by KJ Pedersen
Second Chapter- Walter and Searlit
Searlit stared at the man in front of her, wanting to scream.
“ Oh.” Walter’s hand dropped as he stared at the clearly petrified girl “ I guess stalking you was probably not the way to go.”
“ You think?” Searlit sputtered, regaining her senses.
Walter laughed. It was a warm, gentle laugh, as though he knew she was scared out of her mind. “ I am sorry, child. It wasn’t my intention to frighten you. I just needed to make sure we could talk in a quiet place.”
Searlit felt her heart rate return to normal. There was something familiar about Walter. She just couldn’t quite figure out what it was. “ Do you usually follow teenage girls around with stolen portfolios in your hand?”
“ No, not usually. But you, you are an interesting case.” Walter opened up her book and began to read. “ One must assume that if the government decrees that the international community is hostile to our way of life, then the world is afraid of what our leadership envisions for us.” He smiled at her. “ That statement could go either way. The international community could be afraid of an impending domino effect in which our system of government begins to take over neighboring country and changes what the status quo considers reasonable.”
“ What?” Searlit stood there as Walter tilted his head in wonderment.
“ Or, it could be a comment that the world is concerned about the citizenry of our country, who could be victimized by an increasingly paranoid leader and his ministers. Frankly, I believe you thought the latter.”
“ I would never question-“
“ Now, now, Searlit. I remember your mother once telling me that teenagers are meant to question authority.”
Searlit began to look about furtively. “ You know my mother?”
Walter looked around as well. “ Very well.”
“ My parents, they have never, ever questioned the leadership. I was raised in a government employee household. My father writes for the prefect leader and the newspaper. He does copy for the government television channel-“
“ All the media. Yes, yes, you’re father does good work.” Walter reached out and put his hand on Searlit’s shoulder. “ We need to go. We’re being watched.”
Searlit recoiled from his touch. “ No, no, I am not going with you. How do I know you’re not some criminal?”
He began to laugh, and Searlit stared at him, bewildered. “ I am a criminal, Searlit. But here is not the place to discuss it. Come on, I have a job for you to do.”
Walter began to walk off into the neighboring trees. Searlit stood for a second, wondering what was this man’s problem Then, against her better judgment, she began to follow. Life is boring, I need some excitement, she told herself over and over, trying to justify her behavior to herself. Worse thing that could happen was death, and that happened every time she tried to cross Martin Street, since nobody in Mondale seemed to know how to drive.
They walked in silence for a good mile, when Walter suddenly turned to her near a small little hut. “ Are you ready?”
Searlit nodded, and Walter opened the door.
Inside, there were several people working busily at typewriters. There was an ancient printing press in the center of the room, and one guy was working on it. Searlit recognized him.
“ Mr. Hennessy?”
Mr. Hennessy looked up. “ Miss Callaghan. Hello.” He stood up and turned to Walter. “ It’s in working order for now. I’ll bring some more ink tomorrow.”
“ Thank you, Oliver.” Walter put both hands on Searlit’s shoulders and gently pushed her to a desk at the other side of the room. As she walked by him, Mr. Hennessy winked at her and smiled.
“ No, this isn’t weird,” she muttered under her breath as she sat down in the chair beside what was clearly Walter’s desk. Walter sat down in his own chair and leaned forward.
“ Searlit. I want you to write for us.”
“ Who is ‘us’?” Searlit asked, looking around the room. She recognized a few other people. Elise Duchamp’s father was in one corner, and she also saw Rhys Jones, who was in Eamonn’s classes at the university.
“ The Resistance Papers.”
Searlit turned back and stared at Walter. “ No. The Resistance Papers are a myth.”
Walter laughed. Searlit decided at that moment that as creepy as their meeting had been, she was beginning to like him. “ The government tells you that, don’t they? They are not too fond of dissent, you know. We are real, Searlit. Have been for years. My older brother started the R.P. when he was in university in Richmond. He thought that maybe, just maybe, manufacturing fear and demanding complete loyalty was not a way a government should run a country. So he wrote a pamphlet on why the masses should rise up and overthrow the government. Needless to say, that did not go over well in Wellesley land.” Searlit must have looked confused, because Walter leaned back in his chair and waved another man over. “ Barton, tell this young lady what we do here.”
Searlit looked up at Barton. He was taller than Walter was, with a handsome face. Searlit noticed the startling green eyes he had. “ We are the members of the Resistance Papers. We write pamphlets urging the populace to try and overthrow the Wellesley government, and return us to a land of democracy and freedom. We believe in what the former constitution tells us. We do not believe in fear and war.”
“ War? This country hasn’t been at war since the Third World War,” Searlit exclaimed.
“ True,” Walter said, “ but that is an outside war. The Wellesley’s have been at war with the rebel movement for the last fifty years. We are their worst nightmare. We question the methods they use, the torture they inflict, and the lies they tell.”
Searlit’s head was swimming. “ The Rebel movement is a terrorist movement,” she said, parroting what she had heard her entire life.
“ No, we are not. We don’t strike civilians; we don’t try to kill. There have been accidents, no doubt, because every human being is fallible in word and action.” Walter took a sheet of paper off his desk and handed it to Searlit. “ We mostly try not to do any outside actions, anyway. The pen, after all-“
“ Is mightier than the sword.” Searlit looked down at the paper in her hand and began to read.
Government Forces Arrest Thirty in Illegal Sting
Thirty members of the Resistance movement were arrested Thursday night as part of the Government crackdown on groups deemed traitors to Drayton Wellesley and his despotic minions. Included in the group were Frank Dalrymple and his family. Frank was arrested for having a computer, which were banned by Francis Wellesley after he illegally took office. His wife, Lisa, and children Piper, Henry, Tanya, and Roscoe were also taken into custody for failing to report an illegal machine. We have now lost an important member of our organization, and he will almost certainly be dead within days. As for his family, we must hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Searlit stared at it. She knew the Dalrymples. Her father and Frank had gone to university together. Piper was only a year older than Eamonn. They were wonderful people. She never once suspected them.
“ Searlit?” Barton was looking at her intently. “ You’re Searlit Callaghan?”
Searlit jerked at the sound of her name, and looked up at Barton with surprise. Walter was shaking his head in amusement.
“ Yes,” Walter said, “ she is Searlit Callaghan. That Searlit Callaghan.”
Barton grabbed her hand, shaking it enthusiastically. “ Wow, it’s an honor.”
“ Okay,” Searlit said warily. The day just kept getting weirder.
“ Off you go, now, Barton. You have work to do.” Walter leaned back into Searlit. “ So, my dear. What is going through your mind?”
“ The Dalrymples? I’ve known them all my life. This just seems wrong to me. Why would they be arrested? I never saw a computer, once, in all the time I spent at their house. I can’t- I mean…” Her voice trailed off as she stared once again at the pamphlet.
“ Yes, it is a terrible loss for us. Frank was a bit of a computer whiz, you see. Able to get information out to foreign governments about the state of affairs here, and to arrange for aid for the poor and for the rebels in hiding. His arrest is why I have decided to move our schedule up.”
“ What schedule?” Searlit glanced up at him, and he was no longer smiling.
“ Searlit, what church do you go to?”
“ My parents are Welleslyans.”
“ Hmm. I sincerely doubt that. Nobody really, truly is. Welleslyanism isn’t even a religion in the traditional sense. It’s more or less an indoctrination into the Wellesley’s personal beliefs. Like the fact that there is no God in heaven, but one on earth, and It was Francis Wellesley.”
“ Well, I admit, it always seemed odd to me. How can a God die?” Searlit smirked a little bit as she asked it, and Walter grinned again.
“ Valid point. No, your parents were part of a group of people who believe in the teachings of a man named Raymond Fortinbras. He lived about a hundred years ago, and he wrote a book called The Future of the World and who will save us. He claimed to have seen the future and that one day, a maniacal dictator would rule a country that had once been great in its power. This leader would decide that he is the Supreme Being, and as his delusions grew, so would his desire to control the populace by any means. But, as always when such things happens, there were those who would fight him at any cost. One of them, according to Fortinbras, would be a teenage girl who had lost her family to the leader and vowed to avenge them at all costs. She would be among the leaders of this rebellion, and they would be victorious. At least, that’s how I read it.”
“ Are you telling me I’m the girl in this man’s vision,” Searlit asked.
“ Of course not, silly girl. Fortinbras was a schizophrenic who also wrote about how the daisies in his garden told him that Elvis Presley lived in Tallahassee, Florida and regularly wrote letters to the local papers saying that donuts were too dry. The man was crazy. I’m just telling you what your parents believe.”
Searlit couldn’t resist. “ Who is Elvis Presley? And what is a Tallahassee, Florida?”
Walter laughed again at her ignorance. “ Elvis was a musician from a long time ago. He died young, but people insisted he was still alive. Tallahassee is a city in Florida, which is a state in the United States. Don’t fret about details, Searlit. I’m just tying to deliver some information into your poor little brainwashed mind.”
“ I have not been brainwashed,” Searlit said stubbornly.
“ No, of course not.” Walter stood up and walked across the room, where he grabbed two books and a piece of paper off someone’s desk. “ I have told you that I would like you to write for us. Now, I am quite sure you are most likely confused by some of the things I have told you. That is perfectly natural. I have just challenged some of the things you have been taught to believe by the world you live in. Here.” He handed her the two books. “ The big one is the Bible. It’s the book of many major religions from the outside world. It has some very controversial ideas in it, and I do not agree with many of them. But I believe you should see how the rest of the world believes. The second is a novel. It’s by a man named George Orwell. Its called Animal Farm. See if you can recognize some things. The paper is your assignment, if you choose to accept it.” He paused. “ Oliver, I just had a very Mission Impossible moment.” Mr. Hennessy laughed, as Searlit stared at them both with wonderment. “ Now, Searlit, if you choose not to write it, I would understand, and I will never hold it against you. I just want you to consider it. The paper has all the points you need to learn about what I ask.”
“ But, Mr. Finley-“
“ Walter, Searlit, please.”
“ Fine, Walter. I’m just a high school student. Why are you asking me to write for you?”
Walter looked at the room, filled with middle-aged rebels and college aged idealists, then returned his gaze to her. “ I can’t answer that, Searlit. I just need you to trust me.”
“ You can’t answer that? You’re essentially hiring me.”
“ Well, there is no question that you are gifted. Isn’t that enough?”
“ No.” Searlit crossed her arms and tilted her head.
Walter sighed. “ It’s getting late, Searlit, and your parents are most likely very worried. Please, let us save this discussion. You should get home.”
Searlit looked around for a clock. It was nearly six. “ I’ll be late for dinner.”
Walter nodded, and began to escort her out. At the door, he turned and looked her straight in the eye.
“ Do not tell your parents you have seen me. They need to not know at this moment. Do you understand?”
Searlit nodded, but she felt odd about promising such a thing. She told her parents everything, and Walter had just spent a significant amount of time telling her that her parents were not entirely what she believed they were. She exited the shack and began to find her way back to her usual path at Wellesley Park, which took a good half-hour. Then she began to run as fast as she could, till she reached 15 Milkwood Road and nearly fell through the front door.
Her parents were both standing there, both scared and angry.
“ Searlit! Thank God!” her mother cried.
“ Where have you been, young lady?” her father bellowed.
“ I was working late at school, and I just lost track of time…” Searlit noticed her brothers standing behind her parents. They both looked worried, but smiles broke across their faces when they saw her.
“ Oh, Searlit, that just isn’t like you.” Her mother was literally pulling her into the kitchen, where Searlit could smell food being warmed.
“ We will discuss punishment later, Searlit,” her father called out.
“ Alright, Dad,” Searlit answered as Maeve Callaghan placed a plate of goopy stuff in front of her. Chocolate chip waffles at breakfast meant something resembling cat vomit for supper. She began to eat, all the while trying to figure out what exactly had happened in that little hut in the trees.
After dinner, and her father’s punishment of two weeks doing the dishes, Searlit went upstairs to her room. She took Walter’s books out of her book bag first. She stared at them, then opened the Bible. The thin, crinkly paper and tiny print fascinated her. Then she grabbed the novel, and it felt more like a standard book.
'No, no, stupid. Homework first,' she thought to herself as she continued to remove books from her bag. She sat down at the desk, and tried in vain to write a paper on the glorious victory of Wellesley forces against the outside influences. As she read her notes over and over again, she couldn’t help but think of some of the things Walter had said.
She put her pencil down, and sat back in her chair. She momentarily though about reading the paper still tucked away in Walter’s Bible, but decided against it. She was staring blankly at the ceiling when she heard a commotion outside her bedroom window. She had opened it that morning to let the smell of the sunshine in. Now she heard voices.
“ No, no, you said you wouldn’t come until she was eighteen.” It was her father.
“ I know, Desmond. But things have changed” The voice was familiar to Searlit, but she was struggling to place it.
“ I don’t give a damn. She’s my daughter.”
“ She has always been marked for a bigger purpose, and you know that.”
“ We have done everything you’ve asked. We have been a model family. I do the work of the devil while trying desperately to help the Resistance out and keep that town sheltered-“
“ And you have excelled at your job.”
Searlit couldn’t bear it any longer. She went to her window, and carefully peeked her head out. She saw her father, looking flustered. Across from him was a man she couldn’t clearly identify, for he was wearing an oversized coat and a hat. He was speaking in a very hushed manner. But the voice still sounded like someone she knew.
“ We can’t- I mean, she doesn’t-“
“ Walter found her.”
Her father stared at the other man in stunned silence. “ She didn’t say anything-“
“ He told her not to. He is afraid that if you and Maeve knew, you would seek him out, and it is too dangerous right now.”
“ But he’s fine with talking to my baby?” It was her mother, who had joined them in the garden.
“ You both knew this day was coming. You were told when she was born. Fortinbras was clear in his writings. She is destined for this.”
Searlit stood there, mouth wide, as she remembered the conversation she had with Walter. He said that she wasn’t the child of the story or prophecy or whatever it was. Why was this man insinuating she was?
“ But it isn’t time. We are all still here. Nobody has died or been captured,” her father whispered.
“ I understand that. You have played your roles so well that we may have changed the outcome.”
“ Desmond, please. We can keep fighting about this if you choose, but it has already started and only Searlit can stop it if she wants. But she does at her own peril, and to the peril of us all. Do not attempt to block her from what she was intended for.”
Searlit fell back on her bed. What on earth were they talking about?
The voices soon died out as the adults moved away form her window and Searlit sat on her bed, beyond words. She couldn’t even formulate a coherent thought. Out of desperation, she grabbed the books Walter had given her, and began to read, hoping something in them would give her an answer.