The rain pelted down onto the vast fields and caused the ground to become slippery, brown sludge. As a consequence, this made the task of toiling much harder for the workers who hammered into these grounds, which belonged to their ruler, the Whore of Babylon, Ulrika. She was the supreme matriarch who governed the Democratic People’s Republic of Mundus.
‘Worker 088068-666!’ screamed a voice from the megaphone.
Aki, one of the young workers, recognised the voice of their ruler. He looked up into the livid night sky before he turned in the direction of Ulrika’s steel dwelling. He glared at the highest turret in disgust, although he could not deny the breathtaking sight of the palace and its majestic turrets and towers. His stomach churned as he thought about who dwelled there and what she wanted with him. He wiped his wet, naked chest and face with a dirty, old rag in vain before he threw his hammer and sickle onto the ground. After that, accompanied by a guard, he made the long journey to her residence.
He was met at the entrance by two heavy guards with machine guns. They scanned his right hand, which had a serial number that he’d been embedded with. All people, small or great, rich or poor, free and slave, had to have the mark on their right hand. No one could buy or sell without this mark, which was the name of the beast or the number of its name. Everyone had a serial number followed by six hundred and sixty-six, the number of the beast.
After confirming his identity they allowed him to enter and he was met by another guard dressed in a plain, grey uniform. Together they climbed a massive staircase until they reached Ulrika’s bedroom.
‘Wait here!’ the guard barked before she turned and knocked on another door.
‘Enter!’ came a voice from inside and the guard obeyed leaving Aki by himself.
After a few minutes, the guard returned and commanded Aki to enter the room alone. When he did, he was intrigued by what he saw. He stood for a few seconds and ruffled his wet, blond hair as he took in the elaborate bedchamber. The walls and ceiling were covered with mirrors and the floor with pearl tiles. Presently, his eyes focused on another object: an enormous bed, which stood in the centre of the room, draped in exotic, purple linen.
Suddenly, the young man felt his stomach tighten as he felt the presence of another. He could hear the sound of her high-heels as the matriarch approached him from behind. Click-clack-click-clack! Her steps were slow and tedious as she advanced towards him. Aki dared not turn around, yet he knew she was right behind him. He could smell and hear her ragged, hot breath. She paused before she reached out and encircled her arms around his naked torso.
Ulrika moved around him and came face-to-face with her prize. She was dressed in purple, scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She took a golden cup from the bedside table and drank from it. She offered him some but he refused. He didn’t want to be drunk on the blood of the saints like she was.
Ulrika looked her captive up and down before she took him by the hand and led him to the bed. She sat upon it and gazed up at him. Aki wondered if she knew that at the age of twenty-two, he was a generation younger than her. His body trembled. He looked down at his ruler as she lay back onto the bed. Her crystal eyes gleamed as she beckoned for him to join her.
‘Come,’ she crooned and gently flicked back her unruly fair hair. Everyone in the Democratic People's Republic of Mundus was blond haired and blue eyed. All other types had been bred out years ago. She smiled as she eyed his hard, muscular body, before she kicked off her red heels and rolled around on the bed.
Unsure of what to do next and unwilling to try to please her, Aki stood steadfast in front of her. He felt a sudden surge of dizziness as a rapid rush of blood filled his head and pounded against his temples. Unperturbed, Ulrika pulled him to her and kissed his face and neck. Her arms felt like chains as she wrapped them tightly around him.
‘Oh, how I have wanted you!’ she exclaimed as she panted between kisses. She kissed him deeply causing his body to shudder. Her hands moved over his taut body, urging a response. Determined to have him, Ulrika slowly slid her hands down to his pants. Frustrated at being refused, she tapped his belt tantalisingly.
‘You choose to refuse me?’
It was not a question, Aki knew, but an order to submit to her.
Suddenly there was a pounding on the door. Enraged at being disturbed, Ulrika grabbed one of her heels from the cold, hard floor and threw it at the door. She screamed at the intruder and ordered her to leave them alone immediately. Aki turned and stared at the door. How he longed for it to open!
A voice came from the other side of the door. ‘I must speak with you now, Honourable Mistress!’
Aki breathed a sigh of relief. It was a guard and therefore the problem must be urgent enough to disturb Ulrika during her night of pleasure. Ulrika’s face turned slightly purple with rage. She glanced at Aki, before she turned and faced the door again.
‘What is it you want Comrade Rai?’ she demanded.
‘One of the maidens has escaped!’
Upon hearing this dreaded news, Ulrika pushed Aki aside and ran to the door. She quickly unbolted it and pulled her in. Aki noticed she was the same one who had led him to Ulrika only moments before. Comrade Rai stood at six feet tall, almost as tall as him.
The guard told a furious Ulrika that a maiden, who had been promised to an elite FA officer, had escaped earlier in the evening. Hence, her absence had only been discovered when the women were ordered to line up for the nightly roll call.
Ulrika looked back at Aki. Was that regret in her eyes? He couldn’t tell. ‘Take him back to his quarters! I shall meet you in the conference room afterwards!’
‘Yes, Honourable Mistress!’ Comrade Rai said as she clicked her heels and bowed.
Without a word they made their way back to the male, workers quarters. Relieved at finally being left alone, Aki lay back onto his hard bed or steel mesh and covered his eyes. His over-worked and aching body tingled slightly as he thought about what he had just experienced. The encounter had stirred feelings inside of him, which, up until now, had been lying dormant. Like a shaken up bottle of beer, Aki felt like his body was about to explode.
‘Hey Aki, what happened up there?’
Aki moved his arm and looked up at the bunk above him and saw the back of his friend through the wire base of the bed.
Aki groaned. ‘Nothing Chi. I got out of it.’
Chi bolted upright. ‘Really? How? I mean, no one has ever been able to leave until she’s become impregnated – no matter how long it takes!’
‘Let’s just say I must have been born under a lucky star sign.’
Chi raised an eyebrow. ‘You know you can’t say things like that! The Faskah Youth taught us not to even joke about astrology or religion! I can’t believe she picked you! I mean, you were the product of a love match!’
Aki rolled his eyes. ‘Just because you were conceived in a lab doesn’t make you any better than me! Besides, I don’t want to sleep with her anyway.’
Chi turned and looked down at his friend in surprise. ‘Really?’ he asked. ‘Being selected to produce the new heir to Mundus is the greatest honour!’
Aki snorted. ‘Not mine!’ he declared and moved his hand in dismissal. ‘I want real love – the kind of love my parents had.’
‘Just get it over and done with!’ Chi urged. ‘Man, you’ll be the envy of every other worker in this prison we call home!’
‘I cannot…’ Aki whispered more to himself than to his friend. ‘I will not be broken!’
‘You’re being a coward! I mean, no pun intended but how hard is it, mate? Just do the deed and get out of there! You’ll be treated like a king for the rest of your existence!’
‘You mean I’ll gain Mundus at the expense of selling my soul?’
‘Look, whatever. Man, I’d give anything to be in your place! Look at us! We’re kept locked away from the women and forced to work long hours. You’ve been given the chance to be with the ruler of Mundus! What could be better than that?’
Aki refused to reply. Instead, he simply sat back on his bed and thought about the life he had shared with his parents twelve years ago before he had been stolen from them.
* * *
The following night found him again standing outside of Ulrika’s bedroom with Comrade Rai standing in front of him.
‘Do you think you’re somehow different from everyone else?’ she demanded.
When he did not answer, she grabbed him and slammed him against the wall. ‘Well, do you? Do you somehow think you’re above the rest of them? Remember Worker 088068-666, that you are nothing but a slave!’ She smashed his face with her rifle.
Aki doubled back and rubbed his jaw. ‘And you are nothing but a guard!’ he shouted back. ‘I am a man – not a number!’ he declared.
He pushed past the guard and barged into Ulrika’s bedroom. She called him over from where she sat on her bed. This time she was dressed in a black teddy with silver trim, which cupped her supple breasts. If she was angry at his lack of respect, she did not show it. Instead, she pulled him to her and without taking any more chances, removed his pants with haste. The touch of her tongue as it slid over his smooth body made him shudder. Yet, his primitive instincts made it difficult for him to escape her embrace. His mouth melted into hers as she kissed him hard and thoroughly. Her hands moved over his naked body, and begged for a reaction.
It was only when Aki caught his reflection in her large mirrors that he realised what he had been forced to become and he did not like it at all. Ulrika stopped and looked at the man who remained unmoved by her advances. Her hands moved down his torso and when she saw his flaccid member, she folded her arms and looked away. Her pursed lips revealed the sting of rejection and the humiliation of being refused by a worker.
‘Comrade Rai!’ she screeched. ‘Comrade Rai! Come at once!’
The guard entered the room at once and stood to attention. Her impassive face did not reveal how she felt about seeing her half-dressed leader and a young, naked worker.
Ulrika pointed to the door. ‘Take him away!’ she ordered.
Comrade Rai gathered up his pants and handed them to him before she grabbed him and marched him to the underground prison. He was thrown into a murky cell.
After pulling his pants back on and regaining his wits he looked around. The walls were dirty and grey. He saw something had been crudely engraved on one of the walls. He stared at the writing, which had been written in Latin. He remembered the language from his days with his educated and academic parents. They had taught him things the new world of Mundus had banned. He moved over to the wall and traced his index finger over the writing. It read: Rem fortiter adgredi, which meant, “to take the bull by the horns.” He knew he had to do this.
Suddenly, he heard a sound coming from the cell next to him. He cocked his head to one side and listened. He heard the muffled sound of sniffling. Someone was crying. He walked over to the wall and placed his ear against it.
‘Hey there,’ he said. ‘What are you in for?’
‘For trying to escape,’ came a sad voice in between sobs.
‘So, you’re the maiden who tried to escape,’ he said.
‘Yes, what about you?’
‘I refused Ulrika.’
‘That was you?’
‘Yeah. That was me. So, you wanted out of an arranged marriage?’
‘Yes, I want to marry for love like my parents did. Although that is something that is banned now.’
Aki smiled. ‘Yeah, that’s what I want, too.’ There was silence for a moment before he continued on. ‘Hey, what’s your name?’
‘Hey, that’s nice. I’m Aki.’
‘Beware Aki. Things are only going to get worse in here.’
Soon came exercise time when Aki finally saw the girl behind the wall. She was only a few inches smaller than him. Something shot through him the moment he saw her and he knew he wanted to see her again. She wasn’t wrong about things getting worse as Aki soon found. They were made to suffer for ten days but they remained steadfast in their beliefs and for what they had been taught in a life in the past.
Nights were spent with Aki and Aiku talking quietly to each other through the wall reminiscing on past lives and happier times with their families. Aiku’s musical, singsong voice stirred the blood of Aki as he thought about the light behind her eyes, the perfect circle of her mouth and the curve of her perfectly chiseled chin. How he longed to see her again!
But instead of seeing her again he was marched back for one final stand off with Ulrika. She stood in the centre of the room dressed in a black teddy and cape with a black hood on her head. She moved towards the bed and gestured for him to follow her. However, all he could think about were the clear and bright eyes of a young woman who made his heart beat faster every time he heard her voice. So, like the first time she had tried to seduce him, he remained steadfast.
She raised an eyebrow and cocked her head to one side. ‘You choose to refuse me yet again?’ she asked.
He stood there in silence.
She moved slowly towards him. ‘You do realise what this means if you don’t submit to me, don’t you?’
Aki nodded. ‘Yes, I know what will happen but my case is watertight!’
Ulrika stood before him and encircled her arms around his neck. ‘I will give you everything if you submit to me…’
‘But what is it worth gaining the whole world at the expense of selling my soul?’
She moved closer and kissed him, her hands moving down his back and settling on his belt. As she kissed him again and again all he could think about was Aiku and how he wanted to be with her from the moment he saw her. The only image he could see and the only image he could focus on in his mind was that of his fellow prisoner.
Finally, seeing that she could not arouse him she pushed him away and once again called for Comrade Rai who came and took him back to his dingy prison cell.
* * *
The next day Aki and Aiku stood in the courtroom where their crimes were read out by the judge. ‘Worker 088068-666 you have refused to submit to our Supreme Matriarch, Honourable Mistress Ulrika. Your punishment will be death by hanging. Have you anything to say to this?’
Aiku stood up and faced the judge and spoke in a clear and loud voice. ‘The Teacher says, “This is what I learned: I added all these things together to find some meaning for everything. While I was searching, I did not find one man among the thousands I found. Nor did I find a woman among all these. One thing I have learned: God made people good, but they have found all kinds of ways to be bad.”’
The judge turned to Aiku. ‘Maiden 033049-666, you have refused to submit to the marriage of Elite FA Officer 054622-666 and attempted to escape the Democratic People’s Republic of Mundus. Your punishment is death by hanging. Do you have anything to say to this?’
Aiku stood up and looked Aki. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘There is a good man and a good woman to be found and even though we have to die, we will be given the crown of life.’
With that, they were lead to the gallows where they would be hanged publicly. The crowds gathered around, hungry for action and thirsty for the blood of those who refused to submit to the rules of the Democratic People’s Republic of Mundus. There was a dank stench in the air and a heat from the humidity and the bodies pressing against each other, jostling for the best position to view the public execution. Both Aki and Aiku were stood on stools and nooses were tied around their necks. Aki reached out and held Aiku’s hand before they were pushed away. He couldn’t see but he could hear her sobbing. Here in Mundus they only had a limited amount of time together but in the next life they would have forever.
She was the last thing he thought about as the trapdoor was opened and he met his fate.