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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16. The Will to Continue.

Running. I was running so far away from the path behind me.

Falling. I was falling into the darkness and into the flames which danced around me. My mother and my father were stood before me, fading like ghosts into the darkness of the night. Freya stood beside them, shaking her head with darkness haunting her expression. I tried to lift my arm in an attempt to pull them back into the land of the living.

But I couldn’t reach them, no matter how far I stretched; they were just too far away.

Lying in a heap on the floor, I could feel the flames heat increasing around me. Licking the darkness as the smoke began to thicken, I could feel the sweat dripping down my forehead and trailing down my cheeks. Gazing hopelessly into the never ending inferno, my limbs refused to obey my will as I froze, in fear of the inevitable.

I knew what happened next, what always happened next. I was trapped inside the torture chamber of my own twisted mind with no means of escape. I tried to calm myself, I tried to tell myself that it was just a memory, just a dream but it was too vivid and too real.

I knew what had to happen next.

I had lost myself to this nightmare too many times before and now, before my eyes, the world was crumbling around me. Feeling the tears trace down my cheeks, I lay helplessly as the flames formed a barrier between my loved ones and myself. Screaming out in distress, I watched as the flames solidified and took them from me once again.

“Please, no. Not again.” I cried out to no-one but myself as I banged against the cage of my mind. Flames dancing in my vision, I could see nothing but the embodiment of chaos itself.

 “Stop this. Please, just stop this.” I whispered through my tears. Dipping my head, I looked away as the flames rose higher around me. I had been doing so well; I was recovering and improving but my nightmares were still controlling me.

“Not  again. I can’t do this again...”

Would it ever end? Would my torture ever end? No, because I was too strong to forget and too weak to move on.

Blazing amber entwined with blood enshrouded me as only red filled my vision. I didn’t want to fight it and so I didn’t. I let it climb up until it was looming above me, bathing me in its burning glow as the end drew ever closer. I welcomed it with open arms but the pain drew a scream from my lips as it burnt my skin and forced me to squeeze my eyes closed. It was too much, it hurt too much and so I gave up, I let it win and I let the fire take me.

***

Bolting upright, I could feel blood tearing its way through my veins. Breaths rapid and shallow, I placed my hand on my chest in a feeble attempt to block out the horrors and the images which were racing through my mind.

"It wasn’t real," I whispered to myself, "You’re safe, you’re not in the flames, you’re safe."

Clutching onto the sheets around me, my heart was pounding rapidly as only the echoes of my cries filled the air around me. The world was quiet and still. I was alone and I was safe. A shuddering breath escaped from my lips as I stared up into the darkness and into the void of nothing like I had done so many times before, after so many sleepless nights.

Letting myself fall back beneath the blankets, I let the tears freely fall; I had nothing left, nothing worth fighting for and nothing worth losing. I had failed and now had nothing but the nightmares to take along with me. My name was hated across the nation as the Council placed the blame on me, claiming that it was my fault the virus had mutated. I was betrayed and yet in their fantasy, I was the aggressor.

Turning on my side, I gazed out of the window and watched the sun rise across the expanse of the horizon. The dawn came with silence. A new day had come, new possibilities, a fresh page yet to be written. Each day brought new beginning and a new chance to make things right. Only an hour ago the blackness was absolute, but now the light was visible. Against the backdrop, the trees were nothing more than silhouettes, as still as an oil painting. The image was almost frozen in time as I drew in a deep breath and prepared myself for the struggles of a new day.

Forcing myself to sit upright, I shrugged off the blankets and made my way over to the fire place. Taking a box of matches off the mantelpiece, I placed the kindling into the metal tray. Running the match along the side of the box, a spark burst to life, igniting the tip of the piece of wood. As I dropped the lit match into the wood, the fire began it take its hold.

Armed with nothing more than a few broken bits of metal and a sketch, I began to build. Because at the end of the day, the war was over but the truth was lost. The people of the True Military lived in ignorance. Would they really be so complacent if they knew the truth? They were soldiers and fighters, simply waiting for the next fight.

The radio was almost complete. It had taken weeks of scavenging and adapting in order to finish my project. The work was just another distraction from the reality that I was living in. It gave me a way to escape from the darkness and it gave me a purpose. I just wanted to know what was going on in the outside world. I was disconnected from reality as the moments of solitary confinement drove me to the depths of madness. At night, the fire was my only ally – chasing away the dark and slicing through the silence. It was a comfort – even after what it had taken from me.

It seemed that I wasn’t very good at distinguishing friend from foe.

But I already knew that.

As I dropped myself back on the chair, I attached the last few wires before sitting back – basking in the orange light. I was almost done. In a few days, I would be able to reconnect with society and catch up with the news that I had missed. Although I was hesitant to shatter my glass bubble, I knew that it had to be done at some point, it had to be done.

At the end of the day, what else could they do to hurt me?

Breathing in the scent of burning wood, I let my fingers trace the cover of my leather-bound diary. It felt like years ago when I’d first found it, hidden in the depths of Freya’s shelves. The cover was a deep shade of red and was etched with vaguely Celtic symbols. Its pages were old and discoloured but that only made it more mysterious.

Turning to the next blank page, I drew out a black fountain pen and began to write. Forcing the words onto the page helped to keep them off my mind. Reliving the moments of my past was hard but was necessary and cathartic in the healing process. It was an outlet and one that I needed. Letting the words spill from my fingertips helped in giving me perspective as well as clarifying how much I had missed. Looking back, all the signs were there but I had missed them.

Almost a month ago, I had decided to write up the story of my life. It gave me something to do and gave me a way to let the moments slip by. It connected me to the past and helped me to remind myself that the battle was not over. As long as I had breath in my lungs and blood running through my veins, I would not give in and I would not let them win.

The Council had gone too far and if no one else was willing to challenge them then I would. Looking around, I found myself questioning what I had to lose. This life, this reality was nothing more than a fantasy and I was lying to myself if I admitted anything else.

This wasn’t living – this was existing until I had the chance to break free.  I had no plan, no back up and no weapons worth a damn. But much more importantly, I didn’t have anything to lose. All I had was a list of mistakes that had lead me to this moment and an even bigger list of sorrows.

Losing my parents – like the world had ended.

I didn’t think that anything could have been worse until suddenly, it was. I’d lost Evan and Becca – my world and my anchor. I still didn’t know if Becca was under the Councils control or if she was really my friend.  At this point, it didn’t matter; I was never going to see her again and if I did, I didn’t think I could cope with the hate that would fill her eyes. In the words of the Council, I’d done this and the blame was on my shoulders and my shoulders alone.

Finishing my paragraph with a flick of my wrist, I capped the pen before sitting back in my chair. My eyes trailed over to the window as the last tendrils of orange faded from the early morning sky. Maybe today, I could make a difference.

 

I was alone, bitter and broken but not defeated.

Because at the end of it all, all that I had left was hope.

Feeble, broken hope.

 

And I would cling onto it until the fire went out.

 

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