~~Time will know me now
I am struggling to think clearly. I am stood before the building. Fear is distorting the image. I want to run; only I have nobody to run to anymore. Although I have seen this building throughout my life I have never felt this way about it. This trepidation, this dizziness every time I try to look straight inside, is all new. It was once a well-kept secret, disguised by its ugliness. People didn't want to look at it, both because of what it was and what it now stands for. These are both ugly. I have been planning my journey to this place for weeks now yet I have not really faced the reality of my peril. If I walk one more step I am a criminal guilty of treason. If I turn back I am still a traitor. I cannot move in either direction. I believed I had made my decision days ago but now as I listen to the voices in my head I am still debating my course. Whichever direction I walk in I must make a sacrifice. My choice is more complex than I ever imagined at first. My motives, principles, fears are in seemingly irresolvable conflict.
I am not afraid of the building: it is too weak to be threatening. The concrete is slowly crumbling away and the metal supports are now clearly visible like broken bones jutting out a frail body. They are rotten and rusty, who knows when they'll snap. It is a bleak day. Either it is darker than normal or my eyes are clouded over with pain. Morphing shadows trick my mind into seeing her face in every fleeting moment of shade.
I wasn't important: I was one of those normal people you see everywhere. I lived a very average life doing very average things but I don't really need to go into detail because they are probably the same things you do and definitely the same things people around you do. I went to school; I used the comvision; I met up with my friends; I listened to music on my mediabank; I did all of those usual things girls do at seventeen. I was Vita, in one word, unremarkable. I wasn't famous, there was no reason anyone would know of me. I was mundane. If my life hadn't changed you wouldn't be reading about me now. There'd be nothing to say. Or I’d have nothing interesting at least. To be honest, I was rather fed up with life. To be always doing the same things over and over and over again with so little sense of accomplishment, the purpose simply to distract myself from the fact that there wasn’t one. I wanted an adventure, I wanted a story. Then I joined the protest. Since that part of my life is so much more interesting, I'm going to miss out my early life and tell you about me when I was nearly eighteen. I will tell you why I'm important.
My life, and indeed most people’s lives, were being turned upside down. Government and society had been completely transformed. In the efforts to heal a devastated country we ended up with a broken world. Although I was only young, I did more than many others because apparently I have a very special type of courage.
This is the story that began when the new government changed our country completely. For example, we suddenly had more school than we ever used to. We used to be at school from 9:00-3:30, Monday-Friday. They made it 6:30-7:00, every day except Sunday. I didn't know how I was going to cope. In fact, I must confess I did take my frustration and exhaustion out on my mother. Rather than thinking about what she might have had to face in her job, I thought only of my own problems. After school I was always restless and agitated. My temper would surge out of control at any slight irritation. Especially when my brother was still alive, he always got to me. Then again, I suppose that's always the case with siblings.
We only spent half our day doing normal lessons like the ones we used to, the other half we do labor training. This is where we helped work in the electronics factories so we learned to work hard and also pick up the basic skills most jobs require these days. There aren't as many jobs any more. Taxes have quadrupled in just 3 years. This new government is desperate to pay back debts to other countries and is having a hard time doing it. Beatings have come back into schools to punish the lazy children as the government doesn't think they'll be good for our society if we let them grow up unchallenged. Every measure they take gets more and more ridiculous. All non-essential items are being rationed and the restrictions have become unreasonably tight. We are only allowed one toilet roll a week per family! Poor families have lost everything. Since we had to start paying for education and healthcare they've had to sell nearly everything to afford their medication. As we get poorer and poorer our government gets more and more secure.
Life was becoming such a struggle society was falling to pieces. Desperate people turned to crime whilst others resorted to suicide as the best way to escape. The schools, which we were forced to spend so much time in, didn't give children the education they needed. Instead of giving them the skills they needed to survive in this hard world and help them to develop good principles to be able to help those suffering all around them, the school promoted government propaganda. The students were in the most part to become devoted and unquestioningly obedient supporters of the authority. Classrooms were intense. Young minds needed to be shaped firmly. Punishment was harsh.
I remember the shock when we found out about beatings coming back to schools. We couldn't quite believe it. Most my friends thought it was a joke. I remember them angrily asking who started it. I thought it would be good at first. We had some trouble makers like there are in any school, who make life hard. I felt this might be the one way we could get through to them. We would make them behave now.
My opinions didn't last long. I'd assumed the beatings would be for people who purposefully did serious things that endangered others and wouldn't respond to any other punishment. To my surprise, this was very far from the truth. For the beatings to be a real threat they had to be carried out regularly. Teachers would be quick to notice minor mistakes that used to be over looked and to pull the child to the front of the class and beat them in front of all their friends. They wanted them all to see how bad beatings were, in the hope that they could use fear to keep control. They kept hitting you until you showed the pain well enough to scare the rest of the class into obedient silence. The classrooms may have been less interrupted but it was even harder to work with such a tense, fearful atmosphere. We were terrified of making mistakes. I was sat next to a girl one afternoon and I noticed she had this blank document on her screen all lesson. I asked her if she needed help and warned her she'd get hit if she didn't write anything. 'I'd be beaten even more if I tried,' she replied, ‘I’m dyslexic.' I felt so sorry for her. She didn't dare to write as she knew mistakes would be unavoidable. And also that she'd be beaten for every single one. . Learning was soon just brain washing.
Unless a new system comes into power life will always be difficult for that girl. Our government hates anyone with any sort of disability. They want us to function in the same way, thinking that the more similar we are the easier we will be to control. Before this government came my parents thought I was something or other and were trying to get it diagnosed. Fortunately nothing was ever confirmed so there is nothing on my records. If you have a serious learning disability you have to attend sessions to try to make you conform to the norms of society. Basically they try to make you into something they consider a normal person. Perhaps they are like any other bully. They are scared of people they don't understand and take it out on them so they feel better. They have to prove they are tougher, stronger. It's all rather childish really. Then again I have always felt politics is immature. The news has always been full of grown men squabbling like toddlers, taking their game too seriously.
It wasn't only disabilities. At first it might have been, everything happened quite gradually, now however we have come to see how much the government hate anything unique about us. They seem to think the only we to be united is to be uniform. We are better to them as a big crowd than many disorganized individuals. They have in effect banned creativity. We can't say what we think without breaking some rule and to express our feelings is impossible. If we don't think exactly in line with the new policies, that is. It is only proper to express ideas in line with theirs. Nothing is allowed to evoke negative emotions. We must use the arts to express our support and gratitude only. Corrosive ideas must be eradicated at all costs or they spread. If they spread people will all be united but not in a way that helps the government. No, rather they will be united against them and this is something the authority is not secure enough to deal with yet. More time is necessary to get security running at optimal efficiency. I dread to think what life will be like when they reach the height of their power. It might get easier. When it's been long enough we can begin to hope for an end. I hope their days are numbered. This pathetic attempt at perfect conformity has resulted in us having to all act with the discipline of an army. I even have to wear a dull gray uniform; I have never liked looking like everybody else. Even my hair cut has to be regulation. Fortunately, we are still allowed a little make-up, Lord Binnin hates ugly people. We even have to stand the same way.
It is all this many people protested about. They resented the new government and spoke out against them at every opportunity. I knew that some protesters had been arrested but I didn't know anything else. People who knew someone we knew sometimes disappeared but eventually the shock wore off and everyone accepted it as normal. People feared this government. They were clever by building up such a mystery, people didn't understand them and that made them afraid. I knew what they were doing was wrong but I didn't care enough to do anything about it. At least, not until something happened that moved me to act.
Since primary school Natalie had been my best friend. I had always loved her sense of humor. It was Saturday afternoon and I was sat in my last lesson of the week bored and fed up, when Natalie showed me some funny cartoons she'd drawn. They made fun of the president and how he'd made us work so much longer. The teacher noticed, she didn't say anything; she just took the drawings away.
The next week Natalie wasn't in school. I rang her mum. She'd disappeared. It was the first time someone we knew well had been taken. Natalie's parents were obviously in a state. They hadn't a clue what they should do about the situation. They missed her already and they were aware she may never come back to them. They kept on crying because it's what they wanted to do and it was one of the few things that they actually could do. I tried to avoid them as they were sad and angry and so very emotional and just seeing them made everyone else feel miserable. They thought Natalie must have been taken when she was on her own walking home from school. I was devastated. That alone would probably have been enough to persuade me to join the protests but something more happened the next week.
I returned home from school on Wednesday and my mother wasn't in. I thought it was unusual but I assumed she'd gone out to get some shopping or something. I sat around all evening but she never came back. Part of me was trying to stay calm and made excuses explaining why she wasn't back but the other part of me was worried. I knew something must be wrong and yet despite all the evidence I couldn't bring myself to believe anything had happened. I wanted to forget about it all and go to sleep hoping she'd be there when I woke up. I was so shocked. I didn't know what to do. In the end I went to bed, jumping to conclusions and over reacting wouldn't help anyone. I couldn't imagine she'd done anything wrong.
In the morning she was still gone. I knew I should be sad but it wasn't coming naturally. I felt really distant, I think it was disbelief. How could I have ever expected this? What was I going to do about it? It was such a weird situation; I couldn't understand anything for days. There was no way to find her or get her back but I couldn't keep getting on with life as I used to without her. I was haunted by guilt.
I knew where to go. By now everybody knew what the abandoned prison really was. We also knew that it was a criminal offence to enter, one punishable by death. After all, it was the biggest and best known protest recruitment office. It was where I had to go if I wanted to be part of the change. So that's why I ended up stood by the ugly grey ruin.
Joining the protest was only the very beginning- I was going to become more deeply involved in this thrilling revolution than I had ever imagined I could. Although, at first, I was unprepared and afraid, deep changes within me allowed me to fulfill my duty. I say changes within me because all the hardships I have encountered have, at least, improved me. I used to be so selfish and take the ease and pleasures of my life for granted. And it was from an extraordinary love I took power and inspiration. I didn't deserve him and I know I still don't, yet everyday I'm grateful he's there. If he can believe in me then I can believe in myself and that's where the fun starts!