“Amaraya, throw! Now!”
I aim my throwing knife, pull back and release, not having pity on the Power member that my knife sinks into. I am the Ara-Jai, a rebel, the most dangerous person in all of Reule-Charn.
The Power is the oppressive force that chains my country in bondage. They are the ones who take strong-willed children away from their parents, hoping to find the Ara-Jai among them, at the age of five. The children are then trained as Syrinx, blood-thirsty assassins for the Power.
I am a Syrinx, but I have rebelled.
Since I was five I had made my home in the Syrinx barracks. I am trained in boxing, karate, fencing, knife- throwing and poisoning. Because I have the knowledge of all these things and am now not in favor of the Power, I am dangerous and seen as a threat.
What does the Power do with threats?
Oh, yeah, that’s right they kill them.
And why you ask am I a threat?
I am the Ara-Jai. On my 17th birthday, there began to appear a red tattoo of the Ara-Jai flower, the ancient symbol of rebellion on the back of my neck. To bear this symbol can only mean one thing; I am the Ara-Jai, for the rebellion. That is why I am dangerous, branded into is the fire of rebellion.
“Ray. Ray! Here, drink this.” Crowe, my former Syrinx trainer and now closest friend and ally hands me a wooden mug of some steaming liquid.
Crowe is one of the few Insiders, people who work for the Power, but who are actually against them. He knows my secret and had helped me escape.
I hold the mug up under my nose, letting the steam sink into my pores.
“Crowe, this smells awful,” I say.
“Yeah but it will help heal the wounds on your back and arms.”
Oh, yeah, those. Those beautiful purple, yellow and blue criss-crossing slashes across my back and arms.
On the day the Power had learned the truth about me from a suspicious Syrinx, I had tried to escape. But before Crowe could get to me, Voids had shot at me with flame throwers. Voids are brainwashed agents of the Power. Obeying without question to how demented or twisted their commands might be, they follow whatever the Power programs into them.
And right now they are programmed to find me and destroy me.
Now as I sit in this underground bunker with Crowe, I hope they will never find me, but I know deep down inside, they will. Crowe has always known of this bunker, saying that was used as a bomb shelter in World War II. He also said that it should hide us for at least a few days. We’ve been here for four. Time is running out.
Without warning there are heavy footsteps on the ground above our heads and my thoughts are interrupted by my sudden spike of anxiety. My breath gets caught in my throat.
“How many do think there are?” I barely whisper.
“Close to twenty-five,” Crowe answers, as the line of Voids continues over our heads.
I shudder; I can see their blank, expressionless faces, their white hair, pale skin and gray, glassy eyes as if they were standing right in front of me. Gradually the heavy boot falls fade away and I feel like I can breathe again.
“They’re gone,” Crowe whispers.
“We need to get out of here. Now”.
“You know it’s impossible to get out of Reule-Charn, the Power placed high voltage fences all along our borders, and outside the fences the ground is mined. Besides you are needed here, the people need you. Reule-Charn is dying, Ray. More and more each day the Power is gaining control, and the people need hope!”
My temper flares. “Well what do you think I can do? I’ll probably end up dead tomorrow, anyway! The Voids always find you, you are never safe forever. We can try to evade them, but they’ll find us”
“Yeah, but you’d have a whole nation to back you up Ray. And remember.” He walks over and puts his arm around me, “You’ve got me.”
I fall into him, my black eyes staring straight ahead. “I have no family, I’m the most wanted person in all of Reule-Charn because I’m the Ara-Jai, I’ll probably be shot soon and I have absolutely no hope, Crowe, none!”
He pulls me closer. “Come on, Ray, what happened to the fire I always saw in you during your training? Where’s your fighting spirit? Where’s your hope?”
“That died, along with everything else I believe in.” I know it sounds pathetic, but it’s how I feel.
He strokes my blood-red hair comfortingly.
“You thought the Power was all good and justified didn’t you? Until they learned your secret and decided to kill you.”
“The Power is evil Ray. Reule-Charn needs you.’ He takes my head in his hands and makes me look into his face, “You’re the Ara-Jai.”
Then he kisses me. It makes me shiver and I hope that it will last forever, but it doesn’t, just like my supposedly perfect life. The Power ruined that perfect life. When I was a Syrinx I had everything I needed, ignorance was bliss. I loved life, I smiled. But now that they want me dead, my life is in ruins. I hate the Power now.
“Fine,” I say as we pull away from each other, “I will be the Ara-Jai.”
“Tell me why? You can’t just lead the people for personal revenge.”
“What?!” I am so confused,” I thought you wanted me to do this! The Power ruined my life, and I now know what they have done to countless others. I don’t want that to continue.”
“I do, but you can’t lead for your own vengeance, leave revenge to God. You need to look at the people and realize their suffering.” He takes me by the shoulders, “Ray, people are dying every day from starvation and oppression. The Power rules with a cruel iron fist. You know this! You must lead for the good of the people.”
“Yeah, I just….” I shake my head, “Alright, I’ll do it. For the good of the people.”
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a Chruse, a small machine that sends written messages, which even the Power cannot look at in transit. Chruses are usually sold on the black market.
“What are you writing?”
“Hold on.” His fingers blur across the tiny keys.
“Who are you writing to?” I demand.
He pushes send. “You’ll find out.” Then he holds up his hand to stop any further questions, and his face is suddenly alert.
We hear dark monotone voices above.
“It’s right here!” one calls.
“What?” comes another.
“No…” I suck in air and place a hand on my sword.
Crowe’s hand flies to his flame gun. The Voids try and lift the hatch and Crowe and I hear sounds of grunting.
“Over there,” Crowe whispers, and points to a corner of the bunker, “You’re going to have to throw up that hatch as soon as they open it.”
I nod and scurry over to my designated corner, taking one of my many throwing knives off my belt. Then I aim it at the hole.
Dirt falls on the cement floor and sunlight pours into the hole.
A Void falls to the floor with a sickening thud, blood trickling out of its mouth against the starchy white skin. And then Crowe ignites his gun, throwing flames up the hatch.
We can hear them scream. It sounds horrifying, like a hawk screeching.
I begin to lose count of how many knives I’ve thrown, and how many Voids lay lifeless on the floor. Not one of them makes it in here alive.
Crowe keeps shooting fire and I keep throwing until the bodies stop appearing above us.
“I think we got them all,” I say as I go over to the pile and begin retrieving my knives.
The smell is awful.
Crowe stops his gun. “Yeah, I think so.” He comes over to the gruesome pile. “All twenty-five of them.”
“We need to get out of here. They found us here once, they’re going to be able to find us here again,” I state as I clean off my knives and put them back into my belt.
“I know. Grab your stuff, and let’s go.”
“Go where?” I ask.
“To the Barren.”
The Barren is a white desert on the outskirts of Reule-Charn. Rebels have found a way of living out there, untouched by the Power. They hide in bunkers, like the one we stand in now. They hunt and dig for water.
“That’s who I sent the message to.”
“Yeah? And what did it say?”
He comes over to me, and weaves his arm around my waist, bringing me in close. He smiles.
“The Ara-Jai has finally bloomed.”