My view from the cell I was placed in made it impossible to ignore the bodies of people like me, Assecula, who hung from their ropes. The rotting skin peeled away from their body in places so bone was visible. When the scent became too acrid, the body was chopped down to be fed to animals. They were my brothers and sisters, my family. We were killed for not being like them, they feared what they could not understand. When I was younger, I longed to be normal. I would wish every night that I could wake up one day and belong in their world. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We were named the Assecula, the Followers. We left the human’s decades ago, forced to flee or stay and die. We were seen as parasites in their eyes. Our powers were considered a crime against God. No one should run that fast, curing illness with the touch of a hand is the devils work. I was born forty years after we were kicked to the outskirts of humanity, made to scavenge for food and shelter to survive. We were survivors though and while the humans thought kicking us out would make us die off, it made us stronger. It wasn’t until twenty years after we were banished that we were discovered. An expedition led by the humans, people we had called friends and neighbours, came to claim new land but found us instead. That was when the siege’s started. We did not ask for war, we called for it to end. My father once told me that the talentless will always kill the talented out of fear of what they could not understand was better than them. We were simply the new and improved version of humans but they couldn’t let that happen. Someone who considers themselves the best does not want to find out one day that they are no longer the best, they are obsolete. It’s just evolution.
“Come students, don’t get too close.” I heard a voice outside of my cell then the shuffling of many feet of the stone floor. I flipped over in the bed and smiled at all of the young faces peering in at me, trying to suss out if I was a threat. If what their parent’s told them was true.
“Hello.” I said. The teacher was shocked, as were most of the students. Only one replied.
“I can’t wait to see you hanged tomorrow.” It was a young boy of nine or so, he stood an inch in front of his friends, the closest to the bars that kept me here. I despaired in my mind. How could their parents raise them to want someone dead? I had been warned before I left the colony. They had told me these people would be harsh, if I was ever to meet one then I should not engage it. I should run, as fast as I could because if it saw the chance it would kill me.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I replied. The teacher gave the boy a dressing down for replying to me at all and then she ushered them all into another room. I was about to turn away and go back to facing the wall when I heard footsteps. Only one pair this time.
“Why did you come here?”
When I turned around, it wasn’t the boy from before. It was an older student. He looked not much younger than me.
“I came to see.”
“See what?” He was a curious one. If his teacher knew he was still here, he’d be in trouble. More trouble than the last boy.
“‘See how the other half live’ or something like that.” I said.
“Then why did you kill that man?” I couldn’t help it now, my memory faded back to this morning when I had been caught by one of their patrollers. I had been sloppy with my hiding place. He tried to kill me with his gun but he slipped on the undergrowth and hit his head. I tried to heal him but there is only so much I can do. He was dead before I could even lay a finger on him. That was how I was found, lying over this man on the forest floor, his blood covering my hand quite quickly.
“I didn’t kill him. It was an accident.” My voice came out as a quiet croak. Even the thought of a dead body made me weak at the knees. I don’t know how these people do it, killing my kind and even their own kind. I didn’t have the stomach for it.
“Liar. My dad was there, he saw blood on your hands and you were leaning over his body. What makes you think you’re so much better than the rest of us?” He sneered at me just like the woman had done earlier.
“I saw my own mother killed by your kind, ripped away from us and shot on her knees while my brother and I were forced to watch. He would have killed us too only my father hit him over the head. You’re kind kills so easily, so readily. You don’t ever think about the impact of that death, the family that must bury the body. I didn’t kill that man but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about his family.” I blinked back tears that were eager to escape. I didn’t mean to sound so forceful but the topic was tender. My father never got over killing that man, even though he had killed our mother. I thought for a moment then spoke again. “Being what I am, an Assecula. You and your kind might consider that the greatest sin of all but to us, murder is the sin that weighs most heavily on a man’s heart.”
“I don’t want them to kill you.” The boy said quietly after a few moments of silence.
“What?” I said, shocked. To an Assecula, a human with compassion was considered a dying breed.
“You shouldn’t die. I’m not saying I don’t hate your kind but still, I don’t think you should die for something you didn’t do.” He shrugged his shoulders. I pictured this boy, twenty years older with the red and blue uniform of a patroller on and face to face with one of my kind. Would he shoot as quickly as his friends would? None of us that ventured back to the humans had ever made it home before so we thought they were incapable of compassion and had killed them on sight. Yet here this boy stood, actually considering a world where murder was not the immediate answer. Years of hate had thought him that we were enemies and that we must die. He had been brought up going to Sunday executions and seeing dead bodies hang above him in the street like decorations. Maybe there was hope yet for the humans, I just wished I could get home to tell the others this. But I couldn’t. I was to become one of their decorations.
“My name’s Thomas.” He said, reaching a hand into my cell. I took it and smiled hesitantly at him.
Thomas started rummaging around the guard’s desk then until he found what he was looking for. A key.
“It’ll be ages before they check on you and no one will suspect me. Take my jacket and put the hood up so no one can see you. Maybe put your hair around your face too.” He took the band out of my plait and spread my curls over my shoulders, trying to make it cover me. His hood hid me quite well.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked him.
“Maybe I don’t want to be a murderer in my teens.” He suggested. I shook my head and pressed him.
“I know what it’s like to lose a parent too. I’ll go back to hating you tomorrow and maybe one day we’ll meet again and I’ll try to kill you. Our kinds will always hate each other until one of us dies out. But for now, go. Go and don’t come back.” He pushed me toward the stairs as he turned to go find his class. I thought it was a pessimistic look on things. I always hoped that one day we could move past this hatred and live together again.
“Thanks Thomas.” I said, looking back to see him go through the door his class had gone through. He looked back for a second and smiled widely.
“Hope I don’t see you again.”