Have you ever been in a position to meet your heroes? I'm not talking of rock royalty or the actors of your favourite TV series. No I'm talking people that you admire from a distance, individuals who inspire you and make you want reach heights of achievement. Here in this camp were some of those people and the girl in front of me was one of those individuals, one whom I rated among Movella royalty.
Lily was an extraordinary writer, someone I really admired for her writing. She was quite tall, long brown hair hanging down framing her face. I was smiling from ear to ear as I followed Lily deeper into the camp. I felt Sinead slip her hand into mine as we walked along, maybe a touch of nervousness, maybe reminding me she was here. She needed have worried, although Lily was someone I loved like a sister, I’d never felt anything else towards her. Glancing down at Sinead’s face I saw an unhappiness. Maybe she felt a little lost, had I made a mistake in bringing her?
We'd had many conversations over the past year about what we'd do if the GS came after me. Sinead knew I was still part of the Movellian Movement. I had occasionally run errands for them, dropping off books at various locations, helping to distribute leaflets and organise the rallies. I guess that it had only been a matter of time before they tagged me as an undesirable.
It had been quite dangerous for us attending those early demonstrations, there were loads of GS there filming us. As the movement gained momentum during the year those attending these rallies grew in size. More and more people were getting upset with what the Govians were trying to do, the arrest of the author Philip Reeve had somehow been the catalyst for the latest outbreaks of trouble. Now the Gove Squads were arresting authors everywhere and us young movellians were also being swept up and interned in the camps.
We'd had many discussions, Sinead and I, in the preceding weeks. They'd ranged from us running away together and setting up a new life to her staying behind whilst I went into hiding. In the end I was relieved that she'd decided to go with me, however I wondered how she would hold up in this sort of environment. She was used to the outdoor life but she didn't know these individuals. I did however wonder if it would be me who found it difficult to adapt, I'm not the easiest person in the world to get along with and the pressure cooker of a camp set up might find me feeling caged.
We approached what appeared at first glance to be an old army mess tent. It was shabby and looked like it had last seen service during second world war. Sat on a wizened tree stump at the entrance was a young girl. In one of her hands was a piece of wood and in the other was the largest knife I'd ever seen. The blade glistened in the sunlight as whittled away to taper the wood down into a spike. In her mouth was a lollipop stick, the way she held it between her teeth reminding me of a soldier chewing on a cigar. I half expected her to spit on the ground as she worked away at the wood. She was wearing a green T-shirt and camouflage trousers, her tightly curled brown hair hugged her head. She fixed me a glare that sent shivers down my spine. This was a girl I wouldn't like to meet down a dark alley, the menacing look, the confident way she handled the huge knife made me not want to get on the wrong side of her.
Lily smiled at her, Lily did a lot of smiling both online and it appeared in real life. She’d always told us when we were down to smile and it appeared she took her own advice.
The girl nodded slowly and stood up in front of me. She looked me up and down, the knife dangling by her side.
'You the Squonk?' she said. The words spat out with a touch of an accent that I didn't quite register where it was from, somewhere maybe mid Atlantic.
I nodded slowly. She tilted her head to the side. Suddenly she leapt forward and jumped at me, dropping the knife and stick to her side. I tried to dodge her, afraid that she was out to somehow maim or harm me. I felt her arms around the back of my neck, her legs wrapped around my trunk. I have to admit to the fear I was feeling, why was this girl attacking me.
''Squonkie, it's me Prez' the girl shouted in my ear, as she hugged me.
'Prez, is it really you' I said hugging her back with relief that she wasn’t out there to maim me. So this was Prez, the almighty Prez. She was one of those who made me smile at her antics online, coming across as totally wacky whilst staying totally passionate about her beliefs. She was the person I most laughed with on the Movella's site, she brought out a side of me I sort of tried to normally hide. For all her 'devil may care' attitude, Prez was one of the loyalist online friends you could possibly have. She'd defend her friends down to the last drop of her blood. Looking at her in real life, I could see that she was just like her online persona. This day just kept getting better.
She dropped down to the floor and stood in front of me. Glancing to my side I saw her look at Sinead.
'You have to be Sinead, sweetie? Really glad to meet you at long last, it seems I know you so well.' A touch of sarcasm was in her voice.
Prez then reached over and hugged her too. Sinead didn't know quite what to make of this gesture. She did however look pleased that Prez had hugged her.
'You lot finished?' I heard Lily say cheerfully behind us, 'Ahlaam will want to meet you.'
What a day this was turning out to be, I'd met one of my on-line sisters and our cousin. Now I was going to get to meet another sibling, Ahlaam.
Lily pulled back the tent flap and we entered the tent. It took me a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the darker surroundings. There were tables laid out around the sides of the tent. They held what seemed a random selection collection of objects. Dirty mugs and plates were intermingled with clothing, books and bizarrely a football. Here and there were scattered weapons, a chilling sign that the resistance had turned more violent in the past few weeks. An ancient laptop sat on a bench connected to some Heath Robinson piece of equipment.
There were two figures stood hunched over the laptop screen, the blue glow from the screen reflecting on their faces. As we came closer they turned towards us. I instantly knew which of these two girls was Ahlaam, the taller one. She stood a good head and shoulders above the other girl. Her head was covered with a black hijab, the face had a mischievous grin from ear to ear. Ahlaam was one of those people who was appeared to be forever on the move, moving from one post to another, one person to another much like a bee pollinating flowers. She had a really wicked sense of humour which made you laugh and cry at the same time. She'd been the person who finally convinced me that Sinead was the girl for me.
She looked from me to Sinead and back again.
'Sinead, it's great to see you' Ahlaam finally said reaching out to hug her. Sinead hugged her back.
'Thanks, it's great to be here and finally meet you' Sinead replied. They both turned to look at me.
'Do you guys know each other?' I stuttered.
'Lets just say we talked once in a while,' Ahlaam said punching me on the arm, 'if I'd have left it to you, you'd never have got together. How the hell are you Squonk'
I was speechless and that doesn't happen much, I can tell you. I never knew that Sinead and Ahlaam were communicating with each other. Neither of them had let it slip, I somehow felt a little let down by both of them. Then the mind went into gear, what had they talked about? What subjects had they discussed? Vainly I thought that it was me. I felt a little distressed over some of the things they may have talked about. The expression on my face must have been a picture.
'It's OK Squonk', Ahlaam said laughing, 'your secrets is safe with us.'
'Hello Squonk', I barely heard a voice say.
I looked around trying to locate the source of the voice. Turning quickly I nearly bumped into origin of the words. The other girl had moved from Ahlaam's side and was now stood next to me. I looked at her. She was smaller than Ahlaam but not by much. Her longish black hair was tied in a lose ponytail behind her back, her slight figure was covered by a red top and tracksuit bottoms. My mind raced through all the girls this could be. Every time it came back to the two letter conclusion E.H.
E.H. or Tay as she liked to be called, another of my Nightshade sisters. was a quiet person. Never one to make a rash and bold statement, she always came across to me as someone who thought long and hard about anything before committing her views. Shy and reserved at times, to me she was one of the deep thinkers in our little e-family. In my mind I found it hard to separate her out from Lily, both of them quiet, intelligent people who when they talked, you listened. EH was also, allegedly quite a footballer playing for one of the top girls sides in the country. I always felt protective towards her, like I would a younger sister. I always thought there was more to EH than she was letting us know. Maybe I'd find out whilst we were here.
'EH, you look nothing like your profile picture' I said teasing. I felt a sudden compulsion to reach down and hug her, but held back unsure how she may take it.
She smiled back at me.
'Nice to meet you Squonk. Glad you brought Sinead along' she said shyly.
I burst out laughing and folded my arms in front of me.
'So you all want Sinead here instead of me?' I joked
'Well it's nice to actually meet her. Does she know how much you wrote about her?' EH asked.
I put my head down in answer. Of course I hadn't.
'I thought so, you're a wimp' Ahlaam said laughing, 'anyway, we are glad to see you both, lets show you the setup we have here and introduce you around.'
'Have you still got your band?' Lily asked.
We both nodded. Our bands allowed us to connect and interact with our phones or wall screens.
'Let me have them, we've got a new version that we think is a little more secure. We're beginning to think that the old ones are no so secure anymore, even for the twenty seconds we thought were safe. These new ones have been developed in Japan. They should be good for up to a minute. Don’t ask me how they work, I don’t know. We’re using some communications stuff that Prez brought over from the States. It allows us to piggyback somehow onto the internet and not be caught, well we hope not anyway.’ Lily explained.
We handed over our bands and picked up the new ones. They looked almost identical.
‘Do they have any special features? I asked, ‘is there a rocket launcher in here somewhere?’
‘Who do you think you are Squonk, 007?’ Prez exclaimed
‘It does have an interesting feature though’, Lily interrupted, ’we can track where everyone is around the country, and no before you ask the GS can’t hack it because it sends a false signal that this little beauty turns into the right location. The GS signal will be miles off.’
Ahlaam led us out of the tent and we walked back towards the clearing.
‘This is the eating and cooking area, the sleeping tents are scattered around the woods over there and the lats, toilets, are down there. We all take it in turns to cook and clean the lats out, although I suspect that Lily does far more than her fair share, she keeps us organised really well.’ Ahlaam said looking admiringly at Lily as she spoke.
‘How many live here?’ Sinead asked
‘Around eight of us full time. The resistance isn’t that big really, we just make a lot of noise. There’s more that help, like you used to but it’s only really us who are actively involved day to day. We’ve also got Auntie inside the Ministry helping feed us information and hopefully spreading false info. We should have more in the next few weeks if the GS doesn’t arrest them before they escape.’ Lily answered.
‘Who else has made it that I might know?’ I asked.
‘Not many I’m afraid. There’s us four and Megites. She’s off north of the border arranging something at the moment, but should be back tomorrow. Tell you what, why don’t you settle in and we’ll fill you in on our plans over the meal tonight?’ Ahlaam said
‘Where are we going to be?’ Sinead asked.
‘Your tents over there, it’s a bit shabby but it should be large enough’ Lily stated, ‘see you in an hour’
We wandered over into the woods in the general direction of the tents. Ahlaam was right, the tent that was presumably ours was old. It was however bigger than the others. I unzipped the door and looked in. A large air bed was covered with blankets. I smiled to myself, shaking my head as I noticed that someone had placed a jar with some flowers in it at the head of the bed. I dropped our bags inside and came back out.
'Have a look in there?' I said to Sinead.
She dipped her head inside for a moment before re emerging smiling.
'Ahlaam, she's amazing isn't she. She showed me the piece you'd written to me. Made me think and well you know the rest' Sinead said kissing my cheek.
'What did you two talk about?' I asked cautiously.
'Just girly stuff,' Sinead said, 'she made me realise a few things. I need to go to the loo, let's find these lats'