Rainy Day - Was It Worth It? part I.

16. května 2009 v 19:58 | Cirrat |  Skřeky cizojazyčné
První část povídky podle toho jednoho únorovýho snu. Je v angličtině, předem varuju :-)


It was a rainy day when the message arrived…as usual. There is just nothing more malevolent than the weather when your day has already gone to hell. It was just a few simple sentences, but I really hated them. How foolish, to react so strongly to a few ink markings on a piece of paper. Just the sight of it made me want to scream, protest, and scratch the table until my nails broke. Of course, my face did not show any of that.

I thanked the messenger and made some tea for her. She nuzzled the mug of hot liquid, sighing contentedly; probably just glad she did not have to go out to the rain immediately. She was a nice girl, easy on the eyes; small, dark-haired and slender, with big communicative eyes and ruby lips shining from her pale face. We went out from time to time, so that nobody would ask questions when she came to visit me at home, but there were just no feelings -no spark- between us; maybe some kind of friendship, but nothing worth talking about.

I lit another cigarette and held the small piece of paper above the lighter. It disappeared in flames and I wished I could ignore it as easily as I destroyed it...but I could not. I was too responsible. Damn it all… Sometimes, I wish I were seven again and could hide under my blankets, stay there in the slightly stinky warmth, and pretend the world did not exist. I felt my heartbeat speed up and suddenly I wished I were done with it all. I noticed that Thalia finished her tea. "Come on, I will walk you home." My own voice sounded strange to me.

I put on my long coat and fedora hat, grabbing a big umbrella from the stand in my corridor. I watched the woman to put on her small red cap and noticed that her hands shook slightly when she put on her red gloves.

"Are you still cold?"

She shook her head silently.

I already knew that when she did not volunteer the information herself, there was no way of getting it from her, so I just shrugged, opened the door and stepped outside. After she followed me out of the apartment, I locked the door, lit yet another cigarette and offered her my arm, a gentleman as always. "Shall we?"

***

After walking Thalia home, chitchatting with her about the latest movies, and stopping when she pretended to window-shop, I went to headquarters. Such a fancy word for a shabby-looking apartment in one of the poorer areas of town; the wallpaper was peeling and the whole flat stank of old, sour cigarette smoke laced with the bitter stench of mildew coming from the kitchen area.

Patrick was already there, his hair dishevelled, his shirt crumpled, sleeves rolled above his elbows. The ashtray showed he was chain-smoking the whole night again. That means it is going to be bad…even worse than I thought.

"So what do you need me to do?" I lit my own cigarette and dropped the match on the floor. There was rubbish on it anyhow.

"Alpha was caught. We need to get him out." Patrick's voice was hoarse; he had probably gone through two or three packs already.

That was bad. Alpha was our most priced agent. He was in the army since before the beginning and supplied us with very useful information. We were able to save hundreds of lives thanks to him.

I looked on the maps Patrick was working on and noticed that his hands were shaking. "What's my part?"

"We have another sleeping agent in their headquarters. I need you to get there and cooperate with him. Find out where Alpha is and get him out if possible." He coughed a little bit. "If we fail, we can start with the evacuation and destruction scenario. He knows all the contacts and passwords. If he's compromised, you had better kill him. We can just hope they didn't break him already."

I nodded silently. We all knew what they were capable of; since the Revolution, as they called it, there were too many people missing, too many injuries, too many arrests, too many scattered demonstrations and too many graves without a tombstone. Somehow, they had not noticed us yet, but should they break Alpha, we would have no choice but to start acting like common terrorists and try to destroy them at all cost. Even at the cost of civilian lives. This was the only way to ensure that future generations would grow up without injudicious rules about race and nation, without the nonsense of superiority and inferiority.

***

When all this happened, I was not touched by these changes personally. Yet, I could not bear the shame of what became of my country without trying to do something about it…anything. I actually thought about taking a gun and storming their base myself, about making a bomb and planting it somewhere so that the leader would be blown up with all his crippled ideas of how humankind should look.

I spoke with my friends and family about this and I always received the same reactions. "Are you crazy? This is none of your business. You should leave the matter alone and just try to survive as we all do. Do you want to kill us all? Do you realize that if you do something, they will kill us too…because of you?"

One fine evening, I was so despised with myself and my environment that I took my gun, hid it in my pocket, and went to a bar down in the city. It was reckless and stupid, no civilians were allowed to wear a weapon; wearing a firearm was a reason to be executed on the spot, but I did not care. I thought about starting my own guerrilla war -to try to eliminate their soldiers one by one, as long as I could. It was foolish, ineffective, and it would probably cause a mass persecution amongst civilians, but I did not care.

I drank three shots of whiskey, paid, and left the bar. I was a bit light-headed and I knew that soon I would feel the alcohol more solidly. I always was a lightweight when it came to drinking, or to any poison actually. Even the cigarettes were eating at my lungs slowly, leaving me out of breath after simply climbing up the stairs.

I saw a patrol of soldiers and decided to follow them. After the pair of uniformed men turned around the corner, I took out my gun, switched off the safety and took a deep breath. I could feel my heart beating fast and shallow with fear and my throat parched. I had to resist the urge to clear my throat; that would give me away. My legs felt like cooked pasta and my hands were shaking so much I thought I would never be able to aim. I repeated to myself that there was no reason why I should continue to live if my country was in shame, if all I believed about humanity was twisted and perverted. Releasing my breath slowly I started to walk around the corner, when I heard a noise behind me. I jumped, turned around abruptly and all I felt was a sharp blow that landed on my head. Everything went black.

I woke up on a couch in a strange apartment, lights dim and clouds of cigarette smoke obscuring everything. I blinked few times, raising my hand to touch my head gingerly. There was a big tender lump at the back of my head and I had one hell of a headache. Everything was somewhat blurry, not only because of the smoke, and the whole room seemed to be spinning slowly. I felt my stomach complaining, whether because of the alcohol or the concussion, I could not say.

A young man, about my age, sat on a chair with an unlit nicotine treat hanging from his mouth. He turned his sharp brown eyes on me and asked, "Just what the hell did you think you were doing?"

That is how I met Patrick -an unofficial leader of this small opposition group- after my headache subsided and I stopped apologising, grumbling, whining, and complaining. I have learned to appreciate his quick wit, dry humour and brilliant tactics. His brown hair was already thinning despite him only being in his thirties, his eyes squinted often and the lines around his mouth spoke of too many worries to solve.

It turned out they just planted one of their men into the army and I nearly tried to kill him. That would be most unfortunate, and actually, I should be glad I was still alive. I decided to join the cell and pretended to carry on with my respectable life of a bookseller. I listened to the rumours in my shop and carried them back to Patrick, who sorts them out and plans our actions accordingly…, or, more precise, the actions of the group.

I knew only Patrick and Thalia, his cousin. The rest of the cell was unknown to me. They did not know about me either and that was for the best. Patrick introduced me to Thalia, who worked with him, saying that if we were courting it would not be suspicious if we were seen together. I had no girlfriend anyhow and her fiancée was killed during the Revolution. She worked with Patrick only because she wanted revenge, and as he explained to me once, she could not be trusted with the work on the front line. She could lose her nerve and blow their cover, so he kept her in the background, where she collected rumours as I did. She was a hairdresser, no wonder she came often with juicy pieces. People always have the tendency to blab around those who tend to them.
***

Now, Patrick wanted me to go and get a job in the military headquarters. Me, the most inexperienced person in the group; I just could not believe it. I was no secret agent, I did not think I could go and steal the Alpha from under their noses. I started to laugh.

He patiently waited until I could not laugh anymore and put out his cigarette. "You know, I cannot put anyone on this. We are preparing something and I need all the more experienced people just where they are now."

I shook my head, still thinking that this was a crazy idea. I did not even have to voice it; I knew he could guess what was going on in my head.

"Look, you are already a member of the party..."

I interrupted him, pointing a finger at him, "Yes, and I'm still upset with you about that one! When this is all done I'm so gonna break your face for it. Do you know how much it takes not to vomit during the meetings? Or that I've lost all my friends, because they think I betrayed them?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I know. However, Thalia could never do it and we needed the info. In addition, now we at least know who is in, thanks to the list you brought the other day. Again, you are in the party, you also speak multiple languages and you are used to paperwork. I know from Thalia that they are in need of some paper-pushers, so you can get inside pretty fast."

I averted my eyes, staying silent. I understood why he asked this of me, but understanding something does not mean you have to like it. No, I did not like the idea at all. Still... "Yeah, like they're gonna believe me, while I have my own shop, needs the job that desperately. Hell, those office rats don't earn half of my income!"

Patrick seemed completely unfazed. He lit yet another cigarette. "Do you remember that insurance I made you sign those few months ago?"

I felt the blood draining from my face and the familiar spinning feeling begin to take place at the implications. I snatched his pack of cigarettes and lit my second. "No, Patrick. You are not gonna do that! No, just…no! You can't!" I had to sit down on a nearby chair.

He frowned a little bit when I took his cigarettes, but his face remained carefully emotionless. He sighed, "I can and I will, Theo. You know that."

I took a drag from my cigarette; my hands were shaking so badly I dropped ash all over the floor. "I'm gonna hate you forever for that."

He winced at that and ran a hand through his hair. "I'd rather you didn't, but I'll understand if you do. I just need you to do this and that will give you a reason and backup your story should they check."

I dropped my head into my hands, careful not to burn myself with the cigarette. "Tell me again, why the hell did I ever get involved with you…?"

***

He never told me when he would do it or what he would arrange. I thought he would wait until I was out somewhere in public with Thalia, such as a restaurant or the like, and I would come back and discover I had no home and no shop anymore. He did allow me to smuggle some small items and leave them with Thalia though -like the jewellery that belonged to my mother, some of the family photos, my small reserve of gold pieces I had accumulated before the Revolution, and a few favourite things.

I was more morose than usual, jumping at shadows and eyeing every customer suspiciously for several days, before I got used to the idea. I was still grumpy and growled more than answered when asked a question. When people started to ask, I came up with a toothache as an excuse. I considered whether I should re-supply, but then I decided that any change from the routine might be suspicious, so I ground my teeth and bought new books for the shop.

The books changed as well. A few weeks after that incident with the gun, an official looking man came into the shop with two police officers dragging behind him. He gave me an order, that I had to get rid of any "perverted or dangerous" literature, and handed me a list of which such authors were counted as writing thus. Most of them were my favourites, but I knew better than to protest. I already knew I was supposed to go with the flow and actually acting as a coward was easy for me...Too easy. I wanted to do something but not at the cost of my life anymore. I handed over the forbidden books I had on display and promised to behave, to sell only allowed authors and to keep myself updated on the list. I thanked the official for not closing the shop when he had the opportunity -I did have those forbidden authors on the shelf after all. They did not check the store for more afterwards, and I thought briefly about making a stash of these somewhere back in a corner to give away for free, just to spite the government, but again, the risk of being discovered was too great. Finally, I decided to give them to Thalia and ask her to distribute them to anyone who might be interested.

Several weeks after the last meeting, when I learned that my shop was doomed, passed and nothing happened. I started to settle even more and even thought about going back to Patrick to ask him if there was a change of plan. It was at the end of the workday; Thalia came for a "visit" and sat with me at the counter. She would help me in the shop occasionally, smiling at the customers or gift-wrapping their purchases, because that is what girls do for their boyfriends, right? We decided to go for a walk in the park by the river and to eat in the new restaurant at the square.

I was just locking the bars that protected the front window of my shop, when I heard her scream. I looked around and saw two men pressing her into a wall. One tried to cover her mouth with his hand, the other was currently ripping off her blouse. She struggled to get free, but each of them caught one of her hands and she just was not strong enough. I ran to them without even thinking about what I was doing and hammered one of them down. Thalia stomped her heel on the instep of her second attacker, which made him cringe in pain and let her free. She ran away without looking back and I felt relieved. I had no feelings for her but I really did not want her to come to any harm, especially something like that.

A fist in my face roughly interrupted my musings. The man I had taken down came to his senses and let me know he was quite uncomfortable on the sidewalk under my body. Not that I weighed much -I was always more of a bookworm and any muscles I had tended to be on the lean side. He threw me off and stood up. His companion, a burly man with bad teeth, limped closer and kicked me in the ribs.

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" This was a new voice. On the other side of the street stood several men, each of them looking like a true street fighter. Their leader was a small man with reddish hair and freckles.

The man that kicked me looked up, "Sorry, boss. We wanted to have some fun, but then this knight in fucking shining armour arrived and the bitch ran away. We were just about to explain to him that one shouldn't interrupt a polite conversation."

The leader came closer and frisked me. He did not have to be afraid -I could not do much damage to him and, with six fighters behind his back, he could have me beaten to a pulp with a single command. His eyes widened suddenly, "Hey guys! Look at this! He's with them!" He waved my party membership card for them to see.

One of them picked up a stone and hurled it through the window I had been about to secure before the interruption. The glass cracked and rained to the ground with a tinkling sound. Another one of them kicked in the door and jumped inside. Two more went after him, and soon after, I could hear the sound of books being ripped apart and shelves being upturned roughly. The leader and the other two concentrated on turning me into the first human steak tartar. Suddenly, I heard the men run out of the shop and few moments later orange flames started to show. The last thing I could think as the fists and feet connected with my body was 'Patrick, you are so dead!'
 

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1 CASTANEDANina18 CASTANEDANina18 | E-mail | Web | 4. dubna 2012 v 17:12 | Reagovat

It's known that cash makes us disembarrass. But what to do when someone doesn't have money? The only one way is to receive the loan and financial loan.

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