The bells rang a dismissal, delivering us from the stillness, and the commotion of everyday life resumed. The street was full of people, their faces shuttered as they hurried about their business. No one glanced at the armored man standing at the corner of 6th and Main. No one ever did, not anymore.
At first it seemed perfectly appropriate. Lives were being lost, after all. Shouldn’t we honor them? But the bells began to ring more frequently – two or three times a day, sometimes more, each chime a reminder that another loyal soldier has died at the hands of the renegades. Or so they tell us. That’s when the Bellmen started showing up.
The first time I saw them kill someone was three months ago. A man – a boy, really, he couldn’t have been more than seventeen – refused to hang his head in simulated sorrow. He kept walking, eyes and chin lifted, weaving his way through the frozen crowd. And then he began to sing:
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word…
With a motion so fluid it hardly seemed a motion at all, the nearest Bellman raised his rifle and shot the boy. Shock coursed through me – not at the boy’s murder, but at the hideous crack of the gunshot ricocheting off the walls. Only after the echoes had subsided did a dull, aching horror creep into my bones.
I was remembering the boy when the bells rang later that morning, stopping the world. In the silence, I felt the shriek building inside me, clawing and tearing at my throat. In my struggle to keep quiet, keep still, keep breathing, I looked up and met the Bellman’s eye.
We stood for a long moment, gazes locked. He shifted his weight, flicked his eyes to the side. I choked on my stifled scream until the bells released us again.
This post was written in response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge prompt.
You should write a creative response using the given word. You must use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly. Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words. This week’s word is:
ob·serve verb \əb-ˈzərv\
1: to conform one’s action or practice to (as a law, rite, or condition) : comply with
2: to inspect or take note of as an augury, omen, or presage
3: to celebrate or solemnize (as a ceremony or festival) in a customary or accepted way