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To Be Martyred
Diana Three fifty six. Consummate. To be martyred.
Everything I am and everything I’m going to be is wrapped up in these six words. By the time I was three, I could stand at the altar in the Cathedral and recite these words to the grave congregation as if I was a broken toy that murmured the same sentence eternally.
“Diana Three Fifty Six. Consummate. To be martyred.”
I am flawless.
My eyes are turquoise, and my veins run with the same bluish glow through my body. Falling to my waist, my hair is a silvery shade of blonde, too precious to ever be severed. My skin is pale and unmarred, as if I am made of stone.
And perhaps that is exactly what I am; a living, breathing statue.
But are you really alive if you were born to die?
Our land is cursed. Long ago, an unknown evil seized us. Buildings were destroyed and decay ate at every corner of our existence. Food became scarce and many died from malnutrition. Wearing a gray veil about their faces that still covers them today, the living seemed to always be sickly. The sky was dull with a misty fog constantly lingering over head.
The Cathedral was the only building left untouched so many saw it as a haven to escape the savage streets. Fighting broke out amongst the people for so many resided inside it. Everyday became a competition, a blood bath in the very halls that used to stand as symbols of hope, love, and faith. These people became animals, savages who cared only about surviving.
And then, one day, a mysterious man clothed in black robes entered the Cathedral carrying a white bundle in his arms. He was hooded and a shadow concealed his face.
Grey, hollow beings watched as the man strode to the altar, robes trailing like black smoke behind him. He laid down the bundle and unveiled it. The people crept forward to see what the man had brought.
Lying on the altar was a baby, skin pale as stone and eyes a startling blue. Her veins glowed giving her a ghostly, transparent appearance.
The hooded man held up his hands, “On the night before each summer solstice, a child birthed by a virgin will be born to you. It’s blood, it's heart will make this a grim, but safe haven from the darkness that has settled on the outside of these doors.”
Pausing, he glanced at the sullen faces of his listeners, “But a thing of such power must not be overused, so on the eve of the child’s fifteenth birthday, they shall be martyred.”
Lost in their inhumanity, the people had no objections, for their only craving was to keep themselves alive.
The hooded man reached into his coat and pulled from it a long dagger made of silver. It, but for a second, shed a shimmery light on his vacant pupils.
Running his fingers over its blade, he stepped up to the altar,
“If you fail to do as I have told, and the child lives but a day over fifteen, the darkness that has settled outside will seep into the doors of your precious Cathedral and you will all be dead.”
Grinning wickedly, he raised the dagger, “Let this be the first of many prosperous years.”
And then he drove the blade into the child’s heart.
Tomorrow is my birthday, the day I would turn fifteen. At eleven fifty-nine in the night, I shall be martyred on the same table that the savior child, and the other three hundred fifty five Diana’s were martyred on. I’ve prepared for this my whole life, and I am ready, ready to sacrifice myself for my people.
My older sister, Arena, is the only family I have for my parents died years ago from malnutrition. Arena never speaks, and passes the days sitting alone by the tall window that looks out upon the gloomy city. Though she is two years older than I, I feel that I am responsible for her because she is so different from the rest of us.
Tomorrow I will leave her, for the good of everyone.
It is early evening when I finally finish my sacrificial prayer to the Dark Man. Gently, I blow out the candle and rise from the stone floor for the last time. I have but an hour left of freedom so I take the stairs up to top of the Cathedral where Arena sits, running her fingers through her long, dark, tangled hair.
“Hello, Arena,” I say, placing a hand on her back.
She turns towards me, eyes glassy and distant, and nods.
Clearing my throat, I sit down across from her, “Do you know what is happening tonight?”
Never turning away from the window, she nods.
I place my hand on hers which is cold and dry, “I’m sorry I have to leave you, but it’s for the good of the people. We will be together again someday, I promise.”
I give a slight smile.
“Diana three fifty six, report immediately to your dorm to prepare for the martyr,” echoed the herald’s call through the Cathedral.
Taking a deep breath I stand and turn towards the stairs.
Then someone grasps my hand.
I turn to find Arena looking madly into my eyes, “I will find a way.”
“What?” I question.
“Diana three fifty six, report to your room immediately!”
When I turn back to Arena, she is staring out the window again, running her fingers through her hair.
Back in my room, I slip on my white, floor-length gown and gently comb my long, silver hair. I then pick up the ivory hand mirror in the corner of my room and gaze at my reflection. A pale, chiseled face stares back, veins pulsing with the same blue that is so prominent in the eyes.
At eleven thirty, I make my way down the large staircase in the center of the Cathedral to the alter. The sullen, grey-veiled congregation has already taken their seats and they stare, with almost a hunger in their eyes, at me as I stand behind the table.
I quickly search the congregation for Arena, but I fail find her.
Her urgent words still float through my mind, I will find a way. A way to what? To stop the sacrifice?
My thoughts are interrupted by the martyrer, “It is the eve of Diana three fifty six’s fifteenth birthday. In order to maintain our haven-”
I let my thoughts drift for I have heard this reciting many times.
Diana three fifty six. Consummate. To be martyred.
I imagine what my tomb will say when I have been sacrificed.
Diana three fifty six. Consummate. Martyred.
Suddenly, I feel people lifting me to the table. I lay with my head against the hard stone and stare up and the grey ceiling, hundreds of feet above me.
I always tried to imagine what it would be like, lying here knowing that in moments I’d be dead. I never imagined being so calm.
The martyrer finishes, “Diana three fifty six shall be martyred for the good of us all.”
He pulls out the silver dagger, rusted from age.
It is eleven fifty nine and forty seconds, and the dagger is raised above my heart.
“Bring us another prosperous year.”
I close my eyes, expectant of the end.
But it doesn’t come.
The crowd screams as someone throws themselves over top of me.
I open my eyes just as the dagger enters Arena’s heart.
Now it is I who screams.
I will find a way.
The clock chimes twelve and the congregation’s eyes widen in horror, for I am fifteen, the first Consummate to reach this age.
Standing, the martyrer cries out, “The darkness is coming, hide yourselves!”
Everyone disperses, running panickedly towards varying rooms.
Knowing there is no escape, I stay with my sister, color drained from her face and eyes glassy.
I cry, holding her head in my hands and waiting for the darkness to take me too.
I wait all through the night but the halls remain silent and untouched by the darkness that was to come if I lived.
When the clock strikes seven, I glance up for something has caught my eye. Dancing on the floor is a small beam of light, something I have not seen before.
I lay Arena’s head gently on the table and run to the doors.
Then, taking a deep breath, I throw them open.
There, beaming right in my eyes, is the yellow sphere that, so long ago, was known as the sun.