Chapter 7 by Cal Castille
It didn’t really matter that Tara had figured something out; she could be dealt with.
Adi wasn’t dragged, powerless and naive, into it, despite what he’d later say. Instead of admitting, he’d claim that with coercion, threats and bribery that capitalised on his vulnerability and poisoned him with persistence, he was manipulated to set up the apartment, to add that extra lock, to cut an extra key. Limited was his culpability if he was just an accessory to the ‘scheme’ as they called it- an ironic nod to film and a sincere shove in the direction of this idea being misanthropic at its core. Accessories, after all, were just support structures and held no real creative power or guilt, so it was useful that he could pretend to be one and let Ken seem like the leader when he needed to. In truth, the apartment was infested with pages of documents he’d written that shone with flowcharts of considered circumstances, possibilities, outcomes for their plan, and ways to spin each of them for positive public relations. One of his first realisations after the initial goal for what had now begun -that thing that would mutate to subvert everything else in his life- was that perception was everything.
Thuds and steps blasted and faded, dunking his head in cold water and indicating Tara’s escape. He called after her. Ran after her. But he couldn't abandon his post for long and returned to the apartment without her. The phone purred rings, seemingly unsuccessful for the third time. ‘555-974-6787’ stared back, unblinking, at him from the screen.
People, he thought, are naive and impressionable and undeserving of autonomy, of progression.
And from this opinion, this itch grew a condition so severe it enveloped him and coloured his perspective towards humanity with shades of black and grey and red. The need to nurture this idea, to furnish his mind and the apartment with propaganda for it, became inescapable, and it was these attributes of our collective personality: the pastimes we enjoyed and the responsibilities we maintained and the rules we conformed to, that became the true accessories, not him.
Adi had spent years cultivating a persona and layering himself to appear mildly attractive and only just enticing enough to evoke a smile, never an action; it had all led to tonight and them, those idiots -well, just one idiot now, he thought- locked in what should still be his pure office, studio, resort. They had, through their misplaced curiosity, tainted it too early.
The skills to sustain this clean image were picked up easily; learning to cook and to be a dutiful family member was simple because it strengthened the cloak he wore, enabling the apartment to flourish so his revolution, as he privately called it, could keep growing to its bloom. No, it wasn’t these palpable prisms he was seen through that were difficult, it was the pain of continuing to contribute to this false meritocracy that burned around him, flames rising the longer it took to bring it all crashing down. To stand together with society and collectively be this curtain, block the sordid truth behind it when he had the knowledge and the power to watch it open and fall, shatter and disintegrate, that was the hardest part. He longed to shuffle his feet in the ashes of its decay and whistle with delight, just like he did that night having dropped his facade with the opening of the apartment door. It provided him with warmth to be open and true to others apart from Ken; it felt like a step closer to going live and receiving the praise he would inevitably be washed with soon. Letting his mind wander amid the whining of Nadia who was already beginning to lose the blood from her face and to shrivel, ever so slightly, he imagined her within that delightful meadow of ash, of those ungrateful and therefore left behind. It would all be worth it.
Afterwards, he would commission his first commemorative statue to be in the capital, in the centre of the park. That seemed fitting, he realised.
What they, he, had built here would be the subject of dramatisations and museum exhibits for generations, he thought, be taught as a catalyst to human progress and be an epitome of the mantra that pain is temporary, victory is forever. Not that the pain would be his, or Ken’s. No, they would be immune as the architects of change and as couriers to utopia; it was the passengers and the contrarians, people without foresight or initiative or grit, that would pay the price and burn for their better, more evolved, counterparts. Like Nadia, for example, and now, involved because of some misplaced loyalty or hamartia, like Tara too.
Just then, a voice, tinny and distant but authoritative, penetrating- sonar through the abyss- spoke. His benefactor had answered and now repeated, dragging Adi back from his mind, “What now?”