by Lindsey O‘Neill
“What do you want? You have to tell me what you want!”
“Why does your mouth look like that?”
“What happened to you?”
Scars line her lips. Punishment for saying things that she shouldn’t.
“This is what happens when you speak out of turn.”
Fire eases the thin steel through her skin. She doesn’t scream. Doesn’t give them the satisfaction. Shrieking would be too easy. Mother offered her something to numb the pain, begged her not to be a martyr.
As the blood begins to flow, she wishes she’d accepted the balm. She curses the tears pouring down her temples, but a quiet voice reminds her that it only proves her humanity.
The pain is a vice around her entire body that tightens with each thread of the needle. Her blood now seeps from her lips and she expects to choke on it––if the pain doesn’t take her first. The leather straps are digging into her skin as she involuntarily tries to move away from the source of the pain, but her body remains in place. Right before the world goes dark, she feels the needle stop. She sobs in relief but every minute movement of her lips brings a piercing jolt of fresh nausea into her core.
“We’re stopping there? The work is halfway done.”
“No need to let her starve to death. Yet. Let her do that on her own. She needs to walk among the rest to show them what happens when you don’t listen.”
It’s liquid meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner through a straw that she must struggle to get through the small opening of her mouth. There are days when she wants to throw her cup at the wall and starve, but she cannot let them win. The threads fall out as the scars begin to grow in. No going back now. Can’t reverse it, can’t take it back.
The stares are enough to make her go mad, but she holds her head high in public defiance. Little by little she begins to see signs of rebellion from her fellow citizens. As she grows thinner she becomes less of an outcast. She cannot speak, but she can write. Anonymous letters begin to appear in random areas of the town. These letters are copied and sent across borders and into other towns, cities, states; word is moving fast.
Within a few months, more anonymous letters from different parts of the country start popping up. The government can’t track their origins; there’s more letters now than there are soldiers. But words are not enough; action must be taken soon.
It’s a slow start, and it might not happen in her lifetime, but maybe the regime will come to an end if enough people are inspired to fight it. That’s all she can ask for; that’s the only thing that will make her forced silence worth it.
Lindsey O‘Neill is an actress and freelance writer in South Florida. She hopes to attend graduate school within the next few years and receive her Master of Fine Arts. In her free time, she enjoys reading both fiction and nonfiction, especially history.