The Children Can Play

I came to this town to destroy it.

But then this little girl pulled on my finger
“Come down to the river with us!” the piggy squealed
I could’ve smashed her skull in like an eggshell
Snapped bones like breadsticks

But my human body was curious, and made me go with her

All the children of the town were there that day
Swimming, splashing, shrieking with laughter
They came to escape the heat and pesky parents
A naked boy ran up to me; “Have you come to play, miss?”

I almost smiled.

They were too innocent; I turned my back, leaving them to their happiness
They did not commit the crimes the town was guilty of
I could not smite these children
So I delighted myself as I tore the adults of that town to slivers
The King’s Justice.

And I left the children to play.

Reaper

The last words of a dying man. They’re supposed to be profound, aren’t they? Something that will sum up the life they’ve lived, be the conclusion that they’ve reached, the fatal punchline to their joke.

In my experience, there is nothing profound about them. They are always confessions; of love, of murder, of sin, of hope. Questions. A last minute redemption plea. In my job, I’ve heard them all.

You can always see the moment that they realise that they are about to die. Then the terror takes hold, the frantic fear that the secrets they’ve tucked into the creases in their cardboard faces, the urgent words that they never voiced out loud – all these things that are so important will die with them, and no-one will ever know.

That’s where I come in. I will come and stand by your shoulder, watch your time-torn face. Then bring in the king. Enter death as a beautiful woman. Enter death as a scar-flecked monster. The edge of a blade, a bullet to the heart, a needle in the dark. And kneel beside you, performing death’s wake. I am the reaper come to untie your soul.

I am the last person to hear you. I carry the confessions of generations. And your questions, as sweet as they may be, mostly go unanswered.

Except for sometimes, when I just can’t help myself. When you seem so lost and so scared and so hopelessly young that I want to cry, ‘No, this is a mistake – send her back, she is just a child’. It’s times like this when I will embrace you and tell you the story of your life. I will share with you the way that the last confession of your parents was one of love. They died with the words on their lips, just as you do now.

And I will move on, to my next body, to their last words. But the confessions take their toll, and the memories of humans fills my head. It is always the young ones are the ones that hurt me the most.

Safe

When I look after my children, I must make them feel safe.
Oliver yanks my sleeve, jabbering about assassins, and Ella presses into my side with warm sticky fingers.
“What’s an assassin?”
I lie. “They are not real. They only exist in books. Besides, they would never come here – our town is too small.”
Oliver says that people will break into the house, and his little sister shivers against me.
“The doors are locked,” I respond. “The windows are bolted. And the lights are all on – burglars never break into a house if they think the people inside are awake.”
Oliver brings up fires, and I have had enough.
“There are fire alarms on every floor. Come on, Ollie; time for bed.” He’s scaring his sister.
He trots off to his own room. I smooth the hair from Ella’s head, kiss her hot skin and pad to the doorway.
Her quiet whisper calls me back. “Mommy? Can you leave the lights on?”
The fear in her voice; her wide eyes; the way her covers are yanked right up to her chin… children shouldn’t have to be afraid. It makes me feel so cold, so weary, so achingly sad. I want my children to be carefree and innocent of the dangers. It isn’t their job to worry.
“Of course,” I reassure her. “I’ll keep them all on.” I close the door softly behind her and tread downstairs.
When I look after my children, I must make them feel safe.
But I wish that I didn’t need to. I wish that this world was safe.

Freedom is…

…when an insomniac can walk the streets at night and feel completely safe
…when everyone loves the way children love – blind to colour, race, gender and sexual orientation
…when you can be yourself, and know that people will not judge you
…when you can disagree with people no matter what their status is, without fear of persecution
…when you can make your own decisions based on unbiased knowledge that is freely available to you
…when you can choose who you want to represent you and speak for you

Cyprus

Image

“Kathrine, I need you to go and get 100 euros from your bank!”

I whine, look up from my computer. “I don’t want to! Why should I?”

She sticks her head around the door. My childish mind can’t see the extra lines on her face, the dark smears under her eyes, her greasy hair that hadn’t been washed since the day that the banks shut down.

“Because your father and I have already taken out our money for the day, and we have Francis’s hospital bills to pay for! Not to mention the fact that the cupboards are bare, and the price of food has rocketed! Now go!”

I sigh, slouch, and slump out the door.

Sexist

The first time I read this, I went, ‘Awh, isn’t that cute’ and promptly forgot about it. It’s only a couple days later that I remembered this and realised that actually, it’s a very sexist thing to say.

First off, why is the girl more of a victim than the boy? Aren’t they just as likely to be bullied? And is the girl going to cry because she’s emotionally weak, or is it just because she’s the youngest?

Secondly, why can’t the girl defend herself? Why does she need her hypothetical older brother to defend her? I think that some girls can be pretty terrifying when angered. And they’re even more scary when they cry!

Thirdly, who’s to say the boy even wants to fight for his sister? I know plenty of pacifistic boys who prefer mind games over muscle games. And plenty of kick-ass girls too for that matter.

Lastly – if I am the parent of these two hypothetical children – shouldn’t I be beating up whoever it was that made them cry? It’s not the responsibility of the child to defend the sibling, but the responsibility of the parent. Until the child is 18, of course; then they can legally defend themselves.

Anyway. Rant over.