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This is a Story About Sunrise.

by Rachel Brennan 11 months ago in Short Story · updated 11 months ago
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Golden, serene and adorning sunrise.

This is a story about sunrise. Golden sunrise, serene sunrise and the adorning sunrise quilting the sky. William and I adored the tranquil sun seeping inwards dividing the array of tangerine clouds that loomed inside the hazy skies. The best place to watch sunrise was sat underneath the willow tree on the hills near his house. That way nobody could stop us, and the bobbies wouldn’t see us. Heterosexual couples were completely forbidden.

Heterosexuality was deemed to be the root cause of the population crisis and the primary ingredient enabling the prosperity of viruses that loomed inside of our atmosphere and mouths, which caused mass suffering and colossal unemployment due to poor health. Unemployment rates soared higher than when they did during the Great Depression.

People would scamper on the streets for food, they’d weep and scream until their tonsils burned, protesting for doctors which were always busy somewhere else. Weeping they would, we’d hear them from our windows – they’d shriek and beg for a civilized humanity that once was.

Heterosexuality was what doomed the brittle humanity we had left after the Covid-19 pandemic which raged for several years, as mutations sprung every month, bluing patients as they gasped for their ventilators. When they found out the root cause of the pandemic and viruses, the government enforced new laws entailing that any heterosexual acts were punishable by death. They announced that if you felt any urges, to seek help immediately and that way you wouldn't greet your demise.

Despite their euphemistic language masking what they really did. Everyone knew that the “help” you would seek would be the government locking you in a box, enveloping you from society whilst routinely torturing you until you associated your romantic appetite with barbaric suffering.

My mum and mam always told me that if they had seen me with a man, they’d forbid me from the house, making me promise to keep my friendship with William platonic. If anyone knew that William was my boyfriend, it would’ve led us to dismay. We would’ve been called sickening, we would’ve been asked if we want the population to surge out of control again, causing hospitals and medical care to be unavailable.

We’d be reminded of the babies with cancer who had no nurse or doctor to console them with treatment. We’d be spoken of like animalistic murderers, whereas we wished we weren’t like this. It would be far easier to be gay like everybody else. I couldn’t help it, I tried, I did.

Society was broken but with the cleansing of heterosexuals, it was stumbling back onto it’s feet. If you were caught in any romantic act with somebody of the opposite sex, you’d be sectioned or taken to the fountain. The fountain was a public display, a reminder of what would happen to you.

To the men, water was poured into the nose and mouth of the offender, whilst they'd lie on an inclined platform. Their feet would dangle above their head in the middle of a wooden stand, placed in the heart of Venus Fountain, London.

To the women, they’d take them to the Venus Fountain too, and would drown them but it would be a slow, pain inducing procedure. A hooded man would hold the woman’s head in and out of the water for a few minutes at a time, whilst everyone would cheer and record videos of the criminal flapping her arms and choking. An audience would surround both heterosexuals who drowned whilst shouting how unlawful the act of reproduction is, applauding the torturer.

William had a boyfriend to conceal his heterosexuality, it was upsetting when I witnessed them kissing and conveying affection at school. But I understood, people had detected Will was straight before and bullied him, it was the only way out.

I sometimes had nightmares about us both being taken to the fountain, and I squirmed and winced in my sleep. I woke through the night religiously, plagued by the thought of William in pain. The knowledge of William’s boyfriend, Derek – would often be the concept that reassured me, enabling me to return into my slumber.

William gifted me with a crimson heart shaped locket, which he bought for my 19th birthday as a symbol of his love. He told me that if I ever had those dreams or stumbled across any thought that disturbed me, I must ponder my index finger on the heart that sits on my chest and remember that my heart is always with his and that his is always with mine.

He said to hold it and remember that his heart will protect me as though it sits in between my breasts like my own. He couldn’t publicly display his heart to me, so the heart that was vividly on my chest for everybody to see, was an implicit symbol of the one they couldn’t. I rolled the pendant in my fingers every day and never unclasped it from my neck. I forever imagined his warm cradles whilst caressing it in my palms.

My mother warned me that mine and William’s closeness made everybody uncomfortable. I was honest to her that this gift was from him, and she was repulsed by the heart shape of the locket. It infuriated her to the point I received a riot of comments from my family, reminded that the population surging out of control and the manifestation of deadly viruses was the result of heterosexuality.

I denied any romantic relationship with William but they still forced me to watch the Venus Fountain videos whilst they cheered, ‘Look at him, whimpering, dirty pig!’ they’d chant and comment on how much the victims deserved it whilst gawking at them drowning. They reminded me; ‘That’ll be you if you receive any more hearts from William.” I’d quiver as the screen showed a man’s desperate legs battering against the wooden plank.

The mucky, yellowing cloth plastering the woman’s mouth choked my airways just watching it. The sinister hooded figure which was penetrating her head down and back up into the fountain water like torturous apple bombing whilst she squirmed, laughed with the audience as they watched her struggle for air.

I tried to conceal how frightening the videos were, as tears coated the screen of my irises, the videos didn't make me feel empowered at all. My family cheered joyously whilst watching them. "That's right, make the dirty populator feel it." My mum grinned.

I pretended that William was unattractive to me and would completely invent random comments about how bad his breath was or how broad his shoulders were. I would use the things I liked about him as a catalyst for my insults - for example, his deep, oak-brown eyes, I would say I hate the colour. I sometimes felt they saw through my façade like they were darting their eyes through transparent windows though.

My mum always asked me if I’d spoken to any girls, harassing me with that question at the most spontaneous of times - cautioning me she’d noticed my disinterest in them. I feared one day she’d find out somehow, some way.

That’s why we only met up by the willow tree at sunrise. My grandad said religion wasn’t something he was willing to compromise on and that mine and William’s hugs appeared unnatural to him. But it felt natural for me, safe in Will’s embrace. Nobody understood. Was I sick? Was I poorly? I wondered if my family would’ve really abandoned me, or if they would’ve taken me to conversion therapy.

William and I met when the roads were empty therefore safe, and we discussed everything imaginable. William studied art; he adored the works of Munch. And that’s the thing about sunrise, it looked like a painting. The skies were a pool of colours, and when we lost ourselves in the shades and strokes of the paintbrush, we almost forgot what we were doing was completely wrong.

The willow tree distracted us, joyous in our laughter and love. We’d finish our slumber on the grass. By 8:30am I’d climb into my window and lay until I pretended my mother’s call, ‘Breakfast!’ woke me. Until one day, I was waiting for the usual telephone call from William to invite me to the Willow. But as my fingers pondered through a novella that I’d read a dozen times already, my finger sank onto my tongue preparing to turn the next page when a sudden hollow feeling of dread filled my stomach, intuition some call it.

Light was creeping in behind my curtains. It was 6:00am, he would’ve usually rung. I heard nothing. My heart pounded, my feet slipped into my red slippers as I yanked my dressing gown around my waist, choking my ribcage as I darted for the window.

My legs hopped over the sill like they routinely did, the nipping air tugged at my skin as I twisted myself out of it. The apoplectic winds argued with me and tugged my locket, attempting to release it from my neck as I almost choked, I couldn’t navigate myself down the cobbled path for the fog. William would never do this – not when we were on high alert constantly, my feet galloped.

I met the willow tree. I checked my watch, ‘6:25am.’ We would’ve met minutes ago. “William!” I shrieked, “Will, are you here?” I investigated behind every tree trunk hoping to see his face looking back at me. I wanted it to be a big prank. The more trees he wasn’t behind, the more worried I became. This induced a panic attack, despite the freezing wind, I felt scalding.

Chaos coursed through my veins as sunrise peaked between the clouds and then suddenly showed itself. Her bright beam blinded me; in a panicked frenzy I fell over the tree’s roots erected outside the ground. The panic of William’s absence numbed me from feeling the harsh thud to the floor. My hands suffocated my eyes, hiding them from the light.

Then from behind my palms, I saw the clouds concealing the sun, it was now less bright and safe to open my eyes. I removed my hands whilst my face was still pointed upwards, that’s when I saw him... Hanging from the willow tree.

I cannot fathom words to describe the doom I felt. I screamed, I weeped, I couldn’t feel anything besides pain. I died. I roared in my tears, clawing at my own cheeks, begging for this to be untrue. I stared at his precious, beaten face dangling in the noose, his eyes were purple, and I think his nose was broken.

The pain I felt, you couldn’t understand it unless you’ve lost someone you love. I just couldn’t stop screaming. The wind wrestled with the trees, swinging his lifeless body forwards and backwards, I vomited. Blood painted his shirt which was covered in rips and holes. His shoes and socks were missing, exposing his precious, bluing toes. I couldn’t look anymore; I couldn’t bare it. My sadness transformed into fear.

Somebody knew about us. My fight response possessed me; my feet fled to my house. Butterflies tore through my body; nobody was behind me, but I felt like I was being chased. ‘I promise you’ll be alright Margaret.’ I heard William reassure my soul as the locket bounced on my chest violently to the rhythm of my anxious run.

His soft voice, gone, his touch, gone. The only thing left of him was memory, just, incomprehensible. My face was swollen from the wetness and continuity of my tears, my jaw clenched as I raced toward my front door screaming, unlike the usual soundless tiptoe through the window.

Gathering all my strength, my fists clobbered the door, ‘Wake up!’ I shouted, shards of glass spat at me and cut my arms, I couldn’t feel them.

“William is dead!” I sobbed aggressively into my mother’s chest; her hand rested on my head. Rubbing my back, she replied, “This needed to happen, sweetheart.”

Short Story

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Rachel Brennan

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