I have opened my eyes by know but the light in my face makes me squint and I cannot see who the hand on my shoulder belongs to. My eyes burn as they adjust to the light, still protesting against being forced open. I try to lift my head. It refuses to budge. However I can now see who has awakened me. When my vision returns I suppress a scream that would wake those in the surrounding sections of the dorm. Here before me in the middle of the night is an unfamiliar man. I try not to breathe, he has come closer to me and the smell is more than I can bear. His appearance would be described as intimidating but he doesn't scare me. He probably should, he's tall and bulky, and there’s a knife in his belt- I am at his mercy. His appearance is... horrible. His face covered in tattoos but on skin too wrinkled to remain distinct, in fact I can’t make out what any of them depict. He has no hair which makes his too large head look even more stupid. His eyes are also too large, set far apart, like he's a fish with his eyes popping out the sides of his head. A sword fish, his nose is unnaturally long and pointed with a scar down the middle. His lips are too thin; they can barely be seen through the piercings. He also has an eyebrow piercing that pulls the flesh away from his eye making it look even more opened up. I don't know what supports that bloodshot bulge. He snorts. He is feral and grotesque but I know why I do not fear him. I pity him. I am hardly sure what could drive a human being to this state, this low existence.
I have little time to ponder the question as he is quick to speak, though not so quick to be understood (his words slur together like he is chewing them up).
'' I have come to take you. You have an assignment. I must put you through your test.'' But still I am not afraid. Or if I am then it is masked well by my confusion and curiosity. And hope. I still have a hope, a taste of an adventure and of moving forward at last. Perhaps I will be important; perhaps I will do something extraordinary. It is with eagerness, adrenaline surging through my veins that I follow this hideous monster, perhaps he is not what he would seem to others. I think he is helping me. At least I know he will not hurt me. If he wanted to he could have killed me already and nobody would have found him out. For now I am relatively safe and as for the future only time will tell. In a place like the RESTORATION you don't know what will happen next. And I love that. I feel that the future is free, that I can mold it and sculpt it; I must believe hard enough to do some little good, to make the shape of the future more beautiful and soften the sharp edges.
Now he lifts a panel of the cave wall to reveal a narrow tunnel, he motions for me to crawl in. The mud of the tunnel walls is damp and slimy and I struggle to keep my grip. It is pitch black and I neither know the route nor the obstacles of my journey. I wonder why I was made to lead. Maybe it's part of the test he mentioned. The damp under my knees becomes a deep puddle making me struggle harder. My knees ache from crawling through the wet and mud. My back hurts, I have been hunched over for what seems like hours. An urge for freedom surges through me and I want to spread out and breathe in clear air. I am trapped. I panic. I can hear my pulse inside my head, I feel it, hard and heavy. The blood is thudding against my ears and I feel as if my skull is about to crack apart. I feel the pressure building up in my head. My stomach now wakes, unsettled by the noise in my head. I am beginning to taste the sick in my throat. It burns. Not as much as the tears in my eyes, though. I think I'm failing. My only hope is that in the darkness my judge does not see what is happening. As long as I don't faint I will be fine. I will have completed my task and passed this test. The only problem is I don't know how much longer I can keep going. Everything aches and I feel ill. I am too hot and I long to stretch out in the fresh air.
Finally I feel a slight breeze. It is so gentle it could be my imagination. It could even come from my own breathe. I am, I think, beginning to understand myself, for now I realize that it is in my nature to hope. Even when engulfed by darkness I breathe new life into the still and force despair to break up and rays of hope shine through, clouded but visible. This is what I do now. I hope and am revived with new life and energy. It is sheer will power that propels me. I make the last section of my journey going faster than when I started out. My hope did not prove false. Soon I opened my mouth not withholding the cool air from rushing through me, breathing into my body and inflating me so I no longer feel small and weak but large and full and alert. I feel the cold rush down my spine sending jolts of energy through my nerves and rushing up my legs lifting them so as to make their movement light. Then I was out. Quite unexpectedly, I sort of fell out the end. The exit was even smaller than the entrance but when I saw it my pains were as good as gone. I did not regret following the man. The more I suffer the greater the joy of my relief. And right now I am certainly relieved. I am stood on a mountain and the air is crisp and sharp. It is not as gentle as the air in the tunnel.
This time when I open my mouth it gushes in, nearly chocking me. It is so cold it pricks my teeth and the pain is nearly unbearable. But then it turns into an exhilarating, revitalizing pleasure. It reminds me I am still alive and that I am still capable of feeling and breathing. This new air cleanses my body and my mind. It freezes the despondent thoughts I had in the tunnel and blows them out through my ears. I stand tall and brace myself against the wind. I hand myself over and let it devour me. I am consumed by the wind. We stand embracing each other. I am greedy for its renewing power and it is greedy to use its power. It makes me small.
Before I can catch my breath back I am pulled to my feet and dragged into a fast walk. I still haven't figured out what's happening to me. As I my thoughts are interrupted I am aware enough of reality to notice the man who led me here has gone. Now a woman stands before me. She is smart and efficient looking, everything about her appearance is orderly. She stands tall and her movements, although quick are precise and calculated. She leaves nothing to chance yet wastes not a second. I am following her as I know she is leading me although she never told me. In fact she has not told me anything at all. I only know to follow because of a quick, small movement, but as I said, everything she does is precise and to the purpose. She made her meaning quite clear.
Soon we arrive in what I think must be an office building. I know it must belong to RESTORATION because only we would content ourselves with so few comforts. Yet, this room still maintains an intimidating quality, I feel small here. Although it has outlived any sense of grandeur, I still feel the ancient traces of state and importance contained within these walls. There is still some power held in being stationed at the large oak desk before me. I believe there is strength in he who sits in that great leather chair. Or at least that's what I think before I see the chair swing round to face me.
To my astonishment, it is Mr. Edington sat in this noble room, upon a seat of such state. Therefore I must presume it is he himself who summoned me. I am now totally confused. None of this makes any sense. Mr. Edington never took any notice of me yet I am now brought into his personal office. I am soon put out of my misery.
"You have brought the wrong person to me," he snaps, "Take her away. Don't know how this happened. Stupid. In future I expect far better coordination and efficiency from you." How dare he speak like that? If he has no reason to bring here I deserve at least a polite apology. He disturbed the precious little sleep I get. I am enraged by his manner, so abrupt, so rude. What a disgusting way for a man of high repute to address his fellow. I put myself out for his cause, I live up to each of his unreasonable demands and he treats me like this. How dare he imply I am completely unimportant? That poor secretary didn't do anything wrong either. I've had enough of Mr. Edington. The way he seeks to dominate and rule us as if he was trying to construct a new dictatorship. A dictatorship that is no different from the current one.
The worst of it is the way he implies we are not doing our jobs properly, meanwhile, the only failure I've seen is him. He is the leader who fails to lead. It is his fault we have taken no action in months. My usual bitterness and animosity towards him is heightened. I am fighting to contain myself; I know it is not the time to share my feelings. I must wait on him a little longer if I wish to succeed in my new life.
"Get a move on then little girl. You shouldn't be here, get out now." At this I am unable to contain my fury. He does not realize but, the harsher his words the harder I'll resist them and the harsher I'll fight back. The threat in his voice does not frighten me; rather it strengthens my resolve to hate him. Had his address been kinder he may have been spared my rage and my bluntness but he called down my reproaches upon himself.
"Maybe I will not leave. No, indeed I think I shan't just yet. You may feel my presence here to be an accident, an inconvenience, but I am rather grateful for this interview. Indeed I have rather a lot of questions for you Mr. Edington."
His eyes lock onto me as if they would burn me up where I stand. I hold my glare on him in return. His face is darkening with anger. His eyebrows quiver. His fists shake against the desk. He is in such shock he doesn't even notice the papers he's knocked aside. I am impressed, he holds the tension well. Yet he underestimates me. I will stand here until I get answers. Remembering what he is helps me feel strong. He is a coward, too afraid to take action at the critical moment. He has got too comfortable basking in his power, reveling in his control. To be obeyed I suppose is an addiction, a strong one too.
“You must not be here. For good reason you must not be here.” His eyes water as he says the words. Though it must be anger, it looks so much as if he's crying I nearly feel sorry for him.
“I am here. I intend to stay.”
"I know your story; I have taken you in, when you were alone, only we were here. I let you in, you owe everything to me yet all I ask in return is your respect. You have disgraced the RESTORATION. Your actions were wrong, your words shocking. You will be punished."
"You can punish me all you like once I get the answers I require. Don't worry it is nothing compromising. I wish for nothing confidential, for all your cowardly ways I don’t believe you’d so easily endanger your own. My questions are simple but I must understand the truth all the same."
“I find your quest for truth somewhat amusing when you've spent your entire life being fed lies from those you trust most. I would help you if I could but it is not my place. Sometimes dear the truth is not worth hearing, it only complicates matters further." Despite the attack at the beginning I am surprised by how quickly he softens. The man before me has transformed into something more beautiful. I have never seen Mr. Edington so gentle. Perhaps this is my opportunity. Even if he is still angry, it seems that his anger is not directed at me. There must be something else to this.
"To begin, I wish to know the identity of Arios. I was led to believe you hold him in high regard. I am meant to have loved him at one time, in fact, your own computer decided I still do, so I must at least know who he is."
"My dear, the computer does not decide anything, computers have not the ability to determine your feelings; they are not educated in our ways. Not even the wisest men will ever understand human nature. What chance does a computer have at interpreting the desires of the heart? The computer only received your message. You decided you still loved this man. I would suggest you search you heart more carefully. He will be in there somewhere, concealed perhaps." He has earned back some manners.
“I fear it may be a little too rude to ask, but I have struggled to understand why we have not launched an attack on the government yet? Surely, if you are not a cruel man, you'd want this regime to end as soon as possible. Why are we dragging this out?" I leave it at that, careful not to criticize him too harshly. I failed.
“Yes it is too rude. Especially coming from one so young. There is much you don't understand yet, I would advise you lay of giving your personal opinions until they are either valid or wanted. At present they are neither, ignorant child. I would be angered but I pity you. Perhaps one day you will understand."
“Sir, I apologies I did not mean to....." He cuts me off mid-sentence.
"Please, Vita, (It is the first time he has ever used my name, I didn't think he knew it.) Go now. You have said quite enough. I know you and me will never agree: we may not even learn to disagree peacefully. You have broken my heart for reasons I cannot at present explain, now leave me to recover."
I go; it would be wrong to push further. Maybe I will get answers eventually; I feel I made a small break through today. It is odd indeed, I thought we should have a great big row and I should shout at him until I got what I wanted. I softened him. The man I despise. He is usually so cold and so unfeeling and yet I broke him. No, I did not break him for I improved him, one day he may yet become kind. Approachable even. Now I must catch up on my sleep.
Despite my exhaustion I struggle to settle that night. I searched for answers and ended up with even more questions. I fear I shall never work Mr. Edington out. His personality is far more complex than I ever imagined. I am beginning to suspect he may even have a soft side. Which is surprising enough in itself but that it should reveal itself to me is more astounding still. I hardly know what to think of it all.
I am most intrigued by what he said about me being fed by lies. He also called me dear. It's as if we have a close relationship yet I hardly know this man. I suppose it could be possible he knows me better than I am aware. He would not be the first man I have forgotten from my past. It's times like this I feel I have chinks missing from my memory and in a society like ours I would not be surprised if I do. I was born into a time when shocking things take place every second. I know dark secrets are held in our society. When leaders are poison corruption infiltrates everything. Lord Binnin is one to poison minds. I've seen that all too often. Reluctantly, I end these thoughts and fall asleep. The morning is too close at hand.
I wake more irritable than usual. Coming near me this morning would be a mistake. The routine here is strict, besides, even if I'd been granted special permission to stay in I should have got up anyway. I am stiff and cold; activity is better comfort than sleep. I need to move around or I will not be able to. My bed is hardly an inviting place anymore. I ought to be glad of my tiredness; I may sleep through the discomfort tonight. I expected this life to have its fair share of hardships but I never realized it would be so dull. I was anticipating periods of inconvenience and then blasts of action, I was prepared to face dangers I have not even heard of in the protest. I would quite happily storm into Binnin's office right now and personally kick him out of power. I would charge him with every offense he has committed, I would mock him, I would turn his own against him and send him out alone and humiliated.
But it is not my decision. If I would stand against the authority I would stand alone. I am disappointed in the RESTORATION. They hide under the ground as cowards. They are not confronting the government; they are not saving the world from their cruel regime. We are hiding here, running from duty. We are useless. We neither serve nor oppose the government. When I joined the protest I may have felt like I was taking a huge step yet in reality it would not change anything. We make no difference, though it is we, our own selves, who are the cause of our own insignificance.
Day in, day out, I am consumed by this madness. I have been prepared to tell the world truth and give the people their freedom and their choice long ago. My patience only extends so far, it is stretched to an unbearable strain. I can scarcely describe my discontent. I am afraid because I am sure that if none will side with me I will still make my stand. Yes, I will stand alone. Yet I would be wavering on the boundary between strength and stupidity. An uncomfortable place to be. Strength is vital, stupidity undermines everything. Would I be a hero, would I be a martyr or would I just be a silly little girl with big ideas too big? Above my station. Maybe Mr. Edington was right. His words, though malicious, may yet serve for my protection. Even if I prove I have my strength and understanding, even if I am not a child, it is a reminder of how others perceive me. Of course I can use this to my own advantage. It is a point I will bear in mind.
Although, it's true, I have softened to Mr. Edington, I still have little patience left lurking down here doing nothing. I want to break out into the open air. I want to right every wrong this government has brought into this world. If these people, the people who ought to be the leaders, are not taking justice into their own hands, then I shall I have to act for myself. I do not know what I'll do but I will go out there and set an example. I want to inspire people to speak out. Which is why, although it seems a futile effort, I am seriously considering organizing my own little something. It is impossible for me to stay here any longer. I am going mad with a fury and an anger that I must keep both contained and concealed. Somehow, the others all seem to look at matters in calm, manner of fact manner, if they are also frustrated they hide it well. I despise that. If I am going to do anything I do it with a passion. I become consumed by whatever I set my mind to, this I have set my heart to. I am driven yet I can go nowhere, I am trapped in this dreary cave and will remain so until Mr. Edington acquires some courage. And he is certainly not getting many opportunities.