The Truth Behind the Flames. - *Movella of the Year 2016*

Before you judge me and tell me that it was all worth it in the end, ask yourself one question, one question only before you read on: what was it all for?

They say that we are judged by the choices we make. They are what define us and on June the 25th, 2414, I chose wrong.

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18. Humanity.

As burnt orange tendrils breached the darkness of the night, I prepared myself for the chaos that the morning light would bring. It was a new dawn and a new day in more than one sense. The darkness began to fade as colour seeped across the domain of the sky – chasing away the remnants of the night. The steel shutters seemed to catch the light, casting shards of colour across the edges of the forest. It was moments like this that made living seem worth it. All of the struggles and all of the pain was nothing compared to the beauty of the earth that we lived on. So many others weren’t alive to see the sun rise each day but I was and that had to mean something.

 

My job was not yet done. My task was not yet over.

 

As I pulled my diary out my rucksack, a breath slipped from my lips as the gravity of my situation began to set in. My diary was everything. It was my final confession and my acceptance of the past but also my story. The book was filled with my truth, my story and would soon become my legacy. Maybe after this, people would see the light and would understand the reality that they lived in, but it would all fall apart in an instant if I failed. Destroying the Council’s weapons was my top priority, but explaining why was close second.

 

Why? That was the question that defined my life. And still, I had no answers.

 

 If the message wasn’t received there would be panic and maybe even another war. Whatever happened, I’d try my best because that was all that I had to offer.

 

For the first time since I had run away, I finally knew what had to be done in order to complete my mission. Although I remained beneath the blanket of the forest, I could see the broadcast tower, cutting through the fading black of the skyline. I had no backup and no plan B in case everything went wrong. Thousands of lives hung in the balance, resting on my shoulders – pushing me down as i fought against the darkness that threatened to spill over.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

If the footage of the Council was gone, I was as good as dead. If the broadcasting equipment had been taken away or failed, then I was as good as dead. If I was seen, I was as good as dead.

 

If, if, if.

 

There were too many variables and factors that were bound to go wrong. I had to rely on my skills and the techniques that the True Military had taught me before everything went to hell. The irony of that didn't escape me but I couldn't afford to feel bad about it; I had to stay strong and rely on myself to succeed.

 

Because now, at the end of it all, I had no-one left.

 

I had to get in, find the footage and broadcast it across the country. I had to show the survivors what depths their leaders had fallen to in order to win the war. I had to clear my name from the tainted words of the Council. It wasn’t too late; I wouldn’t let it be too late.

 

 After the footage was sent, I had to act quickly with the next stage: infiltration and extermination. The weapons vault was my target. I was the one who had sown the seeds of destruction and now my plants were growing and polluting the planet. It was my responsibility to deal with them. I had done this and each day that I woke up was a reminder. Each breath was tinged with regret as the truth refused to let me go.

 

I had to do this.

 

Bathed in the warm glow of sunlight, I took a final look at the notebook in my grasp.  I only hoped that it would be found and understood. If I didn't make it out alive, I wanted the world to know the truth: my truth and why I had to bring down the facade. More than anything, I wanted to be forgiven and to clear my name of the lies that dragged me down. My diary was my everything and now it was time to let go.

                                                                                                                   

Slowing my breath, I slowly closed my diary for what I knew would be the last time and placed it in a cove inside of the tree. Our tree. It was carved with mine and Evan’s initials and stood to represent the life that I had left behind all of those broken months ago. This was where we had sat on the night when my parents died. I knew that it wasn’t the most obvious place to hide my words but something about it just felt right. It was as if I was taking it back to where it had all begun. I was a new person now, a war-tired broken person completing a mission that would change the world. Leaving my final words behind me, I clung to my kitchen knife and began the descent towards the glinting gates of the complex.

 

‘Unbreakable’, we used to call it. ‘Impossible to enter’, we used to insist. ‘We’re safe in here’ we used to tell ourselves but now I was putting that theory to the test. I no longer believed the lies that we were told; I was now my own person with my own mind. They tried to control me, fix me and change me but even after everything, they had failed. I had to shatter the illusion before anyone else got hurt.

 

I had spent so many months restricted in these walls and restricted by the lies. I had snuck out more times than I dared to count.

 

And back in too.

 

I knew the complex and that gave me the advantage over the Military’s toy soldiers. The base was all but empty. Who else did the True Military have to fight against? Everyone else was gone. No one else had to get hurt – I wouldn’t let them win. I was going to do this my way and without killing innocent people.

 

Gripping knife and expecting the unseen to strike, I finally reached one of the many side doors which led into the building and towards the broadcast tower. A single strike pried the cover off, exposing the electronics that lay beneath.  As the electrics hissed and died, I gently pushed the door open, weapon raised and ready to strike out at whoever lay on the other side.

 

Focus.

 

 I stepped through to see no-one there. Almost sighing in relief, I closed the door behind me and clung to the shadows as my legs carried me towards the tower. This was everything that I had worked for and I refused to let my fear seep through the cage that locked it away.

In the darkness, I heard a sound. Footsteps echoes through the hollow silence as I felt my heartbeat quicken - my senses sharpening as the adrenaline began to kick in. I pushed myself against the wall and counted as the moments raced by in a flurry of panic and hope.  Maybe, the soldier wouldn’t see me. Maybe, the soldier would let me go. Maybe, I could make it out of this unscathed.

 

But when had luck ever been on my side?

 

The moment that our eyes met, I knew that this wasn’t going to end well. Orbs of molten brown stared at me in delayed shock as the soldier fumbled to retrieve his weapon. Taking the only chance that I knew I’d get, I let the blade slip from my grasp as I shot forwards – lashing out with all of my strength. One strike to the side of the guards head sent him crashing to the ground – unmoving and still. Kneeling down, I checked the soldier’s pulse before snatching up his weapon. The metal was cool as I wrapped my hand around the base of the gun.

 

For now, I had to continue before my time ran out.

 

As I finally reached the door separating me from where I wanted to be, I knew that something was wrong: It shouldn’t have been that easy. It had been six months but yet their security was weaker than it should have been. One guard was merely a distraction, nothing more. The Council were many things but not stupid. Something was very wrong.

 

Armed and ready to fire, I walked in.

A single word escaped from my lips as the sight before me forced me to pause and reconsider everything that I was about to do.

“Evan...” I whispered, voice wavering as I spoke.

No. No. No.

 He couldn’t be here, not now and not ever. Ringing filled my ears as for a moment, I seemed to forget how to breathe. I had planned for every eventuality but not my true weakness: him.

“Helena. Welcome back.” He said, voice filled with steel and ice. “Make a single move and I will shoot you.” He warned, showing me the gun in his hand. Concealing my weapon behind my back, no amount of willpower could allow me to open fire on Evan. The memory of our kiss and our tireless days of joy still haunted me. I wanted to hate him for what he had done but still, the memories would not fade.

“How did you know that I was coming?” I asked, no sense of emotion creeping into my tone.

“The surveillance net. We knew that you would run. It was just a matter of time before you took the bait.”

Stealing a breath, I looked at him and saw through him. I could see the pain in his eyes but also the rage – the undying and unrelenting rage in his eyes. He had seen death and destruction and had felt heartbreak but now he was hollow and was merely the shell of the man he used to be.

“Evan please,” I said quietly, “I don’t want to fight you, I just want to put things right.”

 “You claim to want to give the world peace but yet you create weapons of war. You’re just one woman against thousands. What could you possibly do to make a difference? The war is over and people died. All that matters is that we are left to live on. This is your legacy, Helena. This is your doing and this is your fault.” he sneered, replying within a heartbeat. Pressing a button on the keyboard next to him, screens filled with images of fire and blood. It took me a few moments to realise that my weapons had done that. Bodies sprawled across the red ground with eyes hollow and cheeks wet filled my vision.

“You’re an adult now so stop acting like a child. Join us in the new age and put your talents to use. Say yes or I will shoot you down where you stand.” Outstretching his hand as if expecting me to take it, I looked into his eyes and saw nothing.

No love. No sadness. No regret. No pain.

“Never.”

For a moment we just stood, staring at each other as he raised his gun, level with my head. Staring down the barrel of his gun, the memory of everything that we had done together raced through my mind. My shoulders sagged as the truth began to set in.

“I loved you; I really did.” A sigh escaped from my lips as I shook my head. All of my anger seemed to fizzle away as reality came rushing in. “Why? Why can’t you see what’s going on here? Why can’t you see what you’ve done? All of those people – all of those innocent people – what were they to you?”

“Collateral damage.” His voice was hollow – void of the emotion that I knew was bubbling beneath the surface. Even after all of the lies and the betrayal, I still knew Evan. I knew how his forehead creased when he was lost in thought. I knew how he was desperate to prove himself to his father and I knew the frown on his lips when he thought that no one was looking. This was still Evan no matter how much I tried to deny it.

He was determined; he was angry but above all else, he was a soldier.

I had no doubt that he would shoot – without hesitation or regret - and so I mirrored his actions.

That wasn’t my Evan. My Evan was dead. He was another casualty of the war, just like me. He didn’t care anymore, he never did. He had hurt me and had lied to me for as long as I could remember.

Nothing was real, we weren’t real and now I had to fix it for good.

“Could you do it? Could you really shoot me, Helena? Could you shoot before I do?” he taunted, voicing the doubt that swam through my mind. His words were cold and filled with pain as we stood, staring down the barrel of the others gun, waiting for the chance to shoot.

“Just tell me. Tell me why.”

He paused for a moment before staring back at me with flames dancing in his eyes.

“I was just following orders.”

Holding my breath and listening to the racing beat of my heart, I watched as his finger tightened on the trigger. He was close, he was so close, but I got there first.

Pulling the trigger, a single shot was fired.

Ending my weakness, a single bullet met its target.

And then it was all over, Evan and I were over and my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. As his limp body fell to the ground, the gun slipped from my grip and tumbled to the floor. For a long moment, the echo of the gunshot sang through the room as I stared in horror at the monster I had become.

Evan. My Evan was dead. I was the gun to end his life and I had pulled the trigger. I had turned my back on the one person who had saved my life. I tried to tell myself that I had no choice but I knew that I was lying; there were always alternatives but yet I had killed him without a second thought. I had picked my life over his and my future over that of the man that I once loved. It felt like my world had ended.

Pull yourself together.

And I did. Because I had to and because I had no other choice.

Stepping over his still form, I began to scan through the databases whilst convincing myself to not look back at what I had done.

I could never look back because the pain would always be there.

Wiping away a stray tear, I took a deep breath before continuing my task. Everything else was irrelevant now, only my mission mattered.

Fighting the agony that tore through my stomach, I typed in the time and date before scrolling through the footage and finding what I needed. The Council confessing was all that I needed to spark my people back to life.

Using my anger, I selected the frequency and aligned the dish before finally, I was ready to send my message out into the world. When the survivors saw the truth, the regime would come crumbling down and the people would rise. My name would be cleared as the truth broke out. The people would see and that was all that mattered.

My hand hovered over the button. I was so close to letting the footage go, to be seen by whoever had survived. I was so close to success – I could almost taste it in the air.

Taking one last look at Evan’s still body, I froze, reconsidering everything that I was about to do before speaking out, both to Evan and to myself.

“This.” I whispered through my tears, “This is what I’m doing to make a difference.” I was doing this for him, I was doing this for the people but most of all, I was doing this for myself and to justify what I was about to do.

Taking a final breath, I pressed the button. As the screen lit up, I knew that I had done my duty.

But at what cost?

My humanity, that was what.

My humanity.

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