Upon my forehead, I wear my badge of shame. After two years, it has faded somewhat from the time it was burned onto my skin. But still it remains clear and visible to judging eyes.
I am far from the only person to wear such a badge. I don’t go out often, but when I do I spot at least one person with a mark to denote some unspeakable atrocity for which they will always be damned. Others notice them too, but not for the reasons I do. Like them, my actions are barred to the world for all the world to judge us. I know their exhaustion, their pain. Their wish to find a spot to just fade from existence. They, like myself, are outlets for the world’s outrage, be it justified or misplaced. I used to be one of those people. I still remember how good it felt to look down on someone and feel superior to them. To feel righteous and clean. Now that I am dirty like the rest of them, I know better.
I go out only when needed. I have no job, nor have I bothered to look for one. The X on my head is not just branded onto the skin, it appears in every record of my existence. It ensures that never again will I work in society. I live outside the community now. Barred from most public places except the corner grocery shop that is so down on its luck that it’ll serve even people like myself. It is a five minute walk from my government-paid flat to that store, and a five minute walk back. Ten minutes during which I am exposed to the world. Ten minutes in which women will hurriedly cross the street to avoid getting within arm’s reach of me. Ten minutes in which even the town drunks throw rubbish and curse me for daring to draw breath. Occasionally the walk gets interesting and either a cop or hot-tempered passerby will decide to teach me a lesson and send me on my way with a few bruises. Aside from my weekly shop for essentials, I never leave home.
Correction, I never leave my flat. To call it a home is a complete fantasy. ‘Home’ implies some kind of connection. A feeling that this space is yours. My tiny, one-bedroom apartment is not my own. It’s the government’s. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Once you’re guilty and you’ve gotten branded, you’ll get a shitty apartment like mine with only the barest essentials and enough payments monthly to afford food and anything else you need. It’s the new death penalty. Instead of strapping you to a chair and electrocuting you until you leave the world, they draw it out. You’ll live out a natural life knowing you’re scum, worthy of only enough to keep you alive and aware until your body fails and you embrace death with open arms. I have only been branded for two years, but it feels like this is all I have ever known. My old life, my job, my house, they’re foreign memories to me, as if I’ve stolen them from somebody else. They are certainly not mine. I am not that man anymore. That man was respected, loved by his friends and family, destined for great things. I am not respected, I have no friends or family, and I am destined only for an end.
I will wear this shame until my body is old and frail, and then I will meet Death and thank him for his mercy.
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