As I sat on the cliff top for the last time, I listened to the news on my wristband. There was sparse reporting about the funerals or the demonstrations. As the government controlled the media it was mentioned in passing. The big news was the Govian leader would be appearing at a big rally in Ipswich that evening. He was expected to be announcing new laws that would involve the abolishing of the forthcoming general elections due to security concerns.
I don’t think any of us had got much sleep the previous night. We’d talked long into the darkness. Eventually it had been just Crissy and I left awake as usual quietly talking about things. I thought to what Zee had said and was minded to say something. As usual I couldn’t form the words that I wanted to say. Too often I got tongue tied when we were together and tonight was no exception. Some nights I wondered what we talked about but always went to sleep happy and contented. As usual it was Crissy who fell asleep first. I lay awake for a while thinking about her, thinking about Zee and what was going to happen tomorrow. Strangely I felt at peace with myself. All the sorrow and torment of the last few weeks had ebbed away to leave my mind at peace. Just before I dropped off I kissed Zee goodnight on the forehead and entered a wonderful dreamless sleep.
The journey down to Ipswich was fun. Zee sat in the back so she could play the guitar and we sang along to the tunes. We laughed and joked. It was as though now we had settled our minds we were determined to enjoy this last day together.
We arrived at the services in good time and treat ourselves to a drink and cake in the café. GS goons were all over the place. This was the first time we’d been in the south apart from remote locations and you could see there was more presence in the south rather than the north. We tried to avoid the stares, hard with the state of my nose. It might look a state but it had totally transformed my looks making me nothing like the wanted posters. Even here in the service station under the eyes of the GS, pro resistance posters were on the wall. The faces of Ahlaam, Prez and Sinead looked down from the walls. Obviously the resistance movement was gaining momentum.
There was no sign of Jacqueline but a message on my wrist told us to drive to the other side of the car park. There we found a tatty van that could only have been Jacqueline. Getting out of the door, she came over to hug us.
‘You all okay?’ she asked looking worried.
We nodded in return.
‘Right before I give you the kit, I need to know that you’re sure of what you’re doing. You’re so young and full of passion. Have you thought of the consequences to your families? It may be that what you are doing will be seen as the actions of terrorists rather than freedom fighters. The difference in people’s minds depends on how it comes across.
‘We’re certain’ Zee said. They all nodded.
‘This world isn’t getting better, Prez, Ahlaam, Sinead, Meg all died for their beliefs. They gave their lives so this country could be free again. That’s what we intend to do. We’ve thought this through and aren’t going to be put off our mission now,’ Lily said. As if as one we hugged Lily, she’d said it exactly right.
‘Well OK, just checking,’ Jacqueline said going to the back of the van.
She pulled four packages out of the back. They were thin, about six centimetres wide and shaped like belts. She handed one to each of us. I gingerly handled it feeling it had very little weight. I must have been holding my breath as Jacqueline noticed.
‘It’s OK Squonk, It’s not dangerous or going to go off. Right there are two buttons. Press this one,’ she said indicating what looked like a red star, ‘ and the timer is set for five minutes, which will give you time to get away.’
‘Press this one,’ she continued showing us a blue circle on near the buckle, ‘and it will start the timer. This is so you don’t detonate by mistake. Hopefully you’ll have time to get away from the scene’
‘But…’ Lily was about to say
‘We understand’ Crissy said tossing Lily a glance that said keep quiet.
‘These are your tickets, the explosives in these belts are not detectable at the moment in the UK, a friend in the CIA kindly sent them to us. Plant the belts under the stage and get the hell out of there. Here are some new ID cards. You’ll need them, as security will be tight. You will be in the front standing area right in front of the podium. There will be loads of young Govians there. You’ve all been specially selected. We managed to get you added to the list, Auntie again. When you get out make your way to London. No arguments this time, you’re leaving the country for a while. I’ll let you know exactly where afterwards. By the way we think we’ve found who the traitor is.’
‘Who,’ I asked
‘Someone whose family were being held and being forced to let tell us what was happening. Don’t feel anger for her, she was protecting her family.’
We talked for a short while before we left anxious now to get to the hall. Jacqueline hugged and kissed each one of us before leaving.
The journey from then on was quiet. We parked the car in a car park and went to the local pizza place for a meal. We tried hard to resurrect the joy of the other day, but somehow the pizza although very good; tasted like ashes in our mouths.
‘Are you still sure about this?’ I asked looking at the others in turn. Zee nodded vigorously, Lily nodded less sure.
‘Lily, you don’t have to,’ I said trying to reassure her that it was OK to pull out.
‘Crissy are you going to,’ Lily turned to her sister. Although younger, Lily was quite a bit taller than her sibling. There was no doubting though that Crissy was older and in charge.
‘Yes Lily, I think Squonk is right in this. If we do it our way, the Govians will be embarrassed by what has happened. Lily, you don’t have to, you can go home to the family.’ Crissy said.
I saw tears appear in Lily’s eyes and thought I could see her mind working overtime, the eyes looking from one to the other of us, maybe searching for help.
‘No, I said I would and I will. You’re my family now; I couldn’t live without you in my life Crissy. You’re my best friend as well as my sister. Squonk I love you, like a brother, and I couldn’t bear life without you and Zee, you’re my sister. We do this together’ Lily blurted out tears running down her face.
It was as though a weight had been lifted off our shoulders and the mood changed back again to one of light heartedness. We left the pizza parlour and walked around the shopping centre in Ipswich looking in the shops. A bookshop caught our attention for a long time. It was painful looking at the books and realising how much the ban had done to stifle creativity. There were very few new books that caught our eye. Even some of the classics like 1984 were missing. As we were chatting the owner, came up behind us.
‘You’re the movellians aren’t you, I recognise you all from the posters, Squonk, Crissy, Zee and Lily,’ he said.
He stood in front of us, a shock of white hair on his head, wire rimmed glasses on his nose and a face that looked lived in. He broke into a smile.
‘Don’t worry I won’t give you away. Jacqueline is a good friend of mine. She said you may visit. I’m pleased you managed to find your way here. Just a minute let me lock the door. As you can see the government keeps us to these few tomes. However, I have a secret stash. Come on.’
He led us down a nondescript corridor to a door that said ‘boiler room’. He opened the door and went past a rusty old boiler that obviously hadn’t worked for years, a rusty smell pervading our nostrils. There was a door at the other side. The man took out a key and unlocked the door.
‘This is where we keep the restricted books’ he said opening the door. Turning on the light we saw rows and rows of books. We wandered around in wonder at this treasure trove of literature before our eyes. All the great works that had been banned were contained in this little room. In one corner was a retro computer along with a printer. On top of the printer were the posters we’d seen around the country.
‘Yes, I produce a lot of those for the resistance as well’, the old man said.
‘You know you youngsters have made such an impact. Without you we wouldn’t have had such an impact on the country. Sinead’s death started it. You know there’s a video doing the rounds that shows the ceremony and her death? Well when people see that, see the love you had for each other then the senseless killing, they turn instantly to our side. Prez and Ahlaam helped us gain more. The tide is turning but not fast enough I fear. Whatever you have planned, I think it will greatly enhance the cause.’ He continued
We chatted for a while before taking our leave of this gentle man and his wondrous collection of books.
In the street the air was getting cooler, autumn was coming, my favourite time of year. The colours of autumn, the reds, browns and yellow a beautiful canvas over the ground. I felt a tinge of sadness that I’d never walk through the leaves with Crissy, kicking them in a childish gesture, picking them up and throwing them around. I wondered to myself as I walked hand in hand with Zee towards the hall, why I was thinking of another whilst I was with Zee. I was confused. Everything had happened quickly. After Sinead’s death I had felt nothing. Zee had nurtured me, given me the power to continue. Crissy has helped finish the process with those long talks into the night. Both had given me my respect back, both of them had given me a life to look forward to. Zee, wonderful beautiful Zee had noticed that I’d started to have feelings for Crissy even before I had. She knew as well that none of us would have a decision to make about the future.
We arrived at the hall and were let in through the tight security. At the final stage they rigorously examined our ID.
‘That’s a bad nose, who hit you’ asked the last goon inquisitively.
‘Walked into a door,’ I said
‘Ah, thought she’d hit you,’ he said winking at Zee.
He let us through before we burst out laughing.
‘I thought they were stupid, these goons. Got you off to a tee haven’t they?’ I said to Zee, ‘must be that damned hoodie’
I pulled the hood down to expose her beautiful hair. She growled at me and put it back.
The four of us made our way down to the area we’d been allocated. We stuck close together talking in soft voices. Standing together we looked around. I saw the packed rows of people stretching far back. If the resistance was making inroads into the support, it was obvious there were still a lot of people who supported the Govians. For a split second I thought I spied EH in the balcony but when I scanned back I couldn’t see her again.
The anticipation in the crowd was electric. You could feel the excitement building up as one after one speaker for the Govians came and lectured the assembled masses. The message was the same each time. The resistance were terrorists who should be wiped out. The movellians were the worst scum around, Prez, Ahlaam and Sinead’s names were vilified by each consecutive speaker. I saw the anger in Lily especially. Her fists were tightly balled, her face red with anger.
‘It’s ok, soon Lily we’ll show them’ I whispered in her ear. I don't think she'd realised quite how tense she was. I saw her relax slightly. There was a disturbance in the crowd just behind us and we saw a young girl being marched off by a group of GS goons, being kicked and jeered by the crowd around us. As she passed us she dropped a leaflet on the floor. Sinead's face smiled up at me from the floor.
The plan was for the explosives to be detonated five minutes into the Govian leaders speech, that way causing the dictators the maximum amount of damage. As the time got closer for the charismatic leader to take to the stage, I felt a knot growing in my stomach. I felt for Zees hand and found it, a reassuring squeeze in return. I wondered if they felt like I did. In my mind, a doubt appeared. Was I doing the right thing. Glancing at the floor the face of Sinead flung the doubt out of my brain.
There was a moment of quiet just before the leader came to stage. The four of us moved closer together. I looked at the three of them in turn with an expression that said OK now? They all nodded. My heart was pounding like a steam hammer under my skin. I had this weird vision that someone would be able to see it like in a cartoon.
The applause started as the Govian leader took the stage. The sound levels went up to eleven as he waved to the crowd. It seemed an age before the levels came down enough for him to speak. For a moment I met his eyes, a sense of loathing in my eyes which must have been apparent to him as he held my gaze for a moment longer than he normally would. I saw a worried expression on his face as if he had recognised me and feared I'd given myself away. However, he turned away and the false sycophantic smile returned once again.
I pulled my gaze away from the stage and focussed on the group.
'Are you sure about this?' I said, 'we could just leave them on the floor and go'
'No, you were right, this is the only way to do it' Zee said firmly.
'OK are we ready?' I said
They all nodded and holding our breaths we pressed the first button. A quick glance and nod and we all pressed the second button. There it was done. We looked at each other smiling. The fear of death wasn’t rearing it's head. I felt tranquil and relaxed for the first time in weeks. There was time for goodbyes, a few precious moments left before we ceased to exist in this cruel world. the plan had always been to sacrifice ourselves to the cause. An explosion wouldn't do half as much damage to the government as the deaths of us four. Our martydom would hopefully rally people to our cause, others would take our place and the movement would continue.
We looked at each other expectantly. I reached across and pulled Lily close to me.
'Lily, thanks for being there, thanks for being a good friend all these years. You are the sister I should have had. I love you' I said a few tears started to roll down my cheeks as I spoke. Holding her close I kissed her forehead gently.
'Oh Squonk, I couldn't have done without my big brother all these years. thanks for the help and advice. I love you too' she replied, the tears starting in her as well as she hugged me with a strength I wouldn't have thought possible. There was another huge cheer and the crowd moved again and we parted slowly.
I found myself next to Zee, beautiful Zee, Her hood was down and her blonde hair hung on her shoulders. I took her in my arms and gazed into her face.
'Zee, I don't know where to start. How can I be saying goodbye so early. Over the past few years, you've been such a good friend. I feel I'm only just starting to get to know you. Thanks for everything, thanks for being there when I needed you most. Over the years our friendship has grown, turned to something more. These last few weeks have been incredible. I think that I started to fall in love with you.'
'Look Squonk, I agree, it's been a long road, I love you too. I think we've grown together, we're comfortable with each other. I wish we had the time to see what could happen.'
We embraced tightly kissing each other as if it was the last moment, which it was.
'Squonk, you need to tell her' Zee said eventually nodding in Crissy's direction. I saw Crissy and Lily holding each other. Crissy looked at me over the shoulder.
'Tell her Squonk, I understand' Zee said again, 'if we weren't about to die, I wouldn't be saying this but there's too little time left to worry about anything.'
I kissed her again, and she pushed me away.
'Now' she said fervently.
I looked across at Crissy and saw her let go of Lily and stand in front of me.
'Crissy, ' I said feeling stupid and about two feet tall.
She looked apprehensively up to me.
'Now idiot, you're running out of time' Zee yelled.
I held my hands out and Crissy took them.
'Crissy... I love...' I started
'Shh, I know,' she said, 'I love you too Tom. We'll talk again... on the other side'
She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my lips. Her lips felt like velvet on mine, a sweetness that was so hard to describe. I kissed her back gently wishing this had happened before, wishing we had more time left. Tears flowed down my cheeks and hers.
'it's almost time' Zee said urgently.
Crissy and I parted and let the others in. We hugged each other arms around us. I saw a couple of goons making their way towards us, too late to stop us.
'For Ahlaam' Lily said
'For Prez' Zee said.
I looked into Crissy's eyes and she nodded and mouthed the word 'baggage' I smiled knowing what she meant.
'For Sinead' I said.
We held each other tight, our bodies fusing as one. For the first time in my life I felt deliriously happy, my head in the clouds.
'Soon' Crissy said smiling through the tears.