We were nearly caught last night. I thought I was ready for anything but I have not overcome my fear. We were helpless. I had to sit utterly still and not make a sound. The tension was unbearable. The stress of knowing we could lose everything in seconds. We were being threatened and there was nothing anyone could do about it. We have to stay low for even longer now. They suspect we're here. We have to convince them we don't exist before we act. We must shock our enemies. If they have their full force against us we don't have a chance. I am starting to see Mr. Edington's methods. We must disappear and stay hid until we are all completely forgotten and then keep on waiting till they are low. Till they are tired and off guard. When they have problems within to deal with. We won't be a priority but we'll make ourselves one. Then the government will have a war on two fronts. We will force them to divide their resources. It is far easier to fight a reduced enemy.
There must have been many soldiers searching for us. I could tell by counting the footsteps above my head. They had heavy, careless feet. It reminded me of something that the leader said once. He told us he did not want us to be soldiers because they are conditioned to fight not think. He wants to train us so we can think and fight and think before we fight. I never saw the point in this. If we had someone strong who would always give the right orders why would we need to think. There's nothing wrong with mindless obedience if the orders come from a greater mind. Those soldiers had to be pretty thick though, not to find us. The entrances to the tunnels are concealed about as well as toddlers playing hide and seek. Once inside the tunnels there must have been enough soldiers to split up and go in every direction. The route is complicated but their numbers meant it should have been quick to cover the area. Saying this, a fear springs to mind. They should have found us. I see now that it was nearly impossible to miss the cave. The fact they didn't worries me. Maybe they didn't want to. They know we would have heard them coming if we were here. Perhaps they wanted to find out where we were but trick us into thinking we're safe. We all assumed they'd given up and that could only mean they've decided we're not here. They might actually be making us drop our guard knowing we'll feel secure, as if we'd won a great victory.
I must go and talk to Mr. Edington. He may be unfriendly at best but I think we need to leave now while there is still time and only he has the authority to move the whole group of us. Besides he has the keys to all the provisions. Only he can get the food and clothes we'd need for a permanent move. On our own we would survive a week at best. Besides, I don't think any of the others could be persuaded to leave without him. I haven't worked it out yet but he seems to have a very strong hold. It could just be because they are so used to his authority. They are used to him being in charge and giving the orders. I don't know how you could respect him. He ignores his own people. We support him. We carry out his decisions only to be treated as beneath him and totally unimportant. I hate him. Even his habits irritate me. He stares accusingly, speaks with a mocking tone and stands with more dignity than he has. The worst thing. The one thing that I will never forgive was when he actually hit Zayna. I saw him. He must have lost his temper. All I saw was his hand against her cheek. I was so confused. I didn't know what she could possibly have done to deserve that.
Despite what I saw, she is still devoted to him. She talks about him as if she was in love with him.
“You don't know him Vita, he is shy and for some reason he is particularly wary of you. But give him a chance. He is kind and soft and sweet. We can depend upon him Vita. Trust me on this. One day I will explain it all to you.”
I don't want to say any more about him. He doesn't deserve so many words. I'd rather write about Arios. Since those memories came back during my trial, I am beginning to remember more fragments of my past. Before, for some reason, I could remember nothing from before I turned 14. I can hardly believe a man has ever loved me. Yet in my dreams I hear his words, soft and tenderly spoken. The very memory of his affection is enough to make me feel giddy and warm. Sometimes I wake up with fresh tears in my eyes when I dream about him. Normally I can only feel his hand in mine; my memories are still faint and uncertain. There is only one exception. It is my favorite dream.
This dream is enough to make me believe my memories to be true, it is so clear whilst feeling so familiar. I am sure it happened sometime in the past. It is only short. All I remember is being stood at my brother’s grave feeling alone, I begin to cry. When Arios approaches, immediately I feel reassured because he looks strong yet kind. His smile, though slight, is inviting. The next thing I remember is running towards him until we are stood close together. I press my damp face hard into his chest. I can smell his skin; it is familiar enough to be a comfort. His hand is pressed firmly on my back holding me close and inviting me to lean against him entirely. I do. All my weight is now against him, my feet barely remain on the floor but he does not wobble. He can hold me, even when I have no strength left he has enough for both of us. I am only aware of his other hand as I feel it now slide up my neck and cradle my head. His touch is gentle and I lean back my head into his hand. He tilts his hand back slightly, forcing me to look up and meet his eyes. Their expression is not one I have ever seen before, it feels new but I am not afraid. His gaze does not move at all, his head comes closer to mine. I am paralyzed in his arms, I cannot move. I hold tightly to him as though I am scared he will slip through my fingers. His head has now dropped so far our faces are close enough for me to feel the warmth of his breath; it slides over me like a blanket. Still his eyes are fixed on mine. Although it is not uncomfortable, I close them. I am not sure why. I do not see what he does. The next thing I know his lips are pressed against mine. My eyes are still closed but now I can feel his gaze on me, it is so intense. However, his kiss remains gentle and light, his lips just hovering over mine. Somehow I know it must be torture for him so I kiss him back, harder than he kisses me. Then he joins in, as if I'd granted him his only wish. His eyes are closed to now. Suddenly every move we make seems to fall into perfect synchronization. We seem to kiss to the same time; even the rises and falls of his chest seem to match my own breathing. For a second I feel totally bound to him. He becomes part of me. Then I wake up, still in the cave.
But it's not that bad. I am feeling more and more as if I have a new family (even if they aren't Arios). I love all my friends so dearly. Zayna is always there and she's the one who best understands how I feel. The huge loss we share. I am happy but I haven't forgotten my mother. Or Natalie. I have to ignore so much pain. I could easily get distracted and then I won't be able to help Mum anyway. It's better for all of us if I keep my concentration here. Here and now, with these people. The government is so extreme. They have made our lives harder and harder and it's got to the point where it is past anything we can deal with. Things have to change and I sense more and more people are beginning to see this. I hope soon we will have even more members in our group. Then we will fight.
I remember when I was little and my brother, Ed was still alive. He always told me that I had to speak out when things aren't fair. We must deal with problems not let them ruin our lives. I got to practice handling little things at school and sometimes I had bigger problems to teach me important lessons. I soon realized that if I worked hard enough, things were always resolved in the end. This comforts me now. Our society is just another problem, one of the big ones perhaps, but there haven't been any problems too big for me to handle yet. This is my comfort and my hope. The thought that makes me keep on going and going. I put up with a lot and I need every motivation I can give myself.
Zayna improved her combat skills so quickly. Every few days it’s the same humiliation. Ever since I met Zayna, there’s been something fierce about her. Although it made her fight harder, stopped her ever giving up, sometimes it gave me a chance, albeit pretty poor odds. That aggression, was so free, so wild, she’d explode in front of you. All that contained energy, released in a huge boom as she kicked and punched and rolled and jumped and spun and clawed and bit. I could only hope she’d get carried away, waste her energies so I could, with a few more precisely aimed blows, take her down. Possible, by all means yes, it was possible. A regular event, no, it hardly ever happened.
Lately though, I have been brought down to all new levels of public incompetence. I have been on the floor in seconds, every time. Usually I don’t care that Zayna gets so into the fight. It’s good training to get hurt a bit. Recently however, I keep on having to back down. Once I believed I was the determined type, the one who’d never give in, no matter how tough things got. Zayna had found my breaking point and, with the best of intentions, shown it to me. I guess it’s meant to make me grow stronger and work harder. Instead I only have a growing sense of despair.
We are preparing for todays practice. I say, “Don’t kill me,” like you do, as a joke, except of course, I’m not joking. All her terrifying power is channeled now. Looking at her, I can’t see the girl I used to relate to, the girl like me, alone and grieving. Her eyes reveal her hardened self. The warrior lunges forward, quick punches, controlled in a way she never used to manage. Unlike before, she holds herself back, doesn’t give it everything she’s got. Each jab is sharp and measured. Once I’m worn down, she still has energy to finish off. Smoothly, she steps and pushes her side into me. She’s always had enthusiasm but now she has technique. I taste the blood before I register the impact. Zayna, propelled by I have no idea what, is unimaginably fast. My mind is stuck, steps behind, soon the overwhelming sense of pain is so complete I don’t notice the individual attacks. I’m not even sure what she’s doing. I don’t have to ask for her to stop this time. Enough is enough and, being six steps ahead, she recognizes this before I do.
“There’s no point. She’s not learning anything, we need new partners. This doesn’t work anymore.” She was still first and foremost my friend. Occasionally, I do wonder. In some ways she’s like Mr. Edington, business first. It’s not about hurting me; it’s getting the work done.
It's been interesting for me in the protests. Since joining RESTORATION I've heard whispers and rumors. You glean news and information. I find it amazing how little I understood our society before. A lot of what I hear shocks me deeply but that makes me even more determined to change things. I am starting to see how the system works. Although voted in democratically, the government runs as a dictatorship. One insane man, Lord Binnin, seized the power and he was even more insane than the rest of them. The original plan involved quite extreme measures being used to sort out the country's debt. Lord Binnin wanted things to be secure quicker so his demands became more and more unreasonable. The government's prejudices were actually Binnin's personal grudges. Ironically, it was his attempts to create the perfectly fair world that led to most of the injustice in society. His legal system is like that. It's pretty much just a list of offenses and the punishments. You don't get a personal hearing anymore. There's no point. Background information, why you did it, the mental state of the criminal, emotional trauma, none of it’s taken into account anymore. Binnin said it was a simple way to make sure everybody was treated the same but in reality it was an unfair system that gave the same punishments to bad people as it did to people who were mentally confused. And these punishments weren't fines or at worst a prison sentence like they used to be. The death sentence was back and torture was commonplace. People were persuaded that capital punishment is the best way to get rid of trouble makers permanently without wasting our resources. Prisons are far too expensive now. The government refuses to waste a penny.
It's understandable though. The debt problem got completely out of control and we knew something extreme would have to be done. We needed a drastic solution that would last. Binnin and his friends seemed ready to act and that boldness convinced most people. Besides we didn't know how ruthless he could be: he's a clever man and was good at the popularity game. He knew how to smile for the cameras and act as if he cared about the people. He is a genuine hypocrite.