The sound of the graphite point scraping against cement.
Drawing a line.
Placing a hand on the cold wall.
Pulling it away and inspecting the black dust.
Is it ash or graphite?
Her home had burned.
She had been put here.
She wore clothes of rags.
Her hair was uneven and dirty.
Her eyes had once been full of life and beauty. Now, they were empty. Devoid of what had been there.
Once a week she showered.
Once a day she ate.
Once a month she gazed out the window, just to tell herself there was still beauty in the world.
Once a year she got to go outside.
Five years had passed, making 1825 lines on the wall.
There was no time in this place.
There was no beauty.
Her and her walls were the exception.
Her name? If she had a name, no one knew. As far as her guards were concerned, she was just The Girl. No one asked or said otherwise.
Ash or graphite?
She didn’t know her name. She didn’t know her family. She didn’t know she had been marked as ‘dangerous’.
Five years ago.
1825 days. 1825 lines.
1825 black smudges.
The cement floor was slick and salted with The Girl’s tears.
It was the day of the fifth year. The Girl did her routine.
The guard, Marlin, he was called, got The Girl.
“Come on, Miss. It’s the day.”
Marlin was the nicest of The Girl’s guards, he was kind, he was gentle, and he never hurt her, accident or otherwise.
The Girl knew what Marlin meant. It was the day of the Outside. She was happy Marlin was her guard, he might grant her some extra time outside.
They marched through the prison, just girl and guard.
Marlin dropped his pocket watch, and when he bent to grab it, he said, “Tonight. Be ready.”
The Girl didn’t know what he meant.
They marched on as if it had never happened.
The Outside was just as green and beautiful as The Girl remembered it from last year. Lush grass. Wildflowers in bursts of pastel colors. Yellow, blue, pink.
In her mind, she knew. The High, the prison keepers, they saw Marlin whisper to her. She knew they knew-
“Officer Marlin! I have orders to place you and-” The guard faltered. “-The Girl under arrest for treason!”
How could a prisoner commit treason, being kept here against her will? The Girl wondered.
The Girl was taken back to her room, and Marlin was handcuffed.
“I did nothing!” He protested.
But they knew.
The Girl was forced back to her room, despite her attempts to plant her feet. To stay still.
The guard inserted a key into her cell door. It swung open as if it had never been locked.
The Girl had not spoken in five years, she doubted anyone had noticed.
Now she did.
“No.” She said, her voice a mere whisper.
“No.” She said again, louder.
“No!” She yelled, writhing and screaming and kicking.
Her marks were gone.
All 1825 of them.
“Officer Marlin, what were you telling The Girl to be ready for?” The Highest asked.
“Nothing, as I never said it.”
“I’ll have you know, we will continue to punish The Girl until you confess.”
Marlin paled. “Punish? Her? Why? How?”
“Because she was a possible accomplice in a possible crime against The High. As punishment, we have erased her wall marks.”
Marlin froze. “No.”
“No.” Marlin said again.
His anger overcame his shock.
“You erased her marks?”
“Yes. That shows how we punish crimes here.”
“In my opinion, she’s been here long enough! Five years, and why? She never committed any crime!”
“We have our reasons, and that's above your paygrade.”
Marlin’s rage broke all at once.
The Girl turned.
“Why?” She said in a low voice?
The guard was silent. He wouldn’t even look at her.
Tears carried streaks of grime and graphite down her face. “Why?” She repeated.
She plopped down on the ground outside of her room.
“Get up, girl.” The guard poked her with the tip of his boot.
“No?” The guard asked. He had never expected this to happen.
“Nope.” The Girl said.
She was not going to move.
Marlin fought like a demon. They had disarmed him, of course, but he still had his armored gloves, which did not feel good to be hit with.
He kicked and punched until all of The High were passed out moaning on the ground.
“And now to find her.” Marlin said aloud.
He ran toward The Girl’s cell.
The Girl had been sitting there for twenty minutes. The guard had not been able to move her. It was as if she had grown roots.
A dark figure loomed over the guard.
The Girl’s eyes widened.
The guard noticed too late.
Marlin hit him in the back of the head, hard, with the flat of a sword he had picked up at the unattended armory.
“Marlin!” The Girl said.
Marlin smiled. He liked hearing the girl say his name. Her voice was like spring, or a cool breeze in the summer.
“Let us go.” He said.
They ran for the door, but first they stopped at the quartermaster to get The Girl some clothing that wasn’t in tatters.
She had changed into a guards uniform, complete with armor. They ran for the stables. The Girl rode a white mare and Marlin rode a black stallion.
They thought they were home free.
They were wrong.
Marlin was feeling great, with the wind blowing through his hair.
Correction: Marlin was feeling great, until he got skewered by a spear.
“G-g-g-girl!” He said, shivering.
“Marlin!” She exclaimed.
The Girl could tell, Marlin was about to fall off the horse. She led them to a hiding spot in the forest.
She slipped down from her horse and pulled Marlin off his, carefully. He winced with every light, careful touch The Girl made as she pulled him down.
“I need to tell you something…”
“What is it, Marlin?” She asked with a mask of calm.
“You don’t know your name, right?”
The Girl paused. “No.”
“Can I give you a name?”
“If you wish.”
“Cedar. After the tree we are under. It is beautiful and good, just like you.”
She tried the name in her mouth. “Cedar. Cedar. I like it.”
“I am being called, dear Cedar. Remember me.”
A tear dropped down her cheek. “Yes, Marlin.”
And he was gone.
Cedar brushed her daughter’s cheek. Her name was Willow, and she looked just like her mother.
She turned to her son. He looked like his father. Cedar’s husband liked to joke that she was her’s, and their son was his.
She brushed the hair out of her son’s eyes. “Have a good day at school, precious.”
And she waved her daughter Willow and her son Marlin goodbye.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
"A good name is rather to be chosen than riches." ~ Solomon
Such poetic words. Such poetic lines. Such a poetic title. Oh my! Jokes aside, Carolina, you wrote such a beautiful and an amazing story! Such an awesome note to end on for this year! I just absolutely loved it! :) I hope you had a great New Year!
Oh. My. Gosh. Thank you so much, Haripriya! I hope the same for you! Just btw, I love your profile picture. Its so amazing!
No problem Carolina! Also, thank you so much!! I am so flattered! :)
Love this format, such an interesting way to tell a story! And you suck the reader in since the first line
The beginning gave me a really fragile sort of beautiful emptiness. I love the simplicity so much!
Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
This story was Amazing and emotional, to say the least. It had me enthralled and in tears. I absolutely loved it and the end. I haven't got the proper words to explain my feeling on this so all I can say is just wow. I can actually visualize this on a stage with theater kids. You should be very proud...
wow! Thank you so much!
You're so very welcome!
I especially love your detailed description. You also really manage to perfectly portray the mood of your story. I love it.
Thank you so much! Would you mind signing this petition to end the downvoting feature on reedsy? Heres the link: https://forms.gle/j3V39n9S928uxrbX9 Thank you!
Done. Hope it ends soon.
Very nice story, Carolina! I especially like the symbolism of Cedar's given name and the sentiment you put into the epilogue. Very heartfelt and creative approach to the prompt. :) Hope you have a very happy new year!
Thank you so much! Happy New Year!
noiceeee The emotion is represented well here. also question: did you search up how many days are in 5 years? just wanted to know XD - Amethyst
Thanks! answer: yep yep yep le google is a tool XD
thought so XD if I wrote this I probably wouldn't have done the calculations either so I can't judge you 😋
thanks XD 😆😋
wow...what a simple, yet powerful story!! I loved the detail you were able to put out there with just a few lines, and I absolutely loved this, Caroline!!
Thank you so much, Nainika! I am so glad you liked it!
no problem!! Happy holidays, Caroline :)
Happy Holidays!!! 🤓🎉🎉🎈🎈🎄🎄
I love how the story is kind of poetic, it makes the story more emotional. I like the descriptions, and the title too. I wrote a story with the Sam prompt, and I have to say, yours is much better! (For reals) Good job Carol!
Omg, thanks! I'm so glad you like it!
Aww youre welcome!
Hi Carol You good? I was wondering if you would want to read my new story, “the battle between the grubs and the humans”?
I love this, very poetic