The Law

The Law

A Chapter by YouoweYoupay
"

We are the law, every man sane and able.

"
14. The Law


Jaraan and I raced to the main square, where we found Soren cuffed in the wooden frame of the pillory, his face swollen with the collision of fists and feet. Alma was tied with ropes to the stone column of Tambier’s statue. The crowd had been pelting her with tomatoes and eggs.

I was unfamiliar with the faces of the angry mob. They were not from the village.

“We don’t mix! We don’t mingle!” was the chorus repeated louder and louder.

Soren lifted his head slightly to say something that I could not hear very well. This earned him another kick. Alma sobbed. The crowd jeered and spat at them. When she turned her face away from another egg attack, the scar on her neck became visible, sword-shaped and lighter than her skin. I recalled the hour we spent on the Hill of Sleeping Hats. Soren’s neck was clear of any marks. The realization dawned upon me as the evening fell.

An ungodly match. How could I have not noticed? Soren was one of us. Alma was one of them. A persecuted woman married to a remorseful man. 

“You sleep with our enemy, you w***e.” one woman shrieked. Her face reminded me of a slithering snake, “How do you call yourself an Ulian?” Alma let her head slump forward, surrendering to the great weight of their words. The men and women in the crowd, with no exception, wore the indigo blue sigil of the river on their breasts, on their hats and bracelets around their wrists. 

“The Gulocians slaughtered my grandmother, my great aunt and her father! They beheaded a child and put his head on a pike for display!” one man yelled in a broken voice, “This man belongs beneath the filth of your feet, not in your bed!”

Their faces  were illuminated by the torches they held in their hands. I did not see sorrow or woe in the eyes. Whatever I had seen was powerful enough to make my stomach churn. Only a few men and younger girls wept with their arms anxiously crossed, swinging back and forth or masking their faces with their hands.

“The moment you fall asleep!” one woman promised, “He’ll slit your throat in the middle of the night and he’ll tear your heart out, like his ancestors did!”

“What have these people done to deserve such punishment?” 
Father!
It was my father’s voice! My eyes searched for him.

“Stay out of our affairs, Gulokian.” the snake-faced woman warned, “The law of this land protects passing travelers! The laws of Peham and the laws of the gods!”
“If we let this crime pass,” someone argued in a panic, “Lady Melusia will curse us all!”

“If it is the wrath of the gods you fear,” my father reasoned, “Then let our gods decide what to do with this matrimony. Let the creators confront their creation.”
“No. You leave us deal with our own traitors!”
“Go home, persecutor! Do not follow in the steps of your murderous grandparents.”

My father lowered his torch, his eyes losing their resolve. He turned his back on us and walked away.

“The Goddess weeps for you!” someone pelted laments at Alma.
“Melusia weeps for you in the heavens!” 

A hundred years ago, everyone in this land worshipped the same gods. Tambier, his estranged wife, Melusia, and their children.

Following the massacre of the Guloc river, the Ulians abandoned our faith and anchored all of their hopes at the altars of Melusia's temple. Because the god of the river did not come to their aid while their blood spilled on its banks, while the goddess of the earth at least had the merciful heart to give the dead a proper burial and help them rest after all the suffering. The river currents indifferently carried the corpses of the dead for all the world to see, causing them to swell, turn in color and dissolve like soaked bread. The soil charitably concealed the bodies, silently erasing them to dust, a more dignified ending for martyrs of the war.

My blood shot like spears in my veins. My heartbeats thundered in my ears. But I failed to make my legs move. I was no different from the quiet stone sculpture of Lord Tambier. He hovered above us, staring into the distance with an unyeliding face. The weight of the two bags of flour occupied his focus. I could not command my feet to step forward. I did not own my body. I forgot how to speak. I could not recognize our own language. 

Jaraan! He would say something. Yes. He had always been braver than me.

“We will not run, Beya.” He had once told me.

I turned to him, my eyes searing with both hope and terror. 
The boy was as petrified as I was. His fists clotted on his sides, knuckles white. I called out to him, but as if I was imprisoned in a bad dream, he did not hear.

Move! Why could I not move?

Silence. I turned my face to see what stole the voices of the furious crowd.

My father had returned. But he was not alone. 

I closed my eyes thankfully…and when I opened them again, the army that marched behind my father came to light; Uncle Helal, Aunt Tula, Memah Lina, my mother, my cousins, Fareed and his father, and Lumio. 

My brother. My brother.

Everyone carried a torch. Everyone had their grip on a pitchfork. My father climbed the stairs to the platform of the pillory and statue, and he set himself as a shield between Alma and the man who was about to smash a tomato fruit in her face.

“The law of Peham protects passing travelers such as yourselves.” he echoed their claims, “But I have come to tell you that here, in Guloc, we are the law. Every man able and sane.”

“Do not spout what you will only regret, you son of a killer.”
“You are making a fool of yourself �"”

They barked and hissed again until my father aimed his spading fork in the face of the snake-faced woman. She stumbled back and the crowd gasped in shock.

Jaraan’s hand tightened around mine. I nodded at him. Our legs wobbled but we joined my father on the platform of the Fairness Statue. Jaraan spread his arms before Alma’s waning, roped body. And with my heart falling into my stomach, I provided a similar protection for Soren.

“WE ARE THE LAW.” My father roared, “ALL THOSE WHO WALK ON THIS LAND ARE SAFE UNDER OUR WING. NO UNARMED MAN SHALL BE IN FEAR FOR HIS LIFE. NO SICK OR ELDERLY SHALL BE ABANDONED WITHOUT AID. NO CHILD SHALL BE ILL-TREATED. NO WOMAN SHALL BE STRUCK. NOR WILL SHE SHED A TEAR. AS LONG AS WE SHALL LIVE. AND YOU SHALL ABIDE.” 

By a signal from my father, everyone I knew directed the teeth of their pitchforks in the faces of the Ulian crowd. They gradually dispersed. But not before Uncle Helal threw his first and last line flavored with his own spirit:

“That’s right, ye’ cowards. Serve ye‘ right, ye’ horde of mice! Turn around and crawl back to your holes!”

My father released Soren from the asphyxiating wooden cuffs, offering him a drink of cool water. 

Lumio snapped the ropes cut with a knife and Alma fell limply into my mother’s arms.

"She's cold as snow, this girl!" my mother exclaimed, "Help me carry her inside."

My brother regarded Jaraan with a distant smile that evaporated as soon as he glanced at me. 

He disapproved. But at least Lumio had been visible. When Kais Ulia arrived at the scene to take Jaraan home, they exchanged a long stare. The father had an unnaturally calm expression. And in response, the son's face was drained from color.

I disappeared into the edge of the woods. A quarter moon hung low in the sky. Good. I still had two hours before the boy-eating wolves prowled in the dark with their devastating howls.

As I made my way to the Hill of Sleeping Hats, the questions rained on my head. 

What was so unholy about Soren and Alma's marriage? 
Was I really naive for not telling them apart by the skin of their necks?

The picture that returned to me was of a man who turned his face away pretending to be cross with the woman he loved before stealing a kiss from her and earning a few 'affectionate' insults. 

What made them so different from any husband and wife?
What made us different, Jaraan and I, from any other two boys who wanted to go to climb hills or eat rollichs together?

Was it my lighter complexion compared to his warm-honey skin, my brown curls against his sleek black hair, or was it the sigil of the indigo river he wore on his shirt? The gods we worshipped? Our history?

Why couldn't we be friends?

This was a question I had to ask. And someone had to give me an answer. 

But who? 

Memah Takhmeen.

Yes, the rollichs were delicious indeed. No, no, focus, Beya, focus. 

The only Ulian who wore the white scarf of forgiveness at the cost of exclusion was her. I did not know where she lived. I had to ask someone who would not shut their door in my face or shame my parents for giving birth to me. 

Her only companion in banishment was Obi Ginnar, the Mad Herbalist. And he was, well, a mad herbalist. I was jeprodising my own safety to hear anything other than what I had been taught.

Such a noble quest.


© 2020 YouoweYoupay


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Wow. What a powerful chapter. I felt it in my heart and soul. You rarely see justice and injustice clash so openly in the modern world anymore. When it does, it is news worthy and gets people talking, but only long enough until for it to be commoditized, politicized, and chopped into easily digestible clips and soundbites for the masses. But you reminded me that there are still good people in the world. It's like the old saying goes: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Well, we saw Beya's dad do the right thing, surely at some cost to him and his family. But, it was not as clean cut as we'd wish. There were still looks exchanged and words left unsaid between the two parties. It was complicated and messy, for there are many years of context and feelings behind these actions. And it was beautifully rendered by your words. An excellent chapter, Aysha. Maybe the finest one yet!

Posted 4 Months Ago


I have been writing a book lately, so I haven't read this for a while & I'm forgetting much of your story (my head can only hold the details for my own story!) Still, this is an amazing read, even as a short story, not attached to any other longer storyline. Your storytelling is so rich & involved, yet also clear & strident . . . it's easy to get dialed back in after being away from this story. It's not easy to depict a riot-like scene with so much confusion, but you did it remarkably well . . . very clear & easy to follow, you conveyed the emotion of the gathering, as well as a sensory account of it. Great shouting lines, all believable & authentic-sounding -- people would really shout stuff like that. Solid writing & strong storytelling! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 5 Months Ago



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Added on December 5, 2020
Last Updated on December 6, 2020
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YouoweYoupay
YouoweYoupay

Amman, ..., Jordan



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