In the mournful sky the moon hung and William sighed once again. In his mind a single image recurred endlessly; the lid of a strongbox closing shut. What should have followed was the vision of him turning the key on the heavy lock, but it did not come. He worried for several hours, knowing how dangerous it would be to go out onto the streets again. His mind was weakening, he was well aware of that, and failing to complete that critical act was not implausible. There were moments that were swept away like slush.
So held in frozen panic he thought again for the millionth time about what was on that roll of film, and what would happen were it ever to be printed. It is not uncommon that those who commit such atrocities should feel the pressure so acutely. A religious person might have called it divine justice, but for him it was just a repulsive gnawing in his cortex.
His thoughts were becoming muddled.
The knock on the door disturbed him from his afternoon prayers. It was very improper for anyone to break such protocol, and he winced in irritation when the knocking continued.
“They will ruin my day!” he thought, “They will bring us both into disrepute.”
As he went to answer the door, he began to proclaim his annoyance, so any passing cadres would hear.
Behind the door stood a remarkably tall man in the unmistakable whites of an administrator. He froze in terror and awe as the visitor dangled a small bronze pendant before him.
“Congratulations brother” came the voice like crushed glass, “For the festival of ‘92, you have been appointed Evening Sentinel.”
He had been there before, he knew because everyone nodded at him.
He had worn these clothes before, he knew because they were threadbare at the precise angles of his bony joints.
Beyond this all else was a haze, all he remembered of when he used to remember was a heavy grey ruminating, it was strange how this impression remained. It caused a distinct distaste in his thoughts, like the foul taste of lead.
But he did not mull on it for long, he slipped back into the glaring imminence around him, wearing his empty smile.
In the morning the women gather by the slow, warm river, they leave their homes naked and enter immediately into the lazy waters. They bathe and sing the morning songs.
Towards midday, after the men have arisen, the women begin to brew mysterious concoctions. Spontaneously they break out into energetic dances and the men begin to produce low droning moans. Roused by the activities of the adults, the children start to bang metal cans and barrels.
As evening draws close the appointed Evening Sentinel dons the clothing of the long dead aristocrat who use to dominate these lands. In a muttering trance he wanders amongst the assembled members of the commune.
The women enter a fearsome frenzy, their actions express lascivious mockery. They put on absurd sexualised clothing from eras long passed, winking and enticing the Evening Sentinel.
At midnight the women fall upon him, ripping him open and spreading his guts.