The Voiceless

In Issue 68 by Ashley Goodwin

Image
Photo by Nathan McDine on Unsplash

Tommy looked in all directions before confirming they were completely alone on their hidden path in the woods. They had never done something so risky in public before. They knew getting caught for Public Display of Affection would have consequences. But due to his mother's recent shift change, he couldn't hide his relationship behind closed doors anymore. Regardless, they were sixteen, in love, and couldn’t fathom being separated. His lips were interlocked with Emily’s until they weren’t.

Emily turned her attention to the building behind them. The old mansion had been converted into a state-run children’s home with patches of discoloration in the stone leading straight to its broken windows. A historic building that succumbed to the deterioration of time like the others in downtown Morrisville.

“Did you hear that?” Emily asked.

Tommy knew there wasn’t another person nearby. He picked this spot because no one strolled down the dilapidated road of Wallace Lane that led to the Wallace Children’s home. Tommy believed Mr. Wallace contributed to the apathy of the Children’s Home—a stain of the past.

Morrisville once had wealth from gold veins—gold that was transformed into rings and chandeliers and gold rain. Those were the words locals used to describe the prosperous town it once was, how the precious metal made everyone rich and depicted the American dream. But it's no secret that the old town mayor, Mr. Wallace, exploited his prospectors for financial gain and destroyed lives. Many of them were children, and some were even Mr. Wallace’s biological children, also known as replacements. It was always easier for locals to say everything was perfect than to admit how fractured an image was. No one wanted to dredge up the ghosts of the past; no one wanted to remember the devastation; no one dared to question any authoritarian force.

Tommy listened for an animal sneaking up on them, but he heard nothing and assured Emily it was in fact, nothing.

They continued to listen until they heard a loud scream. “That noise,” Emily said. “Where is it coming from?”

“Has to be from the children’s home,” Tommy said.

“It can’t be—it can’t be true.” Emily’s voice cracked.

“Kids are noisy, it’s not unusual.”

The screams turned into high-pitched cries for help. Tommy examined all the windows, searching for a light source or a silhouette until leaves crunched behind him and watched as Emily ran. He assumed the children had seen them and that must have frightened Emily since it meant potential witnesses, and it startled him too.

He ran towards his hidden car, where Emily waited by the passenger door as he unlocked it and they both got in.

“Do you think they’ll contact authorities?” Tommy asked as he fumbled with the keys.

“I doubt those children can contact anyone outside of that place,” Emily said.

“What are you talking about?” Tommy asked.

“Penelope found videos online of victims speaking out against alleged abuse in children's homes, but the videos disappeared without a trace. I had never believed her,” Emily said and sank deeper into her seat. “Let’s leave, I can’t be around this.”

He wanted to play the devil's advocate since he saw his four-year-old neighbor cry for thirty minutes because there wasn't a band-aid big enough to cover the grass after her father mowed the lawn. But the danger of getting caught and investigated made him disregard his questioning nature, so he agreed.

They were silent on their drive out of the woods and into town. It was a silence that settled in every bump as they drove over enough potholes to make anyone believe the ground might crumble at any moment. Tommy was comforted by the silence, knowing there weren’t police sirens behind them. Emily stared at the floormat the entire ride; she was preoccupied with something else.

Tommy turned into Emily’s neighborhood and checked that all his safety procedures were in place: his homework was in the backseat, the neighborhood was quiet, and it was after 9:00 P.M. Tommy never allowed himself to relax despite believing their chances of exposure were smaller in a suburban community without a nearby church. Families with children weren’t incentivized by the $10,000 reward to report suspicious behavior since it put a spotlight on everyone in the area—officials treated rebellions like mold. As if the spores during an outbreak traveled on the wind and into nearby doors, and if it weren’t treated immediately, it would find its way through pipelines and into the town’s water supply, poisoning all of Morrisville.  The only time neighbors reported was if they wanted revenge, or Christians who believed they would be poisoned and doomed.

“The coast is clear,” Tommy said as he parked his car in front of Emily’s house and turned off the headlights.

“Is that the only thing you’re worried about? Getting caught? Children are abused and forgotten, and that’s all that’s on your mind?” Emily asked.

“Why are you so concerned about obnoxious children screaming at the children’s home? Getting investigated is a big deal.”

 “Mothers are ridiculed for giving up their child, as if raising an unwanted child or financially struggling wasn’t difficult enough. While our government preaches about adoption when it’s a living nightmare for everyone, no one can win.”

“We have to take control of the situation and do things our way.”

"Like Gerri Santoro? She attempted to do an abortion and mutilated herself. And Cassandra Agnieszka? She became septic after her twins died inside of her, and doctors refused to give an emergency abortion!”

“I thought emergency abortions were allowed.”

“They lied, just like they do about everything else.”

“That’s terrible, but I don’t understand how this relates to us.”

“This could happen to me. It could happen to us.”

“I take every precaution. We both do.”

“We can’t depend on our government that banned abortions, contraceptives, and gay rights twenty years ago. We can’t depend on the states to regulate children’s homes or foster parents who exploit their foster children. We can’t depend on our own rules because we’ll become criminals. We’re fucked, Tommy, and that’s the only guarantee,” Emily said, growing more despondent.

Emily started to cry. And she was right. No matter the precautions he took, there was always that chance. The foster care program was supposed to be an effective government program; it evaded parenthood and mitigated the consequences of breaking procreation law. The law said all couples must be heterosexual, married, and fertile before conceiving. As part of the state's requirements, the couple had to submit documentation regarding their future child, and the state expected their child to be healthy. A perfect infant was defined by the state as one with no chance of stillbirth or breeding complications. Mothers who presented imperfect infants risked being treated as second-class citizens—they would be given a Grace Mark. This would enable the state to build the ideal society by eliminating undesirables.

“You can pretend you have it all figured out,” Emily said. “All it takes is one mistake.”

Tommy knew about society's rules and injustices, yet he discovered a shortcoming. After studying the weaknesses of the system to stay a step ahead of everyone else, he expected the state to care about children's and women’s welfare. It had been over a century since children were exploited in the Wallace Mansion and when women were denied abortions in life-and-death situations. If it weren’t for the timeworn town, he would have assumed it was still the Progressive Era. The irony of progressing into a regression made his stomach clench. He no longer felt in control of his life or Emily’s, and it terrified him. To uncover all the truth, he had to be as immoral as those in power.

“You’re right. I’m sorry for being ignorant and acting like a know-it-all,” Tommy said and looked in Emily’s eyes. “What I do know is I love you and care about you more than anything.”

Tommy reflected on the fantasy he’d had since his parents first hammered the rules of relationships into his head after he admitted his interest in Emily. His fantasy of escaping—not just from Morrisville or the state of Idaho, but to another country. “I’ve been fantasizing about us moving to Canada after we graduate,” Tommy said.

“Do you mean that?”

“I do, baby, I promise,” Tommy said. “I’ve been saving up all the money I can from Cruise Burger, but I’m going to need your help. It’s a team effort.”

Emily smiled and agreed. She turned her body towards him but stopped herself. After he confirmed no one was watching, he embraced her. Her scent brought back a memory of when he went to New York with his father. They strolled through Central Park, and Tommy was captivated by the flowers and frogs in a pond. It wasn’t windy that day, yet one lily pad had strayed from the bunch, and Tommy detected a citrus green scent trailing in his nostrils. An aroma that guided him to Emily in kindergarten. Emily swore by this—the universe bringing them together. His rational mind dismissed it as a coincidence, but his inner romantic believed otherwise. His love for Emily was unconditional.

“I can’t wait to hug you without thinking twice,” Emily said and laughed.

“Me too.”

He waited until she went inside her home and turned the porch light off before driving away. Several houses down from Emily’s, a middle-aged woman stood on the sidewalk with her arms crossed, staring at him. The taste of iron filled his mouth—he bit his lip too hard. Why was a suburban mother up so late at night? Why was she staring like that? Did she see them touching? He felt a numbness in his legs as if they were unattached to his body. A car honked; he looked in his rearview mirror and realized he had run through a stop sign.

Once he got home and lay in bed, he focused on the outcomes of his actions. Sex outside of procreation was classified as Sodomy in the first degree and carried a minimum of six years in prison. Sodomy in the second degree involved homosexual relationships with a minimum of four years. Juvenile delinquents were subjected to the same captivity but were put into youth detention centers. Abortions, miscarriages, and contraceptives had their own separate classifications. He grabbed his phone throughout the night, tempted to research the law, but he stopped before incriminating himself. Everything was traced online, and suspicious behavior prompted an investigation—even watching porn. He remembered Public Display of Affection resulted in a fine and probationary period. He would feel the mark on his Grace Score when he turned eighteen.

If the case was investigated and it prompted a physical examination, Emily would say her hymen was torn when she was riding her bike. It was a similar story to Emily’s friend, Chelsea, whose Christian mother reported her daughter to the police after her hymen tore while riding her bike. Chelsea was questioned every day until the case was dropped. This explanation was a passable excuse; Emily rehearsed it multiple times since she was too honest for her own good.

***

Tommy managed to fall asleep, but when he heard Emily scream, he woke up to see Emily sitting on the corner of his bed. He rubbed his eyelids, and his heart pounded in his chest.

 “I didn’t think she’d care! For god’s sake, she tried to come onto my dad months ago. She always has strange men over, so I thought, why would she care?”

“What are you talking about? Start over,” Tommy said and threw the sheets off and sat next to her. He looked around and saw his window was halfway open with the sun beaming through.

“My neighbor, Anita. She saw you hug me and then leave my house last night.”

Tommy grabbed her hands. “What did you tell her? Emily, you know we can’t trust anybody.”

“I told her—a lot. It just kind of slipped out. She was so adamant and wouldn’t leave me alone. I figured she was looking out for us, and as soon as I told her, I realized how stupid that sounded.”

“You’re too honest for your own good,” Tommy said. “We both messed up. I shouldn’t have hugged you.” Tommy felt he had crossed the line with his hug. “What are the chances of her snitching? If she does, we could get into legal trouble and Canada doesn’t accept criminals.”

“I turned this into a witch-hunt,” Emily said and shook her head as if to fight off tears.

“Baby, focus. We must figure out her next move.”

“The only way out of this is if I’m pregnant.”

A child born outside of procreation law had to follow strict mandates. In the case of first-time offenders, the couple would have 120 days to get married after investigation clearance unless they wanted to be fined and incarcerated. In the absence of marriage, couples signed away their rights to their child for adoption, and their illicit relationship would be a public record.

“What’s going on in here?” Tommy’s mother barged into the bedroom.

Mother tilted her head and waited for a response.

Tommy looked at Emily, hoping to lock eyes and stop her from saying anything, but she never looked his way.

“Sodomy, and there might be an investigation,” Emily said and covered her mouth.

 “I knew you were going to get my son into trouble one day.” Mother pointed at Emily.

“It’s not her fault. I hugged her and someone saw us,” Tommy said.

Mother’s face coiled, and before Tommy had the chance to react, her hands locked into his hair, and she dragged him out of the room. Tommy didn’t consider fighting her; he just wanted his punishment to be over as quickly as possible. Mother was harsh and set in her ways; her anxiety appeared as aggression, but she only wanted the best for him. A mother's worst nightmare just came true for her only child.

She dragged him into the kitchen, turned on the faucet, and threw him under as freezing water poured down his face. Mother believed that water cleansed the soul and washed away negativity despite renouncing her enforced Christian beliefs. He wanted to apologize and beg for mercy; he knew it was wise not to. During her angry outbursts, anything he might say only exacerbated the situation. Mother inherited Grandma’s neurotic temperament, and it became more apparent to Tommy as she aged. Grandma was a devoted Christian who dismissed her abuse to Mother by claiming her rules were the church guidelines.

 “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? The shame you’re going to bring to our family if this gets out. They could give me a Grace Mark!” Mother yelled, dragging his face under the water again. “I’m going to be accused of raising a sodomist! They’re going to investigate me next!”

His ears filled with water and her words were inaudible. Gritting his teeth, he choked on his breath and felt weak throughout his body. Mother's hands released him as he fell to the wet tile just before he fainted.

“That’s enough, Jennifer!” Father yelled.

Tommy coughed up water and struggled to catch his breath.

“Your son is a Sodomite and we’re going to lose our Graceful.” She waited for a response. “Are you going to say something? Or did you coach him to be this way?”

A "Graceful" citizen received faster internet, discounts at supermarkets, benefits to their credit score, and shortcuts in line if they were compliant with society’s standards. "Graceless" referred to someone with multiple Grace Marks on their Grace Score and was considered a social misfit who raised disgraceful children. The Grace score was a moral score implemented years ago by the government; it was an evaluation tool for society’s enforcers and a way to frown upon the Graceless.

“Don’t act like he’s the only participant,” Dad said.

“We never got caught! There’s a difference!” Mother said, advancing towards Tommy. “You need to go to the snitchers and beg for mercy. You will convince them how great a person you are and how it’s all one big misunderstanding, do you hear me?”

The doorbell rang and Mother screamed, “It’s ruined! Our reputation is ruined!”

“This isn’t about you, Jennifer,” Dad said. “Let’s hope Emily’s pregnant.”

Tommy composed himself. He heard stomping down the hallway where he assumed Emily hid in his room and would be dragged out by Mother. He wiped his blurry eyes as social workers and police identified themselves at the front door. They arrived faster than he expected, but he wasn’t shocked, since authority had nothing better to do than wait for a call.

Officials asked for him, and despite his urge to run away, he had to be strong for Emily. He took a deep breath, picked himself up, battled his anxiety by taking slow steps, and mentally prepared for what was to come—tagged like a farm animal—Grace Marks for everyone involved, and potentially imprisonment.

“Take this one with you, too,” Mother said and pushed Emily towards Tommy.

Tommy and Emily were escorted down the driveway where familiar faces in the neighborhood glared, faces he knew that participated in Sodomy and whispered amongst one another, like his neighbor with nine children, Ben. Ben’s wife, Veronica, was decades younger than him and had her first child when she was only sixteen. Veronica confided in Tommy’s mother that she was raped but had to choose between abiding by procreation law or pursuing a rape case, and regardless of the outcome, abortion wasn’t an option.

 Other neighbors laughed, like John and David. They had been married multiple times with different baby mothers, and it was obvious they were in a homosexual relationship behind closed doors—legally classified as Inverts.

Tommy glanced at Emily; he wanted to scream at her and ask how she could be so foolish. But as Emily covered her face with her arms and let out a whimper, he wanted to hug her. A man stood between him and Emily as they approached the vehicle and informed Tommy they would be transported separately.

Tommy considered his options in the car. Anita probably told the investigators everything Emily said, so talking his way out of this was unlikely. He glanced at the driver who squinted her eyes at the Graceless passenger in the rearview mirror. He hadn't had sex with Emily for weeks, and her period wasn't late, so pregnancy was unrealistic. He had no control over this situation. He longed for a social worker to sympathize with them.

Unlike the other buildings in downtown Morrisville, Public Safety was exempt from local preservation laws. The Public Safety building was so white it looked like a haven of hope and innocence in a forgotten mining town. Tommy hoped its looks matched the way it treated those who stepped inside, like Tommy, who sat on a bench while Emily’s investigation took place. He stared at the porcelain floors and bleak walls until his eyes burned. He never saw another person, never heard another door open inside the long hallway that seemed like an endless corridor with closed doors, but he wasn’t alone, cameras were mounted everywhere. Although he considered running away, he wouldn’t even know where to go; the doors were locked by social workers after they entered the building, and they went in so many directions he lost track of where he was.

He counted the heartbeats thumping in his ears until he heard footsteps and saw social workers walking down the hallway with Emily. She never made eye contact and looked defeated as she clutched her arms to her body. Police weren’t escorting her out of the building and that was a good sign. Tommy recognized the woman walking toward him with an unsettling smile.

“Come with me,” Janice said and gestured the way down the hall.

He sat in her white office and shivered at her glued-on smile. He distracted himself by looking around and noticed a second door. To the side of it was a trash can with ripped-up paper covered in blood. He looked away and hoped Janice hadn’t caught him glaring at it. Behind Janice was the only picture he’d seen in the building—a divine woman holding a baby in her arms, standing on a blanket of clouds while others bowed around her.

Janice was one of Mother’s friends that he saw while he was growing up. She always smelled funny and was the only person with a consistent, identifiable stench. His mother swore Janice wore too much perfume, but at his young age he hadn’t realized that alcohol caused Janice’s putrid breath. As he sat in her office, he didn’t smell the sourness in her breath, only the overuse of perfume and wondered what caused the rash around her nose and cheeks. He never liked her.

“I just want to make it clear. My job is a service to the public, and my relationship with your mother cannot in any way sway my opinion in this investigation. Understood?”

Tommy nodded his head.

“No head nods, Tommy, I need words.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Tommy said.

“Describe your relationship with Emily Bowers.”

“Emily’s my girlfriend.”

“I don’t see any records indicating you reported this relationship to the state.”

“We just recently got into a relationship.”

“Every intimate relationship must be reported. That is the law and a well-known fact.”

“Sounds like an excuse to do random investigations.”

“Did that relationship involve sexual activity?” Janice asked, ignoring his comment.

Tommy thought about the cover-up story he made with Emily. “No,” he confirmed.

Janice’s face twitched. “Emily told us everything.”

“Then why are you asking?”

“To test your credibility, and if you’d lie to the state, which is a separate charge. Your outcome in this matter is under my sole discretion, so don’t make things more difficult than they need to be. I’m going to ask for the second time. Did you have a sexual relationship with Emily Bowers?”

He thought about how to answer. He didn’t want to confirm anything, even if Emily supposedly told Janice everything. He thought as fast as he could, how to appeal and win Janice over, but his mind blanked. He assumed Emily wasn’t escorted by the police because she told Janice the truth and got released. He figured being honest would get him on her good side and loosen her up so he could gain her trust and manipulate her.

“Yes,” Tommy said.

“Did any adults support this behavior?” Janice asked.

“No.”

“During these sexual acts, where did your conception end up?”

“I don’t understand the question.”

“Where did your sperm end up after these sexual acts?”

“Why does that even matter?”

“Please answer the question.”

“Then answer mine.”

“Emily took multiple pregnancy tests and failed all of them. Doctors performed thorough investigations and found that her hymen had been torn, but there weren’t any traces of sperm. We are trying to understand what happened or if any form of contraception was used.”

“Maybe I’m a Barren,” Tommy said.

A “Barren” was a public classification no one wanted—a permanent stigma. It embodied anyone incapable of reproducing over the age of eighteen, as if miscarriages and infertility were not shamed enough. Barrens often struggled with successful marriages due to periodic checks for compliance with procreation protocols. If Barrens had sex after receiving their title, they risked sterilization—their genitalia would be removed and given cystotomies. They were viewed as ineffective and burdensome, much like cats with cancer—where all the other cats in the social group avoided the ill one, belittled it, or drove it away to die. Infertility was a contagious disease resulting in death or abnormal offspring.

“If you truly think you are a Barren, I can request doctors to examine you, which involves not only testing your sperm but sticking a prong down your urethra. This is a route we can go, but I get the feeling that isn’t the case, and this is just an excuse. Even if you were a Barren, there’d still be traces of sperm leftover,” Janice said.

Tommy stared at the floor. Not only would testing be painful, but his sperm would be stored in a database. A part of him wanted to tell the truth, but every time he tried, he knew he looked like a mumbling, nervous mess, signaling Janice’s intimidation tactics worked.

“I know this is a challenging thing to go through, especially as a sixteen-year-old. However, if we work through this together, we can avoid it from happening again.” Janice waited for a response, but Tommy didn’t look up at her. She continued, “I truly want to work through this with you to avoid legal trouble, but you must work with me. If I must pull teeth and get others involved, I’ll be left with no choice but to comply with state officials and their rules.”

Tommy didn’t want to believe Janice was a good person, despite being friends with his mother. But he hoped for a chance at redemption, so he swallowed what felt like his dignity.

“I pulled out and relieved myself on a tee shirt,” Tommy admitted.

Janice gasped and unloaded on him. “Unborn children don’t have voices. They can’t speak for themselves. You have a gravesite in your bedroom, and it is unbelievable how you manage to sleep at night.”

“I sleep pretty good knowing I’m not bringing a child into the world I can’t take care of financially.”

“Adoption is always an option and would have gotten you out of legal trouble.”

“The thousands of children waiting to be adopted in an underfunded and abusive place?”

“I am ashamed of you, Tommy. I watched you grow up and never once would I have imagined you’d turn out like this.”

“Why is the state so worried about what I do in the privacy of my home with my genitals?”

“You broke the law!” Janice exclaimed.

“It’s my body and it’s my choice!”

“You don’t have any sympathy, do you. Think about the babies, the millions of babies you two killed.”

“For putting our best interests at the forefront of my mind?” Tommy asked.

“You are in dire need of guidance!”

“Like you don’t have sex with your husband outside of procreation?”

“No! I don’t! Sex is only for procreation and healthy babies.”

Tommy’s insides churned. “I’m not allowed to lie, but you are?”

“How dare you accuse me of being a liar!”

“According to the Bible, sexual pleasure is okay if the consenting couple is married,” Tommy said, remembering the research he did on Christianity.

“I have read the Bible front and back more times than the years you have been alive. It says no such thing.”

“Sex is a primal instinct and let’s be real, everyone does it outside of procreating, they just hide it.”

“No! They don’t,” Janice said.

“Emily and I will be engaged in a few years. I will continue making love to her because that's what consenting adults do in a relationship. We will have a child when we are ready, not when society tells us to.”

“You’re a full-blown serial killer,” Janice said.

Tommy realized there was no reasoning with a robot. She wasn’t human. Sure, she had flesh and bones, and she’d bleed out like every other human if you pierced her skin, but she completely lacked empathy. She had suppressed so much for so long and numbed herself by drinking that she had turned herself into this: A woman with manipulated, manufactured emotions and programmed empathy to fit her role as a reinforcer because in her eyes she made a difference, and her leaders classified her as a victor, which was apparent. He didn’t care about winning her over anymore. He wanted to challenge authority because he deserved to know the truth that everyone was too afraid to ask.

“Since you work for the state, aren’t you aware of the horrible living conditions of Wallace Children’s Home? I’ve heard real screaming come from that place,” Tommy said.

“It’s none of our business what happens to a child after they’re born, and I believe you should mind your own business. This is about the voiceless of the unborn, and you’re a monster to society,” Janice said.

“All the money the state gets for the children’s homes are managed by people like you and maintain buildings like this. Isn’t that, right?” Tommy asked. “Wouldn’t that make you the monster?” He stood up from the chair.

She picked up the phone on her desk and said 10-91 before she hung up.

“Is that the reason you drink so much alcohol? To justify that you’re a soulless human pretending to be a saint. I know deep down it eats at you. It would eat at me too. All the lives you’ve ruined.”

Janice broke eye contact, sighed, and stood up from her desk.

“I truly believe in what I’m doing, Tommy. I’m not ruining lives, I’m saving them. I must earn my ticket to heaven, and that’s what I’m doing,” Janice said.

“You’re wrong, you’re a hypocrite. Why don’t you tell the truth for the first time in your life.”

Janice smirked. “Guidance is necessary for development in society, and it helps individuals achieve an ideal level of happiness and harmony in life. That’s the theory in a perfect world, where guidance persuades individuals to do what’s right—free will. But sometimes guidance isn’t enough. Our selfish and entitled nature gets in the way and rules must be implemented. I’m just carrying out those rules.”

“You’re stripping freedom from people by enforcing radicalized rules and pretending to be God.”

“This movement has been planned since before you were born, and there’s no stopping it, not without a revolution anyway. No one wants to fight when rules are slowly executed. They only fight when they’re implemented all at once. This plan significantly helps the adjusting phase, by pushing society into the right direction gradually over time. There are social outcasts, like yourself, that must learn the hard way, but I can assure you it’s for the greater good.”

The doorway opened, and Janice informed the police officers Tommy was guilty of Sodomy in the first degree, obstructing with procreation, and seditious conspiracy. Officers demanded he put his arms behind his back and read him his Miranda rights.

“I’d like to ensure the anonymous tipper is rewarded,” Janice said.

“How about instead of rewarding Anita investigate her. She constantly has strange men at her house. She did this for revenge because Emily’s dad wouldn’t have sex with her.”

Janice looked at Tommy and crossed her arms.

“This is madness!” Tommy yelled. “Everyone lies! Everyone is guilty!”

“That’s enough, let’s go,” an officer said.

“There’s a special place in hell for people like you,” Tommy said as he looked at Janice before officers nudged him out of the room.

Tommy sat in the back of the police car and felt an emptiness in the pit of his stomach. It wasn’t hunger, shame, or anger, but betrayal. He thought back to the witch trials he learned about in history class. A woman suspected of being a witch had her arms bound together before being thrown into a pond to see if she’d drown or rise to the surface. If the woman sank and drowned, she was innocent; if she survived, she was a witch. He envisioned himself back at that pond in New York and wished he would have thrown himself in to let fate decide his outcome since it would have been on his terms. He concluded the witch trials had nothing to do with actual witches, but had everything to do with control, hysteria, and hypocrites. His arms were now restrained, and he wanted to scream as he realized this behavior would never end, it would only evolve. He wasn’t destined for murder, he was destined for a social death—entanglement in an obsolete system, confined in a cell where his voice would be further silenced.

About the Author

Ashley Goodwin

Ashley is 27 years old and currently resides in Arizona. She got her creative writing certificate at Mesa Community College and was recently accepted into the upper division creative writing program at Arizona State University. She is getting her bachelor’s in business administration specializing in business analytics. She is working on a psychological horror short story collection called, “The Mind Projector.” Ashley loves writing horror, satire, and science fiction. She loves pushing the boundary and invoking uncomfortable emotions.