Cerys Baker took part in the Beacons Project at Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2021. The Beacons Project aims to encourage creativity and forge a sense of creative identity amongst young people in Wales. It offers a unique opportunity for twenty Welsh students aged 16-18 to meet and work with exceptional writers, broadcasters and journalists in a highly creative and stimulating environment during Hay Festival.
You don’t belong there.
These overfamiliar halls make me want to vomit. My chest is throbbing with excruciating pain. I am unable to even shed a tear. She’s gone. Mom did this because she loathed the idea of my feet traversing this bitter stone floor every day. Sure, the King is a tyrant. I know that, I’m not stupid, but I had to do this for her. She was going to get better, she was going to live. I would’ve eliminated anyone to keep her alive.
Why did you lie to them?
Who knows. The secret could’ve been eruptive news. The future Queen wasn’t half human. It was my job, as the spy, to report that to “my King”. I didn’t. I kept the enemies secrets. What type of servant was I? One who deserved to be executed, that’s what...
I swiveled my head to the side. Maria. Commander Becca’s apprentice. A robust swordswoman, yet she wasn’t unreservedly conditioned to the heartless ways of the kingdom. She’d completed her training, however she needs to work on her emotions even if she’d already finished slaughtering thousands of innocuous people. She’s rocking back and forth on her toes, fiddling with her fingers. She won’t lock eyes with me. I guess my thoughts of betrayal deserve this treatment.
‘I’m sorry about your Mom, that sickness is unforeseeable.’
You lie again
I’m aware. They’ll get spooked if they know the truth. I believed she’d get better. Nonetheless, I still returned to her glacial ashen body. How barbaric fate is. My body is more burdensome than usual. Everything is numb: my toes, my torso, my head. I used to assume the endless gaudy gold that coats the walls meant good things for me. How could a colour coated in glory and happiness and victory be so deceptive? It had brought agony and defeat and shame to my life. Was gold only meant for the worthy? Who decided that vile, intolerable, careless child, the ‘King’, was worthy of this?
You aid them in their deeds
I wanted my mother to get better! What’s so felonious about wanting my own mother ALIVE?! Her voice was an angel's song, soft as silk. Herculean arms like a giant when she held me. Her eyes were viridescent like the endless fields outside our home. Her inky hair was always immaculately done in symmetrical braids, tied with flawless apricot bows (I never knew how she did that). I adore my mother more than my own being. We didn’t need my nonexistent father, all we needed was each other. I dreamed we’d be together forever.
I raised my hand in an acute salute. I wasn’t ranked highly enough to simply greet her like I had Maria. Here was an immaculately conditioned knight. Her eyes are dead. It was impossible to read her. Unless you spotted the miniscule narrowing of her eyes when some unfortunate soul said something mildly offensive towards the kingdom. She was clean and merciless with her blades. Her tone was flat, devoid of emotion or compassion. Hence her position as Commander. Her body was turned away from me, arms folded. She sighed heavily before speaking again. ‘My condolences. You are still expected to return to duty tomorrow.’
Go to the woman you love
Becca was gone instantly. Would I be able to stomach duty tomorrow? The fact was uncomplicated: I was madly and hopelessly in love with my future Queen. How could anyone stomach what the ‘King’ was going to do to her? Her heart is pure. He was going to crush it cruelly for power over our enemies. My heart was alive when I spoke to her. My mouth uncontrollably rose to a smile whenever she was around. She didn’t deserve this. How was I going to do this any longer?! What type of monster am I?! I can’t keep working here. I’m no heartless monster, not like everyone else who is insanely OKAY with his plans!! Mom knew. That’s why I arrived home to her ashen face coated in the scarlet stain of her blood. The knife was still in her palm, dripping in her ruby life force. The room was icy, like a freezer in a butcher's shop. Dead. Dead. Dead. The remaining item was a worn piece of paper, her final words scrawled on it in defiance of my actions. She couldn’t stand the thought I worked for these monsters, all for her. She loathed it so dearly, she ended her own life, the burden on mine. I am responsible...
That was it. There was nothing left. No last words, no secret letters explaining that she was still alive somehow. Just a bloody knife and an ocean of memories.
So, dear reader, what do you believe I should do? Stay? Or should I honour my mothers dying wish?
You do not belong there my boy, you’re an outsider there. Live freely without the burden of me.
Thanks to Welsh Government for funding the Beacons Project and to Bad Wolf and Screen Alliance Wales for their partnership in creating Jack Thorne's workshop. And finally, thanks to Booths Bookshop for allowing us to film Owen Sheers on location.