Bailey Grause

 Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.
[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]

Pop Torture

Note: underlined phrases are lyrics from Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, Justin Beiber’s Baby, Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair, and Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.

“Are we an item?”

It’s lightning, pain crackling through my wrists like burning coals. Echoes of the shock race down my spine, the rain that follows the breaking of the clothes. The thunder is my screaming. I screech despite knowing it’s pointless, despite knowing no one will hear my outcry,because if I can’t find a way to release the agony rushing through, I will explode.

When it stops, my body continues to twitch, but is unable to spasm like it wants against the chains. The burning sensation remains, but diminishes, overwhelmed by the ache coming from my arms being strung up to the ceiling. A man stands safe outside the bars – unchained, un-electrocuted, unburned. He laughs an ugly, cackling laugh as he watches my head slump forward to my chest.

In his hand is a small remote, metal with a single plastic button. It’s a very simple mechanism he’s been given to kill with. Tossing it around, he shows little respect for it. If it drops, and lands upside down, I will receive a constant electrical shock until he bothers to pick it up. I can only watch with rapt attention as the tool is suspended in the air. I pray he’s more coordinated than he looks in his tight uniform.

His grin widens when he catches me staring, and he raises the hand that  now holds the button in the air. “Come on now,” he coos softly, like he’s talking to a dog. His fingers constrict around the device.

“Make it stop!” Throwing my head back, I shriek. I can’t control the sick way my body twitches in the chains as he holds that button down. I want to grab my head, but my hands are pulled taut above my head. Explosions ignite inside my skull, and the shocked nerves crawling across my scalp feel like bugs, biting and scratching.

He releases the button. I whip my hair back and forth, trying to shake it off, the feeling of fire crawling under my skin. Sweat drips down my back, mixing with blood from where I’ve cut myself on the chains while thrashing.

Chiming in when my screaming fades, the man cheerfully sings, “Another one for the noose!” He spins on his foot, and his grey coat tails form a halo around his knees. Dramatically throwing his arms out, the button flies out of his hand. I can’t stop the broken noise that escapes. The button falls to the floor, to my relief,  right side up, completely harmless.

“Soon as I hit the stage, applause!” he squeals. Though no crowd is here to observe him draining my life, he puts on a production, clutching his chest with his hands. He raises one hand to his face, wiping away a tear, his heart touched by their adoration. That’s what they don’t see, the things they do to us “traitors”. that’s what they don’t know. Probably wouldn’t make a difference. “For the one to save us all from her,” he spins on his heel to aim a finger at me. I wonder if he imagines it as a gun. “And her wrath upon us all!”

My lungs struggle to grab at oxygen. Using what little of it has returned, I throw my head back up to look the man straight in the eye. He smiles again, a smile to make my blood boil without the use of electric shock. “We know that shit ain’t real!” voice shaking and breaking, I wheeze a challenge. I wait for my dissent to be followed with another blow, but my tormentor just smiles instead and runs one pristine hand through his glossy hair. He must think this is some sort of mercy on my part, but I’d like to think of it as an invitation; a decorated letter that reads in impossibly neat cursive that he accepts my challenge. “I’ve done nothing to warrant this treatment!”

“That’s what they don’t know,” he chuckles when he speaks, like this is all some sort of joke. But too people like him, I’m sure it is – my entire life on running humor, and to have someone innocent hanging by their neck on a stage, a puppet for the crowd to blame their problems on, is the greatest punchline of all.

“You won’t get away with this!” my voice sounds weak. in my own ears, wilting like a flower in a desert, defeated. I must look like a dying flower, my stem slumped over in my chains, my hair the limp petals.

“That’s a little cliché, don’t you think?” And he presses that button again.

Pop Torture

by Bailey Graus

Note: underlined phrases are lyrics from Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, Justin Beiber’s Baby, Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair, and Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.

“Are we an item?”


The Face of Extinction

    It’s lightning, pain crackling through my wrists like burning coals. Echoes of the shock race down my spine, the rain that follows the breaking of the clothes. The thunder is my screaming. I screech despite knowing it’s pointless, despite knowing no one will hear my outcry,because if I can’t find a way to release the agony rushing through, I will explode.

When it stops, my body continues to twitch, but is unable to spasm like it wants against the chains. The burning sensation remains, but diminishes, overwhelmed by the ache coming from my arms being strung up to the ceiling. A man stands safe outside the bars – unchained, un-electrocuted, unburned. He laughs an ugly, cackling laugh as he watches my head slump forward to my chest.

In his hand is a small remote, metal with a single plastic button. It’s a very simple mechanism he’s been given to kill with. Tossing it around, he shows little respect for it. If it drops, and lands upside down, I will receive a constant electrical shock until he bothers to pick it up. I can only watch with rapt attention as the tool is suspended in the air. I pray he’s more coordinated than he looks in his tight uniform.

His grin widens when he catches me staring, and he raises the hand that  now holds the button in the air. “Come on now,” he coos softly, like he’s talking to a dog. His fingers constrict around the device.

“Make it stop!” Throwing my head back, I shriek. I can’t control the sick way my body twitches in the chains as he holds that button down. I want to grab my head, but my hands are pulled taut above my head. Explosions ignite inside my skull, and the shocked nerves crawling across my scalp feel like bugs, biting and scratching.

He releases the button. I whip my hair back and forth, trying to shake it off, the feeling of fire crawling under my skin. Sweat drips down my back, mixing with blood from where I’ve cut myself on the chains while thrashing.

Chiming in when my screaming fades, the man cheerfully sings, “Another one for the noose!” He spins on his foot, and his grey coat tails form a halo around his knees. Dramatically throwing his arms out, the button flies out of his hand. I can’t stop the broken noise that escapes. The button falls to the floor, to my relief,  right side up, completely harmless.

“Soon as I hit the stage, applause!” he squeals. Though no crowd is here to observe him draining my life, he puts on a production, clutching his chest with his hands. He raises one hand to his face, wiping away a tear, his heart touched by their adoration. That’s what they don’t see, the things they do to us “traitors”. that’s what they don’t know. Probably wouldn’t make a difference. “For the one to save us all from her,” he spins on his heel to aim a finger at me. I wonder if he imagines it as a gun. “And her wrath upon us all!”

My lungs struggle to grab at oxygen. Using what little of it has returned, I throw my head back up to look the man straight in the eye. He smiles again, a smile to make my blood boil without the use of electric shock. “We know that shit ain’t real!” voice shaking and breaking, I wheeze a challenge. I wait for my dissent to be followed with another blow, but my tormentor just smiles instead and runs one pristine hand through his glossy hair. He must think this is some sort of mercy on my part, but I’d like to think of it as an invitation; a decorated letter that reads in impossibly neat cursive that he accepts my challenge. “I’ve done nothing to warrant this treatment!”

“That’s what they don’t know,” he chuckles when he speaks, like this is all some sort of joke. But too people like him, I’m sure it is – my entire life on running humor, and to have someone innocent hanging by their neck on a stage, a puppet for the crowd to blame their problems on, is the greatest punchline of all.

“You won’t get away with this!” my voice sounds weak. in my own ears, wilting like a flower in a desert, defeated. I must look like a dying flower, my stem slumped over in my chains, my hair the limp petals.

“That’s a little cliché, don’t you think?” And he presses that button again.

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