The fourth installment of the Crossing, a story in flash fiction. The story so far can be found here – The Crossing
For the first few days after our escape Loban and Arina stood back allowing us to get used to our new found liberty. In the mornings Gai would sit patiently teaching me to read and write. I had never seen a book let alone read the jumble of letters inside one. The system didn’t believe in an academic education, knowledge would have shown the militia to be what it really was a power-crazed machine. Instead we had been taught how to do practical things that could be used to empower the force of the system and keep the individual weak. Gai being fifteen years older than me remembered the days before the system when reading was a right and not a privilege.
I remember how he had told me stories and recited poems as we worked and travelled to the border town. Now he was teaching me to read those same poems by some guy called William Shakespeare. Gai didn’t laugh at me or call me stupid as I stumbled on the words but still I would get frustrated at myself. I knew the words I just couldn’t recognise them on paper. Each morning he’d patiently guide my hand to write while shaping the letters that made my name until at last on the third day in big capitals I wrote KIP.
In the afternoons I would help Loban in the garden, I knew how to do plants. I would listen to Loban and Gai talking about things and wished I could remember the days the two countries had been one, I wished I could have known the wonder of poetry and reading. I wished I could remember anything other than the system.
Loban and Arina’s sons had been killed in the fighting that had split the country in two. The sad look in the woman’s eyes as she looked at Gai suggested they were of similar age. Then she would look at me and smile knowing the day I had been born I was taken from my mother and bred to be a cog in the machine that was the system. I had failed of course. My rebellious nature made it impossible for me to conform in their ideal way so I was thrown to the gutter at ten years old as just another worthless scrap and for the next ten years battled against regular beatings from the militia for begging and scrapping for food until Gai had found me.
In the next six months I would be twenty-one and a man but inside I felt like a boy, naïve and innocent, lost and afraid. I would look at Gai and want to be a man like him, brave, strong, educated and unafraid. I also felt something else that I didn’t understand.
© JG Farmer 2014