This is a new story I've written but I'm not entirely happy with it, don't know why, maybe a fresh pair of eyes can tell me...thanks for taking the time to read. Also working on a title, any suggestions would be appreciated!! ................................................................................................................................. Freedom…the motto always was a lie. Some say freedom is a myth, a veil, an illusion to keep you working, to keep you turning the cogs in the vast machine, the machine that controls everything, keeps life ticking over. Keeps you netted in the grid. The New United Empire doesn’t trust freedom. It doesn’t trust us to live our lives alone. I had a dream of the rampant lion again last night. This is why they think I am the one who sees the truth. The red lion has been hidden for many years they tell me, but I see it every night, the fiery lion against a yellow sun and golden fields, springing into life, shooting flame, swallowing things whole. Swallowing the darkness created by the New Untied Empire. In my dreams it fought them all. And won. I had another dream, where I was draped in black, and the white cross of St Andrews lay before me, two long blades crossed over. I slowly drew one and held it high, ready to plunge into anything that tried to stop me. When I woke I had a song in my head. I know it exists but I can’t find it anywhere now. They’ve controlled its destruction, I know this. It doesn’t mean I won’t stop singing it. I whisper the words as I make my way down to the Docks. ‘There is no divide…’ The wind tries to whip the words away but in my head they resonate. I start to smile as I realise why it was this particular song which lay waiting in my head when I woke. ‘In your honour, I would die tonight.’ People are staring because I’m smiling to myself but I don’t care. Most of them are grid workers anyway. They probably think I’m a freedom fighter, and they would be right. The last of the freedom fighters are my family, the only people who care about anything, since everything started to change. Things are changing again, the air around here carries whispers, that someday the meek shall inherit the earth. I already know how this happens. It comes to me in the sleeping thoughts. I dream it every night now. It starts with a great explosion and ends with the world taking notice. This means it’s getting nearer, it will soon be time. Time to let the world know the truth. Mana Maruca, my parents called me. My dark-haired grandfather was from Itlay, came to live here not long before they stopped all emigration practice. My parents always lived here in Scotland, until they too had their lives squeezed from them and had to leave. I know I’ll never leave Scotland, not the hissing rain or the biting winters could force me. The small safety I feel when looking up at a free sky keeps my feet here on this soil, nowhere else. One of the last free skies in the world. My name Mana means psychic gifts. My mother told me, that whilst in her tummy, I gave her dreams of things yet to come, and this gift ended once I was born out of her. These days the freedom fighters don’t use their birth names much and people have started calling me the little street dreamer. Possibly because I’m the youngest one to live off the grid and on the streets and possibly because I dream about the things we don’t yet know. They don’t dream anymore. This is why they think my gift is even more special. Some think I should be held up and blessed for my gifts, not hidden underground. I don’t agree, I think I’m safer here, away from prying eyes and hands that could grip you and hold you down, never let you back up. But I don’t care, they can call me whatever. Just as long as they keep on listening. My grandfather was the one who first told them to listen. Now they stare at me when I speak, with eyes like the moon and a silence to match. Mostly I tell them about the dreams but sometimes I tell them what’s inside and I don’t know where that stuff comes from. Maybe I really am the one they’re waiting for. The one to save them all. Or maybe they’re just wasted, desperate tragedies, humans on the edge, willing to listen to anyone who paints a picture of hope into their eyes. Because everyone here is on the edge, even the birds have a nervous disposition, they shriek in the skies at the slightest movement or softest sound. Neo says it’s evolution, conditioning to the bombs that fell when darkness fell each night. Not conditioning, I tell him. If it were, we would be conditioned to it by now, along with the freaked out birds. Neo will be at the Docks, he always hangs back in the shadows, the greatest ever listener. Neo is a writer. He writes down every word that is spoken when we meet at the Docks. He types it in his notebook, calls it the book of truths. The first time I met him I started to tell him about my grandfather and my parents but he stayed silent, with a graveness in his eyes that told me for once I should stop talking. He explained that most folk round here don’t have parents, they all died with the bombs. Neo was somehow different to the others, he didn’t need drugs to see the light, but more importantly, he took care of me without me even having to ask. He let me share his room above the Docks, he let me share his everything. Our room is part of a long ago abandoned warehouse, sectioned off into hundreds of rooms by the freedom fighters. We don’t have a window but if we did it would look out onto the Docks, once busy but now empty, after trading ceased, banned to any country who refused to join the New United Empire. No-one is allowed out and no-one is allowed in. The ports and borders have a military lockdown and it freaks the grid workers out. They’re starting to believe the propaganda, that we would all be better off if we surrendered to the NUE. When I finally get to the Docks, it’s crowded with faces everywhere. Most are high on something, some are high on nothing. Everyone is glowing, their eyes are wide and sparking. Maybe they feel it too, maybe they know that finally the start of something is coming. Neo catches my hand as I walk in. ‘They’ve been waiting on you, they want to hear you talk.’ They never used to listen to me but my granddad insisted. Placed me high on an upturned oil drum and told everyone to be quiet. I was twelve and nervous of all the faces watching me but I did as I was told and recalled my dream to everyone. When my stories became the truth they didn’t need my granddad to order quiet anymore. As soon as he appeared with me and lifted me onto that drum, silence fell upon them. Three years on and the faces have increased by many but still not enough. Tonight they look tense, clearly not in the mood for delays. ‘We seem to be revving up for something.’ I tell them. ‘We have arrived at full circle and there is nowhere else to turn, the only choice is to break free. In my dream I saw us all falling, from the angels, the stars, away from our families. We all fell from the same place and we have all fallen far. Now we are poised on the edge. As a group we will fall, or as a group we will fly. But know this – we only have a limited time in which we can jump.’ The questions start straight away. ‘How do we break free, how do we jump?’ ‘It starts with an explosion,’ I tell them. ‘A thousand sparks against the sun. That’s the way I saw it. That’s the way we have to let the world hear our voice.’ ‘The world or the New United Empire?’ ‘Both,’ I say. ‘But they are both the same thing. The NUE is everyone. Everyone is brainwashed, no one will listen.’ ‘Someone will,’ I reassure them. ‘Someday, the meek shall inherit the earth again.’ I glance at Neo who is carefully but quickly noting everything down in his notebook. ‘That’s bible sh*t,’ someone says. ‘Nostradamus sh*t actually,’ Neo replies. People turn to stare at him. They’ve never heard him speak before. ‘My sh*t actually,’ I tell them all. ‘It will only be true if you believe it.’ I watch as the words finally dissolve around them, a wave of agreement spreading through the crowd. Sh*t, they’re edgy tonight. It’s getting to us all, the hopelessness, the vastness, the emptiness. When the questions end, I make my way straight to Neo and we retreat to our room, while they talk it out below us. ‘Do you really see it changing?’ he asks me. I look at him for a moment in the half light of his room. I’ve always thought his eyes are too beautiful for a boy. ‘I’ve never been more certain of anything. It won’t go on like this. I’ve seen a different future.’ ‘Have you seen my future yet?’ He’s smiling because he knows the answer to this, he asks me all the time. His future has always been hidden from me, just like my own. Neo has a theory on it all, something about prophets not seeing their own destiny as it’s dangerous, opportunities to alter their own paths should never arise. He believes that I can’t see his path because our lives have become entwined, so tightly knotted together it’s too hard to pull our paths apart. ‘Maybe we’re kind of connected,’ he says. ‘Maybe we are,’ I say softly before kissing him in the dark. The air outside falls still, even the birds fall silent and the voices below us drop down to a whisper before fading out to nothing. In the morning Neo wakes early. He tells me he has a plan. ‘Remember the book of truths?’ he asks me. I’m nodding but I’m concerned about something else. ‘I didn’t dream last night.’ He nods but he’s not listening either. ‘I have to go, I have to let them read it. I’m going to upload it onto the net, make it available to the grid. This is a way to let them hear our voice, to let them know the truth.’ ‘But I didn’t dream last night,’ I’m still saying. ‘I don’t understand it.’ I’m shaking out some sleeping pills. I have to get back to sleep. I have to dream. I’ve never had a night without dreams before. ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He kisses me quickly and is out the door, notebook under one arm. I think about it for a long moment. He wrote that book about us, about the freedom fighters, about my dreams. About the suffering, the suppression, the lies and the brainwashed, controlled world out there. That book is a dangerous truth. But I don’t have the mind-space to think about it. The sleeping pills are taking hold and turning my mind inside out. I collapse back onto the bed and slide into a long and narrow sleep. Still no dreams. Yet I wake into a nightmare. Someone is at the door of our room, I vaguely know his face from Dock Street. He is wasted, pasty and sweating. Instantly I want to throw up because instantly I know something is wrong. ‘What are you doing in my room?’ Neo – is all he says. He is out of breath and his words are getting stuck in his lungs but I don’t need to hear any more. Get out, I manage to say, in a voice too hysterical to be my own. I kick the door shut. I fall onto the bed. I press my face into the pillow because I don’t want to breathe any more. Below me the voices float upwards like ghosts in the air and I hear them, I hear every stifled word. Book of truths. Uploaded. Found him. Ten bullets…ten. The NUE. Had no chance. I try to scream for them to shut up but everything is empty. What do I do, I don’t know what to do. They can’t have taken him. Anyone but my Neo. I want it to be a lie, I want it more than anything. I have to lift my head from the pillow but only so I can throw up. I try to cough it all out, throw up this sicky grief but it stays there in my stomach, this solid and uneasy thing. It’s never going to leave me, I know it. ‘He’s near the ether now,’ someone is telling me. They’re trying to comfort but all I can think is, I want to be there with him. They’re all in my room now and I want to scream at them to leave but I can’t do anything. I just lie there, like a dead dream, washed out in the rain. Tonight I will dream, I think as I close my eyes. Tonight I will find a way out of this. For me. For Neo. For everyone. By morning I have it, there in my head. I don’t know if I dreamt it or just sat up all night and planned it. I don’t know but it doesn’t matter. I slip out the warehouse quietly and seek out a guy that I know. They call him Rockets, because he makes things that explode. I have a copy of the book of truth on disc and I give it to some crawlers, people who know how to crawl through the tightest holes in the net, weaving webs of safety around anything they upload, leaving no trace behind. If only Neo had used a crawler. If only I had stopped him and warned him. But no time for thoughts like that. The moon is out even though it’s almost morning. I’m not yet in the land of the wakened or of the sleeping. I’m still travelling in-between. Somehow, it makes the journey easier, and I’m handed the things I’ve asked for without the usual questions. They know what’s happened to Neo anyway. They can probably figure out what I’m about to do. I know the building to go to. The only trouble is getting close enough. But I don’t care how I do it. I just know that I will. It takes me days to get there, days of feeling numb, of not thinking. If I thought about all this sh*t too much I would press the button right there and then. Some where in the city, some building is always burning, but not here. Here the air is clean, these people are safe, or think they are. There are walls to climb but that’s not a worry to me. That’s such a minor thing to worry about. My Neo is dead. Walls mean nothing to me just now, long, wide, high, nothing. It’s Neo I’m thinking about as I’m standing on top of the wall. I could be standing on the edge of the world, but still all I think about is him. The sun is making my eyes squint but I’m ready to jump, I’m ready to break free. My feet start running as soon as they hit the ground. Is it meant to be like this? This inability to breathe, like my body is going to explode naturally, no need for the two dozen explosives strapped to my chest. What if I stumble, what if I fall on my face? What if they catch me before I can reach it? Rockets says I won’t feel a thing. He says to run, to float, out of body and out of mind. The sun in my eyes is like a never ending light, turning me mad, along with the thought of my lost Neo. The guards are opening the gates to the NUE embassy, pointing their guns at my head but I’m crying against the sunlight. ‘It’s just a kid,’ they say, ‘what the hell is wrong with you? You shouldn’t be here you know.’ I’m already on my knees, suddenly exhausted. ‘I know…I only wanted to be with him…just him, no one else…’ They’re talking on their radios, calling me a screwed up waster. But one of them stays near, tells me not to worry. I’m glad that when I look up I can’t into see his eyes for the sunlight. ‘I’m sorry,’ I tell him, ‘I need to deliver a message, a letterbomb of sorts…’ People will know about the book of truth, the crawlers will keep it in the system. An NUE building brought down will be enough to make them talk, to believe…and it will take away this sensation away at the same time. I can feel it in the air now, a sense of renewed magic. This is where the circle breaks free, where the street dreamer becomes the street saviour. In a beautiful glow of light, a thousand sparks against the sun, my own private suicide makes every eye turn. Now they will look and now they will listen.