Events remembered by the young Elizabeth
I was walking through my hometown, King’s Armour, searching for him. It was neither the first time I had to do so, nor would it be the last. He did such things quite often, running through the streets, stealing things and destroying others. It’s his usual behaviour and although I should have said something about it, should have pleaded with him to stop behaving in such a destructive way, I didn’t. I loved him too much to leave him and I was too scared he would leave me if I addressed the issues. And so I kept quiet.
The people around me went about their ordinary days. They walked home from work or from the shops, chatting with their colleagues or friends. None of them looked at me for longer than a second. There were no second glances, no greetings and no smiles whenever my path crossed that of somebody else. It was the one thing I would have usually found annoying about the South.
But not today, not tonight.
While I loved to talk to everybody, no matter how well I knew the other person, and while I loved to simply smile at those human beings living in our small town, I never felt that way when I was out looking for him. Although I wasn’t exactly worried or scared – as I said, it wasn’t the first time something like this has happened – I didn’t feel too comfortable either. Him walking through the streets alone and committing whatever crime he felt like was never a good thing. It was too dangerous, too risky to do something of the likes, especially down here in the South.
I had heard that the other Kingdoms weren’t quite as harsh or strict as our Kingdom of Power was. Of course, they had rules and laws and punishments as well. But not one of them seemed to care as little for the reasons somebody might have had when he or she did a bad thing as the South. The government down here didn’t even pretend to be listening to you, if you tried to explain yourself or your actions. They only judged you for what you did and ignored any reasons you might have had. The rules and the laws and the punishments of the South were a lot of things, but not exactly righteous.
I walked through the streets of my hometown, trying to avoid the eyes of the other people and searching for him. I walked past broken windows and knocked over trash dumpsters. Luckily or, maybe, not so luckily, he had left a trail that I could follow. Wherever I looked I saw a sign or a hint talking about his newest rampage. It made my search for him at least slightly easier, but it also meant that the officials wouldn’t have too much trouble finding him as well.
Turning around another corner, I found myself in a small alley. The buildings surrounding me were big and completely made out of ice. There were no noises coming from the open windows and I couldn’t even hear so much as the small voice of another human being. The sounds of the main street grew quieter and quieter the farther I went down the alley. Soon everything was quiet and the only thing I could hear was my very own heartbeat.
The quietness and the looks of the small alley – which looked just as broken and destroyed as the streets I had walked down for the past hour or so –reminded me of something I had heard as a young girl. It had been at one of my grandparents little dinners with some of their old friends, some of their old colleagues. All of them had worked for the government for most of their lives. All of them had belonged to those people judging each and every living being without even knowing his or her story. They hadn’t known that I had been hiding inside one of the wardrobes in the hall. They hadn’t known that I had been listening to every last word they had said. And it had been better that way, because what they had talked about had been one of the South’s biggest and well-kept secrets – and it was till this day.
As I walked down the alley I remembered the secret, the story of a man and his family. It wasn’t a nice story. There was no happy ending. It was dreadful and horrifying and I didn’t want to remember it, but I simply couldn’t help myself. So, walking through my hometown, I lost myself in my own thoughts and almost didn’t notice what was happening around me. The story led me through the alley and towards the place where I would hopefully find him.
The young man from the story was a lot like the man I was looking for that night. He didn’t follow the rules, committed crimes, destroyed different places and hurt other human beings. He was a Southerner as well and he was the most wanted man of the Kingdom, fleeing from the army and the government.
Sooner or later, they were able to capture him and take him to the dungeons of the capitol. They put him in one of the dark cells and questioned him whenever they could. The man pleaded for his life. He tried to explain to them that he had only done all those horrible things because of his family. One of his three children was very sick and they needed the money for its treatment. He hadn’t done anything out of ill-will, but because he had seen no other way for his family and his child’s survival. The man had been desperate.
The government then tricked him, cruelly. They pretended to believe him and to be filled with pity for him and his family. Yet they weren’t. The people working for the government never felt pity for anybody, not even for themselves. They didn’t care what his story was. They didn’t care why he did it. But in the end they let him go. The man was free again and able to return to his family. He thought he would be safe, had promised never to do anything bad again. He wanted to change, wanted to be better. The man would not get a chance to do so, though.
Although they let him go again and although they told him he was free, the government of the South followed him to his home and watched him for two days in order to fulfil their cruel plan. After hearing his story they didn’t only want to take him captive for his crimes, they wanted his family as well. His wife and his children might have not done anything wrong, yet the government thought it was only right to imprison those people who made him do everything as well.
Two days after he was freed, the man was captured again. And this time around, his family was taken with him. Again pleading to the government, the man tried everything to save the lives of his wife and his children. He didn’t care about his own life anymore. He didn’t care whether he would be locked in the cells of the dungeons forever, didn’t care whether he died. It was only about his family for him. Nothing else mattered, especially because he knew what could happen to prisoners and criminals in the South.
And yet again, after he pleaded for hours, the government tricked him.
They told him that he shouldn’t worry too much. Nothing would happen to his wife and his children. He was the only one who was supposed to be executed the next day. His wife and his children would be fine. But that was not the truth.
That night the man and his wife tried to calm their children down. They were all in the same cell, all in the same darkness. The wife told their children stories and whenever they seemed to turn out badly, the man thought of a happy ending for his children.
The next day came faster than the man had anticipated.
In the morning he was executed, with his whole family watching. His wife cried quietly. His children screamed louder than anybody would have thought possible. And the man died, the horrified looks of his family the last thing he ever saw. Although the government had promised him that nothing would happen to his family, they were put into the cell again afterwards. They were imprisoned and left alone in the darkness of the dungeons for the rest of their lives. There was never any daylight and as little food as possible. Nobody helped the sick child. Nobody cared about them or their story.
The government treated everything which had happened to the man and his family as a secret. They didn’t talk about it once since it had happened. Even decades later, no ordinary citizens of the Kingdom knew about the three children and the wife of a man who had tried to save his family. The government didn’t want anybody to know about their tactics. They didn’t want their own actions to be too obvious for anybody. And they regretted nothing. In their eyes everything had been necessary and right. The family had had to be punished as well.
Decades later, nobody knew exactly which inmates had once belonged to the family. Their faces had changed and their story was long forgotten. They looked like everybody else and thus nobody knew their true identity.
If they did something so horrible to somebody who only tried to save his family, what would they do to him? What would happen if they found him first? What if I can’t reach him in time?
I slowly returned to my senses. The story of the man and his family not only created many questions inside of me, but also worries and a kind of fear. There was no way I would let anything happen to him. He was the love of my life and I couldn’t just let them capture him. I had to find him first. It was essential that I did so.
And so I sped up my pace until I almost ran and turned around the next corner.