Losing Her Head

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lily has said too much and got her name in the papers. Now she's for the chop.

Submitted: July 11, 2017

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Submitted: July 11, 2017

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Brrrrr.  Twenty three year old Lily Crane looked up and swore.  Brrrrr … Brrrrr.  With a sigh she rose from her chair in her flat's living room and padded groggily to the entry phone.  “Yes,” she asked irritably, “who is it?”

“The Master,” came the harsh reply, “I need to speak with you, immediately!”

“Oh … right.”  Confused, she pressed the door release.  What the fuck did the Master want with her on a Sunday morning, she wondered?  Instinctively she gathered her pink dressing gown tightly about her and tied the cord.  A loud knock on the door made her start.  “Shit, he's here already," she thought.  She fumbled with the lock nervously and opened the door.

The Master, a short, balding, man in his fifties, pushed his way past in, and was followed by two tall, thickset, men.  “Goons,” Lily thought, looking at them.  One of the men banged the door shut, while the other pushed Lily to the centre of the room.  

The Master turned to face her.  “Miss Crane, have you seen today’s paper?" he asked sharply.  

“No Master,” Lily mumbled, shaking her head.

“Well, I suggest you take a look,” the Master barked, “you might find it interesting.  He thrust a newspaper into her hands.  “This is an article about the Order, … and you,” he informed her curtly, stabbing the page viciously with a blunt index finger, “read it for yourself.”

Lily began to read the offending newspaper.  It soon became clear why the Master was so upset.  What she was reading was a lurid exposé of the Order.The inner workings of Grand Order of the Sons and Daughters of Asmodeus, the Order to which she belonged, and whose Abton Chapter the Master headed, was revealed  to the whole world in print.  She looked up and saw the Master glaring at her.

“Well, Miss Crane, can you explain how a journalist managed to get hold of all that?”

Lily blinked, startled by the question.  Surely, the Master didn’t think she had anything to do with it?  “No!” she said, shaking her head violently.

“Is that so,” the Master spat back, “then how do you explain this?”  He jabbed at a section that had been furiously circled in red ink.  “Does this refer to you, Miss Crane?”

With mounting alarm Lily read the offending passage.  “Shit, shit, shit,” she thought as she read on.  It was all there.  How she had been recruited at uni, how her student debts had miracuously disappeared, how she had walked into a plum job in the planning department at Abton, how she was living virtually rent-free in a flat of her own, and how she had acquired an interest-free loan to buy a shiny new car.  More damning, the article also detailed how she had helped "massage" planning applications so that the "right" results would be delivered for to "right" people.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself? The Master asked sharply.  How many Lily’s do you know in the Abton Chapter, besides yourself?”

Lily shook her head vigorously.  “I haven’t told anyone anything ... honest.”

“Really,“ the Master replied icily, “and why should I believe you?”

“Because it’s the truth,” Lily replied lamely.

The Master snorted derisively.  “That’s not good enough, Miss Crane.  The High Council wants answers.  I WANT answers!  I think we should go to the Chapter house and sort this matter out, don’t you?”

“But I’m not dressed,” Lily said desperately.

“That’s easily rectifiable, Miss Crane.”  The Master’s tone was uncompromising.  “Go and get dressed, and be quick about it.”

“Yes Master,” Lily replied meekly.  She ran to the bedroom and closed the door.  Clearly, she was in big trouble, the sort of trouble that has unfortunate consequences.  She slipped her dressing gown off and flung it on the unmade bed, revealing a petite, well tanned, body.  Then she stepped over to the wardrobe, opened it, and took some white panties from a shelf.  Quickly she put them on, then grabbed a pink bra from another shelf and put that on also.  Next she took a white blouse from a hanger, slipped it on, and did up the buttons.  Then she took a pair of blue jeans and wriggled into them.  Finally she chose a pair of white ankle socks and some comfy shoes, and went and sat on the bed.  She pulled the socks onto her small feet, then slipped on the shoes.

She bounced off the bed and went and sat at the dressing table.  “Gawd, what a mess,” she thought when she saw herself in the mirror.  Picking up a hairbrush, she gave her long auburn hair a furious brushing, then applied some lipstick to her sensuous lips.  Finally, she dabbed a little powder on the dark shadows under her hazel eyes and sighed.  She still looked a fright, but it would have to do.

“Right then,” the Master said when Lily returned to the living room, “time to go.”  With that she was hurried out of the flat, down the stairs, through the lobby, and into a big, black, waiting car.  The Master got in beside the driver, while Lily was bundled into the back with the two goons.  “Are we all set?” the Master asked, glancing over his shoulder.  The goons nodded.  “Good, lets get going then,” the Master said.  

The driver crunched the car into gear, let out the clutch fiercely and, with a roar of the engine, they lurched forward.  Gathering speed, they soon passed through Heston, crossed the busy Fairlie Road, and entered Abton Old Town.  After driving along Butterworth Avenue for about five minutes the driver took a sharp left into Needham Street, and began threading his way through a maze of narrow Victorian streets.  Lily barely noticed the small houses and parked cars as they slid by, intent as she was on trying to remember an event some weeks previous.  

Vaguely, she remembered being at a party where a woman had befriended her.  As was too often the case at such affairs, Lily was more than a little pissed.  All she could remember was talking and talking while the woman plied her with drinks.  God, she thought, she’d had a swinish hangover the next day.  Anyway, there was no knowing what she might have inadvertently let slip.

Deep in thought, Lily didn’t notice the car sweep through open gates and draw to a halt beside an old factory building.  It was only when the Master got out of the car that she realised they’d had arrived at the Chapter house.  She watched the Master take a key from his pocket and unlock a red door.  He opened it, faced the car, and beckoned.  It was the signal the goons were waiting for.  They dragged Lily from the car, frogmarched her to the open door, and pushed her inside.  Ahead of her lay a dimly lit corridor.  On either side, and at the end, were red painted doors.  She was led down the corridor to a half open door.  “In you go,” one of the goons said, giving her a sharp push.  As Lily stumbled into a medium sized room she heard the door bang shut and a key turn in the lock.  She was a prisoner.

Looking about her, Lily could see that she had been thrust into a very singular room.  Not only was it bare of furniture, and windowless, it was also almost entirely red.  The floor, the walls, the ceiling, and even the door, were all a deep crimson red.  Indeed, the only contrasting element in the room was a gold circle painted in the middle of the floor.  Illumination was provided by four lights let into the ceiling.  Lily shivered.  The room was ice cold.

After what might have been minutes, but felt like hours, she heard a key turn and the door swing open.  In strode the Master, resplendent in red and gold robes.  Behind him came three stern looking men and a woman of advanced years, each dressed in red.  She was to face the Tribunal of Five.

The Master didn’t waste his words.  Pointing to the gold circle on the floor, he ordered Lily to stand within its confines.  Obediently she did so.  The Master took up a position directly facing her and waited while the rest of the tribunal spaced themselves out in a rough circle.  When everyone was in position the Master spoke.  “You know why you are here, I take it, Miss Crane?” he asked.

“Err … “ Lily hesitated, uncertain what to say.

“You are here to answer the charge that you knowingly, and willingly, divulged information that could prove detrimental to the reputation of the Order.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good, then we can precede.”  The Master held up the offending newspaper article.  “Has everyone read this?” he asked.  The others nodded.  The Master licked his lips.  “Miss Crane, do you accept that the person referred to as  Lily in the article is you?”

“I suppose so, yes,” Lily replied.

“Well, I think it’s time you offered us an explanation then, Miss Crane.”

Heart pounding, she blurted out her explanation.  “I’m not to blame,” she stammered, “I was drunk.  See, I was at this party, and a woman started asking questions.  As I said, I was drunk.  I can’t remember what I said, I really can’t.  I may have mentioned the Order, and then again, I may not.  I just don’t know.  Sorry, but I can’t remember. …”

The Master raised his hand to silence Lily.  “I think we’ve heard enough to get the picture, Miss Crane,” he said.  “You were at a party.  You were intoxicated.  You were interrogated by a strange woman.  You can’t remember what you said to her.  Is that the gist of your evidence?”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Lily mumbled.

The Master looked at each member of the tribunal in turn.  “Well,” he said after a moment’s deliberation, “I think we’ve heard enough from the witness to form a judgement.  All those who think Miss Crane is guilty as charged, please raise your hand.”  The Master raised his hand.  One of the men gave an awkward cough, and raised his right arm slowly.  The other men looked at each other, then they too raised their hands.  The Master addressed the elderly woman.  “And you, Mrs Worthington, what is your judgement?” he asked.

“Guilty, I‘m afraid,” the woman said sorrowfully, raising her hand.

“The Master nodded and faced Lily.  “I’m sorry, but the verdict is unanimous, Miss Crane,” he said in a sombre voice.  “We find you guilty of breaking your oath of silence.”  He sighed.  “This places on me the onerous duty of passing sentence.”  The Master paused.  “The sentence must be death, Miss Crane.  May Asmodeus have mercy on your soul.”  

“Death!  What do you mean, death?”  Angry words spewed out of Lily’s mouth.  “You must be fucking crazy.  Completely mad, the lot of you.  You can’t kill me … that’s ridiculous.  You can’t kill me for speaking to a reporter, that’s totally insane.  It’s against the fucking law.  You can’t, you just can’t.”  She paused for breath, giving the Master his opportunity to respond.

“I sympathise, Miss Crane, I really do, but my hands are tied.  Death is the only penalty for one, such as you, who breaks their oath of silence.”

“But I was drunk.  I couldn’t help it.  It wasn’t my fault.  It’s so unfair.”  She began to sob, overcome by emotion.

The Master sighed heavily, clearly uncomfortable with the situation.  “I will speak to the High Council, Miss Crane.  Explain that you were not wholly to blame.  Maybe they will be lenient.”  He sighed again, before adding, “I cannot promise anything, Miss Crane, but I will try.

Lily wiped the tears from her eyes with her hands and tried to smile.  “Thank you, Master,” she replied in a barely audible whisper.
 
The Master cleared his throat noisily.  "I think we're all done here," he said brusquely.  His eyes glanced briefly at the members of the tribunal, then settled once more on Lily.  "As for you, Miss Crane,” he continued, “I think we should find somewhere more hospitable for you to wait."  He flashed her a forced smile, then turned and strode quickly from the room.  Through the open door Lily saw see him speak briefly to the waiting goons, and then he was gone.  The other members of the tribunal quickly followed.  With heads bowed, they filed silently past Lily, with only the woman pausing momentarily to grimace.

With the tribunal's departure, the goons took charge.  One stepped into the room and spoke.  "If you care to come with us," he said in a firm voice, "we'll take you to the Meditation Room."  His tone indicated that Lily had no say in the matter, but in truth she didn't care.  She was more than happy to leave the red room.  She was taken to a small, white painted, room with scuffed grey linoleum on the floor.  A small window, high up in the wall opposite the door, let in a watery but welcome shaft of daylight.  Through the grimy glass she could make out bars on the outside.  The Meditation Room was, in reality, a cell.

She heard the door snap shut behind her, and the key rattle in the lock.  At least this room was warm, she thought, and it had some furniture.  It contained a small square wooden table, a rickety wooden chair and a narrow bed.  A plastic bottle of water on the table made Lily realise how thirsty she was.  Greedily she tore the top off the bottle and drank.  She spotted a red plastic bucket in a corner of the room and remembered she hadn't peed in hours.  Gratefully, she straddled the bucket and relieve herself.  Aware of how tired she felt, she eyed the bed.  Though it had nothing more than a mattress and a pillow, it looked tempting.  She lay down on it and closed her eyes, not expecting to sleep.

It was the Master’s voice that woke her: “Miss Crane, please wake up, we need to talk.”  Lily rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and groaned.  She felt so stiff.  “At last, Miss Crane,” he said, “you’re awake at last.”  He sounded ill at ease.  “I have some bad news for you, I’m afraid,” he told her apologetically, “the High Council is adamant your sentence must be carried out.  I’m very, very sorry.”

Lily stared at him.  “What do you mean, my sentence must be carried out?  What are you saying?”

“Your execution, Miss Crane, it will go ahead as planned.”

Lily scrambled to her feet, shaking her head.  “No, no, no, no,” she screamed at the Master.

“Yes, Miss Crane.”  The Master took a deep breath.  “The whole Chapter has been assembled.  Your execution will go ahead, whether you cooperate or not.”

“Cooperate?  Never!” she screamed at the Master.

“Please, Miss Crane, calm down and listen to me!”  Lily could hear the exasperation in his voice as he spoke.  “You have to admit your guilt in front of the whole Chapter, otherwise you’ll be excommunicated from the Order.

“Fucking excommunicate me then, you cunt,” she said angrily, “I don’t give a shit.”

“Listen to me, Miss Crane,” the Master said irritably, “if you’re excommunicated you’ll be dragged in front of the whole Chapter, stripped naked, and whipped to an inch of your life.  And you will still lose your head.  Is that what you want?”

“Lose my head.  What do you mean?”

“You are to be guillotined, Miss Crane,” the Master explained.  “The thing has already been sent up from London.  I beg of you, see sense and cooperate.  Why endure pain and humiliation when there’s no need?  Just admit your guilt when asked and everything will be over in no time.”  The Master paused.  “Please think it over, Miss Crane.  I’ll give you a few minutes to see sense.”  He gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze, smiled, and left the room.

Lily shook her head in disbelief.  They were going to guillotine her!  Chop her head off!  It must be a joke.  They were trying to frighten her; to teach her a lesson.  Staging a mock execution to make her crap her pants.  Yes, that was it, a mock execution to scare her witless.  And if they weren’t?  If they were serious, and were going to lop her head off?  Well, then she was fucked.  She began to shake at the thought.  Dead at twenty three.  Dead before her life had barely begun.  She felt her legs give way, and she crashed onto the bed, sobbing.
 
Deep in despair, she didn‘t hear someone enter the room.  “Hi there, luv,” a strange voice said.  Lily started, and looked up.  “Oh, I hope I haven’t startled you luv, … sorry.”  A little, red faced, man was standing looking down at her.  “I’m Joe,” he said, and smiled.

Lily wiped her eyes and sniffed.  “I don’t know you, do I?” she asked.

“No luv,” Joe said, “I came up from London this afternoon with the … you know …”

“Guillotine?” she interjected.

“Yes, that’s it,” Joe continued.  Been setting it up this last hour or so.”

“You’re really going to cut my head off?” Lily asked nervously.

“Afraid so, luv,” Joe replied apologetically, “sorry.”

“You aren’t playing with me, are you?”

“Playing with you … in what way?”  Joe sounded confused.

“Pretending you’re going to kill me so you can scare the shit out of me,” Lily answered.

“Christ no, luv!  Nobody’s fucking with your mind,” Joe said emphatically.  “I wouldn’t do anything like that.”

Lily looked at him intently.  Was he lying?  If he was, he was the best liar she’d ever met.  “And what about me being whipped if I say I’m not guilty?” she asked.

Joe gave her a funny look and shook his head.  “You don’t want to go there, luv,” he said firmly, “you don’t want me flaying the back off you.  Christ no!  Just tell them what they want to hear and get it over with.  Promise me you will.”
 
Lily gulped, and nodded.  The prospect of being flayed alive, of being stripped naked, in front of everyone, was too awful to contemplate.

Joe beamed.  “Gawd, you had me going there for a moment, luv,” he said, with evident relief.  “Best put your gown on,” he said, pointing to a red robe on the bed, “then we can get going.”

Lily looked at the robe and wondered where it had come from.  The Master must have left it, she concluded.  Unsteadily, she rose to her feet and picked it up.  She felt drained.  Fumbling, she put the robe on and tied the sash around her waist.  “There’s one thing I still don’t understand,” she said, “perhaps you can explain.  How did that reporter trollop know I was in the Order?”

“Ah!  There’s more going on than you think,” Joe replied conspiratorially.  “I shouldn’t be telling you this but, the rumour is, someone on the Council has ratted out the Order.”

“Then why am I for the chop?” she asked plaintively.
“It’s simple, luv, Joe explained.  You’re like a pimple on the backside.  Inconsequential in the great scheme of things, but damn irritating.  You made the mistake of getting your name in the papers.  Now you’re going to serve as an example of what happens when someone blabs to the press.”

“But that’s totally unfair,” Lily blurted out.  “I hardly say anything and you’re going to chop my head off, yet some bastard on the Council can fuck the Order and walk scot-free.”

Joe shook his head.  “No luv, he’ll get his come-uppance when we find out who it is.  I tell you this, he won’t die quick.  By the time I‘ve finished with him, he‘ll be happy to eat his balls.

“You can’t just go killing someone without people asking questions, though,” Lily pointed out.  My family will kick up a stink for sure.”

Joe laughed.  “You reckon?  Remember, you’re implicated in some shady business.  So we say you saw your name in the paper, you couldn’t take the heat, and you topped yourself.  Simple.” 

“What about the bitch who got me in this mess?” Lily persisted.  “She’ll know something stinks.”
“After today she’ll be lucky to get a job cleaning out shithouses,” Joe snorted, “anyway, enough of this talk, luv, it’s time to go.”

Joe took Lily gently by the hand, led her into the corridor, and down to the door at the end.  As she walked she felt her heart hammer in her chest, sharp pains pierce her guts, and the corridor reel before her eyes.  Silently, she cursed the bitch who had destroyed her life, hoping the strumpet rotted for all eternity in hell.  Reaching the door, Joe squeezed Lily’s hand, then hauled on the handle.

The murmur of voices in the auditorium stilled as the pair appeared.  Two hundred pairs of eyes stared at them.  Lily hardly noticed.  Her gaze was firmly fixed on a stout wooden platform and the terrible thing it supported.  About five feet high, and rectangular, the platform had eight steps leading up to the end nearest her.  At the other end, directly facing the assembled Chapter, was the guillotine.  It’s sight chilled her.  In essence it was a simple devise.  A grey-painted metal table to support her body, and a slanting metal blade that would descend between two upright metal pillars.  Lily felt dizzy.  “I think I’m going to faint,” she announced to Joe.

“Naw, you’ll be all right luv,” Joe said reassuringly, just grab hold of me if you feel you’re falling.”  Lily nodded, and grasped the sleeve of his robe with her free hand.  Somehow, she made it without mishap to the base of the steps.  She could see two men watching her from the top of the platform as Joe coaxed her up the steps.  One was the Master, an anxious frown on his round face, while the other was a gangly youth she’d never seen before.  As if reading her mind, Joe flicked his head upwards.  “That’s Roger,” he said simply, “a bit of a rogue, but a good lad really.”  Roger must have heard, because he gave Lily a broad smile and an exaggerated wink.

At last Lily was standing on the platform.  The Master eyed her warily.  It came to her that she could undo all of his carefully laid plans, and that he knew it.  “Are you ready to proceed, Miss Crane?” he asked nervously.  Thoughts of rebellion entered her mind.  She imagined herself shouting to the whole Chapter that she was innocent.  But if she did the Master would surely take his revenge.  He would humiliate her, and then he would make her scream in agony.  And if it was his intent to cut off her head, he would do that as well.  After all, she mused, technically it was true that she had broken her oath of silence.  So why make things worse for herself than they already were?  The Master’s voice cut into her thoughts.  “Miss Crane?” 

Lily looked into his eyes and nodded.  “Yes,” she said, “I’ll do what you want.”

A look of relief crossed the Master’s face.  “Thank you, Miss Crane,” he replied.  He laid a hand on her shoulder and led her gently to the front of the platform.  A sea of faces stared up at them.  Quickly the Master explained why the Chapter had been convened, the proof that damned Lily, and what was going to happen.  Then he turned to Lily and asked her, in a loud voice, if she accepted her guilt.  The silence was palpable as everyone waited for her response.  She gulped, hesitated, then nodded.  It was not enough.  The Master's voice rang in her ears: "Please speak up, Miss Crane."

Lily faced the Chapter.  She opened her mouth, and closed it.  Again she opened her mouth.  Everyone watched, and waited.  She took a deep breath, clenched her fists, and spoke.  “Yes,” she whispered, “I broke my vow of silence.”

“Could you speak a little louder, please, Miss Crane,” the Master requested, “so everyone can hear.”

“Sorry,” Lily mumbled, “I’ll try.”  She took some more deep breathes and found the strength she needed.  “I broke my vow of silence,” she said in a loud, clear, voice.  An instant of shocked silence followed, then a chorus of angry voices filled the auditorium.  Somebody booed, others hissed.

The Master raised his hand.  “Silence!” he thundered, “this is no way to behave.”  The room grew quiet.  “Thank you,” the Master continued, “please remember, Brothers and Sisters, that this is a solemn occasion.  Our Sister, Miss Crane, may have made a grievous error, but she will pay the ultimate price to atone.  She will die, here tonight, before us all.  Let that be sufficient punishment.  Let no word of reproach pass anyone's lips.  Do I make myself completely clear?”

A ragged “Yes” rose up from the assembly.

“Good!” the Master responded.  He turned to Lily.  “Do you accept the sentence of death passed upon you, without complaint?” he asked her.

“Yes," she said crisply.  It was a lie, of course, she objected strongly, but the alternative to a quick death was an unacceptable price to pay to make a mere point.  Besides, she had no wish to rekindle the anger of the assembled Chapter.

The Master bobbed his head and beamed.  “Thank you Sister Crane,” he shouted, “thank you for sharing this valuable object lesson with us all.  Thank you for showing us how to take personal responsibility for our actions.”  He took her hand and raised it high above her head.  “This is how we should all accept our failings,” he cried out, “with humility!”  He released her hand and began clapping.  Faster and faster he clapped, as others joined in, until the whole auditorium was filled with thunderous applause.

The Master raised his arm for silence, and the clapping died away.  “Thank you Brothers and Sisters, thank you.”  He gestured to Lily.  “I’m sure our Sister appreciates your show of support.”  The Master looked at her directly and she nodded.  A fleeting smile crossed his face, then he faced the assembled Chapter once more.  “Sadly,” he said, “the time has come to place our Sister, Lily Crane, into the capable hands of Mr Hutchinson.”  He pointed to Joe, gestured him forward, patted Lily on the shoulder, and scrambled off the platform.

“A rat leaving a sinking ship,” she thought.
Joe stepped beside her and smiled.  “You did good, luv,” he told her, squeezing her hand.
 
On impulse, Lily looked up at the blade of the guillotine, and was filled with grim curiosity.  “Will it hurt?” she asked Joe.

Joe hesitated a moment.  “I can’t promise you it won’t” he said cautiously, “but it’ll be over in a jiffy so I doubt you’ll feel much.”

“I hope not, I don’t like pain,” Lily replied.  Her eyes widened as she saw Joe take a pair of scissors out of a pocket.  “What are those for?” she asked, alarmed.

“I’m going to shorten your hair so it doesn’t get in the way.  It won’t take a mo.”  Before Lily could protest he began hacking at her long auburn tresses.

“Ow!” she cried as the scissors snagged her hair, “you’re hurting.”

“I ain’t no hairdresser, that’s for sure,” Joe admitted, but I’ve nearly finished.”  Taking a last snip, he patted her head and put away his scissors.  “There,” he said, “all finished.”

Looking down, Lily could see tufts of hair on the platform.  “Now what?” she asked.

“Now I bind your hands together with this.”  Joe showed her a long white cable tie.  Expertly he swept her arms behind her back, looped her wrists with the white plastic, and drew it tight, making Lily wince.

“What now?”

“Gawd, you ask a lot of questions, luv.  Now we get you to the back, where that upright board is,” he said, pointing.  He took her by the arm and led her carefully to the back of the guillotine.  He pointed to a narrow horizontal ledge at the foot of the board.  “Face the board and step on that ledge,” he told her.

Lily placed a foot on the ledge and pressed her body against the cold metal.  Recoiling, she swayed backwards.  “I’m going to fall,” she cried out frantically.

Strong hands pushed her back against the metal.  “I’m going to do this strap up, luv, then you’ll be fine,” Joe’s voice hissed in her ear.  A stout leather strap was drawn tight across her back and around her arms.  “There you are,” Joe continued, “all nice and secure.”

“Shit,” Lily thought, “it won’t be much longer before I’ll be dead.”  Her heart was pounding so fast now she wondered if she would have a heart attack.

“Right luv, just one more thing to do,” Joe said matter-of-factly.  “Me and Roger’s going to upend you, and push you forward.”  Lily gasped as her head swung suddenly downwards.  There was a crash and a judder, and she was lying horizontal with her head facing forward.  “OK, nearly there,” Joe said.  She felt herself being pushed to the front end of the guillotine.  “Right, lift your head up a mo,” Joe told her.  Lily saw the reason; a vertical board, with a half moon cut-out, lay between the two uprights pillars.  She lifted her head and cleared it.  With a jar she came to an abrupt halt.  She let her neck rest on the curved surface of the cut-out and looked down.  Beneath her was a rectangular, metal, trough.  There was no mistaking what it was for; her head.

Joe quickly lowered the upper counterpart to the board her neck was resting on.  There was a slight bump, the sound of a peg being pushed home, and her neck was locked in place.  Now all that was needed was for the blade to descend.  Suddenly, every moment of life seemed remarkably precious.

Lily peered forwards.  The gaze of the whole Chapter was fixed on her.  Then she saw Joe reach up.  “What are you doing?” she cried out in sudden alarm.

“Just setting the blade free,” Joe’s answered.  There was an audible click, a shuddering vibration, and a rapidly swelling swishing noise.

Lily opened her mouth to speak when something hit her neck with tremendous force.  There was a loud thump, a searing pain, and she was falling into the trough.  She blinked, not comprehending what had happened.  Bang!  Her head landed in the trough.  She blinked furiously, let out a silent scream, and understood.  Her head was no longer attached to her body.  

 


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