Part 3Chess opened his eyes to bright sunlight and movement around him. Then, disoriented, he closed his eyes again for a few moments, and the next time they fluttered open, he focused on the big man now towering over him.
“You’re awake!” the guy cried. “Great!” With a broad smile, he grasped Chess’s hand and wrenched him up to a standing position. “Steady, there. You better have something to eat now, my dissident friend.” They began to walk together, with the man’s hand heavy on Chess’s shoulder.
His thoughts still whirling, Chess allowed himself to be led into the cool, shadowy interior of a building. Flanked by several of the armed men, he walked unsteadily with his guide down a wide passageway and into a large room filled with tables and chairs. The group seated themselves noisily at tables on one side of the room, close to a long, gleaming steel countertop, which ran the length of the wall. They began to joke with each other, ignoring Chess.
Chess tried to observe the men and the surroundings, but the effort was lost when a plate of food was placed before him. Then, as Chess rapidly filled his empty stomach, the big man began to speak.
“You’re lucky my men picked you up,” he was saying. “So, how did you hear about us?”
Chess glanced up in confusion. “Hear about you?” he echoed.
“Oh.” The guy seemed disappointed. “Well, we get people coming here from all over, you know… on purpose, I mean. Not everyone’s lucky enough just to find us by accident.” At that statement, the guy threw his head back and laughed heartily. Chess took the opportunity to get in a few more bites of food. Around them, the other men were also dining and talking with each other.
“You see,” the guy continued, “our little town, here, appeals to lots of people who want to be free to live their own lives -- true lives. Not the lie that you have to live when you reside inside one of those damn walled cities.” He frowned silently, then, until Chess dropped his fork and looked up.
Once he was certain of Chess’s attention, the guy smiled again. “I’m Razor, by the way. And this is my world, here.”
“It seems… uh, really nice here,” Chess said, squinting in the sun again. They were walking through the grassy courtyard, on the way to another building. “Uh, what was this place… before?”
The big man, Razor, stopped in the middle of the walkway and frowned down at Chess. “It doesn’t matter,” he answered seriously, “what this place was, before. It matters what it is now.”
“Uh, right.” Chess nodded, hoping that it was his headache and still-low blood sugar that was making the conversation seem bizarre as he stumbled along behind Razor. It was just the two of them, now. The other men had stayed behind in the cafeteria when Razor, jumping up from the table, had insisted on taking Chess for a tour.
“We have created a parallel society here -- our own world,” Razor told him, his voice filled with intensity. “Here, we live free from repression by the police state.” He leaned over Chess, covering him in shadow. “Back in civ, people have to live as if they believed the corporate lies. They have to pretend. Meanwhile, the government pretends to pretend…” He paused, and then frowned, shaking his head. “Have to ask Ileana how the rest of that goes, again,” he muttered, looking suddenly uncomfortable.
Chess gazed at his host in sleepy alarm. The good meal he had eaten, and now the warm sun heating his tired muscles, was making him feel too relaxed and unable to judge exactly what was going on. From the stories he had heard -- and his one brief encounter with dissidents -- he had not pictured them living in quite this fashion. But maybe that was just his own ignorance, he thought vaguely.
And details hardly mattered, anyway, he mused -- anxiety beginning to wake him up -- because the cries of the villagers still echoed in his ears, and every time he closed his eyes he saw that fire…
“Look,” Chess said quietly, “I don’t really understand what you do here, but I know one thing: I am now a deserter from the military… and I have lost the ability to support my family.” He took a deep breath. “So, I’ll help you if I can. I have no place else to go.”
Continued next page...
Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything… It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.
Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave as though they did… they must live within a lie.
The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel
Yes, I even have my characters quoting people (or attempting to, anyway)! I decided not to do much of this, though, because it can get really tiresome. To be honest, in my original version of the story, my characters were forever quoting the poetry that I was reading in college.
But I do use a lot of quotes here in this blog. Too often, it seems, quotes are used like internet memes. They are usually cut completely out of their surrounding context and brandished as if to say, “There! Argue with that if you think you can.” However, I consider most of the quotes that I use as more akin to song lyrics: either someone seems to have been thinking of something in the same way that I do (which is always startling) or someone caused me to view something in a different way (also surprising). Collecting and posting the actual verbatim quote just allows me to remember and share it in a more genuine way. I try not to take the quote out of context, although it’s always possible that I might interpret it differently from others or from the way that it was meant. (I also hope that someone might read it and be intrigued enough to read the text from which it originates.)
I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.
-Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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