Panicked brown eyes widened as she spoke. The light of madness shone from them, making them appear bright and glazed.
“No!” her mother cried. “Don’t leave me… Don’t leave me…” Leah’s mum was clearly not in her right mind, and she found herself second-guessing her trip. Should she – could she – leave her mum?
Hadn’t she wished her mum to say this only an hour before? Yeah, she had.
Now, however, a fire burned within her. She wanted to find Joey. The full implications of what he was doing had set in. She didn’t want him to die!
He was her little brother and perhaps, perhaps, she could save him. Before, she would have longed for a way out. Now, however, she couldn’t accept one.
Leah felt sick when she imagined leaving her brother. Had she never understood? Joey was going to die. She had to stop him.
“I need to go, mum. I’m going to bring Joey back! He’ll be fine… safe…”
“Please! Don’t go, Leah! Don’t leave me! Not like they did… Not like… Jae.” Shaking her head slightly but determinedly, Leah said,
“I can’t do that, mum. I have to go. He’ll die if I don’t! I need to help him!”
Then, without waiting for a response, Leah turned and left the room, going down the hall to the front doors. It was time, and she was ready.
Looking at the map, Leah saw the route from the city that Joey had highlighted. Why had he left this? He should have been more careful! This was, literally, a map to the rebel camp. In the wrong hands, it would have gotten them all killed.
However, now she had it, and she would use it.
It started with a map of the city. Dovesdale loomed, looking dark even on paper. Joey had mapped out their route on it, going so far as to circle their complex and highlight where to go from there. Notes were strewn on the page.
‘Do not follow main rode.’
‘Avoid passing The Hall.’
‘Use back door.’
He had also marked it from the school. Apparently, when he had got this, he had not made a plan of where and when to leave before.
She’d need to head east, away from the walls, away from them. From there, she had to enter the forest. Joey had only highlighted a small route through it; he did not note landforms, nor where to stop. It seemed at even Joey and Ellentr had not known where exactly they were going. Instead, it only noted,
‘Meet runner.’ So, someone was going to meet them there. This had obviously been well planned.
What would she do, though? How could she get there without someone to meet her? Unwisely, Leah pushed the questions to the back of her mind.
Leah, putting the forgotten map into her pocket, moved down the hall, into the tiny kitchen. There, she grabbed enough food for a few meals, all the while making sure not to empty the closets out for her mum.
It was not much and probably not enough, but it was all she had. Leah packed it in her backpack carefully. She’d need it.
Leah’s mum suddenly entered the kitchen behind her. The anger, which Leah had believed was gone, came flying back in full, choking her rational thought. Upon seeing her packing, Leah’s mother cried out
“What are you doing!” Leah replied coldly, harshly,
“I’m doing what you asked, mum.”
It looked as if no one lived there. The bed was made, perfectly as always. The drawers were closed, only a few bits of clothing inside each. Nothing dotted the floors, other than what she had just dropped.
No, there was nothing else she longed to take.
Walking back, she closed the door behind her, not looking back once.
Then, crossing into the room next to her, she entered a room that was the complete opposite from her own. She hadn’t been in this room for years.
Drawings cluttered the walls, some crude while others were beautifully done, each part shaded so skillfully… The walls were painted a dark blue and small paper stars hung from the ceiling. There were clothes strewn across the room, drawers open, the bed unmade.
It was Joey’s room.
Gazing at the fake stars, Leah realized how trapped Joey must have felt. He must have longed to really see the stars, something that was impossible from the city. Looking closer, Leah could see that the drawings were of plants and trees, things she had rarely seen in books and never seen in real life. Finally, Leah could imagine just how much Joey pined for it all.
There were books strewn on his bed, some lying open. Picking one up with gently shaking hands, Leah looked at the page it was on. It was a drawing. A drawing of a forest. Ostatini Las.
Where had he gotten these? They had to be illegal, for they would only allure more in to join the rebels.
Leah walked over to the door, noticing a small paper on the floor in front of it. Picking it up, she unfolded it carefully. It was a map.
A map of Ostatini Las. Suddenly, the implications of what she had been planning assaulted her. Gazing at the map but not seeing it, Leah realized she had no idea how to get there and no idea how to get out of Dovesdale.
Now, she looked upon the map, seeing how lost she really would have been. How had she forgotten that?
Still, though, it reminded her, even the most selfless plots fall to ashes without reason.
How, though, could she deny her mother the comfort of at least trying to protect her son? Even if it was doomed to failure – her own failure – could she condemn her mum for loving?
Leah found she couldn’t, and that scared her.
Always, for as long as she could remember, she and Joey had disagreed. He was always looking for a new adventure or even to help someone. Leah had always been looking to stay within the rules and to mind her own business.
Joey had grown to hate her for that. He had always been cruel to her, labeling her as a supporter. Did he never realize that she didn’t support either side?
Leah would have liked to say that the rebels were in the right, for America certainly wasn’t. Either way, though, would cost lives.
And in the end, is it worth it? That was the question; that was always the question for Leah. Do the benefits – independence, rights, freedoms – outweigh the costs –death, punishment, and a harsher rule. To Joey they did, to Leah they never had.
Leah pulled her backpack off of her. She hadn’t even taken it off when she walked in the door. Then, despising what she was doing but unable to tell her mum that it was pointless to go after him, Leah began talking her school binders and textbooks out. Dropping them in an unruly pile in her neat bedroom, Leah looked around the room. What did she need to take?
She looked down, and seeing that she was still in her grey uniform, she changed quickly into a pair of light pants and a shirt. Also, she put some into her bag; it was always good to have a few extras. She’d have to take a jacket, too, for even though it was summer, the nights were still cool.
Her eyes scanned the small space, almost as if she were evaluating her room for error. The white walls she had never bothered to paint. The brown bed that sat in one corner, small, alone in the wide, empty expanse of wood flooring.
“No! Jae! Jae! Save him!” Suddenly, Leah wondered if her mum was speaking to her any longer. Now, her cries came across as wild pleas to the dead. To her father… Yet, he could do nothing. Neither could she.
“Leah!” my mum addressed me through my thoughts, startling me, scaring me. “You must find him!” Suddenly, unable to take it any longer, Leah cried out,
“If I go after him, then I will die, too! Even if I found him, we would not return in time!”
“You can, Leah! Please save him… Please, Jae…” Her mum’s voice had dropped to a whimper, pitiful, pathetic. Leah could no longer deny her mother this…
“Fine!” Leah snapped angrily but accepting, “It’s on your head when neither of us return!” Leah winced even as the last jibe echoed around the room. That had been cruel. However, before her mother could respond, Leah had spun around and left the room.
Fighting for freedom
Fighting for life
Why do we wander, alone and at night?
For shadow has fallen
And hearts’ despair
Has swallowed the light
Of the new day that’s there
Leah, clenching her fists, stalked up to her room. There, she tried to get her breathing under control, for it still came in furious huffs. Chest heaving, she looked around her room. It was small, as was any complex. Still, though, it was all she ever had, all she ever needed. Now she was leaving.
It was not a comforting thought to remember how her mum had lost her husband – Leah’s father – because of the rebels. Now, Joey, the exact image of her late father, had joined them. Leah wished she could blame her mother for ordering her to go on this suicide trip, but she found, deep inside, that she couldn’t.
Still, though, Joey had made his own choice, and it was pointless to try and take it back for him. Joey was a rebel now. They would know the moment he and all the others didn’t come to the school tomorrow. Leah knew that, in her heart, once she left, she would be labeled as one, too.
“They – they killed him… don’t you remember… Joey looks just like him… He – he has his eyes…” Leah bit her lip as her mum stared at her with mad eyes. They were gleaming and glowing as a fire burned within… So dark and mysterious… So broken… So dead…
Leah knew what her mother was talking about…
When she was only five, her father was killed. By them. Leah could remember him leaving for long periods but always returning with a smile. When she was little, he had told her it was for his work. She didn’t question it.
Now, however, she knew it was work for the rebels that had torn him away. He died for it.
It was a pointless death. He was one of the hundred caught fighting that day. Only one of the many.
Did the killer realize that he had a family to go to at the end of the day? Did the killer realize that the one he was to kill had a son that was almost a mirror image of what he looked like before? No. He saw only a faceless rebel. The killer couldn’t have seen a doting father.
It was meaningless to linger upon these questions. Dad was dead; there was no denying it. Now, Joey, sooner rather than later, would face the same threat, the same ending.
“You must bring him home, Leah, “her mum whispered. “Don’t let him – oh, Jae…” Awkwardly holding her mum’s hand, Leah guided her to a chair. There, her mum sat down, tears still streaming down her face, eyes still unfocused.
“I can’t, mum,” Leah said.
“You have to! Bring him back – Jae! – He can’t die!” Her mum raised her eyes to the sky, or at least, to their ceiling. Leah knew, in her heart, that her mum was past the point of lucid. Still, though, she tried.
“Mum… Joey will be fine… He’s picked where he wants to go…” It was a lie. Joey would never be fine. After tonight, he’d spend his entire life in hiding. There would be no tomorrow for him.
She was greeted with an embrace.
“Leah!” her mum sobbed, “I – I’m so glad you’re here!” Leah stiffened with shock, flinching back slightly.
“What do you mean?” she asked quietly. She already knew.
“Joey’s gone!” her mum wailed. “I thought you went with him!” Really? Did her mum not know her at all? Had she actually thought that Leah would run away on a suicide mission?
A voice in her head, or maybe her heart, said that her mum had just been irrational with worry. Leah silenced it.
“No, mum. I’m here,” Leah muttered, uncomfortable to have her mother crying on her shoulder. Her face was stiff, as was her shoulders. As always, her eyes showed no emotion.
“Thank god! Thank god!” her mother sobbed, brown eyes clenched tightly shut and her face pressed up against Leah, muffling the words.
“Mum… did Joey tell you where he was going?” Leah questioned, still staying calm. Joey wouldn’t – couldn’t – have been so cruel as to not tell mum.
“When – when I woke up, there – there was a note! It – it said he was leaving but not where he was going!” Joey was cruel enough to do it. Leah realized that she couldn’t brush her mother’s misery off and ignore it. Instead, she had to say,
“He’s joined the rebels, mum. He wants to make a difference.” Leah couldn’t help but sneer the word difference. Her mum gasped, fresh tears sparkling in her eyes. Face blotchy, eyes red, she let out a howl. Leah winced at the sound. She hadn’t been expecting that reaction. When it stopped, her mum whispered, hoarsely, brokenly,
“You must bring him back.” Leah swallowed hard. She didn’t just say that. No. It was… irrational.
“Mum…” Leah began.
“No!” her mum snapped, “He can’t be there yet! You have to find him! You have to bring him back here!”
“Mum –“ Leah tried again, desperation growing.
“No! They’ll kill him, Leah!” her mum yelled hysterically. “Just like – just like… Jae.” the last word was a whisper, and Leah stiffened at the sound. Jae. Her father. Her dead father.
“Done what?” Leah questioned. Had she seen Joey, Ava, and the other kids sneak away for a purpose greater than she had thought at the time?
“They’ve joined the rebels!” Ellentr’s sister breathed. “They’re going to the camp. Now!” Leah froze, biting her lip with a sudden anxiety. Joey had… run away. She hadn’t been expecting that. Not at all. He’d abandoned them. A small voice in the back of her head sneered at her, asking if she had expected him to say goodbye. No, she hadn’t, but still, she wished he had. She wished that, out of all the students, he of all people, her own brother, would have realized she wasn’t a supporter. Now, she had no chance. Joey, Ava, and all the others were gone. They wouldn’t be coming back. As soon as they didn’t show up tomorrow, then it would be final.
Realizing she hadn’t answered Ellentr’s sister, she said,
“Do you think you’ll miss Ava?” The girl answered seriously, but a light shone in her eyes that still spoke of her obvious youth.
“Of course! But she promised she’d come back and bring me soon.” Leah nodded. So Ellentr had promised to bring her sister to the rebel camp. She was bringing her whole family into the rebel movement. Leah had to wonder if her parents knew. Leah’s mother didn’t.
She was sure of it. Her mother would have begged him not to go.
“Will you miss Joey?” the girl asked. Leah bit her lip. Would she? She had been complaining about him forever, trashing him silently. Even today, she had had a few snide comments that she had thought. Hadn’t she compared him to America?
She had thought of him as cruel and spineless. Would she miss him?
“Yeah,” she breathed, “I think I will miss him.”
The Pingui turned into their complex, and Leah grabbed her stuff and got off of it. Why had she told that girl so much? It wasn’t even just any girl. It was Ellentr’s sister. Ellentr’s sister! Not only that, but the girl also wanted to join the rebels! Climbing up the stairs to her mum’s apartment, she opened the door quietly, still lost in thought.
The Pinguis have windows so the students have to feel as if anyone they pass while riding to their complexes was watching them. It felt humiliating, but after fourteen years, it also felt normal. To Leah, it would feel stranger if she didn’t ride it.
Besides, Leah was always one of the first on. That way, she could pick one of the three seats invisible from the windows. Today, however, when she went on the bus, the three seats were taken. So, Leah was forced to sit in front of a large window. Suppressing a groan, she thought of the ride ahead. She could ignore the stares, the whispers; she did that at school, too. However, riding next to something so clear that it barely seemed real was… disconcerting. She always felt as if she would fall off the bus. Yes, she knew it was stupid, but it was one of those things that she couldn’t change.
As the Pingui filled with people, Leah knew that one would sit with her. Even though there weren’t many kids in the school, there weren’t enough Pingui’s for her to get her own seat. As she knew, a girl had to sit with her. Leah sighed when she saw who it was. A girl in her first year. Leah did not know her name. However, the pale skin and red hair was telltale enough. The girl was an image of Ava Ellentr. It had to be her sister.
Surprisingly, the girl turned to Leah and said, in a truly innocent voice,
“Oh! I know you! You’re Joey’s sister!” Leah couldn’t help but be shocked. Ellentr’s sister? Talking to her? Ava would probably disown her for it.
“Y – Yeah,” she stuttered, her eyes widening slightly. The girl looked excited. Ignoring the glares from the other students, the girl had made quite a few enemies just by talking to Leah, she said, lowering her voice,
“Ava’s my sister! I can’t believe they’ve finally done it!”
Leah was always the same. There was no reason for her to respond to them and their cruelties. They believed themselves better than what America was now! That was what they never realized.
They weren’t. America wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t cruel until the rules were broken. Leah was no supporter, but they were still malicious, still spiteful. The whole rebel movement must be like that, all talk, no action, all anger, and no compassion. Why must they make this worse?
Walking out towards the Pingui, Leah glanced back towards Joey. He, Ellentr, and several others in their twelfth year of school or above were in the process of sneaking away from the Pingui and walking down the streets. None of them saw her watching, and she wouldn’t have betrayed them anyway. There was no point. It wasn’t her business, nor did she care what they planned to accomplish. It would fail, in the end.
Instead, Leah turned and was directed onto a Pingui.
It was her and every other student’s, ride home. For many students, it was a nightmare to ride on it. The windows stretched from ceiling to floor, clear, obvious. They say that it’s cruel and unnecessary. Even Leah had to agree with that. For, the reason behind it was not true, nor was it essential. They said that the Pingui’s windows are made that way so ‘the students can be exposed to their city and home without danger’. Leah had to say that that was just pointless. Every student in the school knew how to defend themselves. In a world that was trying to revolt, that was necessary. America knew. Everything.
They would have to be stupid not to. After all, Joey was hardly the first, nor will he be the last, to mention the rebel movement when traitorous ears are listening.
Topic: Comments on Ostatini Las
No comments found.