02 March, 2015


It started out with a feeling, which then grew into a hope. Perhaps he had succeeded after all. Perhaps he had survived and was on his way back. Then again, perhaps he had survived, but been captured. I wasn't sure what to think after the explosion last night. We hadn't expected there to be any explosion at all and certainly nothing as attention catching as it had turned out.

Something had gone wrong, but Prparim hadn't been able to contact me. Something had been jamming our radio frequency.

Wars are funny things. What would normally be considered illegal and dangerous, becomes allowed when you've been given something vaguely like orders. Orders can be funny things too, particularly when they've purposely been worded vaguely. Still, sabotage is sabotage, no matter the dressing.

Even if Prparim has been captured, he won't be able to tell them anything, because he and I don't know anything. We don't work under any of the normal operations. In all the paperwork, we're just civilians. Displaced civilians - which is the truth. We have no one left and no where to go. We have been disavowed and any guerilla operations that fail will fall heavily upon our shoulders. We are the scapegoats. We have gotten used to being out in the open, but it doesn't mean that we like it.

Wait, that's not quite right. Correction. I don't know anything, but Prparim does. He is always near the centre of operations. I tend to group us together because we've been partners for so long, but I forget that we're not on the same level.

Whether I want to worry or not, it's like a spot I can't itch.

Hiding here in the bushes, not daring to leave although time was up an hour ago. What to do?

It's dark, it's rainy and cold - and even if I wanted to get out of here, I can't. Not with all those soldiers tramping the grass into the mud.

Are they looking for me?

I feel like a mouse in a hole, a pigeon in the scrub, a rabbit in the grass, just waiting for the hunters to pounce. Any moment now, I'll feel their claws digging into my skin, their jaws around my neck, while they beat me to death against the ground.

Hope is an amazing thing. With hope, you feel less cold, you can be hunted and still expect something good to happen. So long Prparim is alive, I don't mind what happens to me. So long he survives and escapes, it doesn't matter whether I'm dead or alive.

A bright light glares through the leaves, blinding me for a moment. A heavy hand latches around the back of my neck, grasps hold of my hair and drags me out of hiding. My captor yells and his fellows gather around. Mud flies. My scalp burns, twigs catch my clothes and the grounds scrapes me. Heavy weights smash into me from all angles, sparking fires wherever they mark me. I taste blood. I see the mud shining in the torchlight and feel its moist stickiness against my body.

All around me, anger explodes in fits and bursts; and I am tossed, kicked and dragged along the ground in turns. I don't even try to understand what they're shouting. They're mad because some of their mates have died in the explosion. I don't care, because there's no way Prparim could have survived it either and if he's dead, I might as well be too. Without him, my whole plan has failed. Everything I did had been for him. It is better to die quickly, than to be tortured and raped, forced into confessions that are barely true. They'd never admit to it, of course. They never do. They never have. Even Command never recognised any of the other ladies' complaints when we were in training.

Complaints. It makes such abuse sound so trivial.

I'm not doing this because I'm a patriot. I'm not here because I love my job. I'm here for Prparim because he asked me and of all the people left in the world, he's the only one I trust. I'm here because Command had killed my sister and tonight was to be my revenge. I'm here because I aim not to return. I just hadn't counted on Prparim insisting on taking my place. I hadn't counted on him blowing himself up, instead of escaping and hiding out somewhere until the war had ended. He knew. Surely he knew what I had done. I had practically shown him, daring me to stop me.

Perhaps he was as sick of the war as I was.

There's a pause in the strikes and through my rapidly swelling eyes, I see a gap, a chance, and I take it.

Cold wind stings my face and my knees don't seem able to bear my weight, but I force myself to stumble on. Faster and faster, but the wind passes me no quicker and there's mud oozing its way into the grazes on my knees. Heavy limbs weighed down by pain. Only my imagination races away. Blinding white flashes through my eyesight, starting from my right side and then everywhere else. I hear several cracks and a scream through the roaring in my ears.

The white fades and is replaced with a pair of boots. Familiar boots, familiar pants, familiar face, but an unfamiliar expression.

And I realise it was all a ruse.

Why would he fight for a country that never loved or cared for him? Why would he fight against the very country he was born in?
How had we ever believed him in the first place?

The explosion had taken me by surprise. It would take Command by surprise too and they would assume something had gone wrong and that we were dead.

I laugh at my stupidity - or well, I gurgle and cough and then cry silently while gasping, because broken ribs don't allow you to do anything more than shallow breathing. How had I never noticed all the problems we had encountered in our previous missions had taken place during a last minute change of plan - changed by Prparim?

I had trusted him and he had used me. Not unexpected, I suppose. To trust someone is to want them to use you for their own gain.

Here I was. The double-crossing scapegoat's scapegoat and I was about to die for something I didn't believe in.

I had been looking to die this mission, just not like this, but death is death and with it comes release from this dark life. In the end, I guess it's all the same.

  "Hi Gracie," his eyes gleam icy blue, even in this torchlight. "That bomb wasn't in the plan. You've killed a lot of men."

I can barely talk for the pain. I can hardly seem to catch my breath, but I can smile. Smile and laugh to myself.
Me? He's accusing me?
It won't be long now. I wonder if he ever cared about me. Will he miss me?

  "You almost killed me," he continues, squatting down and cupping my chin in his hand, forcing my head up. "I almost didn't get out in time."

The bomb was your plant. I only sped the timer up on a mechanism that was meant to make noise for a distraction that would trigger the signal early, so that the enemy would see me leaving and shoot me. You knew that. You saw it. You took my place, you traitor.

But the bomb killing so many of the enemy soldiers doesn't quite make sense. Why had they gone so far in order to deceive my people or are they deceiving their own people - or the outside world? Is Prparim keeping up appearances for my fighting countrymen? I don't understand.

  "I knew you were tiring of the war, but I never thought you'd try to kill me. It's a good thing I still care for you. I hurried here before they could beat you to death. There'll be a trial and you'll probably be sentenced, but don't worry, they've already agreed not to execute you on grounds that you are a simpleton and not quite sound in the head."

My eyes widen at the news and his smile grows whilst mine fades. Don't tell me. Don't tell me this is going somewhere I don't want to go. I would still rather die. The whole point was to get myself killed. If I don't die, what's the point? Everyone else I love is dead. I have nothing left to live for.

On the other hand, who is he calling a simpleton? How dare he?

  "I've already told them everything about our operations, so all you have to do is corroborate my version of events. Your Command will think you're dead, so to tell the truth, we don't even need to try you, but we have to keep up the show for the historians." He smiles, but it's not the gentle smile I remember. A corner of his lips twists it into a cruel smile. "Not that you're worth including in history. With my input, they already know that there are some things you fear worse than death. I hope you're ready for it. Oh, you're really hated in this camp for all those booby traps you laid and the nuisance you made of yourself. You were forever getting in the way of my plans too. It'll be good to finally see you get what you deserve."

I wince at that. It shouldn't hurt, but it does. I had never meant to be a burden to him. Not to him. Now though, I might have other ideas. My heart aches with the knowledge that the secrets I had spilled to him during the quiet of our missions have now become arrows to pierce me.

I'm never going to trust anyone ever again.

My wrists are pulled roughly behind my back and arms as thick as tree trunks lift me up from either side. I fight them. Futilely.

I refuse to go quietly to a fate far worse than death. I had escaped by joining the war effort and there was no way I was going back to that old life willingly.

Prparim is alive, but now, I wish he were dead.

I should have gone for a gun or weapon earlier, then they would have been forced to shoot me in order to acknowledge the threat. Never mind the fact that I don't know how to use a gun.

So much for my convictions.

I wish I'd had the guts to have killed myself earlier. It would have saved me from all this trouble.

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