The Terror (extract)

A thunderous grey-black sky hung over the Place da la Revolution, where the avenue Champs-Elysees met the Tuileries Palace on the north bank of the Seine. The square was packed with spectators, mostly dressed in the sans-culotte uniform of pantaloons and red cap, some waving tricolore flags in honour of the Republic.  Their attention focussed on the guillotine in the centre of the square, and the red-coated executioner.  The silvered blade flashed as it crashed downwards, reflecting what meagre sunlight filtered through the ominous black clouds overhead.  The crowd cheered as the severed head flopped forward into the basket.  The executioner reached downwards and grasped the head by its long hair, holding it aloft.  The masses roared even louder, baying for blood, all attention focussed on the dripping object. 

 

The onlookers cheered even more wildly as the red eyes flicked open, the head gasping for air, the fanged mouth uttering curses as the undeath drained from the creature.  Another of the bloodsucking aristocrats had been cleansed by Madame Guillotine.  Another step towards the New Republic and the Age of Reason, under which all were equal and none need fear the bloodletting of the Bastille.  The executioner’s assistant was hammering the stake through the heart of the headless corpse as the last of the black blood dripped from the now-dead head.  The executioner threw the head in the basket.  It would quickly decay, as would the rest of the corpse.  Just as well, thought the executioner, there are many hours left this day. 

 

Across the Seine, on the Left Bank, a watcher stood in silence.  Red eyes glowed dimly within the shadows of the cowl, as he stared before turning away. He had seen enough.

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