark, I thanked God my wife was unconscious and would never see what I had seen. Two empty frames at the end of the bottom row on the other side of the room, labeled Stewart and Eleanor Dwyer.