The jail cell was unbearably cold. The floors were hard and uneven, the light was scarce. I sat in the only dry corner of the room, the rest being damp and mouldy. The city I was in was rich, but didn't take too kindly to us criminals. Especially the rebels like me. They'd locked me in the worst cell they could find, fed me the worst food they had, kept me in the worst conditions, kept me unhealthy. They were happy I was close to death.
I was in the basement. It was dark and dreary. And most of all...it was lonely. Not noisy and colourful like our hideout had been. Definitely not a party like it was everyday I spent with them. I missed them all, all those people I'd shared my adventures with. I missed my friends, I missed the people I'd met even briefly, I missed my parents, I missed my sister and I missed Him, my one true love. They were all long gone.
Its funny, you never really understand what its like to lose the ones you love. Even if you live in dangerous conditions and you're under constant threat from everyone. You build this false sense of security up around you, you believe everything will be fine and you'll see them again. Never do you consider the fact that one day... You'll get caught. One day everything you've built up, every defence mechanism, every relationship, even that fake security you had... It all disappears. It disappears along with them. Until they're gone... Nothing really matters. You become carefree, reckless, stupid. You begin to make mistakes. That's why I was here. Alone. In conditions even rabid rodents wouldn't be subject to.
There was one sink in the disgusting cell, dirty and infested with ants with a fetid, smudged mirror hanging lopsided above it. There was a toilet beside it, also grimy and generally disgusting. A single stained bed sheet covered the hard, lumpy mass they'd said was my bed. It was possibly the most disgusting thing in here. The stains were unfathomable, I couldn't tell whether it was stained with blood, vomit, or something even more disgusting. I had half a mind to just ask for some cleaning supplies and clean the whole room myself, but the idiots on the other side wouldn't let me. I knew that much. Of course, I couldn't complain. This was my home now.
And I looked, and probably smelt the worst out of all the things in the cramped little room.
My hair was too long, too greasy, not nearly as blue as it should've been, as it used to be. My eyes had horrible, huge bags under them from lack of sleep, my insomnia had got worse and worse over the years, ceasing only when He had been by my side. But He was long gone now, and what was the point of dwelling over what could never be? I hadn't eaten yet either. Just drank the water they gave me and tried my hardest to just not die: the best I could manage because I lived with hope. Hope that I would see Him maybe just one more time. What I'd give to see Him...once. But that was me: I was stick-thin, malnourished and slowly dying. I had just three days left to live.
But I began to accept it. At first I'd tried to keep up my energy, out of the pure hope that I could keep being that cheerful kid I was last year, but... What was the point? It's not like I was going to leave anytime soon. I would die here, be released only when I gave up the name of my accomplices, my best friends. And I'd never give them in. So I would die here, on this very spot, huddled up in a ball in the corner of a mouldy jail cell. I'd die from malnourishment. And I'd always said I was going to die heroically. That plan was definitely not happening.
They'd questioned me a few times. Who had I worked with? Where was the hideout? That sort of thing. But I never said a word. That's what He'd asked of me. And everything I did was for Him. Love was a powerful thing. It was stupid, but very powerful. Just like Him, I thought with a wry smile.
Smiling... Happiness... Those words were alien to me now. Funny how a year ago I'd been the happiest boy alive. I'd been in love, I'd had friends with me, and I was having fun. I was on the run, like I always dreamt of. That was funny too: I'd always thought the life of a rebel was dangerous and exciting. But...here I was. A rebel sentenced to death. Whether that death was by my own hand, like I'd attempted before, or by starvation and torture.
Now when I say I'd attempted suicide before, I hope that doesn't give the wrong image about me. No, I've always been carefree and hopeful. I'd never have done it had I not believed it was safer. I'd always been a bit of a worrier though, always a bit too weak to see it through. But come on, a bullet through the head by your own hand or... Torture, malnourishment, horrible conditions like these. Surely it's an easy decision? That's what I thought anyway. But they'd stopped me. I'd stopped me. Hope had stopped me. No... Love had stopped me.
The questioning process wasn't peaceful. It's not like those old fashioned... What did they call them... Films? No, no white rooms with kind therapists and one way windows. Nothing like that. Here, it was all about torture. Especially with the new leader in charge. Oh he was a fan of torture alright. No matter how small the crime, the order came for torture. They tortured me with electricity at first. Almost like the electric chairs they used to use, but less painful. Not enough voltage to kill you, just to cause you severe pain and make water unbearable for a few days. But I'd been trained. They soon found I was immune to that after five tries with it so they moved on to good old fashioned whipping. Five lashes for every cuss word used. Ten for every wrong answer.
I didn't understand that logic. Either my torturer was a sadist or he knew all the answers and knew that I was lying. But if he did know the answers, why were they questioning me? I like to think he was neither, and just completely stupid. That thought comforted me, and was the only reason I laughed in pain instead of cried out when I was tortured. My wrists were sore just thinking about it.
I missed music too. That was a huge part of my life back then. I loved all kinds of music, it helped me escape. And drawing. But that was a big reason why I was caught: I was the one who designed and made all the rebel weapons. I was the one in charge of building the blade that took so many lives, the one who invented the bullet that could take out ten people in one shot. I was creative, and that apparently wasn't allowed anymore. Everyone had to conform. Why else were there so many rebels? So many people in colourful clothes who refused to be victims of the black and white world of the leader who knew absolutely nothing about anything.
But I couldn't do anything about it, not anymore. This was my life now. Kept in a cage like an animal, thrown food that was left to rot, and never being cared about. But there was always one man who cared about me. No matter how far apart they put us, I knew He was thinking about me. At least I hoped so... I hoped He was still thinking. Even the mere knowledge of His death would be enough for me to finally break. But He would be thinking, even in death. He always did have the most brilliant mind, the most foolproof plans. I laughed, did I really have that little faith in Him now? Of course He wouldn't be dead! He'd sweet talk his way out of it, just like He always did, through bribes or favours or even pretending. He truly was an amazing man. One of the many reasons to fall in love with a man like Him.
So that was me usually, my daily routine: wake up, roll off of the disgusting lumpy bed and think about dying for a while, then remember my favourite songs and play them over again and again in my head, scream the lyrics out for a while before feeling the urge to throw up at my disgraceful singing voice, do air guitar for a while, pretend to be the carefree boy I used to be before ending up lying face down on the damp floor again and breath it in, hoping to drown myself in the pure grossness of it all. Then wait until the nice warden came and took me for my torture, sorry, questioning session with a sad smile on her young, pretty face. Get tortured for a while, spit curses out at the idiots who sat before me, get collected by the same nice warden who always chatted to me in her breaks. Then just sit and think about Him for the rest of the day. Then eventually drift in and out of nightmarish consciousness.
But this one day was different, and something similar to a miracle for me happened: my routine changed ever so slightly. Instead of the kind warden collecting me straight from the cell, the door to my cell actually slid open and a woman, obviously one who worked here, stepped inside and sat on the floor near me. And no one ever came inside my cell: what sane person would? It was completely disgusting. I stared at her in confusion, with an expression like a wild and scared animal, and she stared right back, not even slightly flinching or changing her thoughtful expression one little bit as she looked at the horror that was me. The cell door was still wide open and I could have easily ran away, could have risked getting shot and run out and found Him again. But something about her stopped me. Something about her made me want to stay right where I was. She reminded me of someone else I knew, once upon a time and a million years ago. She made me feel safe, that was the reality of it. So there I sat. She said nothing and I said nothing. She didn't regard me like an animal, no pity, no sympathy, just with a sort of mocking humour, just like He used to when He was trying to wind me up. This woman knew I was human, not some crazy animal. However, the same couldn't be said for other idiotic people in this building.
Slowly, I began to let myself relax. I stopped being so tense. I stretched and straightened myself out from my previous position of being curled up in a ball and I analysed her, while leaning against the dry part of my wall. Analysing people was something I hadn't done for a long while, but I hoped I still had my skills.
Her face was worn and tired, slight wrinkles and bags under her golden brown eyes. Her hands were well manicured but still looked rough, and she looked as if she'd been working her whole life. It was obvious she was high up in the police industry, she looked wealthy, well dressed, and looked like the sort of woman who demanded the utmost respect. The fact she was even here showed she was well respected. Only the top officers could handle me, but even they couldn't handle the conditions. She was beautiful, even though she was obviously not young. And when she spoke... She sounded like Him. His language seemed to be woven into hers, though hers wasn't as foul. She was either a goddess, or... But it couldn't be... Could it?
"Halo... Janek?" I nodded fervently. That was my alias. But they didn't know that. She regarded me as if she knew though. It was a pretty fake name. "You've been giving us some trouble... Halo."
"Have I?" I was surprised at how worn out and hoarse my own voice was. It was usually as deep as the average 20 year old male's should be but with my fabulous luck, today I decided to sound like my ancient chain smoking grandfather. I hadn't spoken to anyone unless my torture sessions counted for talking, when I spat curses out and cried in pain, or laughed in pain. Of course my voice would be hoarse, but I didn't think it would be quite this bad.
"Yes Halo, yes you have. Blowing up buildings, kidnapping, murder...treason...." And raising her eyebrows slightly with a small smile: "Underage smoking... alcohol abuse..." Damn it. Only one time had I ever drank a lot alcohol, and they had included it in the list of crimes? Well that was stupid. She was reading off of a piece of paper, my long list of felonies against this stupid new government. Idiots all of them. She looked up at me then, her eyes going pure gold, regarding me with a certain disappointment, and looking just like He used to.
"Well, I'm not sorry. For any of it." I coughed and wheezed a little bit before carrying on. "Anyway. I'll be dead soon so what is the point of you even being here? You won't get anything out of me and I'm too sick to speak let alone... Let alone..." I felt vomit rising in my throat and I stood up suddenly and raced to the toilet, gagging and retching into it. Stupid me, I'd decided to eat last night. The first time in close to six weeks and it had made me throw up. Well that was a lesson to me: never eat again. Perhaps not eating would enable me to die faster. The suspense itself was starting to slowly drive me insane. Would I die when I closed my eyes? Could I risk it? Could I see it through, or would I panic and chicken out, just like I always did.
I wiped the last of the regurgitated bread from my lips and plopped myself back down on the floor, flushing the toilet as I walked past it, continuing with my previous sentence. "Let alone try and convince you of my innocence. I'm not innocent. The others are. It was all my fault. Just shoot me. Get it over with." I huddled myself back into a ball and leant back in my little corner.
She did something even more surprising then. She reached forward and smoothed my hair back, a motherly gesture. She tucked a brown-blue strand of my greasy hair behind my ear and smiled, just like He used to when He attempted to comfort me. And failed. Usually. "You don't deserve to be in this horrible place, Halo. You're so young. You should be out there, falling in love, going to parties, studying, working... You have a whole life ahead of you."
"Actually, I overheard the prison nurses. I have three days. That's all. Nothing more, nothing less." I said nothing about the love comment. I was in love. But I couldn't tell her. I'd get shot just for admitting I was in love with a boy. That was illegal too. Another one to add to the felony list. She looked hesitant then, almost like she was deciding her next move and unsure whether or not it was going to be a smart one. In the end, she decided. And she decided it was smart.
"Not by my watch." She slid over easily, so she was beside me and we were both out of the camera's view, before she pulled out a bottle of water from one deep pocket of her oversized coat. Then a bottle of purple pills emerged from the other. She tapped out two pills and placed them in my right hand, then thrust the water bottle in my left. She whispered to me urgently, as if it was a matter between life and death...which it was. "Take them. New medication from the AIW. Only for police officers and soldiers... They'll cure you of anything. Not death but... If you're close to it, which you are, then take them and you'll be fine. Hopefully. But for heaven's sake just...keep this our little secret?" She winked at me, dark lashes covering golden eyes. It scared me how similar she was to Him.
I stared at the small, purple, expensive pills in my own pale, frail, trembling hand, supported by her much stronger, golden hand, which surprisingly wasn't as rough as I'd originally thought. Did I really deserve these life saving pills? "I'm a criminal. Why do I deserve these? I deserve death. Not a second chance." She looked sternly at me then, like my own mother used to when I'd done something wrong and she was about to ground me for a month, before hissing at me threateningly like He used to when I'd done something wrong and He was about to confiscate my campods - the new cyber-headphones I'd invented a few years ago.
"Halo Janek if you don't take those pills in the next ten seconds I will force feed you them." I gulped, wide-eyed and probably looking even more crazy than I did usually, then popped the pills in my mouth, drowning them with water, spilling a lot of water down my green prison uniform in the process, coughing and spluttering from shock. She smiled slightly, releasing my hand to pull a white satin handkerchief from her pocket and she spoke softly whilst wiping my face and uniform free of the water. "Good boy. Now. You're going to tell me your story, Halo. Because I believe you're innocent. As is my son. And about ten other young people that are all in the same predicament as you. I believe one man is to blame. And I want to see what you know about him. So... Go ahead." She leant forward to whisper: "You can trust me."
That, I refused to believe. The first day I'd been here, that's what they'd told me. Officers and cellmates alike. All trying to get my trust, all wanting to see me punished. But this woman... I wanted to trust her. She was special. I could tell it, the fact that I saw glimpses of Him in her eyes, in her tone. Everything about her made me just want to believe her, to just break down in tears, and sob out my story. "How do I know I can trust you?"
"I'm the one fighting for your freedom. There are about fifteen young adults like yourself in different county jails for the same case. I'm fighting for all of you. So go ahead. Tell me everything." She was clearly passionate about my case, her golden eyes blazed with an unspoken flame, a vengeance hidden behind her stress-worn features.
I sighed. I couldn't escape this one. She looked so earnest, so trustworthy. So...like Him. And I could tell Him everything. He was...the best. Pretend, Halo. Pretend this woman is Him. Tell Him everything.
"I better not regret this." I muttered, still hesitant. She shook her head and smiled gently, and that was the push I'd needed. I began to ramble, like I did when I knew I'd messed something up and I had to explain my probably huge mistake to Him. "It's hard to explain, and it's a pretty wild ride. I don't know much about the beginning... But a friend of mine told me everything. It was... My bedtime story you could say. He'd tell me every night, the same story. I don't come in until much later...but I know the whole story off by heart."
She leant forward ever so slightly, elbows resting on her knees, her hands supporting her face. "Halo, honey." I stared at her mid-ramble, extremely puzzled. She laughed slightly, probably at my extremely wild-eyed, confused expression. "You're rambling. Just start from the beginning. Are you sure it's all true, what this friend told you?"
"He'd never lie to me. Never. It's all true." I was getting defensive, like I always did when someone tried to speak lies to me about Him, a common occurrence. She nodded, sensing the invisible walls I'd began to build around me, trying to break them down again.
"Well... It started on Halloween, 2245, six years ago. My sister was throwing a party... It was huge and the whole town was invited." I started it the exact way He told me, the first night I'd met Him, the night I'd decided I'd follow Him to the four corners of the world. I could have died on the way and I still would've been happy. But... Whatever. I was talking to this woman now, I couldn't get distracted by thoughts.
"Was your house big?" She intervened, sensing me trailing off and daydreaming about something.
"I suppose it must have been, but I didn't live there with her. She lived with our dad in England and I lived with our mum in America." It was the truth after all, and what reason did I have to lie? She was fighting for me, and if I lied... It wouldn't be as effective. She pulled out a notepad, probably wanting to take notes on my story. I was sure she'd stop after a while. The story was long, gruesome, interesting but... Not something you could write down.
"Ah, your parents were separated?"
"Divorced. Long term. I didn't speak...directly... to my sister from the age of 3 to the age of 18. I didn't really know her until then."
"Okay Halo, please continue."
"Right... But Miss, if I'm going to tell you this story... I need to tell you all the way through. No questions until the end. Please."
"Of course Jo...Halo."
I leant my head back and regarded the ceiling, half blanking that last sentence, not completely though. I started from the beginning.
And only much later would it occur to me what she had intended to say.