Night- Rinmal Tellis
Here in Castos there are 5 rules.
1. You do the work you are assigned. If you are not assigned work, you are to purchase others' work to help the economy.
2. The walls are here for a reason. Do not try to leave the city. When the specified time has arrived, you may depart the city through the walled road with the rest of the citizens.
3. The convicts are being punished. Do not speak to them.
4. You may not enter the city until your specified time.
5. If you do not follow these guidelines, swift punishment will be dealt.
The stool was only a few feet off the ground. It was too short to be tremendously comfortable. And the potatoes, well, they were potatoes. Every time I picked one up it felt like the last couple hundred potatoes I'd peeled. I understood the concept of punishment, but wasn't this a little much?
The black envelope of night beat down into my eyes, only penetrated by the dim, rough light shed by stars. And, of course, the moon was just as round and silver as every other night I was stuck out here peeling potatoes. I wanted to go home! I wanted the soft sheets of my bed to put me to sleep. More than anything, I wanted off of the stool and to somewhere else.
Maybe even out of Castos. I'd never left the walled city, but it had been my dream for nearly fifteen years to see if there was anyone out there different from the typical person I saw everyday; a spitting image of myself. I always caught myself wondering whether or not someone out there thought and looked differently than I.
A woman and her child strutted past my stool, hand in hand, blissful smiles on their face. The small child looked at me; at me, and not at my neck. Winked and nodded at her, and she grinned. Her mother turned to see what it was that her daughter was looking to, and saw my disgraceful figure. Sitting in ragged clothing and grimy skin, I peeled potatoes and smiled at those who passed by. She looked at my face for all of two seconds before her eyes slid down to the base of my neck.
Always my neck…
I stroked along my neck, hoping that the base of my misery would vanish at the touch. According to the woman's gaze, my hoping didn't work. She jerked at her daughter's arm, hoping to move along as quickly as possible.
I'm a convict, and the circular tattoo on my neck proves it. I've been a convict for seven years now, and I'm still being punished. They say curiosity killed the cat, and I believe it. I was a curious eleven year old child, and that was my undoing. Now, instead of going through typical coming of age ceremonies like other eighteen year olds, I sit on my stool and peel potatoes all night.
My mother had told me stories of thick forests, towering mountains, and rumbling seas in far off lands, and I had gotten tired of it. I wanted to see these things, not just hear about them. Castos was dull; it's grey buildings and cement walls becoming more and more monotonous every day.
One night, I had simply been standing in the middle of the city, when a cool, crisp breeze blew over the Castos walls. It was so fresh and calm I could have sworn it had blown directly off the top of a mountain. Maybe there was a mountain right outside of Castos. I wouldn't know until I looked, and I decided that looking was a great idea.
As I had approached the walls, they didn't even seem that high. They seemed climbable. I could surmount my barriers, and I would. Tile by tile, I somehow managed to climb almost all the way to the top. I would finally see what I'd dreamed of for years. Shouts resounded below me, but I didn't really care.
My hand formed around the very top of the wall, and I heaved myself upward. And I saw it; I saw trees, spanning for miles. It was a forest, I could tell. It was so much larger than what I'd imagined. Everywhere I could see, the lush green had filled it. That was when a hand was grasped around my ankle, and I haven't seen anything like that since.
Since then, I'd been expelled from any sort of trainings, I had to come out to work an hour early, I'd been tattooed on my neck to show everyone that I was no good, and the public bathing structures were off limits to me.
So now I was uneducated, tired, hated, and filthy. No one wanted to look at a convict, and that was all part of the plan. No one would talk to a convict, because they believed I'd try to hurt them, or something like that. The truth was simple though, the Chancellor made anyone who got a glimpse of the outside a convict for one reason. I'd tell everyone what I saw. I'd tell everyone that there is a world outside of Castos, and that it's not that hard to leave
If anyone knew that, it would cause a horrible mess for the Chancellor, our fearless leader, who never even comes down from his tower to see us. It's almost as if he's afraid of the dark. Of course, no one would doubt his leadership. They follow him like a mindless herd of sheep. It's so strange how they follow the man they barely see, and cast out the boy who they see every day.
My neck had three small circles on it. They were just a small indicator that I was no good; that I was worthless.
There was no plant life in Castos, other than one, large white tree in the very center of the city. It had no leaves, and it didn't grow. It was simply bare white, and it didn't die. There were fifty buildings, exactly fifty. Each one looked exactly the same; tall, with five windows (three in the front and two at the back). They were made of wood, painted white, with a small porch.
We didn't live in Castos, we only did our business here. There was a road at the south end of the city that fed into a small housing community. It was a walled road, and a walled community. No one ever saw what was outside, and no one wanted to. Although the walls only enclosed our city, I feel as if they enclosed me, too. No one spoke to me, and every stared at me, knowing I was different.
I wanted to find someone who felt the same way I did about the world outside our walls. Sadly, no such person existed, I was absolutely sure.
What always made me curious was that, at the same time, everyday, we were ordered to leave the city and go to our homes, where we would stay until night again. When we woke up and came back in the next night, the city was spotless, as if no one had ever lived there.
My supervisor came and stood over me, a tower. He looked from the potatoes I'd already peeled, to me, to the pile of potatoes that hadn't been touched. He grimaced and pulled out his cane. My supervisors name was Bene, and if I didn't know better, I'd think he was the devil himself.
Bene grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and pulled me into the building behind us.
"Why so few, Rinmal?" he asked sternly. I lowered my head. I knew he would beat me no matter how I answered, so why waste my breath.
He silently stepped behind me a swung his cane into my back. A throats worth of air escaped my mouth as I winced. He smirked, and brought the cane down again. He was pleased with causing pain to anyone. Over and over again, day after day, he would beat me, simply because it was fun.
And no one would object to his treatment, because I was a convict, and I deserved it. Who knew that having curiosity and a sense of adventure was a crime?
"You feel like answering me, Rinmal? Why so few potatoes?"
Again, I didn't answer. I had learned by now that taking the beating with pride and dignity felt so much better than doing it pitifully. Bene smirked again, before throwing his cane against my back. I let out a yelp, unable to hide the pain.
The wood, striking again against my skin, this time cutting it open. I could feel my blood running coolly down my spine. Strangely, the blood felt relieving against my aching back. Every day I had to question whether or not I wanted to continue existing like this. I was disgusting, in pain, and completely ignored by the people who walked amongst every moment of every day. I was a ghost, wandering lost in a distant life. The only thing I wanted was someone who felt as alone as I did. Someone who was completely alone.