I'm so confused. I'm still being beaten by Dr. Gurion's assistants and their friends. But I feel no pain. And I don't mean I'm ignoring it. I really feel no pain. This should hurt. For the past hour I have taken every kind of abuse my captors can imagine. It's obvious they seek to humiliate me; they want me to beg, to scream, to cry. They must think they underestimated me as their vilest schemes do not cause me to flinch. How could they understand my unnatural resilience any more than I do? Something odd has happened but I have no idea what. I feel numb as if I've been...
A strange thought suddenly strikes me- an explanation of sorts. I was about to say that I feel numb as if I've been anaesthetized. Then I stopped because a sudden thought came to me. Dr. Gurion injected me with something; I'm not sure what it was, therefore for all I know I may actually be anaesthetized. The only problem is that I'm not sure what reason Dr. Gurion would have to extend such mercy to me. Although he does sometimes seem kind, when no one's watching that is. It's not like this has anything to do with his research, it's just cruelty for the sake of cruelty. Perhaps he doesn't agree with that. But I won't get my hopes up. Dr. Gurion is one of them. That's the end of it. He may make secret attempts to show kindness but that is not enough to make him a good man. He is as willing as them to hurt me, even if he needs a cause. He is not my friend and he never will be. While I remain amongst such people I must learn to see the worst in everyone. I must remain cold and strong if I want to survive.
Eventually, I was taken back to my cell, having not provided the amusement that those brutal crowds wanted. I did not break. I should feel so proud; I have always wanted to be strong. But I feel oddly disappointed: I know it was not in my own strength I endured. Worst of all, I am afraid. I am sure that under normal circumstances I would have cracked. One time I was determined not to be fearless, the huge impossibility of that has only now dawned on me. I want to be strong, to resist anything. Alone.
At least I am no longer confused, my suspicions, although seemingly stupid, have been confirmed. Dr. Gurion's injection was an anesthetic. He came to my cell to give me a "blood test" in preparation for his research. He took out a needle containing the same colored liquid as the first one. He doen’t give it to me straight away. First he stopped to ask me if it worked yesterday.
"You mean it really was you?" I asked. Although I had thought of it as a possibility, I was still shocked. He was meant to be my enemy after all.
"Why would you want to help me?" He just chuckled, a knowing, confident laugh. One painfully familiar. Frustratingly, I have no clue why. It felt like he realized I couldn't tell what he was up to, that he knew he was playing way over my head. He seemed to enjoy being ahead of me, like this is some strange competition between us. But it's not. It's far more serious than a friendly competition.
"Listen, Vita, I can't explain yet. I am worried about tomorrow, you humiliated the tough guys. They couldn't make a little girl cry and in front of such an audience that's rather embarrassing. Now they need to break you. And for your own sake, I'd let them. Pretend you're hurting. Give them the power they need, let them think they've won and they'll soon back off. I'm doing my best for you but you’re going to have to get used to life round here quicker if you want to survive."
"Why would you help me? You're one of them. What do you want? Are you trying to break me, do you want me at your mercy too? I admit your methods are better but..." He cut me off.
"You have to trust me. I have to go, they'll get suspicious. Just hold still so I can give you this injection. I'll explain when I can. "
I pulled my arm away and told him I didn't want his stupid injection, I was never going to trust anyone here, anyone who would work for the government.
"I don't need it, I'm strong. I'll look after myself from now on."
"I know your strong Vita, but sometimes it's better to accept help."
"And how exactly do you know I'm strong?"
Again I got no answer. I didn't really expect an answer. The doctor just cried. And that I expected even less. Then he left me all alone to puzzle it out until I fell asleep.
I'm not sure, but I think I woke up about five minutes ago. Even in my sleep I could not rest and I wake feeling no relief. I am not refreshed, my energy is not renewed. Lack of food and water has obviously taken its toll, but it's not only those sorts of physical things. I feel emotionally drained, I feel like I have failed, which is odd when I have followed my plan exactly. I didn't expect a drastic change, I did not expect to be in a position any better than this. In fact I expected far worse. Being alive is a pleasant surprise. Still, I feel as if something vitally important is slipping away from me. And I'm scared. Not of pain or torture. Not of what others will do to me. No, rather it is something personal. I feel as if I am failing myself, as if, after doing everything I set out to do, I fear it is all for nothing. And I mock my own stupidity, my vanity I suppose. I decided to prove myself, to be strong and powerful, I thought it was me who could make a change. Those I called cowards, I now believe are the wise ones. I have walked myself into trouble. Trouble I really believed I could cope with, deal with even. I can't. I am only human and I have weaknesses. I am not immune to pain, I am not immune to emotional strain, I am most certainly not immune to hunger and thirst. I was a fool to believe I could face the government alone. I only hope the people responded to my stupid speech. Because if not this really is all for nothing. That's a possibility I am not even willing to contemplate. It is more than I can bear right now.
These desperate thoughts are suddenly cut short by the arrival of two soldiers. Apparently I have some sort of interrogation today and I admit I'm reconsidering my claim not to need the injection. Instead I have will-power. They are trying to intimidate me; they think they can make me crumble easily by frightening me like a little child. But they’re wrong when in fact they've inadvertently helped me. In order to alarm me they have told me what I'm up against. That gives me chance to prepare. I think of all the reasons I had to make my stand. I remind myself that I choose to be here. This is the route I chose and I made my decision because I believed it was right. That means I am in control. They have not won, they did not catch me. I found my way here. I was not afraid then and I have no reason to be now. They do not scare me. Every idea that empowers me I hold in my head. I hold my beliefs in my head and my dreams in my heart. I dream of freedom. I dream of justice. I dream of a world full of good people. And the only way I can be true to that dream is to be a good person myself. I still believe this is the right course. I still believe.
I enter the interrogation room prepared to endure anything. I no longer care what these idiots do to me, because I'm not important. My dreams don't need me. So long as there are good people left on earth this great evil will not go unchallenged. Those soldiers can kill me for all I care. They'll enjoy it as if they've won some small battle but they'd be mistaken. So long as I die without compromise and without weakness, then I'll die knowing I have won. The rest of the work I can leave to others. I am no longer vain; I have witnessed my own insignificance.
Yet it seems I did not need to be so morbid, as it happens they did not kill me. Or, should I say, they were not permitted to kill me. Even to hurt me. Unfortunately their pleasure was cut short as Dr. Gurion came in, absolutely furious, because he needed me in good condition for his experiments. If they were to damage me, even slightly, it would affect his work. For a man I have found to be surprisingly soft and gentle, Dr. Gurion can be formidable when he wants to be. This is why I’m now stood in his laboratory.
"Please, take a seat," he says pushing the chair from behind his desk toward me.
"I can stand."
"I know you can stand but I want you to sit." Offended as I am, I am too tired to argue. I want to try but I know it would be futile. I'm too weak.
"That's better. Now, for my first experiment I'm going to see what a plate of food and a glass of water does for a neglected prisoner." It sounded too good to be true, but he really did give me food and several glasses of water. I thanked him cautiously, I still couldn't trust him. He may not be exactly like them but he's still on their side. Inside he's one of them even if on the outside he shows more kindness.
I'm failing. For all I remind myself he is an enemy I cannot believe it. I think I can't trust him but I feel I still do. His game as worked. I am at his mercy. It's not simply what he's done for me. The anesthetic, the food, saving me today but it's the way he does it. He asks no reward, not even thanks. His manner, always so gentle, makes me feel nearly human again. The rest of them are alien to me. I do not understand how they can justify their actions, be unaffected by such cruelty, such brutality. They are so desensitized, so warped. But he is still human and treats me as a human.
He pulls a chair close to me and sits down. I expect him to speak, maybe to laugh at me, to call me a fool for believing in his act. Rather, he simply looks at me. Not just at me but into me, his stare penetrating, directed straight into my eyes and forcing me to look back. And that look is not only familiar, not like his laugh and his face and his manner. I remember it clearly; I remember who I've been thinking of these past days. No, it can't really be him, it wouldn't be. If it was I'd have known before know. As if he has sat listening in to my reasoning he answers my doubts. He must have seen the recognition across my face.
"And, if you don't mind, we can stop with all this needless formality too. I still haven't quite gotten over being Dr. Gurion yet so it would be much better if you just called me by my first name." I ask him what it is even though I already know. Because the name I have in mind is too important to be mistaken.
"Arios. I am Arios, but I have a feeling you'd already figured that out." I feel some kind of shock; I wasn't really prepared for it to be Arios. It's too perfect, too unrealistic. As familiar as this man seemed, as much as I was drawn to him, I can't accept it so easily.
"Can you prove it?" I ask. I really want this to be true, as little as I can remember of Arios, I know he can make me happy. I know I need him; he is part of what I am. Most importantly, I love him. Not loved him, love him. All those memories of the past that were taken from me and yet I could never let go of Arios. Although he was buried a while, the memory of him was too strong to be destroyed. And I think that's because I clung to him. I knew I would need him all along.
"As a matter of fact, I think I can prove it," his face changing as he speaks, he seems so distant I think he has gone back to another time. I know that it is not normal to have the blanks I have in my memory, he can probably still remember me well, and remember the times we spent together. I wish I could see as he sees, to feel how I felt when we were lovers.
"Oh," I do not know how to answer, I can't think. I feel distant now, maybe I could also remember. Again he steals my thoughts.
"As long as you still remember, I can prove my identity."
"Remember what exactly?"
"Remember this," he whispers, leaning in close. I hadn't noticed but at some point during our conversation we'd stood up. He stepped forward but he did not change his stance, he still lent forward, towards me. Then he put one hand against my back, he felt so strong against my melting body. I could barely stand. I did not feel like he had reached for me, I feel as if he caught me. I let him take all my weight, the scene feeling familiar. Of course I remember- this is my dream. I wonder if he had the same dream. His face isn't quite touching mine, I can still see into his eyes. A trace of that penetrating look still remains but his face is soft. His breath is warm and slow on my shoulder, then on my neck, then against my cheek. Then he makes his final move, slow and graceful and presses his mouth against mine. My resolve to be strong broken, I cried. Once I started I couldn't stop. All the emotions hidden and suppressed so long unleashed. In that instant I remembered so much. Funny, the men who wanted to break me with torture failed whilst the one man, the only man, I know will never hurt me, breaks me without trying. His strong hands make me weak, his gentle whisper hitting me harder than any physical blow. And in a way his longing is torture because as much as he wants me I need him. I need him more than he will ever need anyone. I need him to kiss me forever, I want him to kiss me forever, but he leans back, the slight distance between us more than I can endure.
"You don't realize how much I need you, making me do without all these years. I'm afraid you've come back to find a broken man." He was wrong. I was just as broken as him before today but now we are both complete. We are back together. Whatever he thinks, whatever he fears, I will not be separated from him again; I would be broken beyond repair. I really do love him.
"Do you still doubt me?" he asks with a mischievous grin. I love how the light in his eyes dances and flickers when he teases. The movement is so free it seems to compliment his personality, that untamed, unrestrainable personality.
"Only a little," I reply, "I suppose you'll have to try another...reminder."
"It would be my pleasure to assist your memory." Before I have chance to let out the laugh caught in my throat, he's kissing me, more firmly this time, like he knows he won't startle me. And I realize he's made up his mind and is as determined as I am never to be apart again. I thought I wasn't vain anymore but I must be because as he kisses me I can feel he wants me right now more than anything else in the world. I see the longing in his eyes and the yearning in his kiss. The way he holds me in a way that means, "You’re not getting out of this so easy." But I don't mind, because even if he let go I'd never want to be anywhere else but pressed against him. Where I can hear his whispers, feel his smile and watch his eyes. I am so in love. It's wonderful. Unfortunately, even lovers need oxygen so I was forced pull away from Arios' lips.
"Listen, there's a lot you don't know and a lot you don't realize you know, but I don't have time to explain everything yet. Besides, the time I do get alone with you, like this, I confess I would much rather spend kissing you. And kissing never seems to work well with conversation. But seriously Vita, I need you to be strong. I got away, I can still remember, remember everything. Believe me, you will find out things you won't want to know, won't want to believe, but remember, when you find the truth for yourself you must cling to it. Only the truth can be trusted. Only the truth can be relied upon, so seek it, find it Vita. Never be afraid..." his tear prevented him finishing the sentence.
"No, you’re wrong. Sometimes the truth can be misleading, it can be distorted. No, the truth can't be relied on because the truth is different depending on our perceptions, our interpretations. But you know what I can rely on?" He gave me a look that invited me to go on, "You." Again he laughed to himself. His own, very particular laugh, that merry, musical sound filled the cold space. He is so unaffected by our situation. The danger we are in. When he laughs so I am I. I am swept along in the rhythm of it, moved by his emotion. By his love. Because his love is too strong to resist. He loves me in that way that forces me to love him back. I really get no choice in the matter; I belong to him and with him, in exactly the same way that he belongs to me. We are perfect for each other. He is my life partner, what can I do? Decisions, I usually find them so hard, but this one seems to already be made for me. I must answer a question to which there is only one answer. Do I love Arios? Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes YES!
We didn't get much more time before being interrupted by someone's arrival. I'm not sure who; there are always people everywhere within the government’s buildings. Often I'm not really sure of their roles. Perhaps I underestimated government support. So many different people seem connected. Although, I wonder if any others feign loyalty to Binnin whilst secretly opposing him. Like Arios. What he is doing here I don't know, I'm not sure why he ever joined such awful people, how he justifies serving Binnin. Yet I still trust him, I know that there are a lot of things I don't understand so I will leave it up to Arios to know what he is doing. It may seem stupid but it’s hard to explain how we blindly trust the people we love. How we can presume the best where normally we'd suspect and see the worst
I went to my cell, finally feeling refreshed. No longer do I care about my imprisonment; no longer do I feel alone. In fact, I am glad I was caught, I am glad there was no escape. Had I formed a better plan, if I had remained free, I'd never have found him, I wouldn't even have remembered fully. By taking me, they have given me back Arios and right now I want him more than anything else in the world.
Not everyone here is necessarily on their side. Or maybe they were once but are beginning to rethink now Binnin's cruelty has become less subtle. Now he has the power he craves he does not need popularity no support from the common people. He does not need to hide his atrocities. My hope is that I can continue my work here; this needn't be only a test of my endurance. Perhaps even trapped here, in the center of the government, I may find honest people who will listen. I have seen how the protest works on the outside, maybe there's a chance I can inspire a little rebellion from within. If I could cause enough of a disturbance, make a window of opportunity, I could somehow get word to RESTORATION, persuade the protestors to join in to, to attack them from outside. They will have to deal with two crises simultaneously- it may sound farfetched but I'm sure it really could work. Besides, I need a goal; I need to work purposefully before my frustrations yet again consume me. I am reckless, I know I am, but without action and danger I lose my sense of living. I can't cope with boredom and I most certainly can't find some meaningless pursuit and call it entertainment. I always have to be doing something important, I crave the thrill of doing something that matters. Working under real pressure. I am like a firework; I can't stop myself from exploding. You can try to keep me contained, to keep me still, but in the end I will burst into flame, to escape and to burst out. I cannot be contained.
I am no longer so restless. I have plans to make. If this works it will probably make all the difference. It's hard to believe, but I may have just conceived the solution to save society, to end so much suffering and bring back the world we all believe in. The sort of world that has become only a dream to us, so far gone is the reality of such a world. Of peaceful days filled with hope, laughter and freedom