Trumpets. A blast of a horn. A plump man waved people to the side, clearing the road. He flicked his wrist and the people obeyed. A glare printed on his face. Following behind him was the spluttering of an automobile. It slowly, solemnly, drove down the dirt road — a road far too cheap for its grandeur. Everyone watched the automobile. Not often one graces Herafel with its presence. People murmured, some confused on its workings, others drooling over the bronze and gold that covered it. When Lillia saw it, her stomach sank. Her life would never be worth as much as that vehicle.
The plump man ordered the crowd to be silent. His voice echoed down the street. After the automobile, the men in eccentric outfits — large red trench coats bedazzled with jewels and medals, the seams lined with gold — marched insync. Royal Guards. Each man carrying a large pole with the Ilbionish flag dead in the center. White with a bright red line in the middle. Lillia regarded the flags with disgust. The sound of hooves hitting the dirt brought her gaze back to the road. A whip cracked. Flanked by the guards, two large black horses pulled a carriage — no — the carriage.
The sun peered through the clouds and bounced off of it. Its wealth blinded Herafel village. The houses on either side were slipping into ruin, the road not even tarmaced. The three-hundred-and-forty citizens lined that very road, none of them looking any better than the dirt beneath their feet. And right there, in the center of it all, the gold and diamond carriage, carrying the coffin of the late King.
Lillia hung her head. “Their dead are treated with more humanity than us,” she murmured.
Her mother jabbed her. “Don’t say things like that. Ever.”
Lillia scowled at her. Why not? It’s the truth, after all. Layed out plainly in front of her. The world wouldn’t stop if she died, and she wouldn’t be buried in a box that beautiful. No, she’d probably just be tossed in a ditch somewhere. No ceremony, nothing. Not like any of them could afford a funeral anyway — a decent detrent to suicide. Living is pain, Lillia knew that all too well, but dying knowing it could drive your family to homlessness? That alone makes the pain bearable.
“Well, can’t say she’s wrong,” her nan croaked, louder. With intention.
“What?” her nan continued, getting louder with each word. “They come parading through our shithole, expecting us to mourn? Who? The King? That asshole?”
She began catching the attention of the whole street. The plump man scowled.
“Sure!” she continued, “let’s mourn him! Let’s mourn the man who sat on a throne of fucking gold while we all starved and froze last winter! Let’s mourn that prick!”
“THAT IS ENOUGH!” The plump man beckoned. His voice sounded like an explosion, loud enough to level a building. “HOW DARE YOU! HOW DARE YOU INTERRUPT THIS SERVICE WITH YOUR BENINE RAMBLINGS! OUR KING HAS PASSED, AND THIS IS HOW YOU REACT? UTTERLY DISRESPECTFUL.”
Lillia watched as he stormed right up to her nan, who, surprisingly, didn’t flinch at all. She looked the man dead in the eyes and laughed.
“How dare I? You seem to be getting a bit worked up there, Andrew.” She brushed him aside. “You should lower your tone, god forbid we disturb the King on a day like this.”
Andrew sneered. “There’s a special place in hell for people like you, Mrs May.”
“Of course,” she smiled, “I’ll be sure to say hello to your gracious king once I’m down there!”
Andrew turned to her. “You think this is funny, huh?”
Lillia’s mother gasped. “I am so sorry for their behavior, sir! Please, continue the proceedings, I’ll keep them—”
“No need.” The plump man cracked his neck. “Arrest this woman.”
“Me?” Lillia’s nan chortled. “Arrest me?”
Lillia’s heart slammed against her rib cage. “You can’t do that!”
“Oh, I can.” A wicked grin spread across Andrew’s face. “Not so funny anymore, is it?”
Two of the royal guards set aside their flags and marched over. They yanked Mrs. May away from the crowd. Lillia felt heat rising inside of her. The street grew uneasy. Moans of disdain echoed, growing with each second. People shouted. Andrew tried to shout louder, regain control. In retaliation, the street shouted louder.
The carriage was completely still. This Andrew guy, Lillia didn’t know much about him, but it would seem like he cared about honoring the King. A large rock rested by her foot. Lillia knelt and picked it up, her eyes locked onto the carriage's windows. She pulled her arm back — in the corner of her eye she saw the back of Andrew’s head. Vulnerable. What would a rock of this size do if it came into contact with the back of one's skull? Lillia shook the thought away. Focus. She lined up the shot. And… Her mother grasped her wrist firmly.
“Don’t you even think about it!”
She pulled Lillia away from the street. The shouting had peaked. The once single file, orderly crowd that lined the road now pushed against the royal guards. A lot of them were thrown to the ground and forcefully arrested, others locked in an eternal back and forth. One managed to complete a throw, and just before they disappeared round the corner, Lillia watched the glass of the carriage break. The satisfying sound of earth hitting a rich window, the scream the glass made as it was ripped apart. Her mother dragged her home, muttering something about a disgrace. The funeral parade for King Tharles V had turned into a riot. Soon, the news would be reporting on the barbaric people of Herafel sabotaging the King’s funeral. They won’t ask any of Herafel’s citizens about their side, because it does not matter. They won’t even question why an old lady was arrested just for speaking. They will simply make Herafel the villains, as they always do.
Lillia glanced at her mother. She remained flustered. “You don’t have to defend them, you know. You — we won’t get anything from being nice to them.”
“You don’t know that Lillia!”
“Actually, I do. We are less human than dead people to them, mum. Our lives matter less than a fucking decaying corpse!”
“THAT IS ENOUGH!” Her mother spun around, fire in her eyes. “This attitude you have, it’s sickening! One day you will realize it won’t get you anywhere and will turn you into a vile person. You will end up like your nan!”
Lillia ripped her wrist free. “And what’s so bad about that? Grandma Rose is—”
“Grandma Rose is a borderline terrorist. And that’s that. End of. I only put up with her because she is my mother. She is a disgrace to our family.”
“She’s a terrorist? Really? Then you must be a dreadful mother because I feel safer with her!”
“INSIDE. NOW!” Lillia’s mother flung the door open, she turned to the side to hide her tears. Lillia glared at her, but knew there was no point fighting. “Fine. I don’t want to be around you anyway.”
Is it right for the oppressed to never fight back. To ask them to simply sit there and let the powerful continue to take? Why is their act of violence considerably worse than the violence of the powerful?
For 18 years, Lillia has lived and grew up in Herafel, as it was forced into poverty by a small group of wealthy investors. She saw her parks turned into apartment buildings, woods decimated to make way for factories. Everything that showed an ounce of life slowly disappeared, replaced by cold lifeless concrete and steam. After witnessing the royal parade through Herafel as the dead king is transported to his final resting place, she loses the last shed of hope she had.
"Dead people are being treated with more humanity than us."
Fed up and wanting a better life, Lillia realizes that they will never give her one -- she'll have to take it for herself.