The national park was almost a relief for me. The peace and calm of the national park was a good change away from the chaos and noise of Greyville. Only home would have rated higher for me.
Escaping Greyville had been much less a problem than I had expected. The enemy had indeed been careless, and by walking out through the riverside and then from the bushes we had emerged back to the highway, the one we’d used to come to Greyville. We didn’t dare to go through the highway like we did last time, because it would probably be crawling with enemy trucks getting supplies through to the besiegers, but in any case sticking near to it had allowed us to go back to the national park. We had slept on the bare ground with little cover for three days now while we gathered the supplies we needed. Isaac had laid out the plans for our little version of Greyville’s walls. I gave silent thanks to Mayor Philip for having unknowingly provided us with inspiration, if he still lived.
The walls had to be made out of solid wood, there was no other way. Toby was already digging into the ground, and although I helped him sometimes I was more involved with gathering the supplies. I was helping with cutting wood down, however. It was very hard work and I wished Toby would take some time out of digging to help. Isaac’s plans had been grand indeed. The walls were to be made from heavy wood; the lesson we had learned from the encounter with the gang before fleeing to Greyville had been learned well. We would not make the same mistakes again. The tents had been easy to run down. This new fortress would be indestructible.
At least that’s what I hope it would be.
For the first week every day was filled with work and arguments. It seemed like hard work was a match that lit off the flame of argument every time. Everyone seemed to be hot tempered. We had numerous arguments and debates, sometimes for stupid reasons, sometimes for serious reasons; for example, Anne seemed to be totally against the idea of such an immobile camp, although she participated in the work. She said that there was nowhere to run, that the walls gave us a false sense of security. Isaac had been her belligerent, giving up support for the idea, saying that if a tent like last time would be worse and we’d all be run over easily if anything happened. Despite the fact that I had come up with the idea, I melted away with Toby and Sophie when this argument came up.
We also slept uncomfortably. We no longer had sleeping bags of any kind, only blankets. It was only a minor inconvenience, however, especially for Toby; he still snored as loudly as he had always done, inviting eye-rolling from Isaac and even myself sometimes.
But to hell with that sort of stuff. Today the work was done. All the wood needed had been cut down. Toby had finished digging. The construction work may proceed.
Everyone of us helped to pick up the pretty massive wood (they were all a bit taller than we were) and haul it to the area where we intended our camp to be. It was then put into the ground upright, and the dirt was put back into the ground, engulfing the ends of the wood and providing it base. We repeated this until the wood surrounded the area. A bit of a hole was left for an entrance. The whole area was a bit small, but enough space. Anything larger would be hard to defend, anyway. We sat inside the enclosure, gazing at the walls in pride.
“They look solid enough.” Isaac said. Toby nodded in response. Isaac continued. “Now, let’s make the bathroom.”
Toby spun a look at him. “The bathroom? Didn’t we already discuss that we will go bath in that nearby river and do everything there instead of releasing all our bodily substances in here? We’d argued the whole day yesterday, Isaac. I win. No more please.” Indeed they had. Isaac had eloquently argued for the need of a bathroom inside the enclosure, and Toby had declared that he could not stand the smell. Isaac, who knew little about building things and could only make plans, depended on Toby for the choice. Today Toby shook his head firmly.
“River.” Toby said defiantly.
Isaac sat down, defeated. “Fine. Don’t come running to me when you find a tiger sniffing at your buttocks in the night the next time you go out.” Toby had glared at Isaac after that. This was another invitation for eye-rolling. No matter what, the two could not put their differences aside.
I sighed. “So Isaac, how did you plan to make the steps? We know we’re going to have a floor just a bit below the walls so that we can stand and peer over easily if needed.”
“We’re not going to make steps.” Isaac said. “We’ll make the floor by digging up earth and putting them as small-sized walls up to about halfway the height of the wooden wall. To add weight we’ll put in planks of wood. Put ladders over them. We’re finished, after that.”
As a group we all sighed. More hard work, it seemed.
* * * * *
It took about three more days for every aspect of the walls to be finished. After that, we had plucked bamboo spears in three circles enclosing the walls, and we made a supply of at least thirty for emergency use. We then pitched up the tents (we’d taken down the tent we used at Greyville and taken it, seeing that everyone was doing the same thing). I looked at the walls with pride and relief that it was finished. It would not be easy to break such a wall. It would also be a more comfortable home than the last one, with more peace of mind due to the higher security, despite the fact that there was still no bathroom. Toby had not allowed the luxury.
In the mornings we sat in a circle, discussing plans for that day. I found that starting the morning with a sense of mission was good, so the meetings became daily. Big stones had been found near the river (not the same one as the one we used last time) and we had decided to drag them over for use as chairs. We all had our favorite stones to sit on, and we would often sit there and talk. In the middle there was a place for a fire, although Anne had made it clear that the fire must not be allowed to reach the wooden wall, at all costs.
“Alright, who’s going to open today’s meeting?” Isaac asked in pompous tone. “What do we have to discuss?
“I will.” Anne said. “We need to discuss our emergency plans. We still haven’t decided anything about that yet. Say, if soldiers are sighted from our walls, what will we do?”
“Great topic, Anne.” Isaac said. I rolled my eyes. Somehow I felt like I was sitting in a classroom discussion with a teacher. Hey, let’s start talking about the literary techniques employed by Oscar Wilde!
“What much do we have that we can do?” I asked, brushing away my thought about literature. “Say, if the soldiers are sighted and they attack, we have to respond. We take up arms and start shooting. If they don’t attack, we don’t do anything.”
“And do you think the soldiers will run away when they see teenagers like us shooting at them?” Anne demanded. “And we can’t run away, not from these walls. We’re trapped in our own defenses. There must be a better way than this.”
“I don’t know.” I said irritably. Anne always came up with discussions that showed why the walls were a bad idea in the first place.
“Anne’s got a point.” Sophie said. “We have to come up with a good plan.”
“Not something we can do. Even if we didn’t have these walls, all we can do is run away. It’s hard stopping soldiers and the stakes will always be life or death, no matter what. Nearly everything we do has stakes as high as that.” Toby pointed out. I quickly nodded.
“The best we can do is to find the way we can most efficiently deal with the soldiers. We need to work as a team.” I suggested. “There are five of us, but since this area is made in a shape of a square, we can have one person facing out to each direction, and one person as a backup for anyone who is wounded or anything of that sort.” I didn’t want to say the word ‘die’, and Anne, realizing what I was thinking about, groaned, but I continued anyway. “When shooting, we don’t want to kill, obviously. The legs are the best place to aim, so we’ll always aim there. Once the soldier can no longer walk, he’s no longer a threat.
“If the people threatening us do not have guns, however, we can stay right where we are. If they choose to do something that threatens or annoy us, we gather as a line of five and stand at the entrance. We have enough bamboo spears and guns to be threatening to anyone who stands against us. If anyone without bullet comes we will gut him where he stands.”
Everyone was silent for a moment before Anne stood up and applauded at my detailed strategy. The rest followed. I said thank you many times, and in my mind I was amazed at my own flash of brilliance.
“John, you know what?” Toby said. “I’ve been noticing that you’re becoming more and more of a military strategist. Perhaps this revolution is making you see your unknown side.”
“I guess that too.” I mumbled, uncomfortable at praise.
“Okay, so what else do we have to discuss?” asked Isaac, still insisting on himself being star of the show.
“Before I move on, I want to show you guy something.” Toby said. He walked over to where his bag laid, and opened it. He then took out something that nearly made my eyeballs pop out of the sockets: it was a grenade.
“Toby!” Sophie shrieked. “You carried this all along? What if it exploded?”
“I was confident it wouldn’t,” Toby said, smirking, “and so I brought it with me. I’d asked it from the councillors before we left. You know, they said if anyone wished to continue guerrilla activities. If I’d told you before none of you would have allowed me to take it out. But here it is. We can use this if we like.” Yet another eye rolling invitation. Seems like the reckless daredevil had still not been burned out of Toby. In fact, his eyes gleamed. He seemed to be on the verge of suggesting us to go do some terrorist stuff like bombing buildings. He’d have found that suited for his appetites; after all, he was the reckless daredevil, no matter what we’ve been through. He wouldn’t be willing to do anything too dangerous but he wouldn’t mind much either. Just then I noticed how Toby barely ever complained when in a dangerous situation. I also remembered the swarm of bees Toby had enraged. I was starting to guess that he loved every minute of danger.
“I’m not conducting guerrilla activities, no thank you.” Anne said. “But that grenade can be kept for self defense.” Everyone nodded together, but inside I just desperately hoped that we had seen off the worst in Greyville and never would the need for a grenade come.
I was to prove totally, totally wrong.