I am struggling to think clearly. I am stood before the building. Fear distorts the image. I am alone. But I know I can save the people I love. I feel powerful. I do not feel alone even if I am. I know that if I take one more step my decision must be final. I walk anyway. I must do what is right even if the price is high. Even if it costs my life, I’d rather die without guilt than live on ashamed. I refuse to fear an authority which is destroying lives. They have no power. If they did the world would not be falling apart. I have power. I am stepping forward to help put the world back together again.
When I am actually inside my stomach begins to settle. The decision is made. Knowing I couldn't turn back had scared me but now it is a comfort. I do not have to make the decision again. The decision has been made final. The time for thinking is over and now it is time to act.
The room I am in is empty but that is to be expected. It is too on display for the protest to leave a trace of their activities. I must go deeper into the prison to find whoever it is I need. Since this meeting place is such common knowledge it must be somewhere secure enough to be hard to find quickly but open enough for a protest member to be able to run away at the first sign of trouble. Since this building was abandoned long before the new government came to power, unnoticed by anyone I'm sure that in the early days of Lord Binnin's rule the protest groups, less known about then, made a web of secret tunnels. It is the only explanation of how well connected they are all over the country. The buildings they use for recruitment are nearly always common knowledge as, obviously, it is non-members who need to find them, yet as often as the government raid these sites nothing is ever found to prove that the protest has been there. I wouldn't even believe it existed if a friend of mine hadn't joined once. Then again that was years ago. They might have got all the members they need and not bother with recruitment now. It was so long ago I don't even really remember him. But I get this feeling. Somehow I know he was a good man.
Now I'm here I have to keep searching. I'm not sure why but I know that the protest groups still exist. After reassuring myself that I wasn't searching for a myth, I find resolve and enthusiasm I didn't realize I had. I break into a run, storming the building before I am found. I do not know who it will be who betrays me but I know someone will. It's the way our world works nowadays. The government is rich, the people are poor, and the poor are desperate. Therefore they will do anything for the government because they will do anything for the money. I can't blame them. Even though I am sure a friend, neighbor or teacher will betray me to an official, I understand their fear. I am here because I will do almost anything to save the ones I love and they are in the same position. They do not know when their family will fall sick or when their children's essential education will become more expensive so they are forced to hang on to every penny in the hope there might just be enough. They fear that they will have to let go of the ones they love because they will not be able to afford to save them. I can hardly criticize when I am breaking the law and endangering my life so I can find the people I've lost, even though for me it may well be impossible.
I run into the central room of the prison. The central section is far older than the exterior which was added sometime in the 21st century judging by that awful concrete slab style. The inside seems hundreds of years old but I can't be certain when the government is so keen to keep the past hidden from us. Nobody knows much about pre-21st century history. I look around this room to check for any concealed exits. Looking around the room is empty. Four bare brick walls and a wooden floor.
I begin to doubt myself. My fear returns. If I can't find the restoration I will probably be questioned and killed but there's no use looking if they have packed up and left. The longer I am here the more suspicious my return will be. Again I must make a choice. I can stay here and try to find the protest movement or I can go back and pretend none of this ever happened. The prison walls feel as though they are moving closer and closer together and I feel claustrophobic. I want to escape. I want to go back out into the fresh air and content myself with normal life. I could still prove I am a law abiding citizen and it was only grief for my mother that made me try to run away. Yet part of me admits this can never be. I remember the choice has already been made. I decided that this was the right course and now I must stick to it even if this life turns out to be harder than I ever expected. I stand still, close my eyes and breathe deeply. I try to forget where I am and the danger I face so that I can think clearly. My body still shakes with the adrenaline I hadn't even noticed build up.
As I calm down my thoughts become clear and distinct. I suddenly hear one thought echoing loudly through my head vibrating against my skull. It is the voice of a man I hear. Although I definitely recognize this voice because the moment I stop and listen I feel still and strong I can't remember who the voice belongs to. It soothes and reassures even more than the memory my own mothers words. Then the words become slow and clear enough for me to understand:
''Vita, I know you're going to be strong but you're still a child, you can't come. One day I promise you'll find me, if this goes on. Head to the old prison and find the central room. It should have a wooden floor. The floorboard in front of the door is loose. Lift it up and you'll see a brown star shape on the floor. If you stamp on it hard a section of the floor will open up to reveal a trap door. Open it and jump down. My friends will meet you there.''
I follow his instructions. Although I do not know who he is I trust him. Besides it seems I have been following his instructions already without even realizing it. I only hesitate when I get to the trap door. After opening it up I expect to see a tunnel or something but all I see is the black. I look down into the whole but I see nothing. He told me to jump. When I remember his voice I feel strong. I want to trust him. I am sat on the edge with my feet hanging into the black. I can't let go. I want to but I'm scared. Scared I'll get hurt. Scared I die. Most of all I'm scared the fall will be terrifying. I am afraid of being afraid.
I think I hear something, a thudding sound. Maybe it's just my own heartbeat. The noise gets louder. It’s footsteps- big, heavy footsteps. They are coming closer. They will find me. The noise echoes so much I can't tell how long I have. I hope the walls amplify the sound. Then I hear the shout...... and I let go.
The fall is over before I know it. The darkness was deceptive. For a second I think it is all over but before I can enjoy the relief of being safe I remember the trap door. I left it all open they'll find me. I panic but I know I have no time. I get up quickly. I stumble back down. My head has gone light. I am disoriented. I do not know what noise is real and what's in my head. I can't distract myself from the pain in my stomach. I have felt too much, too quickly and now I don't know how to feel. I can hardly believe all this is happening to me. I've never done anything out of the ordinary in my life. I've always been so average. Yet here I am.
Suddenly I am pulled quickly to my feet and held up by two men. The strength of their grip is reassuring. I feel steady, even as they gradually let go, because they make every movement so slowly and so gently. They move together, you can tell they are used to working as a well- coordinated team.
'' You've made it then,'' said the taller man (I think he must be the leader of the group now gathered by), "Though still a bit shell-shocked I think.....let's hope you weren't too hasty in turning to us.'' Then the smaller man speaks. His voice is less powerful than the others but he sounds like he knows what he is talking about. You still wouldn't question him. He is the one to explain what will happen next.
“You must follow us now and we will decide if you will be allowed to join us." I panic, never having realized they could turn me away. I thought they'd be grateful for any support they could find; there can hardly be people queuing up to come here. He continues
"Obviously we do not know who you are and the threat of betrayal from inside is a real one. Therefore you will be taken for questioning, with a new lie detector developed by our scientists. It is better than those used outside as the proceedings will not be interrupted by any memory lapses due to perhaps the shock of the day or the anxiety of being questioned before a large group. The lie detector will be able to communicate with your mind as if it were just another computer. This means it can search through lost memories, motives you may not even be aware of, secret intentions and arrange the data into a clear answer which you will then deliver. This means you still don't know what you will say. You may not even know if you are a traitor. The data from the computer will be reliable and easy to interpret. That is how we will decide if you can join us." He carries on explaining how the technology works and what it will reveal about me as he walks, leading me through a network of narrow tunnels to the interrogation room. I do not know if the sweat collecting on my skin is anxiety, claustrophobia or the heat from all the people rushing through an overwhelmingly tight space.
At last I am led into an open room and I can breathe freely once again. Funny, I'd never thought I'd appreciate air so much! There are no chairs in the room, in fact hardly any furniture at all. There is a raised platform in one corner of the room and on it is a stall, a table and a machine on the table with a mess of wires and plugs coming out at all angles. When the people come in they all sit on the floor facing this platform. They are all wearing clothes that are chosen to last. Thick jeans, padded jackets, (it's cold down here too) and sturdy boots, yet even these tough garments are wearing. I wonder how often they manage to get fresh supplies in.
I am instructed to go and sit on the stool whilst the man who explained about the lie detector, Carl, fiddles about with the odd looking machine. His actions are slick and precise; he's clearly done this many times before. My questioner tells me not to worry but I am still uneasy, for some reason I feel like there is something to fear. Perhaps something awful will surface here today. I don't know what I'll do if I discover that I am a traitor. I am scared I will be rejected.
Carl comes over to me and starts talking again in his efficient, knowing manner. This time he is preparing me for the first procedure of the interrogation.
“I will have to inject a microchip into you as this is the channel through which the computer will be able to communicate directly with you. It will not hurt, the chip is as small as a grain of rice, and we can remove it again afterward. As soon as the chip is inside you the questions will begin. Do not worry about what to say, the chip will send relevant data to the computer which will then send your answer back to the chip. You will automatically give this answer."
I decide I'm best off just closing my eyes and sitting still until it's all over and I get my verdict. I can't change my answers anyway. I feel a slight prick and try to stay calm. It's hard because I feel so weird, I feel far away, as if I am peering into my own mind, knowing myself for the first time.
"What is your name?"
"How old are you?"
"And do your parents know you are here?"
“My mother has been taken; I do not know where she is." I hope they do not ask me anymore about her. Thinking about her hurts so much and yet I no longer have the power to put those feelings aside. I have no control over my mind; it's being controlled by the computer.
"What about your father?"
"I don't even know who he is." I have never thought about that recently. I don't feel a loss; it's as if he doesn't exist.
“Are your motives for coming here to do with what happened to your mother? We are not running an orphanage here you must realize." At that I go dizzy. I want to be able to stop my memories and my thoughts from swarming so freely. I want to contain my grief but I cannot. I had not seriously considered the possibility of her being dead until now. I couldn't bear it. I still can't, only I'm being forced to. I am being forced to let go of my most intimate, most secret feelings. Then more words come out.
"It is one motive, although I know I may not be able to do anything for her, I know she may already be dead. Still, I want to do what she'd believe is right. She must have gone against the government to be taken. And even if she's gone I want to be like her and take her place. She always had courage to know her duty and to do it. She placed every step in line with her convictions. Do not think I am simply a lost child begging your aid, as I say, the loss of my mother is not my sole motive for coming to you. I am here as I hate what this authority is doing to the extent I cannot physically sit and watch. I must take action before it's too late to stop my guilt. Also I want to do something worthy, something I believe is important. However, I confess I do have one motivation stronger than these, another, greater one that got me here when I did not know the way to you, one that forced me to try. There is a man I must find. I know he may have gone on from here, but for some reason I know I will find him. Even if I have come too late I will stick with you to honor his memory. He was a good man and showed me, with an example faultless, to do what is right. He taught me that if we look with enough honesty we will always see the right course and then we should never be afraid to follow it. He has given me courage I never knew I had. I will follow this course as the one I believe is right. And I come to you today to live as he instructed. I will prove myself worthy of his love. I will prove myself ready to love him in return. I must live by every principle he believed I had. If he can believe in me then I can believe in myself and that's how good things begin."
This speech, coming from my own lips, brought revelation after revelation to me. I never knew my motives, I thought only of my mother. And this man I spoke of, I can't even remember who he is. Until of course I'm asked.
"We are not those to mock love here. It is a strong force; it makes even the weak fierce and determined. Who is this man?"
"His name is Arios. He is my love."
I feel a tug at my arm, a slight pinch, and then everything is back to normal. It takes a few seconds to readjust to reality.
"Congratulations and welcome to RESTORATION. Take a few moments to recover and when you're ready we'll take you to your new room. Everything you need is there already." Perhaps I'd said enough. Perhaps my motives were good enough and the computer detected no allegiance to the government so that was enough. It just feels as though the interview was cut short. It seemed to be briefer than was implied when Carl explained the procedure to me. I wonder if Arios' name carries some weight. I need to remember who he was. I think he is important. Perhaps he is a contact so powerful the very connection with him is enough for these people. I am safe because I am his. Normally I like to be independent, yet now I like feeling I am his. I did say he was my lover although I don't remember being in love and it doesn't sound like me. Having never liked to rely on others, I hope I meet this Arios; he must be quite a man to soften my heart.
I was the 378th member of RESTORATION. With the most important things in my life already taken, I had nothing to lose. I am determined and I will remain strong. I have never thought myself particularly strong right now I have no choice- I have taken the future into my hands.
Only occasionally did anyone go against the government without being caught. The army was well trained and always alert. Knowing its importance, the new officials put a huge emphasis on the military right from the start. They always had this urge for power. Before that was fully possible, they were content to appear powerful, feelingsecure when surrounded by thousands of soldiers. The new education also made boys consider the army the most worthwhile career. We were taught that we must all contribute to our society and destroy opposition. Most protest groups all joined up to do something big and were then arrested and had no chance to do any more damage. When I prepared to take my stand I knew what the consequences would be. I'd get my adventure and then I'd better be brave.