We are delighted to post a brand new short story written by Maryam Al Hammadi titled “Saving Randy” We hope you enjoy ^^
I take a look around my room. A creaky rocking chair sits in a tight corner, paisley cushions faded. Everything about this room is creaky, from the floorboards to the desk to the bed and the tiny little table beside it. I’ve done my best to make it seem lively, hanging beads in front of the curtain I call a door, spreading old tribal-print covers over my bed, hanging my clothes up neatly on the hooks and filling porcelain vases with as many flamboyant flowers as I could find.
“Emily?” my sister Amanda pokes her head out from behind my curtain, her chest heaving. At twenty, her teenage acne is fading, a red reminder of a time past. Her hair, which used to be blonde, hangs down to her waist in brown waves. Even now with her face pale and her lips chapped, she is beautiful.
“What is it?” I say, panic building up in my chest. “What happened?”
“It’s Randy! Your Randy! Randy Shora!” she gasps.
I rush to Amanda, taking her hands in my own. Randy is my best friend. “What is it?” I repeat, shaking Amanda’s hands.
“She’s down at the square! They’ve chained her to the wall!” Amanda says.
“What?” I shout.
“Emily, the square! Maligner! He – they think she’s a witch!” Amanda whispers.
I look at Amanda’s bright spots of acne, standing out against her pale flesh. Pushing past her, I dash out the house. I know she is at my heels. The day is dark, lightning streaking the skies as if someone had cracked them open, as if light was begging to escape through the cracks. We run past the baker’s and the butcher’s and the seamstress’s, past the large brick houses that are home to the better off. I tear through the hedges and bushes and I dodge trees with a million thoughts performing sprints through my head. What if I’m late? What if Randy is, at this moment, lying on the ground, blood gushing out of her neck, her red hair a fan behind her motionless head? I need to save her.
I arrive at Mozart Square, and Amanda is behind me, panting, her dress torn and her hair adorned with various leaves. I imagine I look the same. My eyes dart through the crowd gathered: I can’t see over their heads. I hear screams and shouts; I hear hushed voices and snippets of whispered conversations. Amanda touches a hand to my shoulder and says, “Maligner stated that it’s to happen an hour after noon. Her execution.”
Execution. The ugly word registers to me a fraction of a second before a loud shout, guttural and male, washes over my ears, over my head, over my body. Before I know it I’m pushing through bodies, stepping on toes and shoes and dresses, my very being drawn towards the sound.
I don’t know if Amanda is following me, but I make it to the front. Randy’s dad is on the concrete, clutching his abdomen, almost grunting. Maligner is standing over him with a torch, grinning like the horrible man he is. Had he burned him? How can Maligner take joy in hurting others?
Randy is chained to a wall, just like my sister said. Her face is down; one can almost see her eyes glowing through her bright waterfall of hair.
“Randy!” I choke out, my throat blocked by wasps. “Randy!”
I can see Randy’s shoulders shaking, I can see her lifting her face to stare at her father. I can see tears running rivers down her cheekbones, her chin, her neck. They leave white stripes on a dirty cloth they used to gag her. Randy’s jaw is working furiously, trying to undo her gag. I am paralyzed, the only organs moving my eyes to look at Randy’s looking at her father’s.
My feet are seperate entities that take me to where Maligner is standing. My mouth is an alien being that opens to scream at him. My hands and my arms, they are living creatures snapping up to scratch at his face, to pull at his hair, to cause him pain, anything.
Then someone is holding me back and the world lacks sound but my mouth is open and it is screaming and I don’t know what is going on. “Shh,” Amanda is whispering to me. “Shh, if you scream too much, he’ll use you to hurt her.”
Amanda doesn’t want Maligner to notice me. She’s using Randy to make sure I don’t do something stupid. I am in danger of breaking down when Maligner opens his ugly mouth.
“Randy Shora is gathered here today for a reason I’m fairly sure you all are aware of. She is a creature of filth, of darkness, of evil. Her entire existence is against nature. Randy Shora is a threat to you and me. Randy Shora’s mind is woven from strands of evil so black neither you or I can fathom.” Maligner’s eyes are glinting.
Maligner is our self-appointed dictator, a morally bereft man who would kill his own mother to get what he wants.
“Randy Shora is a witch.” Maligner’s voice rings out, loud and clear. “I’m sure you all want to hear her screams when she dies.”
My heart almost fails me. I can’t move. I am ashamed of myself.
Maligner has someone undo Randy’s gag and her screams are loud and ringing. “Daddy! Daddy! DADDY!”
“Shut your trap, little witch, or I’ll skin your father alive right before your eyes,” Maligner snarls at her. He kicks Mr. Shora in the stomach. Mr. Shora stands up, and I can now see what the matter is. A large gash runs through his shirt’s side, giving me a view of what looks like blood underneath. Maligner hadn’t burned him after all.
“Leave them alone!” I see Mrs. Shora running to her husband, her face set. “I said, LEAVE THEM ALONE! Take me, burn me in Randy’s place!”
“Mother, no!” Randy’s twin brother Jason pushes past people. Two of Maligner’s thugs are right behind him. Everything clicks together in my mind: they must have been containing the rest of the Shora family somewhere else. Mr. Shora must have escaped and Maligner is making an example of him. Jason and Mrs. Shora probably had more trouble with the guards. A welt is on Jason’s face.
“Guards, contain them,” Maligner orders, and there are suddenly six thugs in all, two on each Shora, one holding their arms behind their backs and one standing behind to make sure they don’t escape.
“I want this family to witness the death of their witch daughter, to know the consequences present with conceiving a witch! Not knowing your daughter is a witch is no excuse! The signs, I have been told, become clear to the parents and only the parents within a month of their child’s birth! They are lucky I am not executing them, too!”
Maligner is mental. I scan the area. Maybe I can be quick enough step in front of Randy. I surge forward and a guard slams into me, knocking me to the ground, shoulders pinning me there. My head feels awful. Mrs. Shora is hysterically screaming, Jason and Mr. Shora’s pained voices the worst I’ve ever heard. I feel like puking.
“You are a spawn of the devil himself!” Maligner says to Randy.
“If I am bad then you are the worst,” she says, uncringing. Randy, who always smiled at me. Randy, whose laughs echoed everywhere she went. Randy, the person who never ever judged me, no matter what I did. Randy, whose sobs would break my heart. Randy, who told me that she loved me and that she would die for me. Why can’t I do the same? Why am I unable to simply crawl under this guard? I think of Amanda, with her sad eyes. I think of Mommy and Daddy and Billie. What if I was the one accused of being a witch, and Randy was the one pinned under a guard? I would want her to protect my family.
And then it hits me. I am no use to Randy if I burn to death along with her. Even if I manage to leap in front of her, Maligner will simply burn her again. I will protect what she loves most. I will do it for her. I could be of use, however, if I were to provide a distraction.
I knee the guard as hard as I can and bite his shoulder. He literally leaps off of me and I scream with all my might. I shout, I yell, I let all my emotions out.
“I am the witch! I AM THE WITCH! Not her! NOT HER! Leave her, free her!” I gurgle out.
“NO! She is a liar! Neither of us is a witch!” Randy’s eyes are wild again. “Emily, I swear to God, if you take my place, I will never forgive you!”
“It doesn’t matter if you forgive me,” I manage to drawl. “You’ll be dead.”
“As touching as this is, I cannot accept your false confession. Castor, make sure this one makes doesn’t move,” Maligner says.
A hand, this time rough, slams into my side and I can’t move. I hate myself. I am weak. I cannot be weak. No, no, no.
Maligner throws the torch at Randy and it hits her leg. The sounds she makes are inhuman. Another torch is thrown at her. My heart is shattering to pieces. I struggle. I am too weak. I am too feeble. Randy is dying and I can’t do anything. I abhor myself. I am worse than an animal.
Randy’s hair is on fire, her dress is in tatters. Screaming, begging, howling: that’s how she dies.
Author: Maryam Al Hammadi