City of the Pure. Short Story.

The babies were never awake when they were brought to him. They were always so quiet and so tiny, their eyes closed, their small bodies wrapped warmly. He had never really questioned that. Why wouldn’t babies be asleep? They needed plenty of energy to grow. Sure, he saw them at different times of the day and night, but babies slept a lot. He never saw the babies with their parents either. It was always one of the Sisters who brought the baby to him. Swaddled in their little blankets. He had always thought, but of course never said, that the Sisters looked a little like babies themselves, swaddled up in their dark clothes, only their face visible which was, more often than not, scrunched up a little. He liked it when the Sister was happy, there wasn’t enough happiness these days. They always stayed in the room with him, to make sure he didn’t miss anything and to make sure he didn’t lie. When he first started he was offended that they would think that of him, or anyone else, but as the months and then years began to pass by he understood the need. It was impossible for him to fake the results, the sharp burning sensation that came from touching the child’s forehead, the bright red of his fingertips for a minute afterwards. It was an extra precaution, like not allowing the parents in, everything had to be certain, everyone had to be kept safe. After testing, if the baby was fine it was brought outside and, as he always presumed, returned to their parents. If however the child was unclean it was immediately whisked away, the Sister careful not to touch the child’s skin. He didn’t know what happened to the babies. He had asked twice. Once, to a fresh faced Sister who smiled and told him they were part of Gods plan and they would take their place in it. A wholly unsatisfying answer for him. The second time was to an older Sister, stooped and grizzled. She had answered with a low, almost sad voice, “It’s better if you don’t know.” She hadn’t seemed to mind the baby touching her. She held it gently, softly, and carried it from the room. It had been the last time he had seen that Sister too.

He knew that it was his job and that it was important, that someone needed to separate the good from the evil, but they were babies. How could they be evil? How could God allow them to be evil? They were innocent. He didn’t think the babies were being killed, after all, that in and of itself would be a mortal sin and condemn anyone who committed the act and all who associated with them. But that being the case, what happened to them? They were not used as servants, they were not kept in the City of the Pure. He knew of other places that kept their evil offspring and had often wondered if perhaps that was where the child was sent to. The problem for those places of course was that once the children had become a year old it was impossible to tell them apart from those who were pure. It was the law in the City of the Pure that all children were tested before their first birthday and if any were untested at that time they would be deemed impure. It was rare that he saw a baby older than two months, parents were always desperate to get their children verified as soon as possible.

He himself didn’t understand where the evil came from, how could two parents, who were pure, produce an evil child? He didn’t know but he knew that the Elders must, after all, they knew everything which is why they were in charge. The keepers of history and faith. The City of the Pure had so far enjoyed hundreds of years of peace and prosperity under their rule.

A Sister entered the room, baby in her arms. He looked down at the baby and the baby looked back at him, smiling. It reached out with one hand and grasped at his finger. Gently he removed his finger from the babies hand and gently touched its forehead, immediately he pulled his hand away, the baby gurgled merrily. The sister took the baby and quickly left the room. He stood, staring at his arms, still folded to hold the baby, at where the baby had once been. He understood then why the babies were always asleep. It was real when the baby was awake. It was a living, breathing thing. It had been happy, he knew, as everyone did that those that were evil could never be happy, so how could the baby smile at him? The child would go on to have a miserable, wretched life, there was no other options for it. Only the pure could be happy, it was in the scripture. He let his arms drop and moved back to his chair, falling back into it. He felt strange, almost unwell. He pushed the thoughts from his mind as he looked at the red dot on his finger. It had been a trick, that was all. The baby was trying to convince him it wasn’t evil, that it was pure like he was. Evil always tries to find a way in, it undermines good, rots it from the inside. Evil couldn’t be allowed to grow or fester, it needed to be removed entirely. That was why everyone who lived in the city had been born there and carefully tracked. People could live outside the walls of Pure if they wished, those who were undocumented or could not definitively prove their status, but after dusk they were ejected from the city with force. If they refused, or fought back they were executed to keep everyone safe. He shook his head slightly, there was no point in doubting it all. Of course it was right and it was righteous. Good needed to be tended and protected from evil. If it wasn’t, mankind could experience another Fall, fires raining down from the sky, water that looked pure and cool but would leave you sick and dying. God had cleansed the earth once before, ridding it of evil, his job was part of Gods will and to help prevent the need for Gods wrath. He shook his hand slightly as the redness in his finger began to fade. There would be a new child soon for testing, he needed to be ready, he needed to protect everyone.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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