For This; Therefore, I Die by Jonathan Bowerman
For This; Therefore, I Die
How ironic she thought, struggling to take another gulp of cool water. Relief did not follow, for each constriction of her throat felt as though she were swallowing shards of glass. The pain almost as excruciating as the daily task which she must endure. Her sacrifice was not for personal gain, though.
Seventeen year old Samantha knelt in a cold iron room with her legs tucked underneath her. Slightly hunched over and gasping for air, she had one hand upon the floor to keep from collapsing, while the other clutched a half-empty cup of water.
“Well done, ma’am.: An unnamed man took the glass. His footsteps resonated in the now empty coffin-of-a-room, walking through the door from whence he came. His remark, although meant to be encouraging, hit her like a dagger in the back.
Well done? A slight giggle escaped her lips as she dragged herself to the corner of the room she called ‘The Altar’ and struggled to her feet. Four walls, one door, no windows, no seams. It’s hard to believe this small room holds so much pain. If I could choose again, would I take a different path?
A light tapping echoed in the chamber. She looked up, startled, and gazed across the chamber at her visitor. Simply going by the name ‘Medium’, he wore a white gown from shoulders to toes, as is the custom, he always told her.
Samantha hobbled over to him on shaking legs. With the thumb of his right hand, he traced an imaginary circle on her forehead, as is the ritual. She never really was one for rituals, but too much has happened to not believe that what she did was necessary.
“Same time tomorrow?” Samantha coughed the words out, sopping wet and depleted. This was not really a question but more a sign of confirmation that she would return. She pushed past him and shouldered her backpack.
“Same time tomorrow,” Medium replied while closing a large door to the iron room.
She slowly climbed a spiral staircase leaving her torture chamber behind. Once nothing more than a back room of a now-abandoned library, it had become the home of The Altar. Every morning before the sun rose, Samantha saved mankind. Her suffering was one nobody had experienced, for it was interminable and uninterrupted. Her pain was inexorable, and a requirement to satiate those which would otherwise pass judgment upon the human race.
Squeaky footsteps echoed through a dusty study. Soft light from the rising sun illuminated the glass windows and piles of old books stacked in random locations. Warm beams streaked across her face before she pushed open the double oak doors, revealing who, and what, she gave her life for.
“For this,” she said as she raised her hands slightly, and apathetically, “therefore, I die.”
Trudging down a littered sidewalk strewn with strung-out junkies and drug dealers, she kept her eyes downcast to avoid drawing attention. Small shops with radios in windows blared the source of her malcontent:
“Another raid in the slums of Wayward Heights resulted in 20 deaths…”
“12-year-old Smith will be tried as an adult for the murder of his parents…”
“…such abuse no child should ever have to endure.”
“Peace talk fails in the East as threats of nuclear actions continue…”
Shop after shop, radio after radio… Samantha struggled to block out the hate and negativity plaguing society. Every day… more death, more suffering, more hatred. Do they really deserve my sacrifice? Why do I keep doing this for them?
For this; therefore, I die she said to herself as she stepped around a couple of druggies, glancing down at them as she moved past. I suppose it’s still worth it… somewhere, in all the malcontent, murder, and destruction, there are still people who love, who deserve to live. Somewhere…. Her thoughts went back to when Medium approached her with his seemingly asinine proposal. She snorted. Yeah, he really sounded stupid… but I did agree. Not until after the vision, though.
“Here kid, have some candy, on the house.” A well-dressed, clean-cut, handsome man held out the drug-of-choice for that month.
“Not interested,” she mumbled, pulling her hood over her head.
Three years before, waiting at the bus stop, a voice had resonated inside her head telling her what she was about to see would come to pass unless she became a living sacrifice:
The bus stop had vanished and she had found herself standing in a field that stretched as far as she could see. Family… friends… strangers… myriads of people crowded around her, going about their normal lives. A rush of water overtook them in an instant but touch her, it did not. She stared in horror as their lungs filled with water and their limbs convulsed uncontrollably, watched as they writhed in agony while life left their bodies. She screamed with terror as the masses scrabbled at their chests attempting something, anything that would give them one more breath of air. Eventually, she fell sobbing to the ground, while overhead, corpses floated on the surface of unforgiving waves.
Take their place and save their lives, the voice boomed.
How?! Her scream echoed in her mind, and tears flowed down her face.
In an instant, the water vanished.
The vision repeated, but this time, as the inundation began, she found their positions flipped. She held her breath as her heart hammered against her rib cage. Struggling violently, with the pounding of her pulse in her ears and every cell in her body screaming for oxygen, she fought taking the breath of death. It only prolonged the inevitable…
Yet the world lived. All the people who were dead moments before now carried on about their business, paying no attention to her struggle. Images of her loved ones streamed before her eyes and, as darkness crept over her, she drowned.
Every day, the voice echoed one last time.
The vision vanished, and Samantha awoke, laying on the ground, gasping for air. Before her stood Medium dressed in the same long white robe she now knew he always wore.
As she reached her home, she shook herself free of the memory, and walked through the front door to the smell of fresh biscuits and bacon. Her mouth involuntarily watered and her stomach let out a subtle grumble. Her mother smiled and hugged her lovingly; her father squeezed her shoulder and gave her a kiss on his way out the door with his coffee mug in hand. Sitting at the table, her little sister stuck her tongue out and snickered, causing eggs to fall out of her mouth. In his high-chair, mashing oatmeal into his hair, her baby brother still in diapers coed with the sweetest voice she’d ever heard; cereal scattered across the table in front of him. Eyeing her beautiful family, and appreciating every moment she had with them, she took a breath and said to herself…
For this; therefore, I die…