The Crimson Parade
"Mummy, I'm scared!" Little Jimmy squealed, hiding his face under the blanket.
His mother smiled, "It's just getting to the good part, Jimmy. Don't you want to hear how the Lenaworm saved humanity from a lifetime of ignorance and darkness?"
"No…" the boy whimpered, his shoulders shaking. "I don't understand why we have to thank the Lenaworm for everything we have!"
"DON'T TALK LIKE THAT!" His mother looked around, frightened.
"The Lenaworm brought us work and education. You remember how all these people were starving in Africa, honey?"
"Yes?" the boy said, looking at is mother, wondering where the story was going.
"Once the rapture began, the Lenaworm realized that there was no way to save them and devoured the nation before letting it slide into the Indian Ocean. Do you know what would have happened if they hadn't?"
"No?" said the boy, perking up.
"They would have died a slow and painful death!"
The boy watched, captivated. He'd heard snippets of the story before, but only at school or from his friends. What was this rapture? Oh, how he wished to have seen it!
"Tell me more, Mummy!" He sat up, eager to hear the story.
His mother stood up quickly. She went to the door before turning back to her son. "I wish I could tell you more, but Ashena forbids it. The ones to see the rapture must never speak of it. It is forbidden. Maybe someday you will find out for yourself. Lights out!" She said.
The lights automatically dimmed to a lower setting.
"Night", she said before shutting the door.
Maybe he would find out when he was older…but then again, wouldn't he be older tomorrow?
Jimmy woke up early the next day. It was the Day of Jubilation (Jubilance?) and everyone was up early, dressing up and preparing their sacrifices to Ashena and the Great Overseers.
Jimmy looked out the window – he had loved the festival ever since his parents had first taken him there a few years ago.
Crimson bunting hung from posts and fences, decorating the street in a blood red parade. This was repeated on every street. There would be a table running down the centre of the road, on and on, with white plates and a crimson tablecloth.
That colour had always confused Jimmy. What did jubilation have to do with blood? It was probably a coincidence.
Jimmy clipped the fake axe into his hair and looked at his costume in the mirror. He was a farmer, with straw hanging out of every pocket and an axe sticking out of his head and crimson dripping down his face. He looked the part. He went into the back garden and grabbed the two finest goats. One as the offering and the other as part of the feast. Jimmy walked out of his fate and into the street.
"As the ancient law of the Overseers states; the Youngest Man and the Youngest Woman from each household will partake in the sacrifice of their finest livestock." The Head Overseer said into the microchip.
Since Jimmy was only 9 last year, he was not forced to partake in the ritual, but now he was old enough to go to the farm and the sweat shops, Jimmy was the youngest man.
His mum walked up to the burning alter and slit the throat of the first goat before throwing it into the fire. Jimmy hid behind his dad as the screams from the goat filled the air.
The crowd cheered. The rest of the livestock was then sacrificed, the concrete now covered in a thick layer of blood.
"This year, there will be some changes to the Day of Jubilation (Jubilance?). " a voice boomed over the loud speaker. "The Lenaworm is not satisfied with your petty sacrifices. You must offer it your firstborn child as a sign of eternal gratitude."
Screams broke out amongst the crowd. There first born? This was an outrage! Jimmy sank back in fear as the overseers walked off the platform situated in the middle of the street. The head overseer stayed and said, "If you do not comply then you children shall be taken from you and kill on the nation celebration." This was serious, Jimmy thought. The National Celebration was the Day of Jubilance's own broadcast show. It had started when the Lena worm had enslaved humanity and enforced the reign of Ashena, the species own eternal deity.
Parents lined up in front of the alter, every parent except Jimmy's. "No!" his dad yelled, staring at the overseers in sheer disgust. What kind of god does this? Ask you to slaughter your own? We are leaving this god forsaken rock. Clara, Jimmy, let's go!"
Jimmy's dad moved forwards as if to leave but something stopped him. He collapsed forward onto his stomach and groaned. Then he stopped moving completely, before rolling over. Jimmy saw the small hole in his neck. He had been shot. The gun probably had a silencer. The crowd stared before realising what was going on. They were all going to be sacrificed.
Legs scattered everywhere. Everyone ran not even knowing where. Jimmy's mum grabbed his hand tightly and began Jimmy began to run, but his mum stayed put. Crimson seeped from under her hand which was clutching her stomach. She fell down, first onto her hands, then on the floor completely. Jimmy leant down next to her, sobbing just as hard as her. Her lips started moving but he couldn't make out words. He could just hear her faintly now as the crowds started to dissipate.
"Jimmy, Mummy loves you. Daddy loves you. Jimmy you need to remember this for the rest of your life even if it is the only thing you can remember... Run! Don't ever stop running and don't ever stop moving or they will find you. I will always be watching you. Always. Go!"
Jimmy didn't react at first. "RUN!"
So Jimmy ran. Into the darkness, never to be found again.
Jimmy was so tired that his legs had gone numb. From the ruined streets around him Jimmy could tell that the news of the overseers had gone down just as well all over the city, maybe even the world. He thought back to the beginning of the day, tucked up in bed, the sacrifices a distant dream. He had been safe, warm, he had been surrounded by his family, and look at where he was now. He wanted go back and curl up in bed, he wanted to let the world disappear and to just imagine if only for a brief moment that he had some control. That it wasn't over yet, but who was he kidding? It was over.
Jimmy stopped to sit down in the gutter and warm his hands on the burning piece of rubble that was flickering away by his feet. He looked across, startled to see the body of an Overseer. It had had the back of its skull removed and the brain was lying next to it. A small crimson slug slid away, and a hand stopped it and squashed it. The hand joined on to the body of a boy who looked to be double Jimmy's age.
"They didn't ask to be like this." He said, "It was the Lenaworm. Got inside their heads. Where is you going to?" The kid said in broken English. He had a strong German accent. He was tall with deep blue eyes. His clothes were normal, well as normal as they could be when you'd just decapitated a man of the faith.
"The sea." Jimmy said, and walked off, not letting the boy follow.