The last moments of everything aren't exactly as I imagined they would be. The bitter irony, of course, is
that until a few months ago I had never imagined the last moments of anything, much less everything. I
would lazily dream in my childish way that parties would never stop, that dances would never cease, that
new gowns would never fade, and that old age would never be reached. I guess I was all too right about
that last one.
I first imagined the end of everything soon after my family started running. It seemed so silly before then.
I couldn't understand at all. Why would we worry over a handful of peasants storming the Bastille? Those
lower than ourselves often rioted for simply they had nothing better to do with the time we used to
discuss politics, gossip, and plan for parties. I saw no reason to act in such a frenzy. I saw no reason to
pack into an uncomfortable coach when we could have taken two or three carriages. I saw no reason to
wear our worst clothes and hide our faces as best as possible. I saw no reason to leave Paris.
We headed in no one direction. At first I thought father had gone mad and was merely turning us in
circles. Then it became clear. A smell in the air had been confusing me. I had never smelt so much iron so
clearly before. It seemed almost absurdly metallic. I was contemplating the likelihood of there being a
neighborhood of blacksmiths living together when my mother who stitched to pass her time pricked her
finger. A solitary, slick, red drop escaped from the pinpointed wound, and I realized the smell of iron, the
smell that my father was deliberately trying to steer us away from was blood. Soon, however, it was
impossible to drive the horses away from the stench that surrounded us. We were caught within the
confines of blood that hid our enemies like thick fog. A safe direction could not even be guessed.
My mother stitched without end. My father drove the carriage without end. My sister prayed without end.
I imagined last moments for the first time.
Some moments were easier than others. I could easily pictured the last moments of all my marvelous
parties for they had already happened. It was just a few weeks and an eternity ago. I could see the
sparkling, new gowns then, and the music, perfect for dancing, rang out. My gown was an elegant but
conservative blue than suggested majesty and commanded respect. My father had bought it just for the
occasion, and I had let out a joyful cry when I first saw it. Even as I actively danced with the nice, noble
boy that my parents had told me they approved of, I lazily pretended that this party, this dance, and this
gown would last forever. I don't think I could have accepted that when the music inevitably ended it would
be my last dance with a young man. I don't think I could have accepted that when the guests filed out at
the party's end it would be my last party. I don't think I could have accepted that I would leave my
beautiful blue dress to looters and peasants. Now I accept it readily. There's no denying the obvious.
Other last moments were harder. I tried to imagine the last moments of life. I imagined and listed the
worst pains I had felt. Skinning my knees when I was young and reckless, my father telling me he
wouldn't let boys I liked ask my hand in marriage, and the sinking feeling I get when I see how raggedy
my old dresses have gotten when they are thrown out topped the list, and none of them seemed quite
last moment worthy. I imagined sadness. I imagined crying and screams of agony, but those didn't seem
quite like true death either. I imagined justice just like I was told. Heaven and Hell and Angels and
Demons and so forth must be what awaited I decided. I had been told so, and, while it didn't feel right
either, it felt better than no conclusion at all.
Only one picture felt like true death, and I would have never pictured it myself. We had traveled far
enough to escape the city of Paris, but not far enough to escape the scent of blood. The ends of the
earth did not seem far enough away to escape that. Our carriage came to a jarring and unappreciated
halt. Father barked to stay inside the carriage, and with that my mother grabbed my arm and my sister's
shoulders and pulled us into a panicked hug. I think she was trying to reassure us, but it felt as if I were
comforting her.
Blood hung thickly in the air to the point that it felt like a whole other person in our small coach. Blood's
face was Mother's flinching eyes with my sister's tears coming out of them, and my mother's reddening
lips as she bit them to keep quiet. Blood's body was oppressive and huge, and it nearly completely filled
our space. Blood's voice was a whispered prayer that my sister simply would not stop saying and my
heartbeat that pounded loud enough to surely be heard a mile away. Blood's attire was classy yet simple
like our coach. Whatever caused Father to stop outside must have been horrid. Whatever would allow him
to reasonably delay our escape must have been wicked. Whatever could have made his voice rough and
painful when he spoke to us must have been pure evil. However, to my child's mind, whatever it was
could in no way have been as terrifying as this sickening man in the coach with us known as Blood. So,
without further thought, I ran from him and my mother's comforting embrace.
I swung open the carriage door. I was child until that exact moment. I looked out and truly grew up in an
instant. It was a riot long over. Bodies haphazardly lie on the ground. Flies swarmed them. Organs
exposed themselves to the world. Nobility and peasant lie together, on one another, in each other's arms
as if the corpses still sought human comfort and touch. Father was clearing the dead from the road, but
he was not there to me. He yelled for me to get back in the carriage, but I didn't hear him. My mother
scrambled to collect me, but she wasn't there either. She tried to pull me into the coach, but I didn't feel
her. Only two people were here with the dead. Only I and Blood stood here on this road. I only felt him
grip my shoulders and paralyze me with his touch. I only heard his mocking voice intimating my sister's
prayer over and over. I didn't try to imagine last moments anymore after that. Whenever I thought of it I
could only see bodies and flies while a whispered voice that almost covered up the deafening silence with a
hushed prayer.
I have come to find out that last moments are not quite that either. For days we ran, and in a moment
we were caught. My father tried to fight the overwhelming odds for his family, and he was killed for this
noble act. My sister screeched out at the mob that had captured us and called them beasts as loud as her
lungs would let her. For that, she was killed. My mother limped in a weak denial of all that was happening.
Her hands found my arm and gripped tight. She held me as we walked through a crowd of those born
below us that held all manner of death instruments above us. She rasped out pleas to them, but they
were as deaf to her as I had been the moment I became an adult. I supposed that they must only be
hearing Blood too. He seemed to surround all of them and still invade my space. I felt his hands on me
again, but this time his grip was painful. I knew then that I would be dying. I was too afraid to cry.
In a bizarre act of humor, we were told that we must face trial for our crimes. I wanted to ask how my
sister and father were going to go to court when they were already dead. I wanted to ask what crimes I
individually was being tried for. I wanted to ask why they were wasting their time. My mother and I were
dragged to a building that resembled a prison. The only differences were that in prison I had been told
one received food, in prison I had been told there was space to lie down comfortably, and in prison I had
been told one was given a small hope of release. There is mercy in every act however. Here Blood did not
enter. He was chased from the air by the smell of vomit and defecation. I was glad I didn't have to hear
his cursed whispering that reminded me far to much of my late sister's voice. The screams of my fellow
prisoners were the sweetest lullaby in comparison.
After a few days, my mother was taken for her trial; she didn't come back. No one ever came back. Her
loss hurt too much to cry. For the first time, I was alone, and there were far too many persons around
for me to grieve properly. All I could do was wait. Waiting for a trail I had no chance of winning, waiting
for death and waiting for my next encounter with Blood left me with little time to do much else except
once again imagine last moments. I tried to erase the haunting memory of the piled dead bodies and
Blood's voice, but I had no luck with that.
Then they came for me. I was lead to a simple court house imitation, and once again I felt the very
distinct presence of Blood. He was there as I made my entrance as the last defendant was dragged away
while he screamed about how innocent he was. He was there as I took my seat, and they hissed at me.
He watched as I lost all hope, and he laughed at the idea that idea that I still had any left at this point.
The cases both against and for me were made, but all I could hear was my sister's voice singing to me
and my mother's eyes staring at me from Blood. That's when I started whispering.
“Give them back...Give them back....”
The jury didn't even leave he room to discuss its decision. I was found guilty. That's when I started
speaking.
“Give them back. Give them back.”
The judge closed the court. I had never had a chance. I had known I hadn't just like my mother hadn't,
but it was still all too cruel. That's when I started screaming.
“Give them back! Give them back!”
I yelled at Blood for all I was worth. I stood and charged him, but I never got to him for I was caught in
the grasp of someone else. Even as I was dragged from my trail, even as the next victim was brought in,
I screamed at Blood to give me those I had lost to him. I screamed for my father, my sister, my mother,
my childhood, my parties, my dances, my beautiful, blue gown, and my lazy dreaming.
“Give them back! Give them back! Give them back, I say!”
Now, my throat feels raw from screaming. My feet are sore from the wall. I see the looming guillotine
ahead. These are my last moments of everything, and there are not exactly what I imagined them to be in
any scenario. I am not hurt really; so, there is no agonizing pain. No one is crying, and no one seems
bothered by this. My audience cheers for my death. I see no angels or devils, only people. I see no
heaven or hell, only blue, clear sky and brown, thick ground. This isn't my roadside either. There is no
silence here. There is no Father or mother or sister. There is no coach or embrace for comfort. I can't
even hear my sister's prayer over the uproar of the crowd. It is too distressing to cry.
I am knelt down, and my neck is placed in the contraption. The blade rings ready to fall above me. A dark,
empty basket waits below me. Then I see him. A black hood covers his face so I can't see my mother and
sister's features, but I know its him. At this point, I could recognize him anywhere. However, there is
mercy in everything. When I look out at the crowd, a sea of strangers greet me. At least, Blood and I are
acquainted. I am not alone at my execution. Tears of relief slid down my cheeks, and I whisper a few soft
words of gratitude to Blood for not abandoning me as everyone else has before the blade falls.
I had been told that the decapitated head lives on a bit longer than the body, but no one had told me
how extremely calming the sound of one's own head being severed truly is. My head falls into the awaiting
basket, and I can see nothing. I can feel nothing. My last moments are nothing but a bit of bonding
between Blood and I as he lulls me to eternal sleep with my sister's prayer.
Sister's Prayer
By: Rose L. Cage