Aafje Baarslag – Seven Steps

//Aafje Baarslag – Seven Steps
Aafje Baarslag – Seven Steps 2019-03-07T11:56:26+00:00

Aafje Baarslag – Seven Steps

…seven steps…

Her feet carry her through the narrow streets of a town long abandoned. Flags hang down the houses, tattered at the sides, burned at the bottom. A few houses are on fire. Smoke marks the city. Somewhere is the sound of screaming, but she can’t be sure if it’s a citizen or an enemy who is making the inhuman noises. For the moment it doesn’t matter. Everyone is an enemy to her, who is so closely related to the source of the disaster. After all, she should have seen it coming. The shady deals, the greedy smiles. They could never offer enough to still their hunger. She was powerless then and still is. Yet a part of her wants to believe she can change it, that she can pave a way to a better life. Behind the city walls, there everyone’s fate is waiting.

…six steps…

Somewhere there are children, along with their mothers, starving. The import of grain has ended long ago, trade blocked by the enemy ships guarding the area. The fields that are still able to sustain life, can’t grow enough to feed one household. The only things that can be found on the market are plants no one dares to eat, and meat whose origin makes most hearts shiver. That what seems edible rots before the night has passed. Cattle falls down in the middle of the streets, unable to make it to a butcher as decease spreads faster than the people can eat. The land is no longer made to live on, not when death is lurking around every corner.

…five steps…

In the distance vultures circle above the fields of death. Earth where rain hasn’t fallen in months forms a thick layer not even the dead are welcomed in to. Bodies lay on top of each other in a manner where not a single grave good can save their lost souls from being thrown into hell. There are no mats protecting their dried flesh from the hot ground, no caskets to keep the hungry predators away. A lonely savage sees the place as his only escape from hunger while those who stay true to their gods leave the fields alone to keep themselves save from sin. Though the dead deserve nothing but the best, they can’t be left out of the chaos. Old tombs are broken up in the search for anything valuable enough to be a ticket to the outside. She has seen artefacts of her ancestors carried through the streets, old gifts burned in fires to provide little warmth. No dead can watch the madness of people at ease. No one is left out.

…four steps…

Behind the city gates is freedom. If she can get far away from the capital, it is only a matter of time before she’s out in the woods and far from danger. Her closest enemy is the people, those filled with anger that want to start over. Others will be able to help. They will understand her situation, bring her far away from those that will bring harm. If she’s gone, the people will recover and she will be there to change it all again. Her dream lays behind the gates, right in front of her, close enough to touch. The vision of the gate is obstructed by hands covering her eyes. A part of her remembers being pinned down to the ground, the vision of freedom being the last thing she sees.

…three steps…

The prison is dark. The single window on the top does nothing to illuminate the room several meters below it. The walls are too thick to let any sound through. The door is never opened except for the hatch in the bottom where dry bread and water is given to her. How much time passes, she doesn’t know. She is unable to get a glimpse of the moon to track its cycle. The light that enters her cell at night is too insufficient to get a grasp of the world. She tries to count her meals, but the times change too often to tie to a schedule. All she knows is that she’s back in the capitol, surrounded by those who hate her.

…two steps…

When she does see the light again, the world is blinding. The darkness of the town is lifted for a moment. The vultures in the fields have stopped their eternal circling to give the people a time of happiness. The children have stopped crying, even if the yells of the people are enough to scare them into tears again.
Flags are hung out, celebrating an event she wishes she didn’t have to witness. The battle she has been fighting is lost.

…one step…

The crowd cheers when she is right in front of them. But instead of being glad to see her, they’re glad to see those besides her. The enemy has been defeated. On a pole at the side of the scaffold is the head of the king, her father. A man talks to the people in a way she can’t understand. The words fly past her in the moment of realization. The platform is covered in dried blood, a sign of victory over those who wronged them.

…stop…

The sound of cheers is deafening, but goes unheard by her own heartbeat. The royal house will die with her, but the people will retrieve their own lives. It is a sacrifice she has to make. Although a sacrifice is not how she is seen. It’s a punishment for her family’s name. A punishment for being as much of a lie as her father. She wouldn’t return to them, she wouldn’t save them. They know it. They know it as much as she does, which is exactly why she’s here. With her head on the block, it’s a truth everyone can live with.
In one flow the blade falls down and a river of blood brings new life to empty hearts.