BLOOD

            I looked on blank canvas, pristine and untouched. Not even a speck contaminated its surface, marring its innocence. Such untainted beauty was rare, not extinct but hardly heard of. As I gazed on at its vulnerability, it squirmed a little, endearing it even more to me. It was almost a pity that such purity would be the subject of my experimentation.

            I reached for my case and opened it. Unrolling its length, I picked up the first tool.

            A needle.

            I looked at it for a moment, taking in its neatness, a narrow shiny shaft of steel. Then I pricked my canvas. A shallow prick was all that was needed. A small cry was released.

            I smiled. A small drop of garnet red blood had surfaced; a sudden and jarring contrast against the white backdrop.

            Five-year old James threw his first punch, his little fist connecting solidly with his opponent's cheekbone. There was a sharp cry of pain and an angry shout that followed. Tommy hit back with a glancing blow of his own, splitting James' lip. All around them, the other preschoolers stood and cheered loudly, enjoying the momentary bloodlust between the two boys.

            There was a loud shout and the crowd dispersed, the rowdy cheering died down almost immediately. The teacher stepped up and immediately separated the bleeding and bruised boys. Anger was etched on her features as she firmly spoke to each of them.

            "What's going on here?" she said, her voice low and calm as her anger melted away. When there was no reply from either sullen boy, she turned to James. "James, why did you hit Tommy?"

            James burst out in an angry protest. "He started it…!"

            The teacher cut him off. "I asked why you hit him," she said.

            James glared at Tommy. "He took my crayon!"

            "He's lying! It was my crayon!" Tommy yelled back.

            "Why don't you two share the crayon?" the teacher suggested. She still stood in between the boys, preventing them from coming into contact.

            "But it's my crayon!" Both the boys protested at once.

            "If you won't share it, then you will both have no crayons." The teacher's note was firm with a note of finality. "So, will you two share the crayon?"

            "Yes," came the replies in unison.

            An hour later, the crayon had been broken in two, each boy taking a half of it. James finished his half coloring a fire. Tommy used his half up on his drawing of a fire-engine.

            The teacher compared the two drawings. They were completely antagonistic, and yet both shared the same bright red details.

            I smiled. My first step of the experiment had worked out the way I had predicted it would. The crimson drop on the canvas had dried, caking into a brownish hue.

            I decided my next step. Picking up a small knife and tested its edge. The keen blade glinted in the light. Stepping up to my canvas, I pressed the blade down lightly and dragged it quickly across. The same crimson fluid oozed from the gash. The canvas had lost its pristine condition, a bright slash of red across the middle.

The canvas shifted again. This time there was a deep guttural growl.

I watched as the rivulets of liquid ruby coursed their way down my subject, deep red rivulets irrigating new grounds.

Damon adjusted his white hood, making sure he could see through the eyeholes. Through the eyeholes, the world was more ideal; a white man's world. Damon preferred this world anytime over the 'real' world. Like any idealistic God-fearing man, he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; or as he preferred to refer to as the Order of Knights of God. He saw it as the Order's mission to eliminate any niggers, the black devils.

"New meat, tonight," an associate noted, gesturing towards a couple of unmasked faces. Their robes were whiter than most of the other members, not yet soiled by the red blood of the persecuted. 

"Have they been initiated?" Damon asked. His glance swept the sea of white robes in the room. Absently, he swatted at a mosquito, flattening it on his sleeve. Dismissively, he swept the mangled black carcass off, leaving a red stain of blood.

Marc shook his head in negative. "Not yet. But I hear that them new 'uns got the good fun tonight," he replied.

Damon nodded in understanding. Another nigger-whore would be missing a husband by the morning.

"… Now, the moment of initiation. Can the newbies please step up. Come 'ere and we'll see what you sissies are made of," the voice of the leader rang out. Damon watched as the two robed figures made their way forward, amidst the loud and vulgar cheering.

"… Flog that nigger!"

"… Send the bastard back to Hell!"

"… Let them fear the hand of God!"

The cheers were ceaseless as two other members dragged an African-American man out of another room, kicking his already bloody body, taunting him with racist names. The man's face was nearly beyond recognition, his lip split and cheeks swollen from the beating he had already endured. An eye was almost hidden under a huge welt and his nose was not much more than a bloody pulp.

Damon recognized the man. He had seen him on more than one occasion in town. He knew that he was an honest man, a hardworking man who struggled to raise his young family. Always polite and courteous, he tipped his hat at everyone he saw.

Damon smiled; a sadistic parody of a grin. This would teach the nigger to smile and tip his hat at their women. The strangled cries were almost musical. Then, the raucous died down as the leader raised his hand to signal for silence. The man was strung beneath a beam, the harsh rope tearing at his wrists.

"Step up!" he commanded the two young men, who looked particularly nervous as they obliged. They were each handed a whip, frayed at the ends and tanned by blood. "Flog it, like the son of a bitch it is!"

The cheering mounted to a soaring chorus of cries of the damned and damnation. It was the song of Satan, his reeling cries and resounding cackle. The flogging continued for a long time, until the painful whimpering has long ceased. Spatters and lashings of red blood soaked the robes of the new members. A fresh roar of approval thundered through as each man was handed a hood.

They pulled the hoods over their heads, concealing their blood-stained faces.

I was satisfied. My experiment had been successful so far. The lashings of red had seeped into new areas, spreading their tainted beauty. I was down to my final step. The success of my masterpiece would depend on this very last move.

I clutched the ceremonial dagger in my hand and slashed. Each violent stroke brought forth a gush of blood. I looked at my stained hands and then at the canvas. Red drenched almost everywhere. A roar, a cry far mightier than any before this rang out. It was done; my experiment was complete as I admired my masterpiece.

Jaafar looked all around him. Everywhere about him lay destroyed earth. Everything had been scorched, blasted or trampled. Bodies lay strewn over the ground like garbage in a landfill. The stench of death and destruction was thick in the air, permeating his very being as he gazed on.

Above him, birds of carrion flocked, more like locusts than birds as their numbers multiplied by each passing day. How many days had passed since he had last taken peace for granted he did not know, but it was a distant memory that already seemed alien to him. He wasn't surprised; there was nothing recognizable from the days of Utopia.

Looking from above, one could not be blamed if he thought that he was looking at a warped version of a kaleidoscope. From that perspective, one could not tell if a man was white, black, yellow or copper-skinned. Neither could he tell a Christian from a Muslim, a Jew from a Buddhist and a Hindu from an atheist. Death was universal; blood was spilt in war, red on red, no divider, no exceptions.

Jaafar looked up at the sky. The evening rays refracted off the dust-saturated air, displaying a grand vista of bloody glory in hues of reds. The world bled along with mankind…

I named my masterpiece 'Humanity'.

THE END