It was a heartless, brutal thing to do, but it was the punishment everyone had agreed to. Those who seek to create art, who seek to express themselves through art, be it painting, sculpting, writing, or even building castles of sand on a beach somewhere, were to be cast into stone. Their bodies encased in a mold, which was then filled with melted, white hot stone. That white hot stone burned away the body, and replaced it in the mold. Always, the stone was pumped into the mold, from the bottom, to the top, starting at the criminal’s feet, and reaching their head last.
Those who sought art, books, paintings, jewelry, different clothing, different colors of hair, anything that was not approved by the community, were jailed. Placed in slave labor camps, doomed to work in dangerous jobs their remaining days. None of them ever lived to die of old age. They died on the job.
These were the rules. These were the laws, passed down through generations. Everyone knew the stories, taught since birth. The stories of the great wars. Of the rebellions. The religious campaigns. The fights for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought. Everyone knew of the great works of art people once made. And the cost those works of art brought with them.
It was all gone, of course. In the name of peaceful coexistence, we’d eliminated everything that caused those wars. There were no books. No paintings. No sand sculptures. No porcelain. Nothing. It was all gone. The creative soul that had once made us great, that once made us reach for the stars, build great buildings, great cities, great monuments, museums, and machines. That was gone too. Everything was the same. Everything, everywhere. The same. Even the people of the nations were the same. You were born, and your genetic code was read, and analyzed, and that determined how you would best serve the world. Whether you would dig holes in the ground, pull cable through those holes, pull weeds out of yards, darn socks, cut hair. It didn’t matter what you wanted. Your genetic structure defined what you did, and what you were best at.
And the wars were gone. There hadn’t been any wars, or even any terrorist acts, in over two hundred years. We were a people at peace. A people that treasures its work, it’s eternal growth. Our population on our world is greater than it has ever been. We have one economy. One company. One leader. One religion. One medicine. One of everything we need. One is all we need.
I never understood why anyone would risk being turned to stone for the sake of something they called self expression. In pursuit of something they called freedom. I could not understand how anything could be worth being locked into a mold, to slowly suffocate, and to be burned alive, by molten stone.
And yet, every few years, there was another such event. And more statues of the dead to place in the public squares of the world, so people would know what happened to those who dared to be different. To those who dared learn of the ways that caused all the wars of the past. Statues of the criminals. To remind us forever, of how to live, and how to be.
Why would anyone risk being turned into such an example?
So it was that I bore witness to the execution of the married couple. Their forms replaced by stone that would last for centuries. A reminder of the cost in human lives their search for creativity had caused. A reminder to never return to those ways, and the wars they caused.
This is written for Week 47 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. It’s just the beginning of an idea. I haven’t figured the words out yet. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.