MoboReader> Sci-fi > The Taàr (Dystopia #01)


The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 14563

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02

He lost count of the number of attempts he had made to enter the area where his friends were being kept. He felt as if he had made that same walk a thousand times in the last three days. And probably he had.

Nonetheless, Ben persisted.

He wanted to talk to Sal, but every time they stopped him, telling him he was not welcome in there, that he was a traitor and that the Taàr didn't want to see him.

Even Edgar and Dalin and the rest of the Younglings refused to speak to him. They stood there, a few meters from him, hands crossed, their looks sour. And after all those visits he still couldn't get used to the sight of his old friends there in front of him, dressed in new clean clothes, their faces and hands free of the grime and the dirt. Although they had been given the same clothes as those worn by the tower people, Tartarys adult males could still be easily distinguished at first glance–their beards and dark skin stood out.

But it was the girls and the women who attracted the greatest attention. And with them, the little children and the babies, some running around, some playing quietly, some shrieking as only babies can do. The whole area was ablaze.

Lost in his thoughts, Ben hurried on through the silent corridors towards the Tartarys Hall–that was how everyone in the tower now called the newly inhabited quarters. A whole floor had been dedicated to housing over four hundred new denizens, with enough rooms for everyone. However, his people preferred to group together in that immense hall. It was so huge, so vast, that with over four hundred people in it, it still looked quite empty.

At one of the entrances to the quarters, Ben was met yet again with a crowd of familiar faces that seemed to flock together just to bar his way. But this time he kept going. He pushed through the human wall, ignoring their shouts to stop and proceeded through a throng that quieted down as he passed. Angry eyes followed him but this time he took no notice. No one laid hands on him or tried to stop him. He hoped no one would. He was angry.

Ben hadn't slept since the day Nel asked him for his help. On that same day, Kim did not wake up.

Nel told him that for some unknown reason, Kim died in her state of induced sleep during the revival process. He assured him the doctors did all they could for her, but in the end they had to give up. The boy took this news badly. Sorrow gripped his heart and did not let go.

He felt guilty for Kim's death as well even though he had done nothing to bring that fate upon her. And he felt cheated by Nel and the others who had become his friends in a very short time. When he had decided to go to the tower, he had done so on his own. That was one thing he wanted Sal to understand–he had gone alone, and never spoke to anyone about his previous life. He was afraid of what the old man thought of him. Sal might assume that he had helped the tower people to capture them when he knew nothing of their plans.

As he went by, people stopped talking and just looked at him with their accusing stares. Some started shouting names at him. Traitor, they called him, and coward. They wanted him to go back from where he came.

But Ben didn't leave. He kept on walking until finally a group of man just made him stop and there was no way he could free himself and keep going, no matter how he tried. He knew he could go no further. Silently, they held him, made him powerless, accusation in their eyes. Ben realised that everyone had stopped talking and now only the children could be heard, laughing and screaming and crying.

"I want to speak to the Taàr, " he told them, his voice strong. "Sal, I want to speak to you. Where are you? Listen to what I have to say, " he shouted in the general direction of where he thought Sal might be hiding.

More name calling, more accusations. Until a voice echoed throughout the hall, ancient and harsh. It quieted everyone, even the young children.

The hands that held him suddenly let go. The human wall in front of Ben split to offer him a passage through. He walked in behind them and found himself standing before the back-bent figure of Sal, seated on a chair, staring down at the floor between his legs. It was not the sight he expected. Sal looked as if he had grown older instantly, as if the years that had been following him had finally c

t had been his entire life.

Ben thought Sal looked even older than before, even though only an hour had gone by. Perhaps, he thought to himself, this is because now I know he's dying.

Why had he come back? It was his Uncle Sam's voice that asked the question, delivered with his usual lack of grace. Ben ignored him. He went around him until he found himself once more standing in front of the Taàr. He was aware of the others around him, standing with their eyes and ears open.

"Can I speak to you alone?" he asked.

Sal turned his head and looked straight at the boy. Slowly, he gestured towards the others, signalling them to leave. They obeyed, but the look on Sam's face spoke volumes. Ben looked at him and smiled. He was rewarded with a flash of anger from his uncle.

When the others were out of earshot, Ben let out the breath he had been holding. He felt he had won the first battle of a war to come. He had planned everything carefully and that first success filled him with the courage to go on. Now, he thought, for the second battle. He weighed his words well before speaking. Sal let him take his time. Unusual, thought Ben. Perhaps another sign of his illness.

"You were right. As always, " he said, smiling slightly, but the smile evaporated when the old man remained unmoved. He put on a serious face and went on. "You were right. They are not going to let anyone out of here before a number of weeks go by. Perhaps months. Their intention is to give our people enough time to get used to life inside the tower. They want them to remain living here but they would prefer if it were their own choice. In the end, what they want is that our people join theirs and our women bear their children. If they let you go, they know that most of our people will follow you."

Sal's face remained impassive and Ben felt as if the old man knew all of this already. When he made no move to speak, the boy went on.

"I can get you out. I have found a way–it may be a little dangerous, but it is the only way. I do not think we have any other choice."

Ben kept his eyes locked on the old man. Now came the hardest part.

"I do not believe that our people should be denied this place. This is their only chance to get out of their misery, out of the hell that's out there. This tower is a piece of paradise that can offer safety to our people, and a better life. It's sad to grow up and live a life without never knowing your parents or having to live with the grief of losing your brother."

Again, Sal sat in silence, half his face awash in that odd red light reflected by the clouds. Ben thought he looked like an ancient statue, like the ones he had often seen in picture books. Slowly, Sal's head turned towards the window and for a long time he just stared at the desolation below him, with the boy standing behind him.

"When?" Sal asked after an eternity.

Ben smiled.

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