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   Chapter 11 EPILOGUE – IN THE PLACE WHERE HE FELT FREE

The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 11255

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02


A silence louder than any scream fell inside Tartarys hall as soon as he set foot in it. All eyes turned on him, some with hatred, some with curiosity, some questioning, but all of them accusing. They had found him guilty without giving him the opportunity to defend himself.

All the way from Tartarys to the tower he had pondered on what he would say, on what words to use to convince his clan of Sal's will. He didn't believe that he could be successful, not when he himself did not believe this was real. How could they take him seriously? Every time he tried to visualize himself, entering and delivering his speech, he saw the scornful stares, the laughs to his face. And yet, the part of him that never let go screamed at him that this would be his biggest challenge. Only if he succeeded in this would he be worthy of leadership. He knew that many would not be willing to accept him. So he tried to imagine their arguments and created counter arguments in his mind.

He assumed that those closest to Sal would pretend the leadership of the clan and contest it, fighting. He was sure about it. So why had the old man chosen him as his successor? Why had he picked him from among four hundred and fifty people, one of the youngest in the clan? What had he seen in him that he hadn't found in the others? In Uncle Sam for instance, who not only shared Sal's same hard and determined nature but was also close to the old man, possibly one of his best friends.

He had planned every word, every reaction. But now, those stares swept all confidence from him. The speech and arguments he had recited evaporated and left him blank. The silence grew uncomfortable until someone behind him spoke and broke the spell. He had lost his big chance of taking everyone by surprise.

"Where is Sal? What did you do to him?" Jimi asked. He was a short stocky man, his face covered in a black beard that punctuated his large eyes. He was one of the men always hovering around the Taàr.

"He's gone."

Ben's words were dry and they echoed in the hall even though he did not shout. To many there, they sounded like thunder. He felt he should say something else.

"I set him free. I went with him back to our town, and left him there to rest, as was his wish."

"You killed him!" someone shouted from the back and many took up the shout until an entire chorus of accusations was being directed at the boy.

Ben felt a strange calmness come over him. The voices rang in his ears and he focused on the sound. He was the Taàr now, he made them sing. With a gesture of his good hand he silenced them.

"You are wrong. Sal was sick, a terminal illness that came quickly. He knew he was dying and went back to die. I had to carry him the last few miles because fever took him. He started calling the names of dead people, members of our clan who died in the past."

"Liar! Murderer! You're just making this up. Sal is not there, " Jimi said. The chorus took voice again, this time calling him a liar.

He knew then that words would never be enough. So he opened the tattered shirt he was wearing and took out the chain Sal had given him. He held it high for everyone to see.

"Sal gave me this. He appointed me the new Taàr—"

He did not go any further. Those words sparked the hatred of the crowd around him. He saw them closing in on him, fists raised, rage in their

tower people. Ben knows this, he was the one who started it all, and he can see clearly. Every side will benefit from this union. Who knows, perhaps in a distant future, the cities will be rebuilt from today's ashes, the fields will yield crops again and trees flourish as they once did before the bombs destroyed life and hope alike. Once, when I was younger, my dream was to be able to unite all the survivors on this island, and work together to clean away the rubble to give ourselves another chance.

But let's not jump so far ahead. In truth, my dream died the day Kim did not wake up. And now, dear friend, my time has come to join her wherever she is. I cannot die here, not in all this comfort. I was raised in hardship and suffering, and I want to go away in the same way. I can never come to terms with luxury and comfort. I do not want to understand them or embrace them. No. I must leave, back to the place where I lived my entire life, surrounded by dead gods, grief and long forgotten monuments. There I will die in peace, there I will be free.

Farewell. I wish health and a long life to you and all our kin. May the future prove me right.

Sal the Taàr"

A NEW BEGINNING

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Nicholas Aquilina, Karen Bonello, Duncan Caruana, Daniel Creus, Derek Fenech, Tricia Fenech Fabri, Mark-Anthony Fenech, Matthew Paul, Simon Prime, Chris Scicluna.

BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR

Il-Log?ba tal-Allat (The Game of the Gods, a trilogy)

I. It-Tielet Qamar (2008)

Ii. L-A??ar ?olma (2010)

Iii. Is-Sitt A?wa (2012)

Unus Mundus

I. Fil-Merg?at tal-Impossibbli (2013)

Ii. Jien, Wie?ed Minnhom (2015)

Irvin Vella, Virtual Investigator

I. Il-Ka? Manduca (2015), The Manduca Case (2017)

Ii. Il-Ka? tas-Serqiet Strambi (2016)

Iii. Il-Ka? tal-G?ejjer tat-Te?or (2018)

Dystopia

I. It-Taàr (2017)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John A. Bonello is the author of the fantasy trilogy for young adults Il-Log?ba tal-Allat (The Game of the Gods), the duology for adults Unus Mundus and the series of detective novels for children Irvin Vella, Virtual Investigator. He won the Malta National Book Award four times. He lives in his grandfather's house, in the remote village of Dingli, on the island of Malta.

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