‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Secret Conversations


Yesterday, I couldn’t have cared less about the fact that I wasn’t let out for rec time—it was only because I hadn’t had my session with Dr Jameson after being in the Surgery instead, and therefore was too ‘dangerous’ to be around other Dreamers. But today, after my brief meeting with Tim this morning, I almost felt I had someone to talk to. But the next time I was down there, I would be back to my zombie state all over again.

I was willing to do anything to fight it.

But the following morning, when I was even more lucid than before, but also due another fucking doctor’s appointment, a little sliver of luck was on my side.

I saw Tim again on the way down to the bathroom.

I managed to wade through the drifting crowd towards him, nudging him slightly and gesturing for him to move backwards. My plan worked and meant that we were right at the back of the crowd when all the men, all silent and dreamless and empty, entered the bathroom. That bought us a good ten minutes before having to separate, though how much of that we could use to talk I had no idea.

‘Hey,’ said Tim. He looked slightly more brain dead than yesterday, but an untrained eye would notice no difference. I had hope that he was like me; that he wouldn’t be broken as easily as most people. Sure, this time tomorrow I was going to be a zombie, but I wouldn’t let myself get as bad as some people, and I hoped that Tim would be there to snap me out of it. We were two small fires that hadn’t quite been doused yet, and we had to look out for each other.

‘Hey,’ I said casually, keeping my voice low and hoping that when the hissing of twelve or so showers started up it would conceal our conversation from the guards standing on either side of the doorway. ‘How was it?’ I kept my voice sounding sympathetic, knowing that it wasn’t easy.

‘It was pretty shit, but you know...’ Tim said, trailing off a bit. I was a little shocked. I thought of myself as strong, and determined, and cheerful, but he seemed to be even more so than me. It was like he just didn’t care.

But then again, a month ago I didn’t care. Now, well, I did.

So much for the Institution not breaking me. Of course it was breaking me; I just hadn’t noticed.

‘Where were you yesterday?’ Tim asked, drawing me back out of my dismal contemplation.

‘Uh, what?’ I asked, a little slow having missed the start of what he was saying.

‘Yesterday,’ he said, ‘when we were all in the rec room. I didn’t see you at all.’

‘Oh yeah.’ I wrinkled my nose, a little annoyed that I’d missed that. So far, the only chance I’d had to talk to Tim was in the bathroom. Certainly not ideal, to say the least.

‘As I was saying yesterday,’ I explained, ‘I missed my doctor’s appointment ‘cause of being in the Surgery, which means that I’m far too right in the head for their liking, so they kept me shut off from everyone in case I...I dunno, tried to influence some of the brain dead Dreamers or something.’

‘Oh,’ was all he said. ‘That sucks. What about today?’

‘I should be down there,’ I explained, ‘but that’ll be after my appointment, so chances are that I won’t even recognise you.’

His face fell. ‘Crap,’ he murmured. ‘Seriously?’

‘Yeah,’ I said, dread pooling in my stomach. I hated the system. I hated the way they treated us. I hated the way that we all got used to it—that I was talking about having my memory wiped as though it was supposed to be something ordinary.

But most of all I simply hated the banning of imagination. If that had never happened, then none of this ever would have.

‘Well,’ Tim said, ‘best make things quick: have you heard the news?’

The news? When was there ever news in the Institution?

‘What news?’ I asked. The break from routine made me eager and excited. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d applied the words 'eager' or 'excited' to myself. The feeling was refreshing, yet alien.

‘Kempton’s in a critical condition in hospital,’ Tim announced, a triumphant look on his face.

‘Seriously?’ I cried, so loud that two pairs of eagle eyes shot simultaneously in my direction. I turned casually away from Tim, pretending that nothing had happened and I wasn’t talking, having perfected the art of blending in.

The searchlights that were the guards’ eyes swerved away from me after lingering for little more than a second, not hearing any more talking. I waited until they moved round to the next people before continuing talking to Tim, lowering my voice drastically.

‘Seriously?’ I repeated, but this time in a whisper. ‘What happened? Is he going to die?’ I didn’t care that it was morbid; of course I wanted him to die. Sure, it was hardly going to be an end to the Realisten, but if he died, especially if it was so sudden, then the country would be in chaos for a few days until a new leader was found. Though, knowing most of the dictators these days, Kempton probably already had someone lined up. It would still take that person a few days to settle into office, though.

‘They didn’t say anything about him dying,’ Tim said, ‘but the media wouldn’t dare say it anyway. Saying that the president might be dying is practically treason these days.’ He huffed irritably.

Around us, the showers stopped, and men stepped out of the cubicles a few moments later, damp and having hurriedly pulled on their prison clothes, many of them towel-drying their hair. They disappeared through to the other bathroom and the next lot got into the showers, leaving only our group hanging around waiting. We didn’t have long, and the next time I saw Tim I would be back to zombie state. I hated it, but there was nothing I could do about it.

‘Still,’ I said, ‘this might be good. Have they said who’s gonna take over if he dies?’

‘No,’ Tim replied, ‘because there’s no way they’ll say he’s dying until he’s actually croaked once and for all. And besides, when do the government ever tell the public anything?’

‘I was just wondering,’ I said, quietly humble, giving a little shrug.

‘Lomax, Minister of Media, is taking over until he gets back though,’ Tim said, and I could sense the foreboding tone in his voice. ‘And that makes me think that, if Kempton dies, she’ll take over for good.’

‘God no,’ I pleaded, praying that Tamara Lomax did not take over the running of the country. I didn’t like Kempton—in fact, I hated him, but he’d been in charge for so long, since before the Revolution even, and now he was old and frail and confused and probably not quite as sharp in the head as he once was. Lomax, however, was young in comparison, and vibrant and evil and a downright unpleasant woman. I didn’t know all that much about her, but she had done many things to this country even worse than Kempton could have done alone. Of course, she was acting primarily on his orders, but that didn’t stop her giving some of her own suggestions too.

‘I’m afraid that’s what they said,’ Tim murmured grimly. ‘I only wish it wasn’t true.’

‘They can’t do that!’ I hissed angrily, keeping my voice low so that we could stay undetected. I really wanted to see the news today; the last thing I needed was a session in Isolation for rule-breaking and disruptive behaviour. ‘She’s not...y’know, trained.’

‘Who is though?’ Tim pointed out. ‘It’s not like dictators have deputies and vice presidents and all that stuff nowadays. We’ve got Kempton, and we’ve got the Ministers who do what he tells them to do. No one else in the country is trained for a proper leadership role; we’re all just taught to follow orders.’

‘It’s ridiculous,’ I muttered resentfully, fighting the urge to swear multiple times.

The showers stopped close by, and as we were all commanded by one loud voice to get in, I shrugged at Tim and disappeared into another cubicle.


The automatic doors to my cell slid open smoothly and a man with a gun stood there grumbling at me to get up. I did as I was told, but slowly; as slow as I dared, happy to wait as much time as possible before my next session of zombification.

He was the same guard that had come to collect me on many previous occasions, but I could scarcely distinguish him from all the others with his short hair, clean-shaven face and black uniform that was identical to all the others down to the colour socks they wore. I just about recognised this one, however, because he was particularly ugly—big and burly, with slightly pink cheeks and an abnormally large and slightly squashed nose sitting in the middle of his bulging, toad-like face.

‘Hurry up,’ he grunted at me, looking as keen to get this over with as I was, only for different reasons. Once again, I was about to give up my brain for nothingness.
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Oh, and this might sound weird as I've only just started posting the third book, but I'm really excited for book four. ::tehe: Seriously - I've been coming up with so many ideas lately, and it's making me excited!