The child dies in early spring. March, to be precise. You love being precise.
It seems like nothing. No one actually seems to care. You certainly do not. The corpse, most likely still warm, will be placed into a hole in the ground, wherever one can be found. His family cannot afford a separate plot, not for him, not for themselves. You know they will mourn for a while, but it will last a week at most. Nothing special. Nothing extraordinary. Nothing to suggest that Deermont will not react in its usual manner.
The child had not been privileged with a life in the gentry. So the rich pay no attention, carrying on, ignorant. They say ignorance is bliss. You agree. The working class do not care about the death of one little child. Perhaps they might, if news travelled quickly. But the bitter cold, ever present, seems to fasten itself to the people; makes them reluctant to socialise. It would be futile. The three classes do not talk to one another anyway.
Though the poorest families are aware, the poverty hardens them, draining them of any emotions that might have been left. It is a pathetic sight to see. They go on with their daily lives, trying to stay out of the gutter. When the sun dies in the West and the people return home, food must be on the table, or they starve.
No one voices any conflicting opinions to the one you have held in your stead for so long. No one particularly has any desire to. Even so, it seems that the people are so long bound by society's standards that they become adoptive of them, forgetting that they have a voice at all. The songs remain unsung. The speeches remain undelivered.
Yet in some, there is a quiet fire. The artist's son whose family fell from grace a century ago, and now live in squalor. The girl whose parents own a café, seemingly absent-minded, but rumoured to have a razor sharp wit. The lawyer's daughter who does not care what her family think of her, and the banker's daughter who cares too much. The businessman's daughter, dreaming of doctorates and dermatology. And the journalist's son, with intentions of becoming a lawyer. They call them the Mockingbird Lot. It is fortunate for you that they have not yet sung.
You despise that fire. You despise that it makes people think. You despise that it draws them together, like moths to a flame. Two months ago, the so called 'Mockingbird Lot' despised one another. It was the search for like minded souls, the exploration of long suppressed emotions, that led to the Mockingbird formation, sparked only by the arrival of the businessman's daughter and the journalist's son, cousins, friends, allies.
One mind cannot hope to move a mountain, but support is able to make one believe that they can do anything. This city does not need change. It is perfectly fine the way it is. That is precisely why it has not yet fallen. You know that for sure.
The child dies of scarlet fever. It is not an uncommon cause of death in Deermont. Given how much progress Man has made in the field of medicine, that may seem unsettling. You are not unnerved at all. Sometimes, time simply does not take a place with it. Some parts simply remain stuck in a loophole, doomed to repeat the same path again and again.
It is March. A child is dead. If you are to be truthful, you know that you are the one that as killed her.
But you do not feel any remorse.
The impact of the child's death has faded by April.
But the journalist's son calls it murder.
He has from the day the child died, and was subsequently told that it was such a serious accusation to make, and told he should not use such language again. He does not do anything past that. You do not blame him, for he is an obedient young man, who knows that there are battles that are worth fighting, and that this battle is not. You are somewhat glad that he has sense.
The rich girls, the daughters of the banker and the lawyer, are more susceptible to your touch. Wrapped in wealth all their lives, they have been raised in the correct manner, the best manner. They are the city's children, your children, with minds so open that to sway them is child's play. You could make them your puppets in an instant. You suppose you will spare them, though, for they are loyal to the system. For now.
The businessman's daughter seems slightly more displeased by the whole situation, but she is kept under control by her own educational responsibilities. There is always a limiting factor with humans. Her organisation, though, buys her time to not merely think, but to evaluate. She has not yet done anything, but you know that she will not be as easily swayed as the journalist's son.
The coffee shop owner's daughter intrigues you too. You must keep an eye on her, because she tends to think. As a daughter of the working class, you know she will not be persuaded so easily. Nonetheless, unlike the businessman's daughter, she seems to be weighed down by her education for the majority of the time, limiting her potential threat immeasurably. It is too easy to stop mortals getting any creative ideas, not least by the burdens they put upon themselves. It is much too easy.
The last, the artist's boy, is a barista at the café, the one owned by the parents of the one that interests you so. Appreciator of fine art, some say that he is wasted in his job. Of course, most people on Deermont don't know of his origins, or at least, they do not care. Orpheus Street is not the birthplace of champions. It is the birthplace of scum.
Still, glory never comes without a price. The people know that. And you are prepared to pay that price a thousand times over if it will keep you afloat. It is a harsh truth, but every man who stands tall must have stood on something to reach his position. It is usually the bones of other human beings. And it happens more often than one thinks it does.
Ultimately, wealth and power would not be as distinctive as they are should poverty and impotence be nonexistent. Everyone knows that. There are a few, sometimes, that try to transcend the limits of what they have been given, but it is futile. It will not, and has never worked. Occasionally there is an escapee who disappears beyond the city's borders and is promptly never seen again. You suppose that they do not count. No descendant of any of theirs ever set foot inside the city's limits.
It is April. This month you learn the name of the dead child: Eleanor, but everyone called her Ella.
You still feel no remorse.
Is one supposed to feel miserable when someone dies? Pity, perhaps? Sorrow? Regret? You feel none of these things, but in May, you pose this question to yourself.
A lot of things happen in your city, and you process them in an instant. Most things pass you by within seconds. Young Ella's funeral stays for merely hours, longer than most would stay, but nothing in the grand scheme of the world.
There is another funeral to attend. A child of a working class family, and that seems to make all the difference. It was of a young boy. His name was Robert. His surname eludes you.
Less still happens in the following weeks. The wheel keeps turning, continues on its path, trodden and well travelled from decades of use. You are beginning to think that the businessman's daughter has abandoned her thoughts on eliciting change. You are somewhat glad. A revolution is never pleasant, not for you, not for her, not for anyone. You are afraid that she will plan an uprising.
It is rare for one specific day to linger in your mind, but sometimes dates catch you and refuse to leave. One such date is the twentieth day of the fifth day in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and twelve. In more ghastly, 'modern' terms, 20th May 2012. The reason it lingers so is a trivial one. You spend that day wandering around your city.
It is also the day you meet the journalist's son, in the flesh. You have only seen him in reflections before, risen from the power of description.
You choose to wear a woman's face. You could take any form you want to, but you dress yourself in porcelain skin, red lips, and long black tresses. You are a sight to be beheld.
You do not know what you are expecting. The boy is extraordinarily civil towards you, as people to tend to be towards strangers they have never met before. He challenges you to a game of chess, and wins. You love the game. It makes you think, for once.
But you are not in love with him. You are not. You cannot be. You are married to one and one only, and your spouse is your city. Moreover, you do not know where he has come from. He is not originally from Deermont. Dirty little foreigner. Nothing good ever comes from foreigners.
You do not mention the thoughts of the businessman's daughter. You think you figure it out. Nothing good ever comes from foreigners. The child knows her rightful place. That is not an assumption.
The journalist's son takes you to the café, where the artist's boy works, and in which he and the little Mockingbird Lot spend the preponderance of their Saturday mornings. Fortunately, it is a Sunday afternoon, or you are sure that someone would have tried to strangle another, at the very least, after a while. He tells you that that he thinks one morning a week is enough for all of them.
It does not help your case that café owner's daughter sits across the table and glares at you the entire time. Did her mother never tell her that staring at people is quite rude? According to the journalist's son, she tends to be a little scatterbrained. Perhaps that works in your favour.
You receive the impression that you are unwelcome and leave. You learnt that lesson early in your life.
You never fall in love. You have never fallen in love. You will never fall in love. You will remain unblemished and glorious for as long as your city does, and you are safe in the knowledge that your city will never crumble. Your home will never burn.
The working class bands together for the funeral. It is loud, for they grieve, they wail, they mourn. The café is closed for a few days. The funeral is held outside, and the space is packed. One would not believe the turnout for one little boy. One might think that Deermont in its entirety was present that day.
But one would not know that truth. One would not know that the other two sectors remain at full function. The rich now do not care, and the poor once again cannot. The working class remind themselves that ignorance is better than hate. Ignorance can be brushed away, like dust. Ignorance does not matter. The mourners are present, and they do not need any more.
You attend. You attend every funeral that happens in your city. You split yourself a thousand times over to watch every wedding, to hear every first cry, to feel every final breath on your soul as if each one was a gust of wind, knocking you back and forth. You barely, rarely remember the separate moments, and a person's life slowly bleeds and runs together in your memory until all you can remember is their face or their name; sometimes not even that. But you watch every single one.
You stand silently in the background. You do not dare to show your face, not that you have a singular face to show, of course. You appear differently for each person, and it is not always the same. A young boy one day, an elderly lady the next, and they never recognise you. It is a handy trait to have.
The child is cremated, and his ashes temporarily held in a small wooden box. Mere hours later, the box is opened, the ashes thrown to the wind, to blow across the city, and left to fall quietly on the mansion at the southern border. Ashes always seem to rest there. They coat the house in a layer of black snow, engulfing it, suffocating it.
That house is a graveyard, and yet two hundred people lie tucked inside those walls every night, the artist's son amongst them. The great Copewell clan. You believe the 'great' is debatable. You tend to ignore them. People try to put that house out of their minds, to burn the memories. There have been attempts of arson. They have always failed.
May is a strange month, you think. You do not know where you stand on May. The ends of seasons are always strange. The end of February is rejoiced for because the worst of the harsh winter is over, the end of August mourned for because the world slowly descends into a wet slush, and the end of November is, for the most part, aimless. But the end of May, on the other hand, is overlooked because summer is coming.
Summer is coming.
She's thinking now.
They're thinking now.
You hear whispers, rumours, not only on Saturday mornings, but constantly, perpetually, endlessly. You cannot hold their tongues because of the value of free will, but you cannot let them go through with this, either. And the one that glared at you before is becoming much more organised. The businessman's daughter is helping her with that.
You dislike her.
You dislike all of them.
Readers behold, your June descent, for you swear you are currently standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down into the infinite chasm below you. You are slightly tempted to pitch yourself off it, but if would be futile, because you cannot die for as long as your city lives. It is one of the faults of being immortal.
There is a lake at the east border of your city. People go there for solace. It is calm, still, and uninterrupted.
Sometimes, there are a few ripples on the water. They disperse and face after a while, of course, but for a fleeting moment, they are there. They have made a small effect on the lake. Small things can often change big things. You think of the butterfly effect.
But it keeps happening. The ripples start stronger, travel further, carry on much longer. Eventually, they reach the edges of the lake, still strongly visible, breaking only as they lap the banks and douse one's feet.
That is what is currently happening to your city. Those six little mockingbirds are causing a commotion, stirring up the people. They are weak at present, but they are strengthening with every day that passes. You do not like it. You do not like it at all.
You do not think you should even be calling them mockingbirds at this point, because it is evident that they aim to do much more than sing. They are planning something, and you do not know what that something is. You do not know if you cannot hear what they whisper quickly to one another, behind cupped hands, so that you cannot read their lips, or whether you simply do not want to.
There are many of things that you do not know in June. It scares you somewhat.
You do not bother checking what they are doing anymore. It is indisputable that they are going to destroy you in one form or another, and you would rather not know what. You stop when you hear talk of drowning. You do not want to know what that is about.
You will not race into battle with them, but rather allow them to come to you. But you will not prepare. There is no point in preparing. You know you are going to lose anyway. They are too strong now, too strong to ever be discouraged from the goal that their hearts and minds are set upon. You will take their onslaught as it comes, rather than trying to guard yourself against it. It does not work. It never works. You have tried.
July marks the beginning of a drought.
Deermont has not had a drought in seven decades.
Waves of heat roll over the city. You try to turn your cheek, but it is difficult. You have grown so accustomed to the cold and the ice of the frozen South that is nigh impossible to ignore the sun shining above your head. You are sure that your children think similar thoughts. Your mind grows dazed and you cannot concentrate properly. It seems no one can.
The wood from the buildings cracks and splinters in the hot summer, a hosepipe ban is enforced, the people take to the streams and the rivers to cool themselves down. And, of course, the lake.
Tensions are running high, and no one is particularly paying attention to anything.
Perfect kindling for a fire.
And so it catches.
The date is the twentieth day of the eighth month, in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and sixteen.
The first sparks light at precisely twenty three minutes past six in the morning. The city hall burns within one hour, and the fire brigade do not arrive until it is far too late.
It is not precisely clear who did it. There are a number of suspects floating around in the police's queries, the Mockingbird Lot, in lieu of a better phrase, clearly as the forerunners. But the heat makes people lazy, and it seems the police are unwilling to prosecute. They will gather the evidence another day.
You, on the other hand, are in agony. A city's heart is its hall, and your heart burns as your city's burns. You spend the day in the shadows, attempting to stem the flow of painful tears flowing silently down your cheeks. Pain makes you human. It always does.
It hurts you. Of course it hurts you. Sweat beads on your forehead, as you wish the pain to just go away, go away. Strained sobs rack your body, as you shudder in the darkness. You wonder how you can go on living without a heart. You cannot. For a brief while, until the hall is rebuilt, you are dead to the world.
You have had your heart rebuilt before. But that was centuries ago. You have forgotten the pain of death. It is almost a comfort.
You resign yourself to the memory that everything will renew in time, and you must simply wait.
Then, a mere day later, they walk over your grave.
They break the embers of your dying heart, barely extinguished, by placing a crude plastic podium over them and address the gathered crowd, come to watch. The Mockingbird Lot, the ones that started it all.
All afternoon, they make speeches, weaving images that can only be found in poetry, and yet they are real. You learn their names at last. The banker's daughter and the lawyer's daughter are Camille Fresaine and Christabel Langham. The café owner's daughter is Cecilia Pristane. The artist's boy is Julius Copewell. You knew his surname, at least, but not his forename. You had never bothered. The businessman's daughter is Katherine Peishel. And the journalist's son bears the most ironic name possible, given his future ideal profession, and the name of the group of which he seems to be ringleader. His name, of course, is Atticus Petrasone. You did not ask his name that day, and he did not ask yours.
They elicit change all afternoon, with their words, tones and gestures. Sometimes they speak poems, all linking back to the same point: Deermont needs change, you need change, and you need it now.
There are several jabs at your already incinerated heart. The cousins, whom you once claimed were dirty little foreigners, come back to bite you. You said that no descendant of an escapee ever set foot inside city limits again. You were wrong. Whilst cousins through one parent each, Atticus' father's family worked in textiles in Deermont, and remain so to this day, and Katherine's mother belonged once to the Copewell clan, once lived in the house that produces tiny Victoria sponges, you learn today. She was the sister of Julius' father.
You are somewhat nonplussed by the whole affair, and yet you are not. In the ashes of your core, you think that you always knew that this would occur, but you did not anticipate that it would be so soon.
On a normal day, if normal can even be defined anymore, you would be watching the people live and die. Not today. Today you stand amongst the crowd as they recite speeches that cannot have been written long before. These words will stay with you like none have done before, long into the future, long after the Mockingbird Lot are dead and buried.
You spend the evening looking, analysing each of them, as you did before. Where they have come from, who they are now, where you think there are going. This is what you conclude.
You begin with the poorest of them all, yet perhaps the happiest. Julius, ninth child of James and Charlotte Copewell, has a stable job, and his artwork, like his father's, brings in fine money for his family. He rarely complains. Sharing one's bed with the two brothers that sandwich him in sibling order, the eighth and tenth, tends to make one more appreciative of life's blessings. You still believe that Orpheus Street is not the birthplace of champions. It is, and will be forever more, a graveyard. But you believe that the child, aided by his dreams, is going to go somewhere someday.
Cecilia, you learn, will forever hold a grudge against you. You do not mind. It is truly your fault. She was raised a little imperfectly for your liking, but you have to admit now that she has always been sweet and honourable. Your prejudices blinded you to the truth. But you think what your city thinks, and you could not help it. She would be a good journalist, you think. You wish her all the best.
Katherine, the elder foreigner, is quite clear to you, now that your eyes have been opened. She is headed on one true path, and you do not think anything has ever or will ever sway her. Some may call that determination, some may call it stubbornness. You will let the reader decide. Katherine is a clever woman. She would be a great asset to your city, but you know she does not intend to say indefinitely.
Camille, the banker's daughter, you realise is calm, collected, and plans to stay grounded for most of her life. Your suspicions are that Julius and Camille will go on to marry, but only time will tell. She is headed for a future in government, and you know, with her powerful voice, that she will be excellent at it. You do not worry about her.
Nor do you worry for Christabel. Another headstrong woman. You realise that at seventeen, the Mockingbird lot are not children anymore, though seventeen years is but a drop in the ocean of your life. She seems to be going into marketing, and you think she is well placed there. Her romantic life with Cecilia seems more uncertain. You have lived long enough to know that humans are often temperamental.
You finish with Atticus, the beginning of it all. The one who swept in and drew his Mockingbirds together to begin with, aided meagrely by Katherine. They called those two the Mockingbird Cousins before there were six and they became a Lot. Light hearted and easy going, and raised in a house surrounded by books, one would not believe that he would be able to tear his life away from fiction and defend another human being. But he will. You are sure that he will.
You know that you will never forget this August. For the heat that singed your body, your soul, your heart. For the fire that broke you. For the speeches that changed and shaped you. You know that you will never forget 2016 in general.
So, you close this tale with the closing lines of Atticus' final speech, held late into the night. The crowds have not dissipated, enthralled by the wonder that words, letters, strung together can summon. Words are a truly powerful thing, you realise, and are not to be thrown around indifferently. Memories rarely stay. Words often do. You do not know if you agree with these lines, but you think that they need to be heard, so you will transcribe them.
He says, "Deermont needs its social revolution. They will try to dim us, try to put out our spark, the one that will become the fire that burns our society's constraints to the ground. When they come for me, I will tell them one thing, and one thing only. They will tell me my revolution is dead. And I will tell them this: The revolution is not over. The revolution is only just beginning."