A Mask in the Nightmare (story)

A Mask in the Nightmare
All material on this post is written and copyrighted by Marcus Liotta.

Eventually anyone who lives long enough becomes a villain.
Someone will claim your silence is violence, your choices malign, and the very nature of who you are simply compromised.
It never starts that way however, instead it festers as an open wound which bleeds drip by painful drip.
Jordan had felt this way much of his life. Watched as friends changed with age and eventually turn into monsters, creatures of whom he saw no more humanity in.
Not a single citizen did.
Every year Jordan wondered, “will I be next?”
Time and again fate passed him by. But his friends however, they were none so lucky.

Secretly Jordan felt guilt for not volunteering in their stead, an option anyone could do should good reason be present; such as medical conditions or benefit from a university.
He never bothered try and it was for a sad truth.
For Jordan was a coward.
The man found himself scared to offer up his livelihood.  Bowing into some ritualistic sacrifice for those hungry clasps which would become his new persona, the very idea seemed nightmarish. So many unwillingly taken into the pits of Tartarus and while some returned, those that did were different.
Corrupt and ugly inside as a soul soaked in darkness.
It changed people from individuals to the many, undeniable hands that performed all bidding on behalf their great prime minister.
Still there were those who argued for the change.
Supporters said those altered took action by choice, punished those resistant evil doers; terrorists who had refused in bowing to the dominion of oversight.
Jordan couldn’t fathom that was true, yet to even whisper such doubt could forfeit his life.
Stark reality was, they were no longer free.
To think this all started from the smallest of things, no less a virus which killed so many old and wise, those familiar with the heinous acts of old which besieged past generations. Those who knew what could happen if we grew lax in protecting our right to speak.
Truth hides a stark irony.
It so happened the virus passed up those fit enough to join the ranks of this so-called “Proud Legion.” And just the same were children left untouched as education changed step by painful step.
No longer was ‘free-think’ taught, nor that those in power should be challenged.
There was only one critical law which overshadowed all others.
Obey.

Obey they did.
No one spoke up.
It never got better.
Blood ran the streets.
Slowly new rules were created over just a few years. Curfews set in place to tide the viral outbreak and rampant violence. Words became illegal, and the very nature of human nature was mocked.
But it did not stop there.
Everything only grew worse.
They came during the day, no need to wait for cover of night, not anymore.
And it hurt so bad.
Jordan couldn’t forgive himself. He cried himself to sleep a thousand times after they took his sister. The fear that crawled under his skin like a colony of ants, it was all too much. He remembered the moment it happened and her screams still echoed within the deepest recesses of his nightmares.
They took his family away.
When the Proud came for his sister they placed a black hood over her head. She struggled, writhed with all of her strength, but was quickly overpowered.
Her calls for help were drowned out and changed to inhuman shrieks.  That he knew was when they plunged the needle into her arm. He had seen it before.
Yet he remained silent.
Hid in his closet.
Did nothing.
It wasn’t hard to wonder why he saw her in his dreams, the girl he grew up with. Her face was marred and masked by a helmet of rusted chrome metal. The symbolled forehead displayed the only marking, a snake unlike any other and it was brilliantly shown with the boldness of a lion.
That was indeed the wretched symbol of the Proud Legion, and with it came many other deranged meanings.
Jordan woke up and screamed.
It was all true.

Unlike some, Jordan was given time to think.
Thoughts tumbled around his mind as a turbulent storm.
Knowing someone else was forced to don a mask in his stead haunted his entire being. That so many he knew underwent the drugs and change forced upon them by parliament, the thought sickened him.
After a time, he barely ate.
Anger consumed him as he watched the world around conform to a new state of normalcy that one had never before imagined.
Street signs were changed into ideological doctrine of their country’s new hateful religion, just as dictionaries were rewritten to ignore the meaning of words long established in culture.
There could be allowed nothing but unchallenged rhetoric, because those who heard the truth, they began to question those lies they had been told for so very long.
Jordan indeed questioned.

In time those who challenged the new world norm became few and far between. To stand up for oneself or another, it meant to lose all livelihood and possibly life itself.
The men and women who challenged this strange religious practice of anti-theism were met with branding, a new term which was meant to pit everyone against them.
“Pretenders,” it was the new way to strike at any truth unveiled. Call those who speak liars and everyone turns a blind eye, even as their entire life is destroyed by those in power.

One day he confided in his best friend Brian.
“I just can’t do this anymore,” he said.
Brian thought and spoke carefully, as he always had, “sometimes we can do better. But to do that, you have to accept what you did wrong. Fix it for the next time.”
Jordan knew his friend was right, but there was something wrong about considering whether or not one should sacrifice for another placed in that position. He couldn’t put his finger on it.
The more he thought about the scenario the more he wondered just why they had to choose one or another.
It was one dark and stormy night when his eyes tore open and Jordan shot up in bed, wide awake as if he had run for miles.
The rhetoric!
All the words used against them, all of the changes to meaning, and furthermore; the very silence that was forced upon those who watched others bullied and victimized with astute horror.
Parliament lured them into a sense of narrowed choice; purely to control how those who rebelled acted in ‘heroic’ fashion.
There was no reason to fight those who stood tall when they were indeed the same voices likely to sound the alarms. And evermore probable, the same candidates who would bravely sacrifice themselves for loved ones.
Parliament played a terrible game.
Without heroes, there could only be villains.
Checkmate.

In short order he spoke out against the violence, the drastic measures taken against all he knew and loved, and against those who were so weak as to be unable to fight back.
Brian warned him to stop.
Instead Jordan spoke louder, painted graffiti under the cover of darkness. He drew national symbols and slogans which once were never doubted, but now viewed only as hate.
“Freedom isn’t Free,” and “Truth to Fight Lies.”
Within twenty-four hours each was painted over time and again.
They placed cameras on the areas repeatedly offended.
He stuck to the shadows and found new locations to mar with long forgotten tales.
Sadly, it was not enough.
His own staunch resistance didn’t last long.
They found out who he was, where he worked, and where he lived.
Then one night, they came for him.

A noise woke Jordan from sleep and his eyelids slowly opened, peering into the darkness of his bedroom while wondering why it felt so wrong
The moonlight glinted off of something, then another; and this was when he knew.
The Proud Legion stood around the room, waiting for him to realize they were there.
“Is this a game to you?” he rasped.
The masked figures never moved and for a short time Jordan almost brushed the event off as a nightmare, but then, one replied.
That wretched, aching voice was salty and none so kind. Like nails on blackboard it whispered and carried upon an errant breeze which he must have imagined.
“The time to serve your country has arrived.”
Movement and slowly they came into view. Those helmets and masks in black, marked by red paint of the hated symbols those of the Proud Legion loved so much.
“Get away from me!” Jordan yelled before they slapped him across the head with a blackjack.
He stumbled off the bed. They grabbed Jordan and wrestled him to the ground beside his bed, shoving his face into the ground as handcuffs were roughly fixed to his wrists.
Now disarmed and helpless, Jordan could do nothing but stare as they crowded around.
One of the smaller masked figures came closer.
She smelled of heaven and yet the demented attire this female wore was hideous.
Her voice crooned his name.
“Oh Jordan, you should have known better. We always find the troublesome ones.”
She knew his name!
Well, of course she knew it, they were at his house.
She seemed to read his mind and said, “I do know you.”
Slowly, with the aching pain of a worm being placed on a hook, the woman removed her mask.
Below were the less-than-soft features he knew so damn well.
They haunted his dreams, his memories, and here she was.
“I’ll always remember my own brother,” she whispered with a smirk.
Jordan screamed with the fury of a madman.
There was a glint of something sharp, a shine of reflected light.
He felt a horrible sensation, a searing agony as his once-sister wrapped him in a warm embrace.
And then his vision went dark.

The End.

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