The Nick
By: Chad Miller

I hear the chant of the crowd. My heart races as I'm forced up onto the scaffold. I'm first in line, one of many for today's event. The gendarmes are brutal as they drag me against my will. My legs give out and they catch me before I fall. As they carry me up upon the stage, I glance behind me, and I see the man with the hood. He's the brute who will deliver the final blow. It's his hand that secures me on the contraption. My hands were already tied behind my back, so his task wasn't difficult. Still, I wriggle, and I fight. To battle against futility is a desperate act. It's a battle that we all are destined to lose. The lower portion of the wooden support has a carving to support my neck, while the top is lowered down and clasps over my nape. I try to look up above but can't see what I know is looming. The blade rests high above, just waiting to be released. I look below and see the basket meant to collect the bounty from the blade. The basket is empty, as I am the first in line.

The orator takes center stage. The crowd is attentive. He is dressed in purple and gold. His clothes are worth more than all the combined salaries' of the peasants gathered here to witness this show. And still, they cheer. The orator shouts, "Here is Nicholas Desgrailles, an enemy of the King! Here we all lay witness to his purification! Here way lay witness to the mercy of our great King!" And the crowd erupts.

I hear the drums. My heart races and yet is filled with dread as I know what happens when I hear the last beat of the drum. My whole body shakes. The irony is thick, but I can't crack a smile. Tears run down my face. I try to swallow but my mouth is too dry. It was us who started it all. We, the bourgeoisie fought against the tyranny and the torment inflicted upon us by the Crown. And for a short while, we were the victors. But soon, greed and paranoia infected what once was a noble cause. It was us who erected this contraption of death. Our hand was on the lever of the blade. Many victims befell our wrath. But our rule was fleeting, and the King and his supporters overthrew our reign. Such is the ebb of flow of balance of power. And on and on it goes, through the eons of time.

I am just a pawn. Just a speck of sand in the vast desert. I'll die a martyr. One of many, but today, first in line. I am Nicholas Desgrailles. I beg of you, remember my name.

My ears hear the glee of my countrymen, the curses of the gendarmes, and the sobs of frightened children. I hear the rattle of the drum and then the final beat. My eyes close. I hold my breath. My heart stops. I feel the weight of the world as the blade is released from above. All is still for just a moment…and then… just a little pinch…

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