So Long, Marianne: A Short Dystopian Tale
“I don’t know. I mean, sure, the government never makes mistakes, but why won’t they tell us where Andrei Vaslevski has gone?”
“Man, are you some kind of stupid conspiracy theorist?”
“No, no, no. I’m really not! It’s just that –”
“Shut up, foil head.”
This is what the art of the argument has devolved into. There used to be books written about how to argue and how to avoid fallacies, but they are no longer relevant. I remember when I was a child. I was on my way to the corner store, when the neighbourhood bully took my money from me. I confronted him and told him what he did was wrong. I was an idealist, then. I thought that would make a different. All I got out of that encounter was a wobbly tooth and a sore jaw. Things have only managed to get worse since then.
In 2024, our national government attacked the newly-formed, democratic nation of New Andalusia, claiming that they had been planning to attack our Martian colonies. I did not even know we had colonies on Mars! As is the tendency, protests began. People ran into the streets, screaming at the injustice, trying to protect the Andalusian people from our own government. Their signs ran the gamut. Many of them, however, questioned the authenticity of the official story. “Shouldn’t we protect our base on Jupiter instead?” one read. Another read “no more wars over imaginary hardships”. People spoke their minds. It seems like so long ago.
In early 2025, our government decided that this dissent was dangerous. In the summer of that year, our government passed the Involuntary Treason Act. The basic idea was that it was dangerous to spread false information to the masses. Following this logic, the act stated that the spread of such lies was a treasonous act and would carry the punishment of treason. We all know what they do to traitors. I was a patriot, then. I figured that the government knew what they were doing. It seemed like a good idea, actually. If everyone believed the truth, then there would be no misinformation among the people. If everyone believed the truth, we could live in a cohesive society. It seems like so long ago.
At first, they came for the Saturners. This was what they called the people who believed that there was an army base on Saturn, established by a group of people from under the earth’s crust. Then, they came for the Sunday People. These were the people who believed that the governmental buildings were closed on Sundays because the “robots in the government needed a day to get their oil changed”. Frankly, I saw no big loss in this act’s enactment. Sure, stupidity probably shouldn’t be illegal, but what’s one less crazy person, right? What would we lose if we had one fewer lunatic running around telling tales of electrified toilet seats?
Soon after, however, the act suddenly took a turn for the worse. After they had gathered up the crazies, the law became more…powerful. One day, I ran outside to see Mrs. Morris, my next-door neighbour being dragged away by the Involuntary Treason Unit, the ITU as it was called. Mrs. Morris had been my next door neighbour ever since I moved into my current apartment and I had never known her to be anything, but an extremely kind individual. Of course, the government doesn’t make mistakes. I would just have to live with the knowledge that she was a treasonous old hag. Of course, wanting to be the good citizen I am, I went up to the arresting officer, identified myself and asked him what misinformation Mrs. Morris had disseminated. He refused to answer. He just kind of waved me off and threatened to arrest me if I didn’t mind my own business. I found out through a bit of questioning that kindly old Mrs. Morris had told some of her friends about a government agent coming to her door, who had asked her to hand over some personal property. When she asked why, they didn’t answer. When she refused, this happened! This was my first time. I never wanted to admit it, but this was the moment when I had lost my patriotism. I never told anyone; I even lied to myself about it, but I knew this was the moment. How could anyone be a patriot in this society?
That was not the end of it, either. Over the next several months, the number of arrests by the ITU went up exponentially. The strange thing is that, while these arrests were becoming more frequent, the number of classified governmental operations was also going up. We would go to sleep. The next morning, we would wake up to people being arrested en masse. Usually, the arrested would be yelling something about war or genocide or a coup d’état. These screams would usually be followed by a baton to the head, followed by blood and more incomprehensible screams. While I was no longer a patriot, I was still a good citizen. I continued to say nothing, question nothing, commit no involuntary treason.
That was until the fateful day that Marianne was arrested. Marianne was my on-again-off-again girlfriend, but she was also my best friend. We met during my first year of college, about seven years ago now. I was sitting in the cafeteria, minding my own business, trying not to be seen, when she walked into my life. The first thing that I noticed about her was her hair. A headful of shocking red hair framed her face like Venus herself. I must have been staring, because she seemed taken aback. Luckily, she didn’t decide to run in horror. Instead, she introduced herself. It turned out that we had a lot in common, which isn’t that difficult to believe in modern society. We both came from nuclear families, we both went to college because we saw no other option, we both entered programs which would lead to high-paying jobs, which we abandoned for passion projects, so on and so forth. Her green eyes and pale face somehow made me feel at ease. We have been inseparable since.
In early February of 2026, Marianne called me and asked me to come over, saying that she needs to talk to me about something sensitive. Mistaking this for sexual talk, I immediately ran out the door and practically sprinted to her house. Showing up at her door, looking dishevelled, untidy and missing a shoe, I was disappointed to find out that this was actually about some sensitive information. For the next three hours, Marianne told me about what she had come across last night.
On her way to meet some friends at a bar, Marianne had to walk past Union station. She was taking the famous short cut known to all of us “young adult” types. This is the sort of short cut that your parents warn you about. A series of tunnels, going under bridges, the sort of short cut which carries stories of hauntings and murders. I, myself, often worried about this path. Marianne, however, was too impulsive to care. On this day, she came across an open door. A mixture of curiosity and stupidity forced her to go in, which led her to a room which contained some sort of glowing element. Being the inquisitive, some would say stupid, person that she is, she walked through the door and came across three or four men, wearing all black and huddled around the glowing object in question. While she couldn’t get a good look at the glowing object, she got more than a good enough look at the blackboard adjacent to the men. There were a lot of codes that she could not quite recognize. There were also several names on there. New Andalusia was one. There was also Iran, Palestine and Northern Sweden. All of these names had something in common. The news had been reporting, nonstop, about recent disasters in those areas. Iran was hit by a tsunami that killed millions and caused millions of dollars in damages. Palestine’s recently-acquired atomic bomb had gone off, destroying the entire Gaza strip. Northern Sweden had suddenly gone through a heat wave, killing a large chunk of the population. Some questioned the possibilities of these events. Those dissenting voices quickly disappeared and were not replaced. Marianne told me that she was beginning to put two and two together when one of the men noticed her. His yells were matched by her shrieks as she ran, as fast as was humanly possible. The adrenaline must have kicked in fiercely, because she made it back home, practically across town, in fifteen minutes flat.
“I got in and locked the door. I stayed here all of last night. I passed out at some point in the early morning. As soon as everything came flooding back, I called you” she said.
I have to admit I was kind of proud that she called me, when she had not even called the people that she inadvertently cancelled on the previous night. “So, what do you think it all meant?” I asked her.
“I have been thinking about it a lot. The countries that I saw, the codenames that surrounded them, all the Ms and Ks, it could only mean one thing” she said, right before breaking into tears. I should have comforted her, but, I have to admit, I was extremely curious about what she had deduced out of the whole thing. Finally, she gathered herself together and spoke again. “It could only mean one thing: our government, this government which makes no mistakes” she said “has been attacking its enemy nations in secret campaigns, hidden from the people”!
I didn’t know what to do, think or say. This was definitely illegal. This wasn’t a harmless, idiotic conspiracy theory either. This was dangerous to the government. I could have easily turned her in…but I didn’t. I swear I didn’t. She probably thinks I did and, even though no one will admit it, lest they themselves get arrested, I’m sure her friends and family also think it was me. I felt awful that Marianne was arrested, but it was her own fault. She went places she shouldn’t have, saw things she shouldn’t have and, worst of all, she ran. I was certain that the government would have questioned her and sent her on her way, if she had just stayed. That way, they would know that she was a good citizen. After all, the government doesn’t make mistakes. It was too late, though. She ran and that was that. As I would soon learn, however, it wasn’t that simple.
I went back to her house a couple of days after her arrest. I had to know why they arrested her. Maybe it wasn’t even her discovery that got her arrested. A part of me hoped that she was cooking meth or laundering money. When I reached her house, I could not believe my eyes. Marianne was always a ridiculously clean and tidy person, but her house looked like a disaster zone. I could barely manage to open the door, which was kept closed by a variety of books, liberally sprinkled with bits of wooden furniture. Whoever paid Marianne a visit was not trying to get in and get out quietly, that was for sure. Her couch was flipped over, every cushion and compartment turn open as if by a wolverine. Her television was broken, her lamps were broken; it would be quicker to name the things that weren’t broken: her dining room table, which miraculously survived the onslaught, and the contents of her “secret area”. While that certainly sounds like a euphemism for genitalia, it is not. Allow me to explain. For a period of a few months in 2025, Marianne and I lived together. I was looking for an apartment, which, due to the war effort in New Andalusia, proved to be quite difficult. When the government started to consider the creation of the ITU, Marianne became paranoid and decided to build a small space in her bathroom, in order to hide some “incriminating” material. You know, if it was anyone else, I would have turned them in, but Marianne knew my weakness for her. She was never worried about me, as much as I tried to talk her out of it. Her incriminating material basically consisted of a lot of assumptions. She took guesses at what would become illegal and hid them there. The space essentially amounted to a lot of drug paraphernalia, communist literature and pornographic materials. It’s funny; none of those things became any more or less illegal than they already were. When I went to her bathroom and looked at the secret area, I was suddenly hit, for the first time, with a sense of loss. It was at this point that I realized that Marianne was gone and, if anecdotal evidence is to be taken into account, she was probably not coming back.
I didn’t bother to look at the objects in her hidden compartment. Instead, I walked around her apartment, looking at the remnants of a person that I once knew and loved, filled with heartache. I hoped I could have done something for her, anything. There were her clothes lying in a rumpled heap in one corner of the room, decorated with small objects, hairpins and the like. Looking down, I could see her crushed glasses on the floor. She was blind without her glasses, we both were. This was torture as far as I was concerned. She was robbed of her sight, her security and her freedom in one moment. Where was she? Where could she have been taken? Suddenly, in my grief, I decided to do the only thing that I could do to help her. I went to the secret area to grab as many illegal things as I could. I knew that whoever took Marianne would be back for a more thorough search. I figured that the fewer bits of incriminating evidence, the better it would be for her. I went back and filled my pockets with whatever might be used to incriminate her, in any way imaginable. This was when I found the hard drive. Among the mostly-useless rubble, there was one external hard drive, which looked strangely out of place. This wasn’t there when she officially “opened” the secret area, so I had no idea what it could be. It could have been anything, so, to be on the safe side, I pocketed it and left.
On my way home, I felt like a criminal; not that it would be the last time that I would feel this way. I constantly had this strange feeling that I was being watched, as if everyone whose path I crossed was more concerned with me and what was in my pocket than with their own businesses. I finally made it home and, after drawing the blinds in every room and locking the front door and the balcony door, I took the hard drive out of my pocket and connected it to my laptop. There were a lot of files with strange, foreign-sounding names. I opened one after another, entirely at random, and the majority of them were written in a Persian or Arabic alphabet, which I could not understand. Marianne was always good with languages. For the second time in the day, I longed for her presence. Finally, after a lot of scrolling and clicking, I came across a video which, to my luck, contained English subtitles. Naively believing that this would be the video that would help me rescue Marianne, I double clicked the icon.
The video that came up looked like it was made in someone basement with an obsolete camcorder and an Ikea lamp for lighting. A man stood in front of a white sheet and spoke a language that I later learned was Swedish. His face was soaked in sweat and he occasionally stuttered. In short, he looked like the person from the advertising campaign that the government used to inform its people of the ITU. There used to be these billboards and television commercials which had this sweaty, balding, bespectacled man who would spout sputtering nonsense until a member of the government, portrayed by a tall, dark and handsome actor, stopped him. This was all I could think of when the first words appeared on the bottom of the screen.
“Northern Sweden’s heat wave was a fabrication”. This caught my attention, while the man continued to speak in a strange sort of gibberish. Over the next twenty minutes, he went on to speak, in detail, about a secret American campaign which had befallen his country after a whistleblower had threatened to release information on the carnage that had previously taken place in Iran and Palestine with our government’s cache of nuclear weapons. He posited that the heat wave was actually the dropping of hundreds upon hundreds of bombs over Sweden, which was essentially hidden with a bit of hush money. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by the end of the video, I was hunched up in my chair, with my right hand balled into a fist and practically shoved in my mouth, to keep myself from screaming. This was the first time that I truly felt helpless. Our government had destroyed a foreign nation and kept it quiet. What hope was there for the rest of us? What could I do? In a moment of desperation, I considered destroying the hard drive. What would that accomplish? I had no idea. Life made no sense.
Over the next few days, my life slowly began to fall apart. I had absolutely nothing to live for. My country had betrayed me and all of my beliefs were wrong. I hit rock bottom.
One day, I just decided that I had to sit down and figure out what I was going to do. In all honesty, I can’t even remember what day it was. I had lain in my own sorrow and self-loathing for so long that day and night no longer had any meaning for me. I simply slept whenever I felt it necessary, sometimes for two hours, sometimes for twenty. I stopped eating, replacing any food I may have consumed with some type of agent designed to tranquilize or kill me, depending on the quantity. When I decided to figure out my life, I was covered in a layer of filth, severely malnourished and weighing twenty pounds less than I did the day I discovered everything I knew was wrong.
You might say that my mind was not in the right place. I may know that now, but, back then, I felt invincible and I knew I could do anything. My task became obvious: I had to rescue Marianne, take her somewhere safe and, with her help, bring down the government. Simple as that! With very little in the way of resources, I set out towards my destiny!
But, how? What’s the first step one must take to bring down a corrupt government? I decided to ask Mark.
Mark is a guy I know, not much else. He’s a strange kind of guy. He reads a lot of things and has a lot of opinions. In short, he’s the sort of guy that I would have turned into the ITU, if he wasn’t so damn benign. He talks, but he has no action. I was certain that he could give me information, but, at the same time, I was also certain that he wouldn’t help me with the rescue process. I would be Marianne’s only hope!
I paid Mark a visit as soon as I woke up the next day. I reached his house by four, around the time he gets off work, with a hint of sleep still occupying my eyes. This unexpected visit, the first time I had visited Mark in about three months, understandably took him by surprise, but I wasn’t there to catch up or to catch people by surprise. I was there for business.
“Mark, what do you know about Northern Sweden?” I asked him.
His response consisted of a lot of stuttering, questioning and general confusion. So, I repeated myself more firmly, “What do you know about Northern Sweden” adding “tell me before I call up the ITU and turn your ass in”!
I don’t know if Mark honestly felt threatened or if the gears in his head just began to move, but he started talking.
“I don’t know much about the situation in North Sweden” he said, “but one thing I can tell you is that there is a video that you can look up if you have some good, secure access to…”
“I’ve seen the video” I interjected, “I need to know where I can find more information than just that”.
“Well”, Mark said “the guy in the video is named Alfred Sjostrom and his organization has a place in the city. You just have to go down to Welles Blvd; they have a place underneath 17 Welles”.
I was beside myself with joy. I was so ecstatic, I don’t even remember how I left Mark’s house. I just hope I left on a good note, because, the next thing I can remember is myself running in the wrong direction trying to get to Welles Blvd. Eventually, after running out of breath and realizing I was standing outside my own abode, I discovered my mistake and took the bus down to Welles.
As soon as the bus reached the station, I ran towards the door with no thought of who I might trample. There was not a moment to lose. I ran to number seventeen and plummeted down the stairs to a door, shrouded in darkness. I knocked and was answered through the mail slot near the bottom of the door.
“What do you want” said a man with a rather thick Scandinavian accent.
This was like a spy film, with one major difference. I had not thought of what I was there for! The Humphrey Bogarts of the world had something witty or clever or at least threatening to say. Failing that, the detective at least knew what his purpose was. I had no idea; I’m not sure if it was my state of mind or my ignorance of the world around me, but I had to figure something out. After a few moments of silence, I just blurted out the first thing to leave my preconscious and leap onto my tongue.
The mail slot closed and the door opened. There stood the man from the video, Alf something. He looked like he had not left that basement in years. His face was pale, there were bags under his eyes and he looked much older than he probably was. If not for the Nordic Aryan look, it would be like staring into a mirror.
“Come on in” he began “I can tell that you have many questions”.
Strike two! What questions? What fucking questions did I have for this guy? I could remember a time when my life wasn’t so complicated. I don’t want to know answers. I want to go back to that little dome of ignorance that I used to live in, where my one, solitary friend would come by every now and again and keep me sane. Of course, this guy was still talking. I had to get him to stop talking, so, between a “false flag” and an “inside job”, I finally blurted out “that’s not what I’m here for!”
I had only meant to interrupt him, but the look on his face makes me think I screamed at him. He went quiet for a moment, but then asked, sheepishly, “Well, what are you here for?”
“A friend of mine, a very good friend, has been unjustly arrested” I said, working my way through it word-by-word, as if each word was taking a year off my life and I was in the agony of a dying man, “and I want her back”. I sat there quietly for a moment, as if I was waiting for his response, but, as soon as he went to respond, I spoke over him.
“I don’t want to join the resistance or anything like that” I continued “I just want to get my friend out of prison and then, maybe, flee the country”.
This time, I allowed him to speak.
“Well” Alf said “I can tell you where the ITU prison is”.
Twice in the same day! Why didn’t I begin doing this earlier? I thought I was the luckiest person in the world. “Where?”
“Well, when the ITU went into effect, the government realized that they needed a new prison to keep the new class of criminals in. It would need to be secure, obviously, but it would also need to be concealed in a secret location. Think Guantanamo, but even more hidden. They decided that, instead of placing this prison out of the country, where it would garner a lot of attention, they would place it – underground. They went out into the uncharted areas of the desert and dug up large segments of it, making several compartments which were then filled with concrete and turned into large prison complexes. No one would question that. As for you, you can take a quick boat ride out to the desert. All you’ll need is a uniform, which I can sell you. You put that on, take the elevator down, grab the woman and come back. I will write down the directions and come right back. How much cash do you have?”
I suddenly broke out of my stupor long enough to check my pocket. “I have forty”.
“Alright, that will do for now. I’ll be right back”.
Alf left the room and came back with a piece of paper, a used uniform and a voucher for the ferry to the desert. I grabbed it all, handed him the money and ran out of that basement, continuing my pace for the day. What was I thinking? Well, my first thought was that if I hurry, I can make it to the desert before the night is over.
My second thought: ferry to the desert?
“GET THE FUCK DOWN ON THE GROUND” was the next thing I heard, right before a few large men tackled me and dragged me down. I was wriggling on the ground when everything started falling into place. I could see Alf in the doorway looking at me, that shit-eating grin on his face. There were a few people walking around me, not looking, so as not to look suspicious. I screamed for help. “They’re here to make me disappear, they’ve done it before; help me, you fools!” The last three sounds that I heard were a woman yelling “conspiracy theorist”, a man shouting “traitor” and my own head being smashed into the ground.
I woke up…somewhere. I tried to stand, but could not. It was difficult to tell in the darkness, but this was either due to a limited moving space or something holding my legs in place, possibly both. I reached my hand out to the right and reached a wall before I could straighten my elbow. The same happened towards the left, as well as above my head. It was no longer a question: I was in a coffin, waiting to suffocate. I had been the victim of a vanishing. It was all over. I lay there, hoping to die sooner than later when, suddenly, a door above me opened. Before I could contemplate the existence of a door in my coffin, half a dozen hands reached down and dragged me out. I no longer had any control over my legs, so I just went with it. I got dragged through several hallways, all of which looked the same, before I got thrown through a door into a small room, lit by a fluorescent light, in front of a table, behind which was a short man in a big suit. While the short man yelled at the behanded individuals for not blindfolding me, I had a moment to examine him. This man, whose hair was cut in a crew-cut, was wearing a green military jacket, adorned with a large variety of medals and other such paraphernalia. I looked for a name tag or something to indicate his division, but all I found was a small strip of white cloth over his heart, which had been crossed out with black marker, confidential from his prisoners. Out of his uniform and away from his desk, he may have looked like Mac before the Charles Atlas workout. However, given all of those vanities, he looked threatening. As I tried to get myself up on my hands and knees, he started walking towards me. I looked up at him, expecting him to address me. Instead, he kicked me in the face. For the second time in my life, I was knocked unconscious.
I woke up again, this time with two differences. I knew where I was, as I could recognize the room, and I was getting really sick and tired of being knocked out. It was here that I realized I was tied to a chair. In front of me sat the short man. Again, I looked for some sort of identification, something to designate my captor as something other than “the short man”, but this man was to remain anonymous.
“Why do you hate this country, maggot?” he screamed at me.
I attempted to respond with a mixture of outrage and false patriotism, telling him that I love my country and know my rights. Instead, the best I could muster was a strange sound, equating to “eurrga”.
Realizing that wouldn’t work, I tried again. This time, I muttered “lawyer”.
“This don’t work that way, son! Our laws aren’t used to protect traitors; they’re used to punish them” said the short man.
Great! Now, I was a traitor without as much as a trial. I opened my mouth, but it was not my turn to speak, as indicated by a hard slap against my face.
“You stand accused of crimes against your country under the ITU guidelines. You are accused of uttering conspiracy theories, in an attempt to bring down the government. Your criminal statements are as follows: claiming that the government has willfully attacked other nations for political gains, that the government has used nuclear weapons against other nations for political gains and that the government has incorrectly and willfully caused the disappearance of a fictional individual by the name of Marianne Cohen. How do you plead to these charges?” said the short man.
I had taken in so much information at that moment that my thoughts were a jumble of reactions. All I could reply was “fictional?”
“What don’t you understand, maggot? Are you brained-damaged?” screamed the short man.
“Fictional” I replied “Marianne was not fictional!”
“We have already figured out your ruse” replied the short man. “All you had to do was create a fictional person, claim her disappearance and use that to bring down the government”.
“But she was real. People knew her. People saw her get arrested” I screamed at him, filled with so much confusion and rage that the next punch did not knock me out. “She was a wonderful person and you assholes took her away. She’s real”. I just kept screaming, unaware of what was going on around me. Apart from my mouth, the rest of my body had gone into an almost catatonic state, so I offered no resistance when several people came in to untie me and carry me away to another room. This next room was the first one that looked different. This was…a courtroom! It wasn’t nearly as full as a courtroom would be for a high-profile case, but it was definitely a courtroom. Of the few people that were there, I recognized no one, not even the woman identifying herself as my lawyer.
I almost thought I would get a fair trial. That delusion left as soon as my lawyer spoke.
“Your honour” she said, “it is clear that my client is guilty, but please, be merciful”.
As I opened my mouth to scream something about the court being out of order, I was immediately gagged to prevent that. This was how the system worked. Thinking back on that day, I can’t fault my lawyer. If she actually tried to defend me, they would have probably arrested her right there for crimes against the country. Then, however, I did my best to scream through my gag, which would have hurt my chances, if I had any.
While the court went on and my ability to speak was hindered, I finally had some time to think. I needed this time, because there was so much to think about. This government was a truly powerful one. One thing that always confused me about Marianne’s story was how simple it was for her to stumble across government secrets. I have to admit now that I was not convinced. What government is penetrable enough to just conduct its business out in the open? If I knew then what, I know now, I would have spent the night with Marianne. I would have tried to protect her. Our government has become so solid and dominant, that its members can plot the domination of the world around them right out in the open. Through a mixture of might and fear, they somehow get away with it. Oh, Marianne, I wish I had believed you.
Marianne? Is it possible that I’m crazy? Is it possible that Marianne was a figment of my imagination? No, of course not. It can’t be. I force myself to think backwards. I can remember her face, her laugh, the feel of her body against mine, her final day with me. I can remember clearly. She is real. She was real. She had to have been.
I suddenly found myself back in the courtroom. It seemed like I had been there for a long time, but I could not be sure. I looked for a clock, but could not find one. I was not even addressed a single time. Finally, my lawyer stood again for her closing statement, wherein she restated the “fact” of my guilt and, again, asked for mercy. The judge simply took my lawyer’s admission of guilt as a fact. I was told to stand for my verdict, but, since my legs had stopped working at some point between 17 Welles and this courtroom, I had to be held up by the guard sitting next to me.
“This court finds you guilty as charged of all crimes and, under the Involuntary Treason Act, sentences you to death by a firing squad”. This statement led to a huge round of applause from the people in the courtroom, shouting and cheering at the thought of this criminal being taken out of the country, never to corrupt another soul. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my life would end this way. I felt my legs tremble, but I promised myself that I would not give them the satisfaction of seeing me show signs of fear. I tried to plead my case, but I was, once again, drowned out by the individuals in the courtroom, the judge, the jury and the executioners, every last one of them. I was dragged out of the courtroom as the judge yelled for the next defendant. As I was being taken out, something caught my eye. I saw a shock of red hair on the back of a woman’s head! She was being dragged into the courtroom. It was Marianne! I was certain of it. I tried to yell out to her, but I couldn’t…
Time has lost all meaning. I have been in this small room for an infinite amount of time now. They feed me occasionally and that is the closest that I have come to seeing the outside world in all that time. The only things keeping me sane are my thoughts, which are now starting to revolt against me. I think back to that day in the courtroom and I can no longer be sure that I saw Marianne. It could have been someone else who looked like her from behind or it could have been a total mirage. Does that really matter though? I never got to see her face. The only person in the world who mattered to me and her face remained obscured from me and will continue to be to the grave. What hurts me even more is that she was crying the last time I saw her. Marianne was not the crying type and, yet, my most recent memories of her were her tears streaming down her face, afraid for her life. If that was her at the court, she is probably dead. To the outside world, I am also probably dead.
The last time I was fed, I heard a voice say that tomorrow was my execution date. On several occasions, I was told that my execution time has arrived. I would be blindfolded and taken somewhere where I could hear bullets. However, each time, I would be returned to my small room by a pack of cackling hyenas. Sometimes, I would have blood on my face. I realized soon after that I was taken to the killing room. I was simply one of the people not killed. Perhaps Marianne was in that room, too. What if Marianne’s blood was on my face? Would I recognize her death rattle? Would her swansong entrance me?
Is it tomorrow yet? How many more hours before this day becomes the next? How many hours have I been here? I wish tomorrow would come more quickly. That is not all. I wish that tomorrow will finally be the day that I die. I tire of this world. I tire of being dragged out, getting my hopes up, only to return to this hole in the ground. I yearn for the slumber of death. There is nothing left for me here.
I hear footsteps. They are an unusual sound here. It must be tomorrow. They must be coming for me. Hands reach in and blindfold me before, once again, dragging me away from my cell into a hallway where my arms and legs can move freely. I am dragged through the hallways so quickly that the wind blows in my face, allowing me one of the worldly pleasures, to take with me before my potential demise. I’m taken somewhere where I am dropped onto the ground. The earth comforts me. I dig my hands into the ground below me, feeling the dirt between my fingers, under my fingernails. For what may be the last time, I feel alive.
I find my way onto my knees when I hear the first bullet. The sound of the bullet is immediately followed by a dropping mound of flesh. I shudder, but I try not to show any fear in case the executioner is above me. I hear another shot. Another mound of flesh falling. Another shot. Another mound. This process continues, all the while getting closer and closer. My last thoughts are of Marianne. I remember her. She is real. Marianne, you are not a conspiracy theory, you are not an urban legend, you are not a fata morgana; you are real. I love you, Marianne. As I hear the executioner’s boot next to my living corpse, I call out her name:
“I’m sorry”, I heard Marianne say, mere moments before I heard my executioner’s bullet.