The Contessa Chronicles by Laurie Beth Jones
The Pit in the story of The Contessa Chronicles is much like how we might describe prison, hell, purgatory, or any form of separation from God. Contessa ends up in the Pit due to a series of deceptions from those she trusted. Here she describes what she first sees:
I made my way over to the crowd and saw Skinner standing on a stack of garbage. People were forced to line up in front of him and repeat: “I am Illegal, Oppressed, and Unwanted.” He then had them each sign a giant declaration page that read simply, I.O.U. After each day’s signatures were gathered he posted it by the entrance.
They were then given their “Orientation Kits.” Each kit contained a large dried manure chip which was to be “placed immediately upon the shoulder.”
Skinner had obviously figured out that guarding a chip on one’s shoulder would cause the neck to become stiff and unable to turn quickly. He once said he hated how Jess and I always walked so straight forward, easily looking left or right, able to respond to Mom or Dad’s calling from any direction. I sensed immediately that his aim with these “manure chips” was also to cause everyone there to lose proper alignment.
This posture would increase stress in every major muscle group and cause them to start walking “naturally” in crooked ways. When the head was down guarding a chip the individual would begin to move in smaller and smaller circles in order to avoid contact with others. Eventually, if Skinner’s plan worked, “chip guarders” would sooner or later be standing in some corner, alone.
Also inside the kit were blank labels as well as several large stones.
Each inmate received unlimited prescription “tab loids,” which were to be placed under the tongue. The effect, Skinner knew, would be to get the tongue to let loose and start wagging. The “tab loids” also caused the tongue to secrete a special acid, which would inevitably spew forth in dialogue, dissolving anything or anyone it touched.
Skinner explained the program in the Pit like this:
“Place and then guard the large chip on your shoulder. Each chip was selectively hand-picked for you based on your past. Some of these chips even go back for generations. Each one of them has been freeze dried in the freezer called Revenge. Do not let your chips fall off, no matter what. The longer you are able to keep them on your shoulder, the sooner the chips will melt and flow organically down your torso. This melting will further enable the manure scent to mingle with your own, creating a very distinctive odeur indeed.“
“You are also to take these blank labels that have been provided and label everyone around you as quickly as possible. One or two word labels will do, especially if based on outward appearances such as race, size, age, or gender. In fact, the shorter the label, the better. If you cannot immediately place the label on their chest, their forehead will do.
Stone throwing is allowed and encouraged. You may hurl stones at will, for any reason, at any time.
This program was designed to create nothing but chaos, confusion, and disharmony. Some began brushing up against others for the sheer purpose of knocking their chips off. Fights broke out with manure chips flying everywhere. When labels were applied it became obvious that even “families” couldn’t get along. “You Liberal!” one would shout. “You Conservative!” another would yell. There seemed to be no shortage of one word labels to apply to others. I couldn’t help but wonder what all that energy would be like if it were harnessed and applied elsewhere….
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How does Contessa help everyone escape the Pit?
Purchase the Audio book, and find out. The audio book releases on Thursday.