Julia's Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A young woman discovers the terrifying truth about the society in which she lives.

The sun shone down in an almost straight line as the church bells rang noon. Its rays broke on the large beautiful glass of the front window, sending little rainbows over the crowd in seeming defiance of the events taking place.

Julia stood in front of the church, eating a Kebab. "We will no longer accept the sodomites in our church! We will retake Christianity from the sinners and expel our enemies!" the police chief screamed at the crowd while his officers dragged protesters and congregants out of the large wooden building. 'That's the third time this week,' Julia thought. Ever since the New Klan took over, protests were no longer held in the street thanks to their Security Squads bashing in heads. Religious ground forced a more gentle approach and had thus become the preferred location for what little opposition remained. So, the NK swiftly enacted the "Religious Purity Act" which overturned the tenets of Vatican II and criminalized "non-traditional" religious expression. Since then, more and more churches were raided and their priests and congregations jailed and replaced with government-approved counterparts. Where exactly those counterparts came from, Julia did not know. She theorized that they had been relocated from the now-ghettoized areas that housed "undesirables"; if you're going to forcefully concentrate certain people in specific areas, the former residents of those areas have to go somewhere, after all. The police chief was getting ready to make a public statement, so Julia started listening intently. "Thanks to our glorious leadership and the RPA, this church is now once more a bastion of old-fashioned family values. It will no longer be a hive of degeneracy, perversion, and Communist propaganda! Rejoice, people, for the New Klan and its Security Squads have cleansed this holy abode and provided a new congregation steadfast in its traditional beliefs! You will greet these people as your neighbors and brothers, because that is what they are from now on! Hail Success!" he declared. "Hail Success!" the crowd replied enthusiastically. Julia threw away the aluminum wrapping of her Kebab and turned to leave the church square. A black, leather-clad hand stopped her in her tracks. "You there," the Security Squad member barked "why did you not Hail Success?" "But I did." said Julia. "You most certainly did not. Come with me and do not resist." the man instructed. Julia could not believe what was happening. Her brain went into overdrive, trying to find some way to escape the future as an inmate or undesirable into which she was now dragged. While she was still racking her brain in shock, a scuffle broke out next to her and the Security Squad member; some activists were resisting arrest, and Julia was inadvertently caught in the middle. Before she could react, a red-headed activist locked her arms with Julia's and pushed her back into the larger group of protesters. "We need to retreat before their backup gets here" Julia heard someone scream as she was pulled away from the church square by the movement of the crowd. Lest she be arrested, she decided to actively follow the protesters until they began to disperse a few miles down the road. At that point the red-headed activist from earlier nudged Julia to follow her and her group into a nearby alley. Once they had navigated through a maze-like path of little alleyways, they stopped and finally had a chance to catch their breath and talk. For the first time that day, Julia got a good look at her red-headed savior; her eyes, angled slightly upwards, shone bright green in the afternoon sun. The freckles on her cheeks extended all the way down to her slightly pronounced cheekbones, only interrupted on the right side by a small scar. Her small frame was complimented by her toned arms and overall fit demeanor. Julia was mesmerized by the sheer grandiosity of her beauty and the overwhelming charisma she exuded. Once Julia regained control of herself she asked: "Who even... are you?" "I"m Emily, and that's one Hell of a way to thank me." the activist said. "I'm sorry. Obviously I'm very gratefu... I mean, thank you so much, I thought my life was over!" said Julia. "Well, Julia," Emily put particular emphasis on the name "what is your deal?" Julia didn't know what her deal was, and wasn't even particularly sure what that meant. "I'm... not sure how to answer that. I'm... not like you, that's for sure." she said. Emily smirked. She turned to the rest of the group and instruced them to go ahead without them. Julia was afraid she'd crossed a line and was about to get hurt. "I- I meant no offense." she whispered. Emily sighed. "Look, I'm not sure who or what you think I am, but I can assure you I'm not the villain here. I'm not trying to abduct and torture you for not repeating my silly slogan. You can't tell me that the rhetoric of the NK, their paramilitary Security Squad, and the countless people that just disappear and are then mysteriously replaced whenever a church is raided hasn't registered as a massive red flag to you!". She was right, of course, but Julia knew admitting that would entail a whole bunch of moral obligations that she honestly didn't quite care to explore. "I mean- you know I can't- I-" stuttered Julia. "Yeah, yeah, don't worry. Just come with me for now, you'll need to hide out until tonight anyway, they'll be looking for stragglers now." Emily said while starting to walk down the alley. Julia remained frozen in place. "Come on!" Emily shouted, and Julia obliged.

The smokey, dimly-lit room into which Emily led the pair was filled with long-haired people, some of whom were political activists Julia recognized from wanted posters, sitting on mismatched dingy furniture. Rock music was emanating from a small sound system in a corner, and a heavy smell of alcoholic vapors and sweet smoke wafted into Julia's nose, reminding her of her time in college before the NK took over. She paid no mind to her rising nostalgia and made sure to stick close to Emily as they made their way past the patrons and the bar tender. They entered a small hallway lined on each side by three heavy wooden doors and ending in a dusty staircase. Julia peeked through the ajar doors as they passed them by and saw injured people on rough approximations of hospital cots in one room and people resting on rickety beds in the other. She assumed that they were fugitives and undesirables, but did not stop to find out. She thought about asking Emily, but figured she'd be safer just accepting rather than questioning these oddities. Emily and her made their way up the staircase, which led to an office packed to the brim with books, loose pages, posters, and newspapers. In midst of the unorganized paperwork stood a small laptop. Julia gasped. "Personal electronics? It's been so long." she said. Emily's lips curved upwards in a barely noticeable motion as she made a gesture for Julia to sit down on the armchair at the desk. "I'm sure you haven't had the chance to get any actual news since the NK took over, so I'm cautiously optimistic that this'll help you understand the full extent and gravity of the situation." Julia's hands were visibly shaking as she used the touchpad to click on the browser icon. It had been years since she actually used a computer, but she quickly realized that her muscle memory made it effortless. 'Like riding a bike' she thought to herself. Finally, the browser opened and she immediately accessed an international and independent news site she remembered her sociology professor recommending. THE FOURTH REICH COMETH was the first headline that stood out. "Do- Do you have a cigarette?" Julia asked. Emily nodded and handed her a cigarette and a lighter. "Thanks." Julia lit the cigarette. She coughed a little. She hadn't even thought of smoking in almost five years. Her eyes focused on the words of the article, which now seemed to detach themselves from the screen and form a claw-like hand from which protruded a single jagged finger that burrowed into her soul. Julia sharply inhaled a big puff of smoke to clear her mind of this ominous vision. Deep down she knew, of course, that things had been bad, verging on apocalyptic even, since the NK took over but for the first time ever she had irrefutable and unambigious proof. She felt the inescapable guilt start pulsing through her veins as though she had been bitten by a venomous snake. "I- I should have known. I mean, I did know. But I didn't know know, you know? I mean. Take my neighborhood, for example: it used to be super diverse! Now it's exclusively white, NK-approved traditionalists, just like everywhere else. I'm- I'm complicit, aren't I? I should have helped, resisted, done anything. But I- I just smiled and waved. Just like everyone else I-" Tears were streaking down Julia's face, competing to fall off her chin. Emily handed her a handkerchief and said: "Well, yes, and I'm not here to coddle you or make you comfortable with that fact. That's on you. But remember; the NK propaganda machine is finely tuned to obscure reality and breed tacit compliance, so it's not surprising you were suckered in." "I was almost arrested by the Security Squad for not saying Hail Success. How the fuck did I not get it right there and then? It's so painfully obvious." Julia's face had dried up and now started to hue light red as her features hardened into a frown. "How do I help?" she asked. Her voice was still shaky, but she was staring directly into Emily's Emerald-green eyes. Emily did not break eye contact and stared back silently for half a minute before she began to speak. "Well, that depends on what you can do and what you feel comfortable doing. We're planning several things and we always need on-the-ground assistance for medical, organizational and menial tasks." "I think I can probably help with menial tasks, but I would much rather join in some civil disobedience or something. I'm honestly pretty pissed and chock-full of guilt at this point. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I ran into you but this is a lot." Julia said. Emily blushed and looked to the floor. "I get it. We usually don't let, uhm, strangers join this early on but what the Hell? We're doing something big tonight. If you're done browsing I'll take you to meet the gang." "I think I've seen as much as I can stomach today. Let's do this!" Julia said with a smile. The pair went downstairs and while they walked past the ajar doors, Emily explained that the people on the improvised hospital cots were mostly injured protesters and fugitives, and that the people on the rickety beds in the other room were mainly activists and undesirables that resisted deportation. They stopped at the final door on the right side of the hallway and Emily knocked three times. "It's me," said Emily "and I'm bringing a new friend." Julia was thrilled to hear that she was already held in such high regards and felt some blood rush to her face. "Come on in then, let's meet them." said a voice from behind the door. As the door openend, the first thing Julia noticed was the heavy smell of smoke and wax. Papers were strewn about the floor, and the wooden table around which sat three people was laden with binders, maps, and candles, the flicker of which created dancing shadows that seemed to intertwine and then dissipate in an instant with each draft of air that hit the flames. The people sat around the wooden table were eyeing Julia. The tall brown-eyed woman in the bright-red blouse spoke first: "Hey, I'm Cassie, what's up?" "Nice to meet you, I'm Julia!" said Julia. The blue-eyed woman sitting next to her ran her fingers over the scar on her forehead and said: "I'm Amy." "Hi. Julia." Julia said. Amy kept staring blankly at her, and Julia felt herself shivering a bit. "Don't mind her, she's always this grumpy," said the third woman, a green-eyed lady who bore a striking resemblance to Emily, "and that's allegedly part of her charm. I'm Lily." "I can handle grumpy. It's very nice to meet you all!" Julia said. Amy rolled her eyes and made a silent motion signaling Julia and Emily to sit down. "Let's save the pleasantries for later. If Emily vouches for the newbie, I say we proceed sans introduction. There's lots to plan and very little time." said Amy. She pointed to the blueprint of a church laid out on the table and gently placed her finger on a back entrance, shooting a look at Cassie. "You're in charge of getting us in here." she said. Cassie nodded. Amy's finger darted over to a map that was partially draped over the blueprint and landed on an intersection. "Lily, Emily, you're on lookout. The newbie and I will distract the Security Squad by blowing up a car or something right over here." Amy said casually while pointing out an area of the map some way from the church. Julia felt her body tensing up as her vision slowly reduced to a needlepoint and she felt her lungs rapidly sucking in air, seemingly without ever exhaling it, when Emily took her hand. The panic began to dissipate and Emily's soothing voice, reminiscent of the serene sounds of a small brook in a forgotten forest, cut through the mental fog: "A parked car, obviously. We don't attack civilians. Cars are insured, and it's just a distraction. No one gets hurt. Now breathe slowly, you're gonna get me going as well." Emily pressed Julia's hand a bit firmer and gestured an exasperated Amy to keep talking. Amy finished explaining the operation plan, which included showing them all some very crude drawings whose purpose would be to adorn the church reredos alongside the message 'Free Your Mind. Down With the NK. The Specter Still Haunts.' written in large red letters. They would also trash most of the decorations and pews and smash the golden statue of the NK that was now by law surveying every congregation. The only reason Julia was calmly accepting all this was the warmth and safety that radiated from Emily's hand whose fingers were still firmly intertwined with hers. "Everyone good? We leave at midnight." said Amy. They all gave a nod.

 

A few hours later, Julia and Emily were sitting in the upstairs office. Julia was clasping a coffee mug in her hands, softly blowing on the steamy beverage. Emily was on the ground leaning against the armchair and looking at Julia with a smile. "You look cute when you drink." she said. Julia blushed and shot back a smile in response. Unsure what to say, she just removed one hand from her mug and locked her fingers with Emily's. Emily, without letting go of Julia, stood up and took the mug from Julia's hands, placed it on the desk, and then sat on the arm rest, staring intently into her eyes. Julia felt her heart rate accelerating as their faces approached each other. The intense eye contact made her throat seize up and she felt dizzy. Then, their lips touched. Cautiously at first, but growing more passionate with each kiss. Julia lost all sense of time as she sunk one hand into Emily's fiery hair whilst squeezing her hand with the other as though it was a tether to reality. After what seemed like forever and also way too short, Emily pulled away slightly and looked at Julia with a content smile and a probing look. "What's up? You've been on edge since the meeting. I mean, more on edge than before." she asked. "You're right. It's just- well it's not just the fact that my whole life as turned upside down today, but also the idea of carrying out this operation. Blowing up a car. I thought that was the issue, it being so far outside my comfort zone and all. But at this point- at this point I'm just scared for- for you, if I'm honest. I know it's ridiculous, we're essentially strangers, but- yeah." Julia blurted all this out before she could stop herself and immediately averted her eyes as she felt the blood in her veins freeze. Emily gently lifted Julia's chin and placed a tiny kiss on her lips before resting her forehead against Julia's. She then spoke softly, almost like a whisper: "I feel the same way. Let me put your worries to rest, tonight is totally routine. I've done this countless times, and you'll be with Amy. We'll be fine." Julia let herself believe those sweet words. "Okay, I trust you. Let's grab a bite to eat, I'm just noticing that I'm famished." she said with a smile on her face. Emily took Julia by the hand and led her down the stairs and into the last room on the left side of the hallway. It was a small-scale dining hall. On the right-hand side stood a stove, a cupboard, a fridge, and an area for preparing food; the rest of the room was occupied by a long wooden table, lined on each side with a dozen plastic chairs. Julia wondered how this clandestine operation financed itself as she looked into the fully-stocked fridge Emily had just opened. "See anything you like?" Emily asked. "Well, yes, but not in there." Julia said. Emily blushed and cracked a smile. "Very flattering, but seriously what do you want to eat? I make pretty mean spaghetti and tomato sauce." she said. Julia nodded and sat down. She watched as Emily cut up some tomatoes and boiled some water for the noodles. Once she saw that Emily was done cooking, she quickly got up and helped her prepare the two plates. They ate in relative silence, with Julia occasionally remarking how good it tasted. Julia then brought the empty dishes to the sink and rinsed them. Emily gave a thankful smile "What did I tell you? I make mean pasta!" Emily said. "You certainly do! What time is it? I feel like the day flew by." said Julia. "It's almost time. Let's get back to the meeting room and prepare ourselves" Emily answered as she took Julia's hand. She led her back into the room on the other side of the hallway, where the other three women were engaged in preparations. Amy was laying bulletproof vests and small packages of C4 onto the table, while Cassie and Lily were testing radios and lock picks. Julia looked on in silent amazement, a slight fear-induced adrenaline high tingling through her body. "Don't gawp; help!" the sound of Amy's rough voice snapped Julia out of it. "Oh, yeah, sure; what can I do?" she asked. "Take this, and put it on. Then you can help me get the C4 ready and I'll explain the detonation process to you in case you're the one to do it later." said Amy. Julia acquiesced to Amy's demands, put on a bulletproof vest, and looked inquisitively at Amy, waiting for her to start her demonstration. "The key aspect to keep in mind here is not using too much of the stuff. We want to blow up a car, maybe a store front, not bring down a whole block." Amy took about a handful of the putty and handed it to Julia. "You want to get a feeling for it. Then you shape it into a small brick and insert a detonator. Once that's in there, you place it on what you want to blow up and fire the detonator. Simple as." Amy looked directly into Julia's eyes, and Julia felt a sting of inadequacy. "I think I got it" she said. She molded the C4 into a brick and inserted the detonator, then showed the construction to Amy who nodded approvingly. They all kept working for a while, when Cassie demanded the group's attention by loudly clearing her throat. "Alright, we got communications set and ready. Secure, unused lines. I suggest you all take a handheld transceiver but do not talk over it. We communicate through pings. One means in position, two means hold up, and three means you got caught, which means the rest of you disperse and get back here immediately." she said. Everyone nodded. "Alright then, make your final bathroom trips and whatnot, we leave in 10." said Amy.

The ten minutes flew by Julia as she was resting her head on Emily's shoulder and daydreaming. Emily was discussing something with Lily, but Julia did not care enough to listen. Her thoughts were still reeling from this life-altering day. After all, she hadn't even fully acknowledged to herself that there was an issue with the country's new leadership until today. 'And now Emily' she thought. She hadn't planned on dating anyone, really, much less like this. 'What's done is done. I really, really like her, and I want this to work. I need it to, otherwise I-' Julia's train of thought was interrupted by Emily gently poking her shoulder. "Come on, it's finally go time. The others are already waiting outside!" Emily said with a grin. Julia smiled groggily and got up. They exited the hallway, passed through the small music-filled room, and went into the alley, now blackened by the night sky. The three other women were standing in a circle, Amy and Cassie sharing a cigarette while Lily watched nervously down both ways. Amy sighed as soon as she spotted Julia and Emily. "Finally. Took you long enough." Her voice sounded exasperated. "Whatever. Shall we?" said Emily. Amy nodded and the group started moving through the maze of alleyways back toward the church square. Once they were a few inches from the main road, Amy grabbed Julia by the arm and prevented her from leaving the anonymity of the alley. "We'll use the alleys to get where we need to be, then we wait for their signal to blow up a car or a storefront or whatever looks like it'll attract the most attention," Amy explained to a perplexed Julia. "Alright," said Julia. Amy made a motion to indicate to Julia that she needed to follow, and went back into the maze of alleyways, this time heading away from the church. They walked silently and briskly for a while until they reached another alley connecting to a main road. "We should be far away enough. Now, we wait for the others to get in position and then we blow up that car over there" Amy pointed to a minivan that was parked halfway on the sidewalk, just next to a high-end clothing store. "If we use enough C4, we can probably do quite a bit of damage to the store as well" Julia said excitedly. "I like the way you think. Do you want to try planting it? I'll handle the detonation." said Amy. "Cool," Julia felt both terrified and exhilarated by the prospect of this whole plan coming together. Her thoughts did not linger on those feelings for long as she immediately started thinking about Emily and all the things that they would do, the way their relationship would develop, their future. She hadn't ever fallen this hard for anyone, and it scared her in spite of the exuberant happiness she experienced when she merely thought of Emily's name. Voluntarily giving that much of your inner life to another person was frightening. 'Emily is worth it.' Julia thought. The handheld transceivers beeped twice, fell silent for a little while, then beeped twice again. "Alright, they're all in position. Now for the fun part," said Amy as she slowly crept out of the alley, gesturing Julia to follow. Once they reached the minivan, Julia took the C4 and the detonators out of Amy's bag and set the charges. "Nice work, now get back in that alley and make sure you catch the show," Amy said. Julia jogged back to the alley, turned around, crouched down, and looked excitedly at the minivan. Amy came jogging towards her, swiftly followed by a loud explosion and a ball of fire. "Woo!" exclaimed Amy, hugging Julia. They quietly watched the fire burn until the serenity was broken by the sound of sirens. "Alright, we need to go. This should keep them busy long enough for the others to get everything done," said Amy as she tugged on Julia's shirt. Julia followed her back through the maze of alleyways until they reached the main road where they had separated from the others earlier. "Now what?" asked Julia. "Now we wait," said Amy. Without warning, their handheld transceivers beeped thrice. "Oh shit. We gotta get gone. Something went wrong." Amy looked panicked, and for the first time, Julia saw her break her cool demeanor. "What about the others?" asked Julia. "They'll be fine. You go back the way we came, I'll use another path. Just wait at the hide-out." Amy shouted as she ran away. 'I can't leave Emily' thought Julia. She crept out of the alley and saw Emily and Lily surrounded by Security Squad members just half a mile down the road. She was still deciding if and how she could help when she felt a leather glove on her shoulders and a metallic object pressed against her temple. It was the last sensation she would ever have.

 

THE END.


Submitted: July 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Finley Daniels. All rights reserved.

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