It’s strange how tiring travelling can be, even if it is just biking on an empty road during the night. Was it the full bags I had on my back? Or just simply the weight of the information I had received? I think it was both, or biking in itself was just exhausting. Either way, when I finally parked my bike next to the cabin and crawled into my bed, I closed my eyelids and slept came immediately.
The next day when I woke up, it was still a bit dark. I heard the voices of people. My heart stopped beating for a second. Were the soldiers here? But then, I realized that it was Toby who was talking. I got up and walked over. At that time I realized that without any air conditioning and baths, I was becoming very sticky and uncomfortable.
“Oh, hi John.” Toby greeted me. I nodded in reply. I was too sleepy to think of a better reply than that.
“We were talking about what we should do next.” Anne said, always straight to the point.
“Ah.” I nodded. “So what did you guys conclude?”
“Oh okay. Lemme think…we’re gonna become gangsters, raid towns for supplies and stay in this cabin?”
Toby chuckled. “You got the cabin part right, but we can’t become gangsters and we don’t know how to raid towns.”
“We do,” Sophie interjected, “but we’d be killed if we tried.”
“Whatever,” Toby said. “but the plan is that we’re going to stay in our cabins. We’ll need to investigate the area to find the places we can find food and such.”
“Mhm,” I said. I’d opened a packet of chips and crunching on it noisily. It was terrible. No matter what, one cannot live on chips and marshmallows. “So we stay here?”
“Yes,” Anne said, “because the alternative would be to own up and go into one of those settlements that Mr Noah talked about yesterday.”
I sighed. The world had suddenly changed. A communist revolution. “Why can’t people learn?” I asked to no one in particular, and I knew that no one would answer. “It doesn’t work. Things were good the way they were. Now, I won’t be able to go back to mom or dad, or any of my other family members.” It was the first time I’d thought of Mom and Dad back at home. Suddenly, the full implications of the revolution began to overwhelm me. Upon reflection, I realized that I hadn’t really thought of what the revolution had meant, other than the short term thing of having to return to the cabin. I guess my mind was busy. But now, I suddenly realized that my life has changed. I no longer lived in a free world where you can do what you want, live where you want and stay with who you want. No. Instead, now I was trying to survive in a country comparable to Khmer Rouge-ruled Cambodia. There was no clear path ahead. No one knows when things would return back, when someone would topple this “Great Leader” and bring back freedom. If that would ever happen.
I decided to sit down. It was an overwhelming feeling, when you realize that the world you had known all your life is no more, and you can’t do anything about it. I must have went silent and looked strange, because Toby asked how I was. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I replied. “But I just realized that the life I’d known has disappeared. Things aren’t the same anymore.”
Sophie started sobbing. I was surprised, because I’d never knew that Sophie was sensitive. “I know right,” Sophie said, between sobs. “It’s like…we’ve always known a free life that we can choose what to do with. The most we’d be forced to do is go to school and do homework. But now…they choose everything. I don’t even know what they do with the people who go into the settlements. What are the settlements like? We don’t know a thing. Life is just so uncertain now…” She didn’t say anything more. I glanced at Isaac. Face in arms, glasses off. Typical. Too typical. When one does this show of weakness too often, it becomes irritating.
“Let’s conclude what we’ve learned from Mr Noah yesterday.” Anne said. “A guy who people are calling “The Great Leader” has just finished a revolution. We’re now in a communist-style country. Correct?”
“And people are being forced into settlements. They no longer get to choose where they live.”
“Do we know much more than that?”
“Damnit.” Anne then paused for a bit. “I think that they’ll probably choose jobs for the people. Like, the majority might farm for food, the extra bright ones might get other jobs. But the rulers of course would be from the people around the Great Leader.”
“Well, we don’t know much more than that, so there’s no point in guessing.” Toby said quietly. “I just know that, this is bad. It should never have happened. No one asked to have their freedom taken away in return for that utopia which might not even be possible.”
“Guess what.” I said abruptly. “Have you read the novels? Where something bad happens and they spend chapters and chapters talking about how bad it is and how they wish it never happened? We can’t do anything about this. This revolution is ridiculous, I know that. But we can’t actually go back to change the future.”
“Isaac might be able to use his intelligent and superhuman skills to invent a time machine.” Toby muttered, only slightly loud enough for the human ear to hear. I chuckled while Isaac shot a weary look at Toby. So he wasn’t so closed from the conversation as he pretended to be.
“So we stay here. It’s concluded.” Isaac snapped. “Go talk somewhere else. I want to be left alone.”
“Why don’t you go find somewhere else? Our meeting isn’t over yet.” Toby asked.
Isaac didn’t reply. Anne ignored them both and continued the conversation.
“Well, so, back to the present. We stay here. We try to survive. This is what I suggest we do. This week, we try to explore the area and find out if we can live just from the forest alone. Next week, we make a list of what we need, we head to town and we have our pick.”
I agreed, Toby made a thumbs-up finger, Sophie nodded, and Isaac said nothing.
We agreed that we would start to have better management of our supplies. “We’re eating ourselves into having to give up” was Toby’s words. It was true. At the rate that we were going through the little food supply that we had, we wouldn’t last long, especially if we couldn’t find any more food sources other than the fish. I, for one, am not going to live on fish forever. That’d be ridiculous.
“I have an idea.” Toby said.
“Say it.” Anne replied.
“You know the bee hive? Well, I’ve always liked honey…”
“Toby…” Anne was speechless.
“Amazing idea Toby, but no thank you.” Sophie said. “The sun is up and there’s no point for us to lounge around here discussing smart plans if we’re not going to do them. Let’s start exploring the area.”
“No.” Isaac said, suddenly.
“What?” Toby turned around. “We’ve already reached a decision. Obey the orders!”
“Listen, I’m not a person under your command.” Isaac said irritably. “I feel this is a lost cause. We can’t do anything. The revolution has happened. It’s over. Let’s just give ourselves up.”
I was stunned. Was Isaac going to give up his freedom that easily? Without a fight?
“Isaac…” I started to say.
“No.” Isaac said defiantly. “I say we go back to the town, and let them take us to whatever settlement they want us in.”
“Isaac…” I said again.
“What’s the point of fighting back?” he asked. “There’s no point. We’ll be put in those settlements sooner or later. The only options are do you want to be put in a settlement with wounds or without wounds?”
“No, there is absolutely no point.” Toby said. “There’s no point. No, being free isn’t important. No, being able to do what we want instead of going with what others say is not important. No, being allowed to make our own choices isn’t important. Let’s just own ourselves up, guys.” I could feel that he was being very sarcastic.
“Isaac”, I tried again, “we’re not going to give ourselves up. What if the new government is suddenly couped?” I looked around. Toby was sitting there looking very irritated, while Anne was frowning. Sophie’s face was blank. Isaac looked like he had given up. He was a spent force.
I continued. “I’m sure the whole country isn’t a pushover. There must be towns still resisting.”
Anne brightened. “Yes! There is!” she said excitedly. “What did Mr Noah say yesterday…oh! Greyville. Greyville hasn’t fallen yet. We still have a chance.” I nodded in agreement. Anything to get Isaac into the same opinion as ours.
My hopes fell. “It’s a lost cause”, Isaac said, “no matter how many cities are still free. Oh, so Greyville is still around. Well, a single city isn’t going to resist the whole country’s soldiers for long.”
“We can go underground.” I suggested. No, I thought, just suggesting it isn’t going to be enough. “We must. There’s no other way. We’ll become gangsters and such for a while. Until all this madness ends.”
Toby whispered into my ear, “Just ignore Isaac. If we have to listen to everything that fool says I’d have grown a long white beard before we get to do anything. Just start the work and he’ll go along with us.”
I agreed. “OK, everyone, to work. Toby and Sophie, can you go gather all our supplies so that we know what we still need to get? Oh, and Anne, go get some of the maps in your room.” Everyone scattered out to complete the tasks I set them. Isaac sat still. I took a deep breath.
“Isaac.” I said. “I’m not trying to be rude, so please don’t go into your berserk rages, but you need to stop being so pessimistic. Go with the flow. We’ve decided. We’re not going to be pushovers.” Isaac groaned. I continued speaking. “We need you to help. No one has your intelligence here.” Isaac simply stared at me.
“You want me to say please? Fine. Please.” Isaac continued staring. Finally, he just closed his eyes.
“Do whatever you want.” he growled. “Be wary of the consequences.”
I thought for a moment that he sounded like a teacher, but bit my mouth before the words came streaming out. “Alright.” I said. Toby, Sophie and Anne came walking back. I grinned at them.
“To work, guys. We’re born free and we’re gonna stay like that. Mark my words.”