Charles grabs my arm and tugs me out of the gym and into the corridor.
“What the hell are you doing?” I say angrily.
“I might ask you the same question.” He replies, his voice low and dangerous.
“Well, I was enjoying a run until that moron attacked me.”
“I’m not talking about that.” He says dismissively.
“Well, what are you talking about then?”
“You’re a fool, Rebecca.”
“And who are you to talk?” I hit back furiously, “Come on, you’re hardly exactly Mr sociable and, when you are, you’re hardly Mr sociable.”
“My social life is absolutely nothing to you.” He says, glaring at me.
“Social life?” I spit, “Codswallop, you’d need a social life for me to talk about it!”
“My life isn’t important. I’m here about you.”
“Well, what about me?” I demand.
“I’m asking you what you’re doing.”
“WHAT I’M DOING?” I shout, my temper rising to boiling point and, predictably, boiling over. “SINCE WHEN IS IT YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS WHAT I’M DOING?”
“Since you came here.” He says, biting his lip in an effort to stop himself from shouting back. My father used to do that when my mother yelled at him.
“NO ONE ELSE SEEMS TO CARE WHAT I’M DOING SO WHY SHOULD YOU?”
“YOU KNOW, YOU THINK THAT YOU’RE MR I-CAN-FIX-IT BUT IT’S NONE OF YOUR DAMNED BUSINESS!”
“I just don’t want to have to recover your dead body from the lake, that’s all.”
“What makes you think I’m going to end up in the lake?” I say sharply, in my shock forgetting to shout.
Charles looks relieved that I’m not shouting. “Listen, don’t shout but-“
He breaths in deeply, closing his eyes for a moment before continuing. “This place,” He says, gesturing to the magnolia walls, “Isn’t like other places. It’s not like a regular school where, if you say something which annoys someone, you have to apologise and it’s all over.” He closes his eyes again and pinches the bridge of his nose between his long fingers. I wait for him to speak again. “Here, if you make an enemy, you may find them standing over you in the night holding a knife and do you know what? No one cares if you die. There’s always someone else to step up and fill your place.”
“I don’t have any enemies. I only just got here.”
“I’m not going to lie, Rebecca-“
“I thought I was Elizabeth now?”
“You see, you’re smart but you show it. That makes kids like Isla a little jealous.”
“Jealous? Of me?” I say, laughing.
“Yes,” He says, “And it doesn’t help that Eddie’s taking an interest in you already.”
“Eddie, what does he matter?
“Have you not seen the way Isla looks at him?”
“Wait, Isla has a heart. Christ, it has been a day for surprises.”
“Everyone has a heart,” He says, staring into my eyes until I begin to feel uncomfortable and have to turn away. “I think that even you have a heart.”
“The sole purpose of my heart is to pump blood.”
Charles laughs. “Come on, Liz-“
“Liz? I’m Liz now?”
“Shut up,” He says through his laughter, “You do care.”
“No,” I say shortly, “I don’t.”
“The more you care, the more you have to lose. I have nothing to lose.”
“Nor do I. I have no family or friends for them to kill if I mess up. If I disobey them, I’m the only one who suffers.”
“So why are you lecturing me about caring?”
“Because, for some inexplicable reason, I care about you.”
“Rubbish.” I say and, before he can stop me, I march back into the gym where Isla, waits, glaring at me angrily. “Save your breath.” I say sharply as she opens her mouth, preparing to speak. She stands there, glaring at me through the blood encrusted on her face, with her mouth hanging open. She looks so comical I could almost laugh. Instead of walking over to Eddie, who happens to be waving at me frantically, I walk over to a section filled with weights. I pick up the heaviest and lift it up, not without a fair amount of pain, above my head. I hold it there for a couple of seconds before throwing it onto a mat which is conveniently placed nearby. It hits the mat with a loud THUMP and everyone looks up, startled. I grin slightly and stalk out of the gym. Where I’m walking to, I don’t know and don’t care but, I keep on walking anyway. My father always used to tell me that, no matter how confused my head is, my feet will tell me where my heart wants to go.
I pound down the corridors until I find myself confronted by the spiral staircase which I walked up yesterday. I’m glad that I bypassed the room with the records. Sometimes, knowing all the details about something isn’t as good for you as you thought it would be.
I hurry up the staircase, repeatedly banging my elbows on the stone walls as I make my way through the trap door and onto the roof. The wind buffets me from side to side, my hair is whipped across my face, tangling the well-styled mane into a feral mess. I stagger through the unforgiving wind to one of the high walls where I crouch, sheltering from the cold. Despite the cold and the wind, I feel strangely at peace atop this high, isolated tower. I know that, I’m unlikely to fall over the edge if I keep low so, I shelter by the wall, deep in thought. I wonder what I’ve got myself into. I thought that this place would give me a house and a ticket out of poverty and obscurity. It seems that, my mother was right when she said that there was no such thing as a free lunch. For everything you do, for every choice you make, there is a price to pay. Sometimes, it seems, that price is a low one, a price barely worth acknowledging whereas sometimes, before you know it, the price has risen to astronomical proportions without your knowledge. What the price of this newfound security will be, I don’t know. All that I do know is that, if what Charles said is right, the usual rules which dictate our behaviour in society do not apply here. Murder goes against our deepest nature and yet, in this place, I am being trained to kill. We are all trained to kill so, with one false move, one false step, we could turn on each other. What’s to stop us? I suppose that, after you’ve killed several people, you probably become immune to the effects of murder. I suppose that, after a while, you ignore the way that a dead persons eyes turn glassy. The strangest thing is that, although people may perceive me as a natural killer, I’m not sure if I could ever do to someone else what they did to my family. You see, I don’t think that I could live with myself if I knew that another ten-year-old girl was watching as I put a bullet through her parent’s chests. If I had that knowledge, I think that, throwing myself off this tower would be preferable to living with myself.
I suppose that, if you have never had to watch someone you love die, you wouldn’t have as much trouble killing someone else’s son but, you see, I don’t want to destroy another humans life. I will not forgive the government for what they did to my family though but, I suppose that, there is a difference between killing someone who is trained to kill and killing an innocent civilian. But then again, for all our flaws, are we not still human? Does being a murderer mean that you are less human? Does being a murderer make you worthy of being murdered? If you take an eye for an eye, will the whole world still be able to see? I know that, in a fit of rage, I was ready to kill George but, now that I can see clearly, maybe killing him wouldn’t make me happy. You see, it doesn’t matter if I kill every single person who was present that night, my family still wouldn’t come back from the dead. It doesn’t matter how many tears you cry, nothing will ever reawaken the dead. Only fools believe in miracles like that.
The fact is that, although I do not want to kill, that is what I will have to do if I want to survive. At the end of the day, my father did not save me from their bullets just so I could be shot for refusing to do my job. I know that, whilst he would never be able to bring himself to be proud of me for killing other people’s sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, he would be able to accept that, in order to survive, that is what I have to do. I vow that I will never kill anyone unnecessarily, though. I will not become one of those people who kills anyone that crosses them; I will only kill those who either try to kill me or who truly deserve it. Although it goes against our nature to kill another human, I suppose that mankind’s natural capacity for revenge overrides this every time.
As I stand up, preparing to re-join the world, I suddenly understand what this organisations name means; Occidere, Occidi- Kill or Be Killed.