Chess started back toward his room and then halted. The walls of the tiny apartment seemed too close, and inside seemed too dark. He changed direction and headed for the front door. He suddenly needed to get out, needed some fresh air in his lungs, a cool breeze to blow away the hovering shadow. He grabbed his backpack and walked outside into the bright daytime city of blinding light and deep geometric areas of blackness.
Continuously, he asked himself what was going to happen to them? He could see no way out of this situation. His heart began to pound. Being outside the apartment was not helping at all. He stopped and leaned back against the nearby wall, not bothering to drop his backpack. Would they all end up in Shelter? Couldn’t anyone help them? A vision of the indigo priestess flashed into his mind just then, and he began to mutter a prayer, under his breath, asking the goddess for help.
He straightened suddenly, realizing what he was doing. Was he going crazy, too? He adjusted his backpack and plodded on, but he felt so heavy now, as if the pull of gravity had increased.
His thoughts turned to his sister. Maybe he was hopeless, okay, but she had the potential to do great things, he just knew it. She would even survive in the army if she had to. And she would be great -- but with her brains and drive she was meant to control armies, not join one...
If only he was not such a screw-up. He tried to calm his breathing. Was he completely useless? Wasn’t there something he could do, besides Information Systems? Maybe he could get a job doing something else, something more manual. He considered that for a moment: what else was he good at? Then he sighed heavily: running and hiding. And that would qualify him for… well, being a thief.
Even so, he decided to check the job listings board for his area of the city. However, when he attempted to connect, he saw nothing. He sighed again. So now his link-phone had stopped working. That was not unexpected: anything that was cheap enough for him to afford could not possibly be reliable, he grouched to himself. And yet, it seemed like the whole world was against him suddenly. Still walking, he slid the backpack off his shoulder and pulled out his old back-up laptop, but it did not connect, either. Perhaps the goddess was trying to tell him something, he thought.
A few yards down the street, Chess walked past a military recruiting station. He stopped abruptly. The darkened windows and heavy steel door seemed ominous to him. But, then again, he realized, it did not seem any more threatening than the entrance to that interview the other day. Yeah, everything seemed scary these days, he reasoned… with one thing not much worse than another. He glanced around quickly, as if afraid of being spotted, and, taking a deep breath, he entered the building.
The recruiter really seemed glad that he was there. It was such an abrupt change from what Chess was used to experiencing that, for a few minutes, he actually felt hopeful.
“This is a good decision, Charles,” the recruiter, a tall slim man with tired-looking eyes, assured him. Then he smiled broadly and shook Chess’s hand. “Yes, a good decision, for you and for your country. Welcome to the army.”
Chess swallowed hard, handed over his I.D. card, and tried to look confident. He had been working on that expression for a few minutes now and it was getting easier. It had been hardest to maintain that appearance of self-confidence when the recruiter had asked him specifically why he wanted to join. Not that it mattered, of course, Chess mused. He could have given any reason – any reason except: so that his family would receive a stipend they could live on when he got killed. Yeah, that was probably the one answer, of all possible answers, that would not have gotten him a warm welcome.
Chess watched the uniformed man place his I.D. card into a machine and quickly pull it out again. Then, flipping the card over, he handed it to Chess. “There you go,” the guy said, pointing to a small metal piece that had been integrated into the card. “You’re one of us now. No turning back.”
Continued next page...
(Jan) Patocka used to say that the most interesting thing about responsibility is that we carry it with us everywhere.
The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel
In the former communist states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, when freedom of speech was suppressed and creative works were censored, people like Havel turned to samizdat as a way of sharing ideas. The standard definition for samizdat is handwritten copies of writings that have been censored by the government being passed secretly from person to person.
The many people who utilized samizdat probably cannot be fit into one category: they were activists, dissidents, avid readers, and artists. They included creative people like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn who was terrified of being arrested yet again, but was apparently driven by his own inner muse to get his work out into the public sphere.
I find it hard to imagine: believing in something so fervently that you not only take the time to write out copies of it, but you also hand it out to your acquaintances, knowing that the possession of this material could get you arrested. The idea intrigued me so much that I wanted to come up with a modern-day equivalent of avoiding punishment by passing information secretly from person to person: samiz.
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