I dreamt of the day I would meet the Storyforger, but not like this. Arms and legs bound. Facing death for being poor. Of needing to see tomorrow.
“Do you know why you’re here?” One of the judges’ eyes sparkling at some funny joke that I’m not a part of. He wore black like everyone, except for the Storyforger.
“No sir.” The chains begin to jangle and move, my own body betraying me.
“I think you do, Two-Split. On Sun 5 of Cycle 3, where were you?” He leant over his brown table, the way my father would lean when he told me a secret. I wince at the name. No one calls me that unless they want to make fun of my deficient nature.
“I was at home. Studying for the upcoming placement exam.” I whisper the lie, casting my eyes down.
“That’s a good story, but sadly proven false. We have video proof that you broke into the Storyforger’s home to steal one of his books.” A lady judge spoke up. She points to the wall and presses a button on a black piece of wood. Moving images. Images of me.
This time the Storyforger looked at me directly, without the anger or pretend kindness of the others. Something I didn’t understand.
“What? You want to stare at me like everyone else?” I try to glare at him, but I can’t. He’s my only way out. “You want to use me for your own end?”
“Yes.” Same expression. I only saw it once before in my life. When I told my teacher that I couldn’t keep going to school because I couldn’t afford to.
I nod and start unbuttoning my shirt. He’s just like all the others. Only interested in what the freak born under both stars can show.
“Stop.” He shakes his head. A lady judge whispers into his ear. He laughs.
“Why? It’s what you want. Here, let me show you the horned hole.” My hands shake as I reach for my trousers.
“Because I don’t need that.”
“Well that’s the only thing I can offer you.” I rub my left wrist.
“Tell me a story. You can use any person and any thing within this room to tell me this story. You can try as many times as you want. Your death will be assured the moment you give up. So, do try.” His expression hardens into anger.
“There once was a frog who-”
“Too fantastical. Make it real.” He waves it off.
“When I was a child-”
“Unrelated. Try again.” The judges start laughing.
“What do you want?” I scream at him.
“A story of Sun 5, Cycle 3. What happened?” His expression softens. No longer angry.
“I needed food.” I whisper as I look down into my hands.
“Ah yes, the motivator. What else?” His voice is soft.
“I thought your house was the best place for it…” Weakness rains into my palms.
“You looked like you didn’t need it.” The floor wet with my weakness.
“The call.” Why is he saying these things? I don’t understand.
“So I went in…”
“Jumping at the call.” I look up at him, his face blurred in water.
“I saw a book. I never owned a book. I wanted it.”
“The hero’s temptation.” Hero?
“So I took it.” His image begins to clear as I wipe away the weakness on my eyes.
“The hero’s fall.”
“So I ended up here.”
“Now. That’s a good story. But it signs your death warrant. Take what you know and incorporate it into a new story.” He tosses me a pouch of water. I devour the water. It tastes good. So good. No brown goo inside. I finish it.
“How?” I frown.
“I cannot tell you that my child. You must take the tools I have provided you and show me you are worthy of seeing tomorrow. Now, revise the story. Take the facts and twist them in such a way that ensure your survival. But it must be airtight.” He strokes his beard slowly. Some words I don’t understand, like warrant. What does that mean?
“I was hired by you…”
“I have no reason to hire you, try again.”
“I was hired by the guard to make sure your house can’t be broken into.”
“Good. Hire the poor person to test security, their resourcefulness and will to survive will make them do anything. Go on.”
“I was only there to get paid legitimate money.” My voice grows with sure-ity. “ Legitimate money is hard to come by for someone like me.”
“Yes. Yes. Good.” His eyes light up with joy.
“When I went inside, I saw a book that I wanted. Against my better judg-”
“No. That condemns you. Revise.”
“I… wanted proof.”
“Proof?” He leans in.
“Proof that I was there. That your security was awful. But that action cost me my paycheck.” He nods at what I said. “In fact, it brought me to trial.”
“Very well. Which name do you prefer, Samuel or Samantha?” He asks. The grin keeps growing.
“Well, they both apply, so both.”
“Very well Sam. You are hereby sentenced to the rest of your days as my servant. You will learn and if you prove worthy, you may be paid. Do not disappoint me.” His expression turns to stone, but to me, it was an angel telling me I would survive to see tomorrow once again.
“Thank you…” The weakness rains down once more.