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The Fandom
Author:Anna Day

The Fandom by Anna Day




For Ellie and Charlie





Exactly one week today, I will hang.

I will hang for my friends, my family, and above all else, love. A thought which offers surprisingly little comfort when I think about the noose closing around my neck, my feet searching for solid ground, my legs flailing . . . dancing in mid-air.

This morning I was clueless. This morning I was at Comic-Con, inhaling the scent of hot dogs and sweat and perfume, taking in the brightly coloured costumes, the flash of the cameras, the bass drums and the violins. And yesterday I was in school, stressing over some stupid English presentation and wishing I were in another world.

Be careful what you wish for, because sometimes the reality truly blows.





I begin to stand, realize my maxi skirt has stuck to my thighs, and subtly unpeel the cotton from my skin.


‘Go for it,’ Katie whispers.

I don’t reply. Why did I volunteer to do this stupid presentation? Public speaking: not my strong point. Let’s be honest, public anything: not my strong point.

‘Whenever you’re ready, Violet,’ Miss Thompson says.

I give the fabric one final tug and make my way to the front of the class. I suddenly feel very small, like my classmates have shrink rays attached to their eyes. Shrinking Violet. This makes me laugh – now I look unhinged as well as nervous.

Miss Thompson smiles at me from her crumbling desk. ‘So, Violet, tell us about your favourite novel, which is . . .?’

‘The Gallows Dance by Sally King,’ I reply.

A collective groan from the boys in the back row. But they’re only faking disappointment. I saw them at the cinema less than a year ago when the film version came out and, as I recall, they all left with suspiciously red eyes.

I take a deep breath and begin to talk.

‘Once upon a time, there lived a race known as the humans.

‘The humans were smart and ambitious, but they were also greedy, a greed which extended to their ever-increasing obsession with perfection – the perfect body, mind and life. At the turn of the twenty-second century, this obsession led to the first wave of genetically enhanced humans.’

I leave a dramatic pause and glance around the room. I’d hoped they’d look enthralled, wide-eyed, but instead they look half asleep.

‘The Gems. Genetically Enhanced Man. Tall, strong, good-looking, Intellectual Quotas above 130. It wasn’t long before the Gems moved to beautiful areas of countryside called the Pastures, free from disease and crime.’

I shift my weight between my feet, sweep my hair from my eyes, and push that nagging thought that I’m making a giant twat of myself into the dark, unused part of my brain.

‘But what of the non-genetically enhanced humans? Normal men and woman like you and me. They became known as the Imperfects. The Imps. Sealed inside the old cities – London, Manchester, Paris, Moscow – rife with disease and crime, locked behind miles of snaking city walls and bombed into submission. Only the stronger and more able Imps were permitted to enter the Pastures, to serve the Gems as slaves.

‘The word “human” became unspoken . . . forbidden.

‘There were only Gems and Imps—’

‘So, I’m an Imp,’ Ryan Bell interrupts from the back of the class. ‘Is that what you’re saying?’

Great. Just what I need – a heckler. And I wish I had the balls to point out that he must already know this, having sat through two hours of the film, Kleenex firmly clamped to nose.

‘Shut it, Bell, you massive ding-dong,’ Katie says. Her red bob whips in a perfect arc as she spins around to face him. I can’t see her features, but I know she’s giving him that look. The one where she narrows her pea-green eyes and presses her lips together.

‘There ain’t nothing imperfect about me,’ Ryan says.

Katie makes this strange noise, halfway between a laugh and a cough.

Miss Thompson frowns. ‘I think what Violet is trying to say is that we’re all Imps, Ryan. Unless you’re a superhuman from the future – which I highly doubt.’

Deep breath. Ignore the numb lips.

‘To ensure the continued subjugation of the Imps, the Gems gathered every week in great Coliseums and watched the Imps hang, an event known as the Gallows Dance. But some of the Imps refused to accept their fate, forming a group of rebels, determined to reinstate basic Imp rights. The rebel leader was called Thorn.’

I fumble with my papers and locate his picture. A printout from the film. Miss Thompson slides it from my clammy fingers and pins it to the wall. Thorn’s image completely fails to capture his power, his drive. This small, he just looks like a bondage-pirate-action-man, head to toe in black leather, eyepatch slung across his chiselled face.

‘Thorn hatched an elaborate plan to obtain Gem government secrets, and asked his two most trusted rebels to recruit a young, female Imp.

‘They recruited Rose.’

Rose. The heroine of this tale. Passionate, impulsive, courageous. Every day, without fail, I wish I was her. And so far, here’s how I measure up . . .

Passionate: My nickname is Violet the Virgin.

Impulsive: I spent two days planning this presentation.

Courageous: My face has started to sweat.

In fact, the only thing we share is our pale skin and our taste in men.

I nod to Miss Thompson, who takes her cue and crosses to the interactive whiteboard. A YouTube clip launches into action – the opening scene of the film. The camera zooms in on Rose as she scales the outer stone wall of the Coliseum. She looks awesome, her long dark hair tumbling down her back. She reaches the crest of the wall, accompanied by a swell of violins.

The camera switches to the spectators inside the Coliseum. A crowd of Gems – their beautiful faces baying for Imp blood. Nine condemned Imps are led on to a wooden stage, the nooses placed around their necks. I know they’re only moments from being freed, yet I still feel this twist of anxiety in my stomach. I steal a quick look at my classmates. They actually look concerned, absorbed. A smile pulls at the corners of my mouth.

The Gem President appears on a giant screen behind the stage and introduces the condemned Imps by their alleged crimes: theft, rape, murder. The camera swings back to Rose, her dark hair whipping before her eyes – she knows the condemned Imps are guilty only of poverty and hunger. She pulls a grenade from her belt, touches it to her lips, and then hurls it over the crowd below.

The clip ends just before the bomb goes off.

I turn back to the class, bolstered by their sudden interest.