Copyright Cameron Gallant, 2016
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people and events is strictly coincidental.
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To everyone but me, the world is a broken and lonely place. To me in my solitude, it sometimes feels even more so. To everyone but me—to the soldiers, to the persecutors and the persecuted, to the children and the elders—the world is a haunted and evil place. Nobody is trustworthy in the dark masses of people that crowd the cities, forlorn and homeless. To me, honest, good people are out there, they’re simply hiding their lights so the harsh wind doesn’t find them and blow them out—seek them and stamp the embers trying to relight the fire of freedom.
This is the United States, all united under one single entity. If you’re new here, welcome, they’ll only ask for your rights, freedom, and money, and in exchange you’ll get high quality services such as terror, unrest, and a compensatory guide on how to live your life. If you don’t want that package deal, you’d better think twice before visiting because once you come, you’ll never leave. You’ll leave the Earth before you’ll ever be able to go back to where you came from.
My name is Saul. I have another name, one I was given when I was very young by my very own mother, but she’s gone now and so is my name. They’re both buried deep in my heart, protected from the evils that hate them both. I could tell you my real name, but I don’t think you’ll ever read this anyway. I don’t even know who I’m writing to. If someone does happen to read this, that’ll mean I’ll have been killed and I dearly hope that you, whoever you are, are smart enough to realize our government isn’t working for us. They’re only working for themselves.
So why am I writing this if no one will ever see the words I write? You could say it’s because I have nothing but a half-burned candle and some dusty cans of food for company. All technology is traceable, so I’m here without a phone, a tablet, or even an electric light. There’s no electricity down here. I see nothing but a dull, orange flickering on the chalky concrete walls, and hear only the hum of the ventilation fan from far above. There is electricity up there, but I prefer to keep my life than to go up there and be executed by the administration. I’m twenty feet underground in a bunker and, according to the United States, I’m a terrorist.
Am I? Only if getting the establishment to bite their nails counts.
Saul’s pen stopped trailing across the old and wrinkled paper. He had been writing in the margins of an old newspaper clip he had kept to remind him of the evil he was fighting. The paper had been printed directly after Amendment 65, which illegalized the free press, was passed. Now, Saul studied the headline as the candle flame beside him, the only thing in the room that felt as if it could be alive, danced feebly up and down. The mass of candle wax beside him slowly burned and melted, reminding Saul of the limited time he could have left, the loss he had experienced, and his limited blessings that still remained. The newspaper headline read, “Woman Killed in Tragic Accident”. The woman had been Saul’s mom and she had not been killed by accident.
Anger boiled over Saul. He knew the paper was a lie, just as the government was a lie. He crumpled the paper in his fists like he had many times before, and stuffed the paper back into his pocket. It was unfair. For what felt like the thousandth time, he chastised himself. Why on earth had he agreed to stay hidden below ground while his followers remained outside, bravely expanding the resistance moment despite the danger? His mother had never stayed hidden for the sake of her safety. She had stayed out in the open giving people hope and attempting in every way she could to prevent the Love and Equality party from seizing control of a desperate nation.
Quietly cursing his idleness, Saul got up in the dark bunker and began to pace in the confined area. He had been waiting for his partner Jacob to visit and inform him of the newest changes in government policy, and the latest progress on the creation of the ‘underground network’ of freedom advocates they were creating together, but, according to Saul’s mechanical watch, Jacob was already much too late. Something felt wrong and Saul, with passion and new urgency burning inside of him, was not simply going to continue hiding quietly in a bunker if his colleague or their underground freedom network could be in jeopardy. He was going to stand up like his mother had.
Cautiously, Saul got up and walked across the room to the rough medal ladder that had been shot into the bare concrete wall so many years before. Saul hesitated for a moment, and then made his decision.
Jacob was intelligent, observant, and exceptionally skilled at self-defense if anything should come to that. Something was probably just temporarily holding him up—maybe the place was being watched. But deeper than Saul’s concern that Jacob may not come, was Saul’s concern for his position as a leader of the freedom advocates and for the status of the underground freedom network. During his days in the bunker, he felt as if his leadership position among the freedom advocates may have been lost in his absence. Even though he had been assured that he was indispensable—that the movement couldn’t go on without his leadership—Saul was not entirely convinced.
He began ascending from his underground prison to the world of oppression above. He crawled into the long cabinet where the entrance to the bunker was concealed, and then, keeping his ears alert for any sound of trouble, pushed open the cabinet door and found himself in the familiar area behind the counter of a deserted bar.
The brightness of the room stunned him, even though the daylight had to fight its way through the smudged, dirty windows of the old, foreclosed building. Pieces of splintered furniture and broken glass lay familiarly splayed across the floor. There had been a riot in the building a year ago, and it had not been open or repaired since. Saul waited, crouched behind the scratched, dusty bar until his eyes had fully adjusted; then, slowly, he got up and began to move toward the exit. Where to go… Saul was not entirely sure. He was surprised by how little he knew about the current whereabouts and workings of the underground freedom network. Jacob was supposed to tell him once he arrived.
The sight of the outside world through the building windows acted like a string pulling Saul toward the door. He would breathe in the fresh air, and feel the soft breeze blowing through the city, but, he concluded, he would still wait for Jacob a little while longer before traveling to a safe contact location to contact his fellow advocates.
About halfway to the exit, Saul thought he heard a gentle rustling in the far corner of the room. As he turned his head, however, he concurrently caught a glimpse of movement outside the grime specked door; there was a squeaking noise and the gentle sound of a change in pressure as the door swung open. Confused and panicked, Saul swiftly dove behind one of the overturned tables in the pub.
“…no, not at all.” The sound of a man’s voice rang through the room. It sounded like Jacob’s, however, he was certainly talking to someone else. Who? wondered Saul. I thought he was coming alone… Two pairs of boots entered.
“Saul will be the first casualty of the revolution. Like practice for the real fight.” Saul’s heart jumped into his chest. So who knew of his hideout and was planning on killing him? Saul’s eyes darted frantically about his hiding pace looking for any objects he might be able to use to fight his assailants. He preached for peaceful resistance, not open rebellion, and had never carried a gun despite his colleagues’ past recommendations. “Empowerment first, not violence, is the solution. Government can fight violence with violence and point the blame at their adversaries, but they have no weapon strong enough to conquer hope and a universal non-compliant public.”
Heart pounding in his chest, Saul peered his head around the side of the table, catching a glimpse of the taller of the two men’s faces. It was his trusted colleague, Jacob.
“Remember, we cannot give him even the option of helping us in the revolution. Saul was against the revolution idea since the beginning. He may turn against us if we tell him he can either join or die. He’s the lemon and damper in our group,” Jacob explained in a low voice to the other man, who Saul recognized as another one of his colleagues. Saul realized with horror and numbing betrayal that Jacob had persuaded him into hiding so he could explicitly take control of the resistance movement. “Saul wanted us to continue advocating for peace without ever doing anything. He said that if we stood directly up against the government, we’d die, but he was wrong.”
The dawning realization of his colleague’s words slowly sunk into Saul as he continued to watch, his eyes just barely peeking out from behind the table—like a child playing hide and seek. His past partners meant to dispose of him to ensure entirely that they met no internal resistance. Then they could worry about external resistance.
It made sense. Saul himself had preached vigilance and caution to ensure the freedom movement had met no internal resistance. But he had miscalculated and had put his trust in the wrong people.
The two men walked to the cabinet in which the secret entrance to the bunker was concealed. Saul heard the door of the cabinet creak and then dead silence.
Jacob spoke softly, now with an air of nervousness and worry. “The door to the bunker…” He whispered. “It looks disturbed. D’you think he was caught or tipped off? Or, we’re late, could he have been waiting for us up here?”
The man beside Jacob, Mark, bent down behind the bar. There was a soft jangle of keys as he opened the bunker. “Saul?” He asked down into the empty underground bunker.
“He could have been tipped off and left. Saul is not a man to be underestimated.”
“Then he could have been caught by Love and Equality, which would mean…” Both men realized what it would mean at the same time. If Saul had been caught, they were next. The two men drew their guns and glanced around, nervously.
“Let’s get out of here,” remarked Jacob. Both men turned and edged carefully toward the door.
A sudden creak of a floorboard sounded from somewhere behind where Saul hid. Jacob turned his gun, and as he did so, caught a glimpse of Saul’s hair behind the overturned table. Jacob’s finger tightened around the trigger of his gun.
“Saul? Is that you?” Jacob seemed wary of shooting, as if he thought by doing so, he would be playing into a trap.
Saul rose from behind the table with his hands raised. “It’s me Jacob. Listen, we need to work together, not cause division amongst the freedom group. I have those who firmly believe my way is right and you have those believing your way is right. A civil war amongst advocates won’t help anyone but the government.” Saul knew he was taking a risk, but what other choice did he have? Saul would be brave and take a chance like his mother had.
Jacob hesitated on his trigger.
“You say we need revolution,” continued Saul. “But we don’t need every man for himself. People still believe in me and are loyal to me. You’ll only cause discourse if you kill me. Let me work for you and follow your command. Together, we can fight. Even I can see that fighting the enemy is better than fighting each other… that is, if it must come to fighting.”
“It must,” sneered Mark. “You’ve just never been able to see that on your own, Saul. You know we can’t let you live. Now that you know we planned to kill you, you’ll never forgive us and will mark us as an enemy as well.”
Saul was stunned. “You are unfaithful. Perhaps you are my enemy, but you’re not an enemy of the people of the United States. You seek to give them back their freedom and so do I. Men, there is strength in numbers and understanding. The problem is, we don’t have the numbers to fight our overreaching government, so we must use understanding. We aren’t all perfect, and we may disagree with each other, but we are all after the same goal. Lead us Jacob, and let us trust and understand each other so we may take down the largest beast in the forest.”
The three men stood, facing one another. Jacob held his weapon steady, his finger still on the trigger. He sighed “Saul, I’ve known you for a long time and I know you have spirit. But you also have the qualities of a leader that can pose a great threat to our attempt to overthrow oppression. Don’t you understand? I know we won’t survive if we begin to fight each other, which is why we can’t keep you. You’ll cause too much disruption.” A soft padding sound suddenly began at one side of the room. Moments later, it stopped just as abruptly.
“I’ll be a martyr if you kill me. I may be your enemy, but we both have a common enemy that we should be fighting together.”
“Let’s get this over with,” said Mark, raising his own weapon. “We’ll just tell the others the government killed you. That’ll only invigorate them.” A quick shadow passed along the wall in the pub, but none of the men noticed. Jacob and Mark were both staring intently at Saul, who was looking unbelievingly back.
“Of all people…” Saul started before a loud sound reverberated through the air.
It must have been the sound Saul’s mom had heard too, as she stood on that bridge with a simple sign made of cardboard. The breeze ruffled her hair and the sun reflected brightly off of the Brookline harbor. The sign read twelve simple words, ‘I Believe in the Statue of Liberty, NOT the Statutes of Oppression’.
Saul’s mom had stood there on the bridge, waving her sign at the oncoming cars. She stood there a month after the amendment illegalizing the free press was ratified, showing every one of the hundred-thousand cars that passed her each day, there was still hope that things could change. The day it happened, she had told Saul she would be on the bridge again and had asked if he had wanted to accompany her, but the slow traffic in the city had prevented him. And then it came, a car which took away the hope. A government car or else a supremacist caught in the pull of the new single entity. The car rode through the rail that separated the walking lane from the road and hit Saul’s mother. And that was it. Saul’s mother had crumpled and fallen over the shining waters. And then she was gone.
And Saul was gone too. He and his two colleagues fell like marionettes whose strings were cut, his colleagues’ guns still loaded with bullets they never used. The men’s sudden skirmish and waver in loyalty had cost them their lives and they lay on the dusty floor of the pub, their eyes suddenly empty and unknowing. The hope again had been taken away. From the corner of the room, three young uniformed men stepped out, their guns still trained of the freedom advocates. Cautiously, the men approached. The two larger troops, their faces hard and stern, bent down and carefully picked the two loaded guns off of the floor. The third, a smaller round-faced man, meanwhile, nervously approached Saul.
“Well,” said one of the older two. “Does he have a gun?”
The young man padded Saul’s still body down. He came to Saul’s pocket and felt something soft. “No sir.”
“Good.” As the two hard-faced men turned away, the younger troop reached his hand gingerly into Saul’s pocket and grasped the soft object. As he pulled it out, he realized it was a note.
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Saul is the leader of a peaceful organization fighting for freedom in a uni-partisan United States, where freedoms have been phased out and exchanged for 'love and equality'. Unfortunately, freedom is not always fighting for him. Time: Future Word Count: 2772 SAMPLE: (432 words out of 2772 words) To everyone but me, the world is a broken and lonely place. To me in my solitude, it sometimes feels even more so. To everyone but meâ€”to the soldiers, to the persecutors and the persecuted, to the children and the eldersâ€”the world is a haunted and evil place. Nobody is trustworthy in the dark masses of people that crowd the cities, forlorn and homeless. To me, honest, good people are out there, theyâ€™re simply hiding their lights so the harsh wind doesnâ€™t find them and blow them outâ€”seek them and stamp the embers trying to relight the fire of freedom. This is the United States, all united under one single entity. If youâ€™re new here, welcome, theyâ€™ll only ask for your rights, freedom, and money, and in exchange youâ€™ll get high quality services such as terror, unrest, and a compensatory guide on how to live your life. If you donâ€™t want that package deal, youâ€™d better think twice before visiting because once you come, youâ€™ll never leave. Youâ€™ll leave the Earth before youâ€™ll ever be able to go back to where you came from. My name is Saul. I have another name, one I was given when I was very young by my very own mother, but sheâ€™s gone now and so is my name. Theyâ€™re both buried deep in my heart, protected from the evils that hate them both. I could tell you my real name, but I donâ€™t think youâ€™ll ever read this anyway. I donâ€™t even know who Iâ€™m writing to. If someone does happen to read this, thatâ€™ll mean Iâ€™ll have been killed and I dearly hope that you, whoever you are, are smart enough to realize our government isnâ€™t working for us. Theyâ€™re only working for themselves. So why am I writing this if no one will ever see the words I write? You could say itâ€™s because I have nothing but a half-burned candle and some dusty cans of food for company. All technology is traceable, so Iâ€™m here without a phone, a tablet, or even an electric light. Thereâ€™s no electricity down here. I see nothing but a dull, orange flickering on the chalky concrete walls, and hear only the hum of the ventilation fan from far above. There is electricity up there, but I prefer to keep my life than to go up there and be executed by the administration. Iâ€™m twenty feet underground in a bunker and, according to the United States, Iâ€™m a terrorist. Am I? Only if getting the establishment to bite their nails counts. Signing off, Saul