The earth wall next to my head squirms with life, and I turn away, the springs of my rusty cot squeaking and sending echoes bounding around the tiny dorm. If it’s worms, then it doesn’t matter. If it’s something else, then I don’t want to know. I can still hear the churning and it keeps my eyes from being able to close. With a sigh I sit up, tossing the wool blanket to the side, and letting my feet rest on the floor.
The room is quiet, aside from the churning behind me and the snores and murmurs of sleep from the men and women around me. I shift my weight onto my knees and roll forward off the bed to avoid hitting my head on the upper bunk. We fought hard yesterday and I don’t want to disrupt any of their hard earned rest if at all possible.
I step quickly across the cold concrete floor and make my way into the hall beyond. It wasn’t just yesterday we fought hard, we’ve been fighting and dying for nearly a year. If only we had seen it coming. If only we had …
I shake my head clear of the past and pull a cup of water out of the spring that pools at the back of the cave, our safe house below ground. The warm water tastes metallic and does little to quench the ache in my heart but it does sustain our life. As long as we are alive we can continue fighting to return the world to what it used to be, to what it should be.
There were a few glorious days right before the end. It was almost the utopia that had been promised. Peace. Respect. Prosperity. But, then it all fell apart. Even in the presence of so much good, or perhaps because of that unbalanced nature, a small group of malcontents rose up to fight and steal more for themselves that they felt they were owed. They had no guns, the governments having successfully confiscated and destroyed all civilian firearms over the years leading up to their promised era of peace, but they had plenty of guile and cunning and used whatever they could get their hands on to rend, tear, bomb and destroy.
Troops swarmed forth to restore order and reaped chaos instead. The governments squeezed tighter, trying to wrap the conflicts within their grasp and contain it. All in the name of our protection, of course. They had to regain their control so they could ensure our long term safety.
We assembled peacefully to protest their tactics, and we were told to disband. When we did not they waded into the crowd, hitting, firing, and forcing us to flee for our safety. And yet, they continued to insist their actions were in our best interest.
Local celebrities who spoke out against the government were told to talk about something else. Some did. Others did not and were removed from the air never to be seen or heard again.
I was part of a small group that nailed a copy of the original bill of rights to a pole near the city center. We were spotted and fled into the night. Some of us did not escape. Some of us were placed with our backs against that same pole and executed as a lesson to those who were actively working to disrupt the peace the government was so keen on rebuilding.
Those actions had the opposite effect and more people joined us in the streets to protest. The government responded swiftly. Abuses ramped up. Beatings. Arrests. Disappearances. Mass death followed…
I toss the last of the water from my cup into my face, and wipe away the droplets from my eyes. I wish I could go back to sleeping like I used to. My dreams these days are filled with blood. Some days I can’t tell the difference between being awake and not. There is so much death.
I hug my rifle to my chest. It has saved me more times than I can count over the last few months. I am never without it because I never know when I will need it to rescue me again. The government has found our hideouts before, and they will find this one eventually too.
Only, the next time they find us it will be different. We have no place left to hide. We don’t have the energy to run anymore. It will be our last stand. Either we will achieve a great victory and our revolution of freedom will live on, or we will all die.
I sneak back to my bunk, passed my sleeping brothers and sisters in arms, and lay down, cringing at the harsh squeak of the cot springs as they receive my weight. I stare into the darkness and wait for sleep to take me, for the enemy to come, or for the signal that we have made it to a new day of blood.
If only we had realized that a utopia could not exist. If only we had remembered that freedom was a delicate balance of fear and trust, and once the government lost their fear of its people, and the people grew too trusting of their government it was only a matter of time before that dream of peace became the nightmare of war. If only we had accepted that life isn’t meant to be fair…
We would have still struggled, of course, strife is part of what it means to be alive, but the streets would have never run red with the blood of its citizens. And more of my family and friends would still be living. And my dreams would never have been haunted by the faces of those I’ve killed. All in the name of our protection, of course. We have to regain our rights to ensure our long term safety.
Neither worms, sleep nor the enemy come before the new day begins.