by Dael Dhra
Rebelling has its price - more than she ever could have dreamed.
|Times have changed; the terrorists had done their jobs. The United States, in an excess of fear, posted travel advisories-and when that failed, they shut down the borders entirely. No one allowed in, or out. The next step was predictable, historically speaking-they began rounding up dissenters.|
I found this out first hand one day, coming back from walking the dog. Luckily for me, I always got a nice full view of the house as I rounded the final corner. On this particular day, I could also see the place swarming with official-looking people in suits, each periodically adjusting ear pieces. So I did what any reasonable person would do: I called the cops. When the dispatcher informed me that "I was to stay put, someone would be dispatched to collect me shortly", my paranoia kicked into gear. I tied my dog, my Smoky girl, off to a neighbor friend's porch, then I dashed off a quick IM to my friends: "Ditching phone. Big problems. Goodbye." Next, I threw the phone in the nearest trash bin (Sorry, whoever you are), and then I climbed the nearest tree. Hell, I thought I knew what was going to happen, but I didn't believe it yet, you know?
The smell of pine filled my nose, making it itch; fortunately, I didn't have long to wait before my suspicions were borne out. Most of the Suit Squad left my house, and immediately converged on my cell phone--man, that must've been some technology! As still as I was trying to be, my eyebrows hit my hairline. I watched them find the cellphone, then begin a search--and my heart about shattered with fear. As luck would have it, their search pattern took them right beneath my tree. Of all the dumb luck! Well, the rule that people never looked up held up remarkably well, for about four or five passes, but then one of the smarter suits did just that. He saw me, and he knew me. I could see it in his eyes.
"Sierra!" he called. "Sierra Eagan! Come down. You're under arrest for dissent."
I tried to play it dumb, like "Who's Sierra?", but then he showed me a picture of myself. Me, with my short ash-blond hair and bright blue eyes, with the very same dog I'd just been walking. I was instantly furious-I remembered that day on the beach over six months ago, and I hated them for spying on me. I really hadn't believed the U.S. would fall this hard, this fast, though I'd seen signs it was coming.
My fair skin has the unfortunate trait of flushing beet red when I get angry; I knew he knew I was pissed. I really didn't have any other options, so without a word, I climbed higher-and then one of them pulled a Taser and shot me. Mr. Picture yelled, I yelled, and then he hit the trigger. I fell hard, muscles locked and convulsing. I hit the ground, and something gave hard in my neck with a wet pop. It was red-hot heat, then icy chill, and absolute numbness. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I heard Mr. Picture yelling to call an ambulance, I was an example, dammit, and Smoky barking, then gunfire-and then, nothing at all.
Dreams. I spoke with those friends I had IMed before ditching the phone. One by one, they told me they were dead, first Kathy, Dale, Edward, then finally Ella-but I still kept dreaming about them. Ella finally told me Smoky was dead too, shot by one of the suits that day-and I fell apart. The black dreamscape shattered, and I opened my eyes. I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks, tubes in my throat, in my arm-a machine breathing for me. I tried to wipe the tears away, but I couldn't move. My hand wouldn't even twitch. Memory returned, and pure blind panic took me. Paralyzed! My mind screamed and roared, it shattered, and came together again. Vision dimmed, returned, and dimmed again-and abruptly, a light above me shattered into sparks, the machinery working my lungs flipped over and erupted into noise, and the windows blew open. I passed out again as people in scrubs rushed into the room in a panic.
More dreams. At least I thought they were-I was in the hospital. I was talking with Dale, but I could see through him. His anger was so strong I swear I felt it burn me, set the room on fire. He was yelling at me to wake up. I refused. I'd never wake up again if I could help it. I yelled back at him, and then Ella appeared with him. Her sadness put out the flames of his anger, and touched closer to my own broken heart. Her pleading did what his anger could not: I woke up. "Great." I thought, staring at the ceiling. "Now what am I supposed to do? I can't even turn my head!" Ella and Dale were gone.
Staring at the ceiling gets unbelievably boring; I wished I could itch my nose, the tears tickled my cheeks, I wanted to turn the TV channel because I hated the show that was on-but I couldn't even move my head. So I lay there and I burned for revenge. I hated the suits, and I lay there, imprinting every nuance of every one of their faces on my memory. I felt filled with emotion-incandescent with it-and I just knew, if there was any justice, I'd be able to move. Something. Even one finger. I tried so hard to channel my fury, anger and hate into motion that it hurt. I tried so hard my vision dimmed. Finally, anger and hate deserted me as cold reality asserted itself. I would never move again. I sobbed, then, helpless, hopeless, bleak despair falling over me.
Then Smoky showed up, a canine smile on her face and her tail wagging happily at seeing me, like always-and as transparent as Dale had been. That was the final straw. I wanted to die. My spirit broke entirely, and I fled into darkness. Edward found me there though, and he dragged me back. "No, you don't! You're not done yet!" he said, flinging me roughly back into my body. I literally felt the 'thud' as I reconnected with it. And I hated him. I would've killed him if I could. If he weren't already dead. Instead, I stared sullenly at the ceiling for another eternity, bored and sulking, hating the world, hating life...and then the woman appeared abruptly, stepping directly through the wall.
It startled me so badly, I literally jumped out of my skin-for one second, I actually looked down at myself-and then, completely shocked, I snapped back into my body. She was still there, though, looking as shocked as I was, if somewhat more transparent.
She looked at me. "Am...am I dead?" I heard it as a whisper in my head. "I can't die yet! My children..." I winced. "I'll die for you," I thought. "For your children."
She looked at me-and then shook her head. "No-death's not for you, not yet. At least--not like this." Then, she vanished into pure light.
I would have screamed with frustration, if I could have.
Moments later, doctors ran past my room-and it was unspeakably odd to know why. Left with nothing else to do, I wondered if I could deliberately push myself out of my body. Deliberately die.
Days later, I had the next visitor--Death herself. Oh yes; Death was a woman. At least, my version of Death was. With red hair, and black wings. The version that must have inspired the Morrigan, for the Irish. We talked for quite a while-she's really not such a bad being; Death. As I learned firsthand, Death is as much about mercy as horror. Death can be a relief, at least for those dying. It's those left living who have the hard job-carrying on without them, without knowing whether anything comes after, whether they'll ever see them again.
She left me feeling better about my state of not-life, but then she did one more thing-she taught me how to leave my crippled wreck of a body at will.
I was free-I could go anywhere, at the speed of thought. It was incredible. And even better, she taught me that I could, as one in the in-between-that is, dead but not dead- still impact the world of the living. If I so chose. I grinned maliciously. Oh, this was going to be fun--revenge was going to be SO sweet!
The first thing I did was find the suit who shot me. As luck would have it, he was driving. So of course, I grabbed the wheel and yanked, sending the car careening into the nearest tree. Laughing, I left his bleeding body slumped over the steering wheel. I prayed for some personification of justice to grant that he wake, paralyzed like I was. Then I saw his spirit standing there by his body, crying, and pop, there went my vindication and elation. Ah, crap. He was dead, and I had killed him. I was abruptly reminded I was a semi-decent person, and I went over to him, somewhat sheepishly. His eyes widened at seeing me.
"Well," I said, "This is awkward."
He broke into fresh sobbing. "I killed you...I knew it..."
"Well, to be honest," I said, "I'd only be better off dead. You paralyzed me...killing you kinda seems like overkill. I'm sorry."
His sobs stopped at that. "What? I'm not dead." I pointed his body out to him, whereupon he swore fervently.
"Yeah." I agreed. "You're dead."
Then it clicked. "You did that?" he yelled. "Why?"
Now it was my turn to be angry. "You left me so that I can't even move a finger on my own! I can't even breathe on my own! Do you know what I can do? I can blink! That's it! That's all! Why? Why did you do that to me?"
He immediately looked bewildered. "But...I never meant...I just wanted to know why..." He trailed off.
"What? Why, what?" I snarled.
"Why you'd turned against the United States," came the soft reply.
I was stunned. No, I was absolutely floored. "You...thought I turned against the U.S.?..." I shook my head. "The U.S. turned against us! The people! All these restrictions of freedoms--...Failing to listen to us...I just wanted the government to be for the people again!"
He looked confused. "But...you were a terrorist! You were plotting to kill innocent people!"
I was speechless. "WHAT? Where did you get that idea? I would never have hurt anyone--I wanted to help them!"
Now he looked horrified. "But...Mr. Johns, my boss...he said he had proof..."
I glared at the suit. "He had orders you mean! You were helping him lock down civilians, take away their rights, even kill them, for no better reason than for just talking about how things should be! For talking about those freedoms! And YOU just...you never even thought to question! People are dead! My friends are dead!"
At this, he looked abashed. He knew, spirit to spirit, I couldn't lie, and he knew he was wrong. "I...I have to go back. I have to make this right...." He looked at me. "Please...help me go back, I promise I'll make this right."
I stared at him, frustrated. "I....I can't. I'm sorry."
He looked back at his body. "But...what can I do, dead?"
That was when Death appeared again. This time, Death was cowled head to toe in light-eating black robes. No Morrigan-aspect here; this was the Grim Reaper death aspect in full force. Somehow, I understood-this was how the Suit perceived Death. It was, frankly, petrifying.
Death spoke, His voice grating like bones. "Mortal. Do you truly wish to set what you have done to rights?"
The suit nodded and looked at me. "Yes."
Give him credit for not shaking in his shiny shoes, at least.
Death then looked at me, too-and I was suddenly afraid like I'd never been before in my existence. I'd never felt this power in the Death-as-Morrigan aspect. This was the opposite of all that was life. It was the power to end, everything, for all eternity. This wasn't kind, or merciful. This was terror and pain, sorrow, and horror. I couldn't move. I couldn't think.
"Do you also wish to make this right, what you have done? And do you wish for him to make this right, what he has done?" Death asked me, and suddenly, the intense terror lessened enough so I could speak. "Yes."
Death nodded, the cowl bobbing once. "Very well. So be it." he said, in that bones-grinding voice. He reached out towards the suit. "David Englund, be returned, then. Be sure you do not waste this time in idle pursuits-meet your task well, for I will be waiting." With that, he touched David-and he disappeared back into his body.
Death then turned towards me, and that quickly, the Death-as-Morrigan aspect was back, much to my supreme relief. She was smiling. "And what lessons have we learned, Sierra Eagan?"
I thought a moment. "That teaching the proper lesson can be more satisfying than revenge," I replied.
She nodded, and appeared to think this over. "Very well. I therefore have another question for you, Sierra. I believe you'll make a very good Emissary. Would you accept?"
I blinked. "A what?"
"My Emissary-when I have need of someone who stands neither with the living, or the dead, but who can rather impact both worlds at need. As in this case, when there are those living who must learn a lesson from the dead-your friends. Will you do them honor, and accept the role I offer you?"
Thoughts of revenge jumped to my mind. Dale's anger, Ella's sorrow-both were too fresh in my heart-but I knew this was the better way. This was what I was meant to do. "For them-I accept."
She smiled. "Excellent! So, my new Emissary-what lessons would you have those still living learn from your friends?"
I thought a moment, and then I had it. "That to blindly obey is wrong--always, one has the obligation to think before condemning someone. Fear is no excuse for blind obedience-for giving away one's freedoms."
She nodded. "Then go, my Emissary. Teach."