The Violet Hour

Written by Sara Sioufi

 Photograph by   Liam Andrew

Photograph by Liam Andrew

Her father made no protest while being taken away. Hana was startled by how little sadness she felt as she watched him go, and she appreciated the fact that he went with dignity. Any protests would have been pitiful. The law was the law after all. He knew what he was doing when he broke it.

She jumped slightly when The Governor came up to pat her on the shoulder. She looked up to see him flashing her a strained smile.

'It's important that we soldier on through these things, Hana. Your father was a dear friend to me, but the community must always come first.’ 

Hana nodded absently. She knew that this incident would spark the worry that she too would revolt and refrained from telling The Governor just how repulsed she was by her father's actions.

‘I think you should still come today as planned. It'll help you understand the order of things. I'll accompany you, of course.’ 

The area surrounding The Dome was still scavenged once a month or so; volunteers going out in protective suits and masks and bringing home whatever they could of the Outside World that could still be of use after all this time. Some liked these trips for the excitement of discovery, others for the chance to get away and see something different.  Whatever the reason, the goal was clear. All supplies must be taken, regardless of whether or not they belonged to the diseased.

Hana was meant to go on an expedition for the first time that day with her father, but his incarceration had altered those plans. The Governor seemed to have taken up the role as her guide. He had confirmed what she had already suspected. Her father had turned traitor, and had been supplying one of the diseased with resources on his expeditions. They had been monitoring him for a while now, in order to find the colony of the diseased he had been supplying; so they could raid them. 

The governor supplied her with a tranquilliser and continued to explain the logistics of the expedition. They had plotted their destinations from an old map of what used to be the State the land was once part of. Where they’d scavenged already was like a growing ring around the village, and Hana found it sad to think that there would come a time when they ran out of places to go. What was left would be too distant, keep them away for too many days at a time. There would come a point when they’d picked it all clean, leaving nothing but bones.

Her memories of the Outside World were incredibly vague. Her clearest memory was traveling with her parents when she was five. She couldn't remember where but remembered a white beach with sand as soft as powder and an endless blue ocean; the air was balmy, and it was an island. Her mother had called it paradise on Earth. That was the clearest memory she had of her mother, although her father had constantly regaled her with stories and shown her pictures. She had always resisted the urge to ask him if he thought she was still alive.

With her memory of the beach in mind, being confronted with nothing but acres of greenery was startling. The governor, whom she identified by his bright yellow suit, beckoned her forward. 

"The colony isn't far from here, but I want you to be near me at all times. There's no telling how the diseased will react, their minds aren't all there you know."

The colony - when they reached it - was half empty. Someone had tipped them off. Hana's former indifference towards her father grew in to anger. His arrest seemed like too light a punishment. The group had captured the stragglers that remained in the colony and were in the process of interrogating them about the whereabouts of the others. She wandered away from the group slightly, spying no imminent danger. The colony was composed of crudely constructed tents, all of which were left empty save for various bits of garbage. She spotted what looked like a deformed apple core and remembered being told how the diseased had evolved in to being able to eat the mutated fruits and drink the poisonous water and breathe the toxic air. 

Hana heard a rustling sound and whipped around. 

She was only sixteen, too young to remember what it had been like when the plague hit, but she knew what had happened. It was drilled in to her repeatedly in school,  and then again at every Dome meeting her father took her to, his membership as part of the council forcing him to attend. She knew how in the later stages the disease had eaten away at people’s skin.

But nothing prepared her for the sight of the grotesque figure in front of her. In the Dome, jokes are told about the diseased. The community was content to see them as no longer human, and being faced with the creature in front of her, Hana felt true disgust at her father's actions. He had depleted the community's own resources to further this creature's life. It was deemed unethical to outwardly kill them; if only because it was bad sportsmanship. She wasn't an idiot, she knew that having their resources constantly scavenged would eventually cause them to die out, but that was fair game, but aiding them was simply perverse, she found herself thinking as the creature garbled and attempted to move towards her.  The disease must have ravaged its tongue or lips or something. She lifted her tranquilliser gun without hesitation and shot the creature in what was left of its face, calling out to the rest if the team as she did so.

She hadn't mentioned the fact that as ravaged as the creature was she had  known why her father had helped it. Those with money - like her father - held up with weapons and built domes and watched the rest of the refugees die outside when the plague hit. Her father had always been heartbroken over the fact that her mother had succumbed to the disease, but his priority had been Hana's safety.

Seeing what was left of her mother that day, Hana knew without a doubt it would've been better had she died, and Hana wished she could have killed her on the spot. Deformed as the creature was, the emerald green eyes, a mirror of Hana's own, remained.  The way her father had spoken endlessly about her mother, despite having spent years apart from her, as though she were still a person, came back to Hana now. She preferred to think of her father's countless photographs of her mother, rather than the creature she had seen that day.

Whatever it was, it was not her mother.