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   Chapter 10 THE TAàR

The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 17239

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02


Hours later, on that same day, Ben made his way once more towards Tartarys hall. As he walked through the white corridors of the tower he encountered different groups of men. They were all debating the integration of his people with theirs and how it would affect the future of the tower. He listened with half a mind to many different scenarios, to problems they could face, to things that would need smoothing down. Some were still against this 'madness', others argued that finally they had been blessed by a miracle.

He listened, but was not really paying attention. His mind was elsewhere, plotting, calculating.

He found Sal waiting for him in the same chair, looking out of the same window at the same ruins. Night was fast approaching and a semi-darkness had already settled across the land below.

Silently, the old man stood up, supporting himself on a walking stick. Ben was startled. It was an image he would never have imagined of witnessing.

"We go?" he asked. "Let's get this over with."

Ben replied with a nod and together, without saying anything to the others around them, they walked slowly out of the hall. No one asked anything. No one tried to stop them. The boy took the lead as soon as they were outside–he knew the place better than Sal. He led the old man through a series of corridors until they found the lifts which took them up towards the topmost floor. Ben had been up there six or seven times with Russ since waking up inside the tower.

The lift doors opened and the old man looked around. He walked to one of the large glass doors that led onto the immense doughnut roof and stared at the dark blue sky and at the first stars that twinkled coldly in the twilight.

"So what about this plan of yours?" Sal asked, turning back towards Ben. "You want to throw me down from the roof?"

And although he kept a serious disposition, Ben was aware that the old man was trying to make a joke. The boy smiled but said nothing. Instead he went to a secluded corner from where he pulled out a black bag and then something large and long wrapped in a dark material, something he himself had hidden there earlier.

He put the bag to the side. It made a thud when he set it down on the floor. Next he opened the large bundle in the middle of the floor and started assembling a quantity of metallic tubes together. When done, he unrolled a brightly coloured piece of canvas and attached it to the metal frame he had just built. When it was done, standing there before them was a glider, just like the ones the tower people used in their races. He had managed to steal the one Russ used for training. Perhaps, one day, I will find a way to apologise, he thought. Perhaps.

Before taking the glider outside, he meticulously checked every joint and every knot to make sure the glider was set up correctly.

Slinging the black bag onto his shoulder, Ben signalled Sal to open the large doors for him so he could take the glider outside.

Up there, there was still enough light to see by, but just in case, Ben had brought his old torch with him. It was safe in his pocket.

As soon as the glider was halfway through the door, the strong wind lifted the light aircraft and almost took it away from him. Sal promptly grabbed the glider from the rear and together they managed to hold it steady.

"We need to tie ourselves in the seats, " the boy shouted above the noise of the wind.

The old man laughed, and for a brief moment, Ben saw once more the Sal he knew.

"Why? So if we crash they may find what's left of us?" he asked.

This time Ben laughed. He was sure the old man was only joking. He realised that he had just discovered another side of Sal that he never knew existed.

"It's not difficult to keep the glider steady once we ride the current, " he said, with the authority of someone who knows what he's talking about. "The secret is to jump correctly and then I must hold the steering bar tightly against the strong wind."

While speaking, he went through all the details Russ had mentioned whenever they spoke of the gliders. Russ had confided with him that his dream was that someday he would be able to glide down from the top of the tower. That was the source of Ben's simple plan. Silently, he thanked his little friend.

Russ had told him that the strong currents that hit the tower had an upward lift that would give a glider the push it needed to fly away from the building without risking being smashed against it. Then it was a question of riding the right current and glide slowly downwards.

Easy. At least in theory.

He looked at the clouds slightly below them and all around them.

"What I don't know is in which direction we should jump. I know only that we must go against the wind."

"Then we should jump to the north west, " the old man said, pointing. "The wind is blowing from that direction."

They climbed in the glider beside each other and Ben tied both their straps. Next, he opened the black sack he had kept for last and took out two helmets. He put on one himself and handed the other to Sal, who looked at it distrustfully, then donned it. It was a tight fit f

ign of decay and death, while the loud noises in the tower represented life. He missed the birds. He longed for their sweet, sweet song.

But there were no birds there.

They stopped in front of the temple.

Although Sal never told him where he intended to go, Ben knew how special that place was for the old man. He knew that if a place existed where the Taàr would want to while away his last hours in the world, that would be the place. The filtered light of the sun illuminated the east in a reddish glow. They looked at it for a moment or two, then together, they walked inside.

Sal removed the boy's hand from under his arm and went forward alone. He dragged his feet along the dull marble floor until he was standing at the centre of the temple, just below the broken cupola from where a reddish light came in, tainting the walls and the faded paintings. He stood, alone, without any aid, hunched under an invisible weight that had invaded his life so quickly, making the hours they had walked through the desolation seem like years.

He cleared his throat.

"Come. Come here Ben. Come get this old twig a chair."

His voice was very dry and it echoed in the emptiness of that place. It was the first time Ben had seen the temple entirely empty.

He got him a chair from the left aisle. Sal sat down immediately, with a sigh of relief. A sigh that seemed to confirm his plan eventually did fall through and he had achieved his aim. He sat and seemed at peace all of a sudden. Then, he started talking.

"Did I ever tell you that this place, our home, used to be called a church? That was the name of this temple. And it was a centre of activity for the whole town. People lived in the surrounding houses and they would come here every single day, to pray to their god, to worship the figure of a naked bleeding man nailed to a wooden cross. They believed in pain and suffering, the ones who came before us. They believed that redemption came from misery. And history has proven them right. When man forgets what his ancestors suffered, he starts scheming a new way to annihilate himself. I'm sure that someday he will be successful."

Sal turned his good eye towards the boy.

"Remember, you must never forget, suffering is what unites us and what makes us strong. Remember your roots, the ones you have grown here in this derelict town."

Sal stopped for a moment, breathing fast and shallow breaths. During this pause he opened the shirt the tower people had donned him with. From around his neck he removed the heavy golden chain with the cross attached to it and motioned the boy to go closer.

"This is for you. It's yours now. You are now the Taàr. Take it, wear it around your neck and go. Go back. The others need you, they need direction and someone to remind them of how long they suffered, of the loved ones we lost, of the times we went to sleep hungry and thirsty.

"Go, leave me alone. I am the past, you are now the future."

Stunned and unbelieving, Ben reached out and took the golden chain from the old man's hand.

For a very long moment, he just stared at the cross dangling from it.

He was going to protest, to refuse the offer. He wanted to ask Sal if this was some sort of joke. But when he looked into that old eye he knew it was not and solemnly put it round his neck.

Then, for one last time, Ben looked into the old man's eye, turned his back, and went back to the tower.

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