#E - Part 1
How do you know if the choice you are making today is the right decision? How sure you are that from the infinite choices out there, the one you are choosing now will be the right one in the end? No matter how hard you try to analyze it, you can never be sure of the accuracy of your choice. The fact is, once you made a decision, you can only live with it and hope that it is the right one. The only way to be really sure is to look to the future. And I pray to God that when that moment comes, I would be able to tell myself that I have made the correct choice.
"You have made the correct choice," he said as I was handed a glass of red wine. The glass felt cold, and from the droplets of water that were forming around the bottle, I assumed that there was a fridge in here. How they kept it running, I had no idea.
I eyed the room that I was in. Two red leather couches stood by the side of the door, and a glass table sat in the middle of it. An oak table was placed further in the room, beneath the large glass pane on the wall. A small flag of Singapore adorned the table. I rubbed my feet against the floor, and the carpet gently brushed them. A bookshelf was next to the table, and its shelves were filled with thick books about naval warfare, Southeast Asia politics and Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew's book, about his viewpoint of the world, was clearly visible on the second shelf from the top. The smell of an expensive air freshener floated gently around the room. This room has obviously seen many important guests before, I thought.
"You certainly made the smarter choice as compared to your friends." I was assured again. Just like the first time when we saw him, the style of his clothes appeared weird and out of place. He was wearing a checkered shirt accompanied with a pair of brown slacks and horribly pink jogging shoes. The gold rolex still hung from his hands. I could just hope that his assurance was indeed correct.
The founder visited us for the second time, just like he said he would. Like the last time, he stood close to the entrance of our door, eyeing each one of us before he spoke. I had counted on him to do that, and walked up close to him, following Mike's example previously. His eyes scanned across me, before continuing in his deep but hearty voice. It reminded me of the baker that I used to buy bread from every morning. He asked if we have considered his previous proposal. He told us that aside from giving us security, he would ensure that our life here would be a content one. It would be better than what we had outside, as he was considering to build schools, clinics, and farms as well. It was in line with his long term goal to build a sustainable community. All he would need from us was for us to contribute to the community as well. Work hours and job roles will be solely dictated by him, to ensure the maximum productivity possible. As the community’s aim was to survive and thrive, other distractions such as relationships and love were strictly forbidden unless approved by him. Having more mouths to feed was the last thing that he wants to worry about. Loyalty will be well rewarded, while any form of self-directedness and individual ambition will not be tolerated. He admitted that the society that he was creating was far from ideal, but he stressed that in a society under the constant threat, stability can only be achieved through an absolute rule. The community works best under one direction, not many directions, he said with a heavy tone.
“Your life will be far from what you used to know, but at least you will be safe,” he tried to convince us. I understood too well where he was going. I just hoped that my gamble would pay off. As I raised my hand and pretended to scratch my neck, I dropped a note into his pocket. The others of course refused to listen to him. Julie said told him that we would be better off living outside, trying to establish our own society.
“Ahh… finding your own fate, you say?” the founder sneered at Julie’s remarks. “You see, I cannot allow that too. Competition is unhealthy, you know.” The sneer remained on his face. He looked down at the paper that I had dropped in his pocket. He face registered
“Take him away,” he said to the golden haired guard as he pointed at me. The founder must have liked jewellery a lot, as a jade ring was clearly visible on his index finger. My friends were astonished at this sudden development, and Mike rushed to me, only to be pushed back by a second guard. They demanded to know where I was being taken. If only they knew.
“Let me join you?" The founder said as he held the paper in his hands. We were at a room which I assumed to be his office. "You boy, is one clever boy." The note certainly amused him, so much so until he even offered me a glass of wine. He was clearly happy that one of us decided to join him, and he kept repeating the sentence about how the choice that I have made was the correct one. I continued to stand silently as he went on and on about his views about the crisis, and how tough decisions were necessarily. I was trying to convince myself too that what I was doing is right. He finished the remaining wine in his glass with one gulp, and then sat on the tall white leather chair behind his desk. His tone changed from a cheerful tone to a more serious tone now.
The first question that he asked me was of course why I had chosen to abandon my friends. I could feel his stare piercing into me, and I needed to give a convincing answer. I slowly raised my head as I brought my gaze to meet his.
Because relationships is nothing but an illusion, I told him. I told him about how the escape of KM taught me that in the end, no one is to be trusted. In a world where everyone is fighting to survive, the only person you can trust is yourself. Trusting or depending on others would only increase the risk of you getting backstabbed. I went on to argue of how ideals cannot survive in this world, even in any other world, and how ideals are only created by the weak as an excuse to continue their lives. The strong does not need ideals, I emphasized, and we see past the pathetic constructs of hope, love, ambition or whatever lame words that people have created to give reason to their existence. The only worthy reason for existence was ourselves. The strong seizes opportunities as they come, and I told him that what he has offered was an opportunity, and I would be stupid not to be the first to seize it.
The room fell silent after I gave my answer, and as I looked on, the founder slowly raised his arms and brought them together. The sound of his clap echoed throughout the room. Slow rhythmic claps, as he slowly stood up, a smile beginning to form in his face. Bravo, he exclaimed. He poured me another drink. Instead of the purplish red colour of the wine, I was offered a drink of golden brown colour this time. Whiskey, the founder added. I took a gulp in as he continued to study me. His face clearly was pleased with what I said, and he went on that I was the first one who shared his worldview.
“Foolish people and their outdated morals,” he said in the midst of his rants. I quietly nodded to all of his speech. I had hit close to home, as he was clearly getting more excited with his speech. Finally, with a swig of his glass, he dropped the question I had been anticipating since the beginning of our talk.
“So…” he dragged the ending of the sentence, before switching his gaze back to me. “Are you willing to kill your friends then?” His eyes stared directly at me. I held on to my answer, sensing that he still has more to say. He took my bait and elaborated further. He told me of how he hoped I would understand where he was coming from, as he could not trust me yet. After all, I was still new, and he needed a test for me to show him that I had meant what I said. He mentioned of how he would be holding a celebration for two nights straight, a party to commemorate his rule and to keep his constituents happy. He had come out with a brilliant plan to solidify his rule during this celebration, as our group’s arrival presented him with the perfect opportunity to cook something up. Dissent has started to build up amongst his constituents, and he needed a way to kill it.
“Would you mind a lesson in politics, before I go on? Or can you try and guess what I already have in mind?” He asked quizzically. It felt as if he was testing me on purpose. I tapped my fingers on my jeans several times, trying to come up with something. There were several theories in my head, and I decided to go with the wildest one I have.
“I believe you want me to tell your constituents something, a story perhaps?” I started. My theory appeared to be correct, as he looked pleased. A good start, I thought to myself. He poured himself another quarter cup of whiskey, and urged me to continue. He wanted me to guess the story that he had in mind. I said that it must be something to do with the idea that the zeds could not be killed, judging from what he said to us when he was in the cells. However, I told him that I do not know the plan in exact detail, and that he would have to tell me himself. He walked slowly towards me now, still sporting a smile on his face, as he twirled the content in his glass with his hand that was wearing the Rolex.
“Fear,” he paused to emphasize the word, “is the easiest emotion you could use to rule.” It was like listening to a villain deliver his climatic speech in movies, as he walked slowly in circles around me, the glass of whiskey hanging low from his hands. It was a speech that I can never forget.
“Make the people fear something enough, offer them a solution and they would gladly embrace your solution. The zeds is the fear, and I am the solution.” He proudly declared. “Which is why these people look up to me as a saviour, and which is why the status quo must remain. Of course, a little brainwashing helps too, but that takes time.” He took another sip from his glass. If anything, the entire group operates like a cult, and the constant besiegement from the zeds is a vital ingredient in keeping the people checked. That was why other alternative options such as leaving or another community cannot be allowed to exist too, as it would upset the status quo and threaten his power. I had understood his intentions perfectly. The more I hear it, the more I feel that standing in the same room with him was a good choice. It was the only way to survive.
“Of course, I do realize that it is impossible to keep the voices of the people down when I am only one person, which is exactly why you volunteering yourself to join my side has been the best thing ever. Saves me from using the torture method, you know.” The depth of his sentence slowly sank in. “More whiskey?” The founder asked, while indicating to my empty cup. I shook my head.
And that was where I came in, he said. On the second night of celebration he had planned to reinforce the image of his “kindness” to the people and he would need me to be the star of the show. Or so he said. Some of his people was beginning to doubt the authenticity of his story that zeds could not be killed, no thanks to the soldiers that he had allowed in a few days before. They had done considerable damage to make the people question his rule, and despite warnings, the soldiers had questioned him and encouraged others to do so too. Which was why in the end, he had to plant evidence on the soldiers that they were sent by the government to spy on them and to conscript them into fighting the zeds. The population pretty much fed the soldiers to zeds when they found out.
The incident with the soldiers further confirmed the suspicion that he has for outside strangers. It was the reason why he has a permanent sentry stationed outside of the naval base to detect incoming intruders now. That was how he was able to intercept and capture us too. What he need from me on the second night was simple, that I denounce my friends, saying how they had advocated the idea of killing the zeds, leading to the meaningless death of my other group mates as the zeds were not able to be killed. It was the founder who rescued us as we were swarmed by the zeds. However, instead of being grateful to the founder, I found out that my friends wanted to seize control from the founder. In the end, I approached the founder for help and he agreed to dispose of my group mates in order for him to maintain order. At least that was how the story was supposed to go.
I nodded my head in agreement, and I went so far as to suggest that I would personally kill my group mates too. I could tell the story of how my girlfriend was killed as result of my friends recklessness, cry if I want to, and put a bullet through them as well. The founder seemed impressed at my initiative, and agreed that I could do that on the execution day itself, which would be scheduled on the third day, a day after the celebration. I would be receiving a personal gun for this. Everything has worked
out perfectly so far.
For now, the founder said that I need to rest. The celebration was not until two days later, and he assured me that I will be given the best
of service for these two days. The types of service would only be improved, he added, should I perform well. I would be included in his inner circle of command, and enjoy the privileges that the inner circle are allowed to. Lesser work hours, more food and even women was what awaited me. It certainly sounded attractive.
For the next two days the founder kept true to his words. With the exception of having an armed guard stationed outside of my room and not being allowed to go anywhere until the day of the celebration, it was the best two days of my entire zed experience. I had a personal quarter all to myself and for the first time in months, I was served cooked food for every single meal. No more cold canned food but real authentic cooked food. They even had steak for one meal. I could only guess what my friends were going through.
When the third day came, the founder personally visited me. He asked if I was doing okay, and I assured him with a smile that I was, and thanked him for it. He smiled at my answer, and told me how tonight was the the night for me to enjoy. I was given a new set clothes to change into, and after I was done, I was escorted to the canteen for the celebration.
To be honest, I had not expected anyone to pull off much of a grand celebration in the midst of a zed outbreak, but the founder did just that. Electric lights illuminated the hall while music played from the overhead speakers. That was the first time I had seen electricity in action in a very, very long time. The hall was lined with trays of food, and I was impressed with how the founder managed to pull off a buffet style celebration. He even had the ability to decorate the tables with different arrangement of flowers.
I was escorted to the lone table above the stage, and from how it was the only table covered with a white table cloth and had a flower in the middle, I presumed that it was a table for important people. The eyes of the people already in the hall all fell on me. I was ordered to sit and before long, the founder and a group of people who I assumed to be his inner circle. All of them had a woman beside each of them. When the founder saw me, he motioned me over, and I was introduced as the guy who will help them put any resistance to rest. I felt the room become more stuffy all of a sudden.
The celebration was like any celebration that one used to see on television and in movies. There was a speech, given by the founder of course, and the people below the stage seemed to care less about the about the speech and more about the food. I did not pay much attention either, as I was too busy trying not to look too out of place. The men of the inner circle kept forcing me to drink, using my entry to the group as an excuse, and before long everything felt blurry and I had trouble focusing. My last memory of the night was about how the founder insisted on me picking a woman for my own, saying that it was one my rights as a member of the inner circle and my next immediate memory was the day after the celebration. I woke up with a headache, barely able to recall what has happened last night. To make matters worse, the naked body that laid beside me shocked me to no ends.
P/s: As this is a work in progress and as I am trying to finish the story before November ends and not forgetting that I have work from 9-6 everyday, there might be grammar errors here and there and if you spot one, I would sincerely apologize for it. I am looking to publish this story, so if you spot any spelling or grammar mistakes, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know by dropping a comment after each post. Proofreading your own work is confusing after all. I won't forget your kindness!