The Senator had the crowd chanting, “Death for the Traitor! Death! Death!” In unison, he orchestrated them in rows to choose how to kill me. “Death for the Traitor! Death! Death!” They beat the ends of their spears on the wood floor. I felt the rumbling waves churn beneath me in the chant. “Death for the Traitor! Death! Death!” Thousands of qualified adults and adolescents voted for how I would die. My bones shook. “Death for the Traitor! Death! Death!”
The Senator halted the chant in an instant. The void created by it was overwhelming. My heart thumped about so hard I thought it was thunder, and my chest drummed as the results flashed up on the screens surrounding the magnificent auditorium.
Beating—93. Beheading—47. Burning—85.
I flinched at the thought of a swarm of spiders ripping me apart. But it wasn’t done.
Drowning—17. Hanging—131. Poisoning—28.
Bats. Well, I’ve been strung up this long, so I’d die quick. Maybe.
Great. Either they knock me out and it goes easy, or they break everything first. I stared at the marvelously polished floor only a foot below me and saw how bloody my face already was. But a rumble of both alarm and exhilaration told me to lift my soggy head.
The instant I saw that on the screen, a dormant animal instinct reared its head. I lost the controls as it bucked and thrashed me about, rattling the chains and making me convulse harder than I thought physically possible.
I shrieked, banging my throat inside the giant metal clasp trying to choke me, and shook my head violently in a futile attempt to rip it off and tell them the truth about their precious Elders and High Order, how it was all a lie. They watched me with the nervous delight of seeing a beast locked in a cage: one overwhelmed by their presence yet ready to tear them to pieces, but also with the thrill of a hunter, with the savage anticipation of scarlet pools filling the arena.
518. That was my number. That was my name on the list. It was the next name to be crossed out. Me. Crossed out. I was next to die. 518. That’s the number of people that voted for Confiscation. It was my fate.
The metal doors to the far left opened, and six brick-like soldiers rolled in the machine. The slanted blade glinted at me menacingly from its throne up high, stained deep red from its last victim. 518. Confiscation. The Guards surrounding the room turned simultaneously to shut the windows and pull the curtains tight. Airtight. No escape.
My people, my executioners, cheered for the death of the silent Traitor, for her Confiscation. Death for the Traitor, they demanded. Shadela cackled from behind me. “Oh, my, oh, my. How wonderful this will all be!”
The machine was rolled to the middle of the arena before me, stopping long enough for me to get a good look at how it worked. Then soldiers grabbed the stock they’d cuffed me to and began the descent to the machine. My feet burned as I fought it.
518. Confiscation. A guillotine.
They were taking my wings.
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