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Creative Writing Piece - Catharsis | Part 1

Updated on April 3, 2014

Introduction

This piece is one which explores the idea of catharsis. It is loosely based off the film "The Purge", which follows the life of a family in the 12 hours where all crime is legalised.

The meaining of catharsis is: 'The purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions' (reference). As in 'The Purge' an event occurs once a year in which the public can release their emotional tension named 'The Catharsis'.

Given that this piece is so long I decided to split it into two separate hubs so it is easier on the eyes and doesn't seem like such a daunting task to complete. If you wish to read part 2, click here.

Disclaimer: I would just like to point out that this is a purely fictional piece of creative writing which is not meant to make any statements or upset anyone.

Enjoy.

A poster from the film "The Purge"
A poster from the film "The Purge" | Source

Catharsis | Part 1

The Collapse, sometimes referred to as the Apocalypse, was the result of mass political unrest throughout the world. The climate debate had been raging for hundreds of years and the world was increasingly under stress as government after government, country after country either denied climate change’s existence or did little to abate it. As time went on, the stress on the earth grew and resources became scarce. It was not a devastating climate event which led to the Collapse, but rather the political fallout from the race to control the most basic of resources such as water and food. The big powers in the modern world turned on each other, all trying to control the same resources, forcing the world into anarchy and confusion.

Meanwhile the civilian population was left with insufficient food and clean water and an inadequate health system. Anger began to build as First World countries became Third World and families struggled to survive. After three long, arduous years, the fighting dissipated to nothing as nations were bled dry. Unstable governments, poverty and hunger had forced populations to resort to formerly unthinkable acts just to survive.

From this despair, some eventually began to rebuild a sense of community and attempted to improve the quality of life. There were also those who sought power in dark times, to take advantage of the weakened state of others. It was such a group, purporting a radical pathway for restoring life to its former beauty, which was to eventually lead the new world, a reclaimed world. Under a veil of secrecy the rise of this new power continued unnoticed and unabated, recruiting those who were willing.

As the influence of the group became more widespread and knowledge of its existence grew, its leaders became known as the Custodians. Their first target was Clarkstown, a town in the US state of New York with a population 84,187; not so large that it was unachievable, yet large enough to make a difference. By the time they decided to reclaim Clarkstown, the Custodians had many devout followers. This small army began the construction of a wall around the main part of the town. For their radical plan to succeed, they needed to prevent all those outside the reclaimed societies from entering and endangering the new-found serenity.

The first few years were a struggle, with many locals abandoning Clarkstown as they did not support the motives and actions of the Custodians. Occasionally, amongst those who remained, some would lash out in a rage of pent up anger. It was not long before the Custodians realized they needed a vent for the people, something to purge them of their troubles, a Catharsis. Twice a year it was decided that all crime was legal; theft, rape and even murder. The Custodians and those close to them were exempt from this violence. The remaining population of Clarkstown was left to survive for twelve hours; giving those who needed some kind of emotional purge the opportunity to do so. This event became commonly known as the Catharsis, an event which some looked forward to and some did not. The Catharsis was based on Aristotle’s age-old theory that when people watched a tragic or sad play they would undergo an emotional release without actually having to endure a traumatic experience. This seemingly unwarranted violence was justified using this theory, albeit a somewhat more extreme version.

As the prominence of Clarkstown increased and the Custodians became ever more powerful, they managed to secure many large cities. Ten years after the fighting ceased, the world had a radically different make up than it had before. Now those who inhabited the reclaimed cities and towns were the normal folk and those who were not admitted or who did not wish to be a part of these settlements were considered outcasts, destined to struggle for the rest of their often short lives. There was no interaction between these two groups and the Custodians went out of their way to keep them separate.

***

I sit, reading the documents in complete shock. Dad can’t know I’ve read these. It has been a heavy read, pages and pages outlining my father’s responsibilities during the Catharsis. It is definitely not what I had expected. There are a few familiar names on that document but I can only put one face to a name. Completely dumbfounded, I place the wad of paper on the desk and study my father’s office. It is not often that I am in here - the only room in the house with which I am not overly familiar and the one I am forbidden to enter. My father’s office reflects his personality, modern with minimal paraphernalia. A functional space, it houses only what is essential to his work. Dwarfed by his massive chair, I notice how his desk is meticulously arranged to his liking. I have read more than I really wanted or needed to know and questions surge into my mind. Who is this man I know as my father? In a daze, I ensure everything on his desk is returned to the way I had found it and I replace the documents on the shelf, not an easy task considering my height. I leave, closing the door quietly behind me.

Soon I hear the front door opening and familiar footsteps tread their way into the kitchen. Using the hairband on my wrist, I pull my long, brown hair into a ponytail and emerge from my bedroom, heading for the kitchen. I now look on him with different eyes. Never again can I think of my father in the same way. The tight hugs, the deep brown, compassionate eyes, the games we played as I grew up have become a farce. I tell him his dinner is in the fridge; nothing special tonight, nothing special since Mum died unexpectedly three years ago in the summer Catharsis. I try to act normally towards him but before long I return to my room, unable to keep up the ruse. Removing my schoolbooks from my bag, I attempt to keep my mind off the documents, but I cannot. I open my chemistry book to complete the homework questions and all I see is a jumble of words and symbols. I soon give up and lie on my bed, staring at the ceiling, hoping to sleep.

My father works for the Custodians. He isn’t one himself, just one of their employees. For much of the year, the work appears to revolve around paperwork, but once the time for the Catharsis approaches, he becomes an incredibly busy man. Now I know why. In my childlike naivety, I have always thought his work was about returning the cities after the Catharsis to their former excellence, in the shortest time possible. I was proud that my Dad helped others, or so I thought. With the Winter Catharsis in twenty four hours, I haven’t seen Dad in days and will probably only see him once or twice between now and a week or so after the Catharsis. This brings me some relief as I feel I cannot face him.

The Custodians are there to watch over us and ensure we are safe and happy. I realize from reading these documents, however, that while this is somewhat true, they have a hidden, dark agenda. I feel so confused. Who can we trust? I now know the Catharsis is not entirely what it seems. In its most basic form it is exactly what the Custodians say it is; an opportunity for all to purge their emotional quarrels. Under the surface, though, the Custodians have seemingly created the Catharsis to serve their own purposes. It is a cover up for the elimination of individuals who are subversive or thought in some way to be a threat.

I try to rationalize this in my head. On one side I can see the advantages; the Custodians rid society of anyone who threatens it, thus preserving the serenity. On the other, it places too much power in the hands of a few. How can this be for the good of all?

This was not the most shocking thing that I had read. I wish it was. I could come to terms with the fact that the government was a little corrupt; what else do you expect? What I really struggled to comprehend was that my father, the one who had brought me up for sixteen years, loved me and cared for me, was one of the mercenaries employed by the Custodians to do their dirty work.

I am now of an age when it is legal to participate in the Catharsis. Many people my age choose not to participate and instead hide in their homes as they always have done. The more naïve and immature individuals see this as a rite of passage, an initiation of sorts. Often these are the people we ever see again, too young and inexperienced to survive the twelve hours of anarchy. I have decided not to take part; I cannot believe that some think that partaking in the Catharsis is a good idea.

My mind wanders to the one name I recognized on the documents - Jacinta Perkins, the mother of George, one of the boys in my grade. My interests of writing, music and running had never coincided with his activities, so I had never really spoken much with him. His time was spent with his mates playing strategy games and winning quests. I should tell him about his mother, the fact she is a target, but how do you name that up? I know what it is like to lose your mother. I had lived that loneliness for the past three years. Had my mother met the same fate? What should I do?


I knew George and his friends have been planning for this exact Catharsis since they were fourteen. This would be the first in which they were allowed to be involved. Maybe out of all the people I know, this group would be the best way of finding out more and maybe doing something about it. With one and a half more days of school before the Catharsis I should be able to get into contact with George, and maybe work out some plan of action. These documents just might have changed my mind; I am keen to find out about what my father does and this seems the best way to achieve this.

***

George is not often alone at school, always surrounded by the same people. Fortunately his locker is near mine, so a few opportunities for a chat present themselves throughout the day. I see him at his locker, rummaging around trying to find what I assume is a biology book. I approach him deliberately, trying to look confident.

“George,” I say, less certain than I would have liked.

“Umm, hi,” he replies, confused as to why I was suddenly talking to him.

“You gonna be doing the Catharsis on Friday?”

“Aaah, yeah, I reckon I will. Parents don’t want me to, but they can’t stop me anymore now that

I’m sixteen.” His response was somewhat guarded. “Why do you ask?”

“I read something interesting last night, something related to you. I thought you might want to know.” I tread as carefully as possible; unsure as to how he might respond.

“Go on.” He is obviously interested.

“I read some of my father’s documents while he was out. They were about his responsibilities during the Catharsis.” I had been speculating all morning how I would tell him and even now what I am saying seems wrong. “I won’t go into the details, but I did discover your mother’s name. His face betrays his complete and utter confusion.

“What the hell are you on about?” he blurts out incredulously.

I am unsure about how to continue. “The Custodians, they target people for elimination.” He obviously doesn’t believe me, and with good reason, but I am certain his mother is a target. “I think your mother is on their list,” I stutter. I try to explain myself as best I can, but to no avail. He looks at me dumbfounded and is about to turn away. I am now desperate to have him listen and believe me. “I can show you the documents, show you proof!” Despite his resistance, I finally convince him. We agree that he will come to my place after school today. Relief washes over me as we part and I go back to my locker, hoping Dad would not return early.

I arrive home after a torturous lesson of Physics, knowing George will be here soon. I head straight for Dad’s office, praying that the documents are still there and he has not moved them or taken them with him to work. Fortunately, they are exactly where I had left them last time. I hear a car outside and rush to the window, keen to see who it is. George emerges from the driver’s side of his car. I am eager to show him what I had found, but intend exiting him from the house as promptly as I can. There is no way my father can see George here; he would be far too suspicious. Lost in thought, I fail to hear him knocking on the door. I finally realize and walk briskly to the front of the house, tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear and open the door. George gazes at me awkwardly, whips his keys from his pocket, turns to his car and presses the button to lock it.

“Hey there,” I say, trying to inject as much confidence into my voice as possible.

He continues to awkwardly stare for a few too many seconds before snapping out of his trance and replying. “Yeah. Aaah, let’s do this.” It is obvious he is uneasy and to be honest, so am I.

I lead him through the house, not bothering to initiate small talk. We finally reach the door, which I tentatively push open, revealing my father’s immaculate office. George steps in uncertainly and hovers close to the door. I head straight for the shelf with the documents and just manage to reach them from their elevated position. I frown at George and beckon him to the desk. Finally locating the document, I gingerly hand it to him. An expression of shock and disgust is very quickly apparent on his face; it is obvious he now believes me. I watch him, unmoving, his eyes fixated on the document.

“George,” I say tentatively, “Dad will be home soon; he won’t like this.” He looks up at me slowly, a determined expression burned onto his face.

“Thank you,” he replies simply, handing back the document. I watch as he leaves the room. I listen for the front door closing and his car driving off. Returning the office to its former state, I wonder what George is going to do; I must talk to him tomorrow at school, before the onslaught of the Catharsis.


Part 2

Part 2 of this piece will be continued in another hub here. It is the same story continued where it was left off, I felt it was just too long to put all into one hub.

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