The Hammer Falls

A favourite of mine from a Flash Horror Friday of yore.

Content Warning
implied torture, public execution, suicide

The hammer fell again and again. The metallic clang was almost musical, except it was too terrible to contemplate. It wasn’t long before another note rang out – an ear-splitting aria, but not one of performance. Of pain.

Those in the queue all flinched, knowing it would be their turn soon and it would not be quick. The sounds went on and on and they huddled under their hoods as if that would somehow spare them.

A girl, aware of her place in line and what awaited, risked a glance up at the building their chains snaked around. She had heard of this place and how people used to queue here for beauty, back before all this horror. Until now, she had only seen pictures.

As the world fell mercifully silent for a moment, Matilda stole a second look at the curving architecture, caught the sun glint off the tiles, and gasped. It was breathtakingly beautiful. She watched the light dance over its surface and, mesmerised, slowly peeled off one of her protective gloves.

Her skin started to sizzle almost instantly, but for a split second before it burned, she watched that same light do a different dance across her hand and thought this was a thing of beauty too.

Somewhere in the distance she heard a voice say coldly, “Next.”

Matilda tore her eyes away from the light and took a long look at her fellow condemned.

So much injustice; so much helplessness. As if their lives had already been taken from them.

She made a decision.

There could be no escape, but there would also be no staking out in the sun for her. If she could not live, she would at least die in the manner she chose, and she would have one moment that was truly hers beforehand.

Steeling herself with anger was easy.

Matilda let herself be flooded with all the rage she’d been suppressing and felt her fangs descend as they always did when she could not control her emotions.

For a moment she stood absolutely still – mouth open, fangs bared – tasting salt and summer in the air; lost to everything except the light and the ever-changing patterns it made as it bounced off the building before her.

Matilda felt grateful. At peace. She removed her other glove.

Then she closed her eyes, let the breeze caress her skin, pushed her hood back and felt the sun on her face for the first, and last, time.

Behind her, the hammer fell again.

© Copyright 2021, Grace Penney*

* This version (a previous version was on an old blog way back in the Before Times)