"We are drawing closer to the enemies. Our Patrols have wiped out most of the rebel bases."
A few smiles spread across the otherwise firm faces of the senior council members. Even Edward Kingsley smiles. His smile is a little uneasy, but he smiles. He knows he is responsible for this victory and he is pleased with that. He is congratulated by other council members. He thanks them politely. He suddenly feels old. He looks about twenty-five years of age, but he's fifty- five. Today is his birthday. He doesn't know why he is feeling so old today.
He thinks of Isobel. Isobel is a prisoner of war. She is a neutral. But those who are not Commites are enemies of the COM. He thinks of going to see her today. He doesn't know if it's wise to go and see her, but he wants to.
Drinks are served after the meeting. There is going to be a little celebration. There is going to be a bigger celebration at the Floating City but Edward doesn't want to go. He feels guilty. He doesn't want to celebrate. He drinks a little, talks a little, and laughs a little with the other council members. Those who know that today is his birthday compliment him on how young he still looks, that the drugs suited him better than most people. Young looking and handsome and to top it all of, one of the thirteen members of the council. Edward feels like he should be pleased with all that. He is. But he is uneasy.
He decides to leave the party early. He tells everyone that he needs to get his beauty sleep before the real party starts in a few hours. Everyone laughs. Everyone thinks he is a nice, good humoured person. Everyone thinks he is good company. Everyone thinks he is the perfect man, soft with friends, hard with enemies.
Edward doesn't go back to his suite. He takes the elevators to the lower levels. He has clearance to almost every part of the COM centre so security checks no longer scare him as they used to when he first joined the COM. He thinks that was about twenty years ago. That seems like such a long time to him. He feels old. He wishes he could go out for a walk, like he used to when he lived in Luangwa. He misses those early morning walks, when he could breathe the fresh morning air and contemplate on the rest of the day. He thinks it's too bad Africa is now under UNA control. He thinks it's too bad Africa can never come under the Com control. He thinks it's too bad the war had to start. He doesn't like war. He hates to think about war. But he knows the war is a fact. So he just doesn't think about the people, their feelings, their lives, their hurt. He doesn't think about all that because he knows he wouldn't be able to deal with what he has to deal with if he knew about people's feelings, lives and hurt. It's so much less painful not thinking about all that.
He gets clearance to enter the prison holding. He does not to the common holdings. He does not even think of going to the common holdings. He doesn't think he can handle the sight there. He heads straight for the "guest" holdings. This prisoner is very special.
"Shit it's cold mom. We've pushed up further north. Terry is still alive, but I think he's worse, though they won't say. About twenty people died in the attack yesterday. It was really scary. I thought I was going to die. I just wanted to hide under a blanket and close my eyes, like I used to do when I was a kid and I was scared of the monsters under the bed. Those days seem like such a long time ago mom. I thought of Danny yesterday. Strange that I thought of him. I wanted to forget him. But I remebered him yesterday. I think it was because one of the Patrol soldiers looked like Amanda. But Amanda is dead. I know Danny will always be in love with her. I know there's this part of me which seethes in jealousy because I was always jealous of that bitch. She always took everything away from me. And yesterday I thought "hey Amanda, see, I have your man, over your dead body". And then I thought of how I won over Danny, how I made him fall in love with me, and how, when I decided to join Terry, I just said to him "you're an egoistical arse" and left him. I felt as if I'd won. I felt happy. But now I wonder if it was worth it. But I guess it's too late to wonder about such things. Sorry mom, I'm babbling, but I can't help it. I think I need to babble to keep my sanity at my finger tips. Sometimes, when the troops are nearbye, I just feel like standing there and shouting "here I am, shoot me, kill me, stop the nightmare, let me die!" I'm trying very hard not to do that. I'm afraid that one day I will end up doing just that."
Edward looks at the prisoner. "Isobel?" He says softly. he realises, almost sadly, that Isobel is still beautiful. Beautiful enough to break his heart. She also looks young, like he does. He is glad had she kept up with him. It would be awkward if she looked all of fifty- six and he looked twenty-five.
He is glad she is alive. She is seriously injured but still alive. He wonders when she will gain conciousness so that he can talk to her. It has been a long time since he has talked to her. There are so many things he wants to talk to her about. But she is still unconcious, and the doctors are not sure when she will be concious again. So he just looks at her, thinks about the past and sighs. Then he is told that he has to leave as the sector is going to be closed off for the night. Only emergency entry is allowed.
Edward is a little irritated at the interruption but he nods. He leans to kiss Isobel on the lips.
He tell himself he is nuts. Nuts because he has a wife and two kids waiting for him at the suite.
He really wants to go for a walk now. He doesn't go back to his suite. He goes to the garden instead. He thinks he should take a walk first. He looks around him and thinks this garden is a poor excuse of a garden. He used to like Japanese gardens, but he remembers Africa, he remembers the wide, endless plains. He is beginning to feel claustophobic. He feels uncomfortable, lost. He wonders how he got here, how all this happened. Sometimes he wishes it didn't happen this way.
Edward turns to find Eric watching him. He smiles a little when he thinks how he and his first born look almost like twins. They could almost pass for one another.
"Are you okay dad? Sharon was wondering where you were. You're going to be late for the party."
Edward grimaces. He likes parties, but not today. Today he is thinking to much to be able to enjoy himself. "I don't really want to go."
Eric nods. "Is it Isobel?"
Edward doesn't answer the question. It is Isobel. Isobel, their past, his life, everything.
Eric Looks at him with concern. He knows the past, he was there too. "We're closing in on the last hold of the Revolutionaries. We'll get them before they get to UNA territory."
Edward nods again. He knows his son is trying to get his mind off the woman. He is a good dutiful, loving son. And he is legitimately winning the position of the head of the Patrol from his father. Edward is very proud of him.
"We think the signals might be on their plans. They've been sending several different sets of signals. We managed to decode all the sets except one. The ones we've decoded don't say anything useful, just information on the weather and food and stuff. We think the uncracked signals is the key to their next move. The Revolutionaries tend to have a few tricks up their sleeves. All we need is the password to uncode the signals and we are done." Eric smiles. His smile is similar to Edward's. The softness in his face tones down the cold victorious nature of the smile. "But we're still going to get them. There is no way they can win this time. We'll get rid of that Yoshimi once and for all." He doesn't mention the name of the other leader. Edward knows why.
"That's good," Edward says. He doesn't feel victorious. Just uneasy.
"Mom, a funny thing happened yesterday. I had this vision. I think I was half asleep. I guess it isn't actually funny. It is just strange that I should remember it. Do you remember the Migration? I was remembering the Migration, well, what we watched on tv anyway. I mean all those people, wet and miserable, carrying half of their lives with them in little bundles and walking in the rain. I don't know why I remember that scene. I guess it's because it rained yesterday, we were all wet and miserable, still are, and we were carrying bundles with us. Clothes, food, weapons. And I kind of thought "hey, deja vu, wow". I wondered if this was half my life and if I left my other half behind somewhere and then I realised this is all my life. I don't have anything else. And then I laughed when I thought of that. It's like laughing when you see a dead baby sparrow because there's something really ridiculous about the way its belly protudes. Weird huh? Terry's getting worse, and I didn't even think he could get worse, but he's getting worse. Anyway mom, I have to go now. We're about to move again. So you take care okay?"
Sharon tells her husband that he has been acting strange lately. Edward just rolls his eyes. He says it's nothing, just stress. Sharon looks at him disblievingly. Edward thinks stress is a legitimate answer. Afterall, what would she know what he has been going through lately? It is stress.
She tells him to get ready for the party. He tells her he doesn't want to go. The way she looks at him tells Edward that a fight is about to start. He is not in a mood to fight. He is tired. He wants to sleep. He has had a long day. All he wants to do is sleep and think about things.
She tells him it's his birthday party.
Edward grimaces. He doesn't want to be reminded that many years of his life have gone past. He knows many years of his life have gone past. He doesn't want to be reminded of those years, because so many things have happened. There are many things he never wanted to happen. But they happened. He just doesn't want to be reminded of them.
She tells him she'll never forgive him if he doesn't want to go. She tells him she spent months planning this. She tells him he is being stubborn and grouchy.
Edward can see the kids looking in from another room. They are looking apprehensive. Edward feels bad that they have to listen to all this.
"Okay fine, I'll go get ready," he says. He talks to the kids for a while. They are twin boys of about four years of age. They have taken after their mother. He thinks that nice. But he is even more proud that Eric took after him. He doesn't remember Eric's mother much. That was such a long time ago, when even Edward was just a boy. He thinks he was about seventeen at that time. He does a quick calculation and finds out he was sixteen and a half. He is slightly shocked. He thinks Eric's mother might have been twenty-two at that time. He thinks she might be still alive but he would not want to meet her now. He doesn't know where she is, what she is doing and he decides he doesn't really want to know either.
"Mom, Terry's dead."
Edward supposes he should be happy with all those people wishing him well and everything. He knows some of them aren't too fond of him. They are just here to show their faces because they think they are important and therefore must be seen at any party thrown by a council member at the Floating City. He supposes he has been guilty of that himself now and then.
He wants to keep to himself but Sharon is dragging him about and making him greet everyone. He meets William, a fellow council member, and his family. Sharon is very friendly with William's family. Edward vaguely remembers that Sharon is William's cousin. He thinks that Sharon would have never forgiven him if he forgot that.
Edward nods politely, jokes a bit, laughs a bit, but his attention is on William's daughter. She has dark hair, dark eyes and a charming smile. He thinks of Myra. His little Myra. He suddenly walks out. He can't bear it anymore. He needs to see Isobel again.
"Mom I buried Terry yesterday. It was freezing cold but I took a shovel and started digging. It took me a long time to dig a decent hole because the ground was so full of rocks. But I managed to dig a grave about a foot deep. It was so cold, mom. My tears were really burning on my face. Anyway mom, I dug the hole and with help from some people, I put Terry in. I covering him with gravel and then it started snowing. The wind was howling and it was bitter cold. I couldn't bury him properly mom, it was so cold, my bones were freezing, I could barely move. His face was showing through the gravel. He didn't look peaceful. I'm so sorry mom, I wish I could have done better. I could have done better, but it was so cold."
Edward asks for a millitary clearance to see Isobel. He is given the clearance because he tells them it is his birthday and he wouldn't be down here if it wasn't important.
Edward convinces himself it is important. He feels slightly guilty of abusing his powers as council member. He has already abused it in alloting Isobel Special POW status. He is told that the prisoner has regained conciousness, that she regained conciousness just after he left earlier that day. Edward doesn't think that is strange, he is just happy, relieved. But he is also scared.
He is scared because he doesn't know what Isobel will think of him after all these years. He doesn't know if the bitterness will still be there with her. He doesn't know if the bitterness is still with him.
He looks at Isobel. Isobel doesn't see him stand at the doorway, doesn't see him look at her. She is staring blanky at a corner of the room. He studies Isobel for a long time. He is just as he remembers her, with her startling oriental features, pouting lips and pitch black hair and eyes. She is just as she was when he first met her in Brazil. Love at first sight, Edward thinks, amused. Love at first sight with a Brazilian girl of Japanese and mulatta blood. He sighs. That was such a long time ago he thinks. The world has changed so much since then.
"Hi" he says.
Isobel turns slowly at him.
Edward wonders if she remembers him. And if she does remember him, what does she remember of him?
"Eddie? Is that you?"
Edward nods. He is glad she remembers him as Eddie. "Yes Isobel," he says.
She struggles to sit up. He goes to the bedside and helps her. "What day is it today?" she asks. She closes her eyes. Edward knows she is thinking. He knows she always closes her eyes when she thinks. He just doesn't know what she is thinking. He wants to know. He doesn't ask her. It would be strange asking her what she is thinking, especially after all these years.
"Third," he answers. He notices that blood is still caked in her hair. He frowns. He notices how dirty her fingernails are. He notices she hasn't been washed.
"Of?" she asks.
"March." He wants to take her back to her suite, clean her up, give her something nice to wear and then let her rest in a comfortable bed.
"Happy birthday," she says. She realises he is studying her. She puts her hands under the sheets.
"It's okay," he says in what he hopes is a reassuring tone. He didn't mean to make her concious. He knows she doesn't like being dirty. He knows it isn't her fault. He knows it is his fault.
He tries to smile.
A member of the Patrol suddenly comes in. He is told that he should go to the briefing room in a whisper not meant for Isobel to hear. He is told that the news is good. Isobel looks at them. She looks scared, concerned.
"Mom, I haven't heard from you in a while. Are you okay? I hope the messages have been getting through. I was told that the messages are getting through. We've reached the northern base. We don't have enough weapons. Most of them just aren't working properly. I don't think they were stored properly. Anyway mom, I was thinking of Terry again. Like a day before he died, he said to me "I'm so sorry I made you chose." I didn't get to tell him what I wanted to because he lost conciousness and didn't wake up again after that. But I wanted to tell him that even if he didn't make me chose, I would have gone with him anyway. I don't really believe in whatever he was fighting for and you know I didn't even back then when I went with him. I could have chosen otherwise, but I didn't. I didn't because no one else would have gone with him. You stayed out of this and you made it clear you'd stay out of this. Eric was on the otherside. It's funny because I was so close to Eric, I think I've always been closer to Eric. Terry always used to bully me when we were kids. Eric always pampered me. Eric couldn't believe I went with Terry. Eric said he had never felt so betrayed in his life. I was so tempted to take Eric's side mom. But do you know why I went with Terry? I felt sorry for him, that's why. Because he was going into this alone. He had no one with him. That's why I went with him. I wonder if Terry knew that. I hope he didn't. Sorry mom, I just had to get that out. I've been thinking about it ever since he died. Oh mom, did I tell you? I think I might have forgotten to tell you. The cold doesn't let you forget it's cold sometimes, so I think that's all I've been thinking about lately. Anyway, Yoshimi's dead. He actually died about two days before Terry. We buried him at the borders of the tundra. I made a crucifix for his grave, which I didn't get to make for Terry's. It was too cold. We haven't decided who the new leader is, but Rabecca has already taken control. She's a fiesty one. In our last battle we managed to kill almost the whole Patrol. But Annie also died. We needed Annie. She was very powerful, but she's dead. And mom, I managed to kill a soldier myself. I think I killed two, or was it three? I forget, but I finally managed to kill. I can't kill the way Annie used to kill, but I can hold a gun, That's good isn't it? Aren't you proud of me? Rabecca doesn't call me useless anymore. I feel better. Mom, I have to go. We've sighted the Patrol nearbye. You should see the gun I have. Terry would have been really proud of me. Kisses mom."
It is a victorious scene again. The Revolutionaries have been wiped out. There is a lot of cheering in the Patrol briefing room. After ten years of battle, the COM has finally managed to kill off the Revolutionaries. The Revolution has now officially been declared over.
Edward is congratulated. He smiles, even drinks a little. He is relieved in a way. Because it's over. He does not know what the final outcome of this victory is.
Eric then whispers for him to come to the control room. Eric looks slightly worried.
"What's the matter son?" Edward asks in a whisper. "Isn't this over? Isn't victory ours?"
"I don't know," Eric answers. "The signal is still coming in."
"The same code?"
Eric nods. "It's encrypted, but it's different this time. It's actually addressed to someone..." Eric breaks off. He looks very unconfortable.
"Who?" Edward asks.
Eric looks like he doesn't want to answer.
"Who?" Edward demands, more firmly this time.
Many thoughts fly through Edward's head. He can't think clearly. He was promised by a UNA chief that Isobel was neutral. But being promised by the neutral was like being promised by the enemies, he supposes. That is his own motto. It is that motto which has made victory iminent for the COM.
"I'm sorry dad," Eric says.
Edward nods. "Go and enjoy the celebrations."
"She'll know the password," Eric adds. He watches his father leave the control room, to the prison holding.
"Mom, they're all dead. Mom, I hope you get this mom. Mom, they're all dead. DEAD. I've alive, don't ask me how I'm alive. It's kind of funny mum, I really needed to go out for a walk. I just wanted to think. Then the whole place just blew up. I was quite far off when it blew up. But some pieces hit me. It hurts like hell. I've been bleeding for a long time. Anyway mom, I'm in a cave at the moment. It's actually this underground hole sort of thing. I have no idea what it is. There's a lantern here, and a few old newspapers. It's funny mom. I'm sitting in this cave thing and you know what I just thought of? I was thinking of daddy. I remember daddy read me King Solomon's Mine to me once, a long time ago, when we lived in Luangwa, when we were a family. I remember there was that bit where they discover this guy who'd frozen to death in a cave in the mountains somewhere. The guy who'd made the map I think. I think the mummy, when he was alive used one of his own bones and his blood as ink to write with. I'm thinking of that. I'm also thinking of daddy. He still hates me I think. I think I was the last person he expected to turn against him. So I guess he has every reason to hate me. Oh well, it's too late to regret anything. Eric hates me too I suppose. But like I said, it's too late to regret anything. What's done has been done. Mom it hurts. It really hurts. The pain is really killing me. I'll just rest for a little while and get back to you okay?"
Edward doesn't know what to say to her. She doesn't look at him.
"What's the password?" He manages to say. He says it as coldly as he can. He thinks of her as the enemy. he tries not to see her as the small wounded creature bundled in the bed. To his surprise she doesn't hesitate much.
"Myra," she says. Tears stream down her face.
"Myra?" he repeats. He feels a tight knot in his throat.
"Myra. Please let me know how she's doing?" She looks up at him. "Please?"
He does not mention the COM's victory to her.
"Mom, I'm back. It's very very cold mom. I'm freezing. I feel like fainting but I heard that if you sleep when you're really really cold, you might die in your sleep, so I'll try not to faint. But's it's so cold. I must keep writing I guess. That is the only way I can keep myself up. I'm bleeding again. I think the wound is deeper than I expected. It's just below the ribcage on my left side. I'm trying very hard to type with one hand. The speller's going to crack up with all the mistakes I'm making. I don't know why I didn't use the voice thingy in the first place. That would have made life so much easier. Argh, the battery looks like it's going to die soon. Oh yeah, I remember why. Most of the equiptment got blown off way back. It's so cold. My fingers can barely move. It's so cold. I was dreaming. I dreamt of daddy. We were in Luangwa. When I think of daddy, I always think of us in Luangwa. I think we were so happy then. Were we? I think I was. Anyway, I dreamt of him. He was teaching me how to ride the bicycle. No it wasn't a dream. I think I was just remembering. I'm sure I was remembering, come to think of it. Anyway, he let go of the bicycle and I fell, and skinned my knee. Daddy kissed it better. Funny thing to remember isn't it? Well there's no one here to kiss this big ugly one. It's quite ugly. Ugh. Hey mom, guess what? I just saw Terry. He wants me to play badminton with him outside. Hey cool, the air if full of flying termites. Flying termites are an amazing sight aren't they? There must be millions of them. Mom I'm tired. I'm really tired. I don't feel so cold anymore. Oh, I remember that Zambia doesn't have the four seasons. That's why. Anyway mom, I'm really tired. I'll just take a nap and then I'll go and play badminton with Terry. Then Eric promised to teach me how to play that song on the guitar. I'm so slee..."
Edward is told that a body has been found in the sounding areas, in some sort of a bunker from another era. Bled to death, he is told. He knew that already. The knot in his throat tightens. He is asked what should be done with the body. He is asked that question again, and again. He just sits there looking at the screen as he has been doing for hours.
The question is turned to Eric, but Eric has left the control room. He said he was going out for a walk, a long walk.
"Luangwa," Edward says, still looking at the screen, still looking at the last word.
"Send the body to Luangwa." He pauses to think. "And the body found earlier, of the second leader. Both of them." Edward gets up. He is going to go to the prison holding for the final time. "Inform the council-" he pauses for a while "and my wife, that I'll be gone indefinitely." He tries to smile. "Taking a long break."
He erases the signals. This is not what he wants to remember of his daughter. There are so many other happier memories.
"And prepare an unchartered transport to Luangwa for me and another passenger." He looks around to see who else is in the room. There is no one, they're all out celebrating. "And inform the UNA chief, my brother Alexander, of our arrival. And one other thing."
"You know what to keep to yourself, if you know what's good for you. Understand?"
His orders, as always, are obeyed.
info: Luangwa :national park in Zambia Zambia :southern Africa Flying termites :termites that fly after a spell of rains to mate and start new colonies (males die after mating :D )
About the writer in her own words: "Hi, my name is Minoti Baro. I'm a 21 year old woman from the northeast if India. I'm actually more of an arts and crafts person, but I do write now and then when I'm terribly depressed or when I get struck by lightning. I'm currently studying English Literature at Miranda House College in Delhi (and no, Eng Lit hasn't helped me become a better writer- almost close to flunking the subject), with a 3 year diploma course in book illustration on the side. I like vanilla ice-cream and chubby Americans."
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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