Rise of the Proletariat

First off, apologies for being a day late with the Saturday post. Work threw my whole schedule off, but I still appreciate the chance to come back and labor with my hands as opposed to a pen. It’s wholesome, and the capital never hurts either.

This actually relates perfectly to my second point. I couldn’t think of something to rant about for Commentary Saturday #3 (just not enough aggression, unfortunately), so instead I thought I’d share with you my current writing project. This started as an experiment in avoiding the use of excessive adverbs after I read an article by Ryan Lanz (How to Kill Adverbs and Adjectives), as I attempt to explore and form my own opinion. So, as I labor over the next few days with the part-time proletariat, please enjoy the rebellion of the fictitious working class of the Arctic Empire.

The Rise of the Proletariat

(Excerpt from Chapter One)

“Comrades, loyal subjects of the Empire,” Ludwig’s booming voice echoed between the shops of the central square. “Know that the Emperor is most merciful, that he brings us the fortunes of the industrialized age. But know that mercy is not limitless, that there can be no tolerance for those who seek to harm the laborers, the glorious backbone of this Empire. This is why we act, so that all can work in safety!”

On cue, a Nutcracker Guard stepped forward from the line at the back. He brought the noose over Kristoff’s head, tightening it until there was no room for his neck to move. With a nod, he placed his hand upon the lever, gripping the head tightly. Max’s breathing quickened. There was nothing left but the drop.

But in a sudden change of events, Ludwig held up his hand, the guard’s hold loosening. “Have you any last words, traitor?” He spat with contempt.

Kristoff, who had never broken face once, continued to stand tall and calm. “Brothers, sisters, fear not their weapons. I have no fear as I stare death in the face, I die knowing that I am one less slave for them to work in their machine of greed. The oppressed shall have their day, so the great book told me, so all of history shows. We only need find knowledge to see past the lies of these men, to see the cowardice as they hide behind their rifles. Knowledge can defeat them. For their bullets and their swords cannot harm those who are truly free.”

There was motion in the crowd as heads turned up, eyes riveted to the confident, rallying voice of a condemned man. Ludwig could see it too, for he quickly gestured to the guard as the words continued. The black-gloved hand tensed upon the lever. Max felt his heart drop.

But in that moment, the entire world came into question. There was a loud boom, Max, his eyes still centered on the scaffold, watched as the executioner’s hand exploded in a spray of crimson. He screamed, collapsing to his knees as he clutched what remained of his forearm, blood running between the cracks in the boards. Max looked to his left, and found Otto aiming expertly down the sights of a smoking rifle.

Ludwig stared at the man for several moments, wide-eyed, before he resumed his former character. “Well, it appears our traitor has accomplices,” he yelled to the stunned soldiers on either side of Otto. “What are you waiting for? Shoot him!”

The regimental forces hesitated, gazing about at each other in confusion. Max looked about the crowd, seeing movement, hearing murmurings as the typical sullen mood seemed to evaporate. Even the hardline Nutcracker Guards did not leap to make a move, looking on in silence. Otto, for his own part, brought his rifle to his side, as uncertain as the rest.

Ludwig knew, as the others were realizing, that his authority had been challenged by that shot. Fumbling, he raced to the Nutcracker Guards at the back of the scaffold, gesturing outward, “Well don’t just stand there! Fulfill your duty to the Emperor and kill that insubordinate.”

They maintained their cool gaze without even a stirring. In that limbo, Kristoff sensed the spark had been lit, and he sought to stoke it. “We shall be free,” he chanted softly. “We shall be free. We shall be free.”

A man at the front of the crowd joined him, adding in a low voice to the call, “We shall be free. We shall be free.”

Soon those near him took up the chant, and still more, until it grew into a rumble, “We shall be free! We shall be free! We shall be free!”

One soldier at the front of the scaffold, facing directly at the chanting crowd, began to lower his rifle. Several others, shifting on their feet as the call grew louder, started to level their bayonets as well. But a shake of the head from the man at the far left of the line brought them all back up.

Ludwig watched, sweat running down his face as his legs turned to stone. The standing army would not help him, they did nothing as the virus spread through the crowd! More and more were being corrupted by that serpent’s call. There was only one way to regain control, he must cut off the head of the snake!

The Party Leader moved towards the lever. Sensing his intent, the first crowd member who had joined in Kristoff’s call dashed forward, several others following. The regimental men did nothing as the townsfolk surged past their line. Scrambling up the scaffold, the group made for Ludwig, fire in their eyes.

Max, who had shouldered his way towards the front of the gathering, watched as the Nutcracker Guard lowered their rifles. Ludwig leapt for the ground. Eight shots rang out. The men stumbled backwards off the stage, their bodies plummeting into the crowd below. Max jumped to the right as a man struck the cobblestone, broken and bloodied. Cries of outrage, of “Murderers” roared through the street.

A soldier upon the rooftop abruptly turned, firing at the Guards on the scaffold. One dropped, cheers silenced as a shot came from the street, the bullet striking the defector in the leg. Otto and another tackled the soldier, mutiny breaking out as all order collapsed. The crowd surged forward, howling for vengeance. The troops at the front of the scaffold turned, joining the mass as they charged onto the scaffold.

Rifles expended, the Nutcracker Guard drew their revolvers, firing indiscriminately into the advancing horde. They stood their ground, swords drawn as the storm engulfed them. Max shoved and dodged his way through the chaos, dodging fists and steel as he searched for his friend.

There! He spotted Kristoff standing serenely, hands bound as the battle raged about him. Max rushed forward. One accidental bump of the lever and all they had worked for could be undone. They’d come too far to lose the voice of the revolution.

I’ll freely admit, it’s not a perfect representation of the article’s message, but this was a conscious effort to avoid descriptors in favor of implying the emotions and mindsets of the characters. So what do you think? Prefer another style? Have suggestions?  Your thoughts are always valued.

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One thought on “Rise of the Proletariat

  1. […] Those who read this post closely (and for that I truly thank you) may notice I make several allusions to rewriting the tale of Rudolph. I’ve taken a swing at it over the past year since Christmas of 2013 on a few occasions, but the closest I ever came to getting the wheels rolling was something I started in November: The Rise of the Proletariat […]

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