The Ballad of Reading Goal

By Vanessa Mullen

It seems a long time ago now that I first saw the book. I found it in a cupboard on Xenon base, a real bound book, the sort that you almost never see. I suppose I was curious. After all, it might have been valuable, but anyway, I took it down and read it.

Vila with a book. I suppose you think that's amusing too? Dayna certainly did, she told me so, after first of all expressing surprise that I could read at all. After that, I was determined to finish it, just to spite her. It must have belonged to Dorian, I realised that before I was half way through. I guess it had amused him to borrow the name of Dorian Gray from a story.

The rest of the book was mostly poems. They didn't all make sense at the time, but there was one that stuck in my mind. You could say that the wretched thing haunts me. You see, I know what it means now.

The poem is Avon, and Avon is the poem.

Every day they let us out of our cells for an hour to get some exercise. The yard is small, and we aren't allowed to talk to one another, but I can see through the mesh fence to another yard. Where he is.

I only knew what haunted thought
Quickened his step and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

It was inevitable really that they'd try Avon for Blake's death. They could have executed him a dozen times over for every crime in the book, but none would have had the same public impact, none would have dealt such a body blow to the credibility of the revolution as this.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Avon killed Blake, but I killed Avon. Oh, I can see him as he walks, but he's already dead. I saw that in the courtroom, when I testified against him. He hadn't expected that. Even after Malodaar, Avon hadn't expected that I would bargain for my life by giving evidence to hang him. He never showed any reaction at all: neither by word nor look did he acknowledge me. That was how I knew I'd hurt him. He never looks at me now I'm sure he knows I'm here on the other side of the fence, but he never allows himself to see me.

Continued in Forbidden Star

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