Coming home late, well in the dark of the night, Pia and Dimitri who had been anxiously waiting for her are very upset. They were worried not knowing where she had gone. She understands, their worries were not unreasonable. But as she tries to explain to them that she wanted to leave, this is met with disdain. Dimitri accuses her of being ungrateful and selfish.
“What do you want? Don’t you have everything you need?” he asks reproachfully.
She feels misunderstood and it makes her somewhat angry. She reacts defensively: “Give me one good reason why I should not leave! People are disappearing all the time for no reason; their coming and going is controlled by the Unknown, and nobody knows really anything! And I should not leave, voluntarily, that is? This is a game I don’t want to play. I am not a puppet! Don’t you see, it makes everyone to puppets?”
Pia starts to cry. Dimitri is outraged: “Shut up,” he shouts. “There we do everything for you and what do we get in return? It is all about you, you! You ungrateful ruthless bitch! You don’t care about anyone else!” pointing at Pia, he continues: “Isn’t it enough that we just lost our dear friends? And now you come along with all that rubbish of wanting to leave, being puppets and what not! How dare you to judge us! You have not even been here long enough to know it all. What would you know better than we do!?”
He was unfortunately not that far of the mark. She does not know, and she cannot argue. But he is wrong about her and he does not know what she knows. She came into their world because she stumbled into it, looking for shelter or rescue from nature’s fury. This house was the only thing offering just that. There was nobody telling her anything or having her sent to them, not as far as she can recall her recent experiences.
She therefore responds determined to make her point, raising her voice to make sure she is heard: “I was never allocated to you! I entered the house on my own will and your door was open, that’s how I came to you. And yes you have taken me in and looked after me. I am very grateful for that, but nobody sent me to you! That would mean somebody had rights over me or could dictate my life! That is truly unfathomable! You consider that as reasonable or fair? No! No! Nobody can, or has a right over or above me!” She stops for a moment in search of reassurance within herself, because lacking long term memory it sure leaves doubts about the events that got her into these situations in the first place. This damn brain letting her down without mercy! Ah, so what! She needs to stick to the things she knows now and that is it. Defiantly she continues: “If I want to go, I go. I don’t let myself be ordered around, and definitely not the way you treat me now!”
“Let’s see about that!” He roars and moves in on her as if he was going to hit her.
Femina is ready to strike back should he dare but Pia jumps between them. Putting herself up as physical barrier, she demands that they sit down immediately. “Are you both crazy? No physical altercation under my roof! Since when does that solve anything! Both of you, sit down! Now! And let us talk about it!” Her voice is sharp and she looks so determined that Femina is tempted to laugh about the paradox at hand. Pia looks as if she was ready to lash out herself if she were forced to.
Of course, neither Dimitri nor she want to challenge Pia and so they sit down as told. There is some cooling silence. Femina feels uneasy with a sense of having to be careful if not vigilant though she does not know why. Besides, she is too fond of them. She does not want to offend or hurt them either. To appease she starts:
“I feel sorry if I disappoint you. I should have talked to you about some things much earlier instead now where all of us struggle with our emotions. You see, I wanted to ask you for some time what you know about the house and its strange arrangement regarding the doors. The entrance door has been removed and replaced by a plain wall, and the exit door does not open. It seems to be automatically operated, but by whom? Or do you know how to open it? Please understand, I don’t want to leave you. I’d rather have you coming with me. But that is not for me to decide. You see, I have come to the conclusion that I am in the wrong place. I consider it a questionable life when the system is deceiving and filled with hypocrisy and an obscure decree or arbitrariness. I rather move on. But I assure you it would make me more than happy if you came with me.”
“What are you talking about?” asks Dimitri gloomy. “What house? What doors that disappear or cannot be opened? We don’t know anything about it, never heard of such a thing!” He looks at Pia who nods affirmatively.
“And what do you mean we should go with you? Where to?” he continues. “We have no reason to go anywhere. We are very content just where we are. Besides, everyone knows that people are just people; and it was always the case of them coming and going. It is necessary; otherwise the population numbers would be compromised with either too many or too few to sustain our way of life. Even as we mourn, the departure is a preventive measure that serves all. H o w that is regulated is another issue, and yes, it gives rise to different opinions as you know by now. But it is out of the question to leave such power to people because they are no saints and therefore cannot be trusted to do it right. As far as Pia, I and some others are concerned, we don’t believe that anyone yields this power. We believe it is life itself that regulates, fate it is. But whatever we believe, a system is absolute necessary, otherwise there would be chaos, - and murder and slaughter if everybody could do as he wants!” He ends categorically.
Femina says no more. What could she say? That by all means everybody should be doing what they want to do! She does not believe humans are by nature murderers and only evil, and some will be it, no matter what system is in place. She knows nobody who would kill voluntarily nor on order, only when there is no other choice! But without her full brain capacity she cannot argue much more. However, she can and is willing to accept his views. Sadly, he cannot do the same with her’s. He does not even consider her reality as a different possibility. For him it does not exist. And as it looks, neither for Pia.”
“How is it then possible to enter from your house into the other I was talking about, there where the exit door is?” She asks subdued.
Both look at her, bewildered. “You must be dreaming when you are retreating into your room!” he says.
“And how do you explain the people’s coming and going? Where do they come from, where do they go?”
“This we do not know,” he says, “we are not omniscient. People, animals have capabilities, they don’t have omniscience! And we accept that. Life is a mystery!”
“And miraculous!” adds Pia. Both obviously agree with each other.
Femina is deeply affected. A void has opened that is as much frightening as it is disappointing. She has nothing left to take exception to.
Pia picks up the conversation: “Dear, if you really need to leave us then go. But I don’t understand why you should be unhappy with us. You weren’t so far. And we love you dearly. Besides, where do you want to go? Of course, you cannot leave the state yet, except with us and, we have neither the money nor the time for travelling. But we have friends in other towns and we could arrange for you to live with one of them.”
Femina’s attention had been drifting away. Only slowly does she comprehend what Pia was saying. Carefully she answers: “It really has little to do with you two. You are my best friends, I sure love you too. Another town would not be the solution. With leaving I mean truly leaving to somewhere far, far away. It does not matter where particularly, just far away from here. By the way! What do you mean I cannot travel?”
Pia hesitates. Looking at Dimitri she falls silent. He then answers instead and his voice is dark and solemn:
“You have to obtain permission from council, but you have not been here long enough that it would be granted. Until then you have to remain with us under our supervision. We are responsible for you. If you left or would run away they would issue a search warrant to find you, and we would be sent to jail. You would be captured for sure and then placed in a safe-house until council decides your release. We have no decision making power, we only have an advisory role but it is our duty to keep you well in our care and if you run away, we have obviously failed and that is punishable by jail. If you want to leave now, it is either with us or with our permission under someone else’s supervision that we need to arrange. Otherwise you would be classified as a fugitive and you, we, would be punished.”
Femina is beside herself looking at them in disbelief. Dimitri gets up and fetches documents from a drawer of his desk. He flings them in front of her and sits down again without further comment. She takes one sheet after the other carefully reading them. She shoves the read ones far away from her as if she wanted to distance herself from them as much as from that what she read. There it was in black and white: She has no right to go anywhere without permission from Dimitri and Pia and council’s stamp of approval. Even their travelling together outside the territory had to be approved and was clearly a regulated travel arrangement rather than an impromptu affair with a free itinerary and no time restraints.
Femina feels as if the world had come to a stand-still including her. She is stunned. The unthinkable has turned out to be officially verified. Her suspicions became fact. Her mistrust has been substantiated. She is imprisoned, she is a puppet just as everybody else and she has to accept this reality and the consequences that come with it. It means, as long as she is caught in this predicament she has to adjust, obey, and make sure she does not dance to a different tune other than the officially sanctioned in order not to jeopardize her release from the leash she is on, and to prevent any harm being done to Dimitri and Pia. She will have to endure ongoing brain-washing which will be difficult to shed if exposed for who knows how long. This is truly criminal! This is a criminal society! Naturally, the jailer and the prisoner are victims of the same thing, but it does not excuse nor condone either to champion such a system.
Femina feels a time-bomb has started ticking within her. She makes a pact with herself. As she will unquestionably have to make compromises, she will not be assimilated without question. She will be a subversive element, the sand corn in the gearbox and her work starts at once, as resistance fighter in the underground. She has however doubts that even gaining her independence whenever it will be is the code for the automatic exit door. These are two different realities she is dealing with despite appearing at present to be one and the same. Under no circumstances can she allow her mind to follow only one direction or be one-sided, this way, or the other. It would literally be a dead end road either way.
Naturally, her character becomes belligerent. But despite all the problems she causes her friends remain supportive of her, Pia more so than Dimitri, of course. She and he argue constantly. Indeed they are the prize-fighters battling it out in their private arena. If it was not for Pia she would not have a chance to survive. They fight about principles and Dimitri is the heavy weight. It is not easy for Pia to keep peace nor to mediate, but it is not easy for any of them as the battles can be hurtful indeed.
It is actually quite a relief when Dimitri insists to enroll her into an education center, though at his choice. It has an excellent curriculum with a high scoring reputation but it is also one of the most politically conservative and draconian institutions of its kind. Generally, all education centers are one-dimensional teaching facilities and she does not like any of them, but the one chosen by Dimitri tops them all. She is offended by his insistence that his choice was due to give her the best education available because she knows it is also an attempt to break down her defiance. And it is exactly defiance that prompts her to take on the challenge. But with putting on the house’s uniform the drill and psychological horror begin to unfold so merciless that she cries herself to sleep more often than not. This center is run like a military facility. To break the rules means physical punishment and the cruelty is enhanced by suppressing anything emotional. Only the strong is valued, the weak is eradicated and the cruelty does not just come from above it is echoed amongst the disciples as well. Despite her initial efforts after some time she finds nothing is to be gained by being there. She is not even intellectually inspired or challenged to make it worth the while. The end product would be brilliance in the doctrine and that type of education does not interest her enough to put up with the personal torture. Something has to change! Well, it is her that brings on the change. As she is physically and mentally well-equipped showing promise for another well molded end product she has some firm base she can operate from. She plays by the rules alright but now she enters the offensive on a subtle level. She seeks out the weaknesses of anyone she dislikes exposing them in public with cynical criticism leaving the victim cringe and rather defenseless because being ridiculed any counter attack would make things worse for them. Vanity, she finds is a gold mine and she is good at digging it up. The lecturers get frustrated with her soon enough and one day it escalates to a sinister event. Physical punishment! So far she had been able to avoid any of these practices being used on her, but now a teacher wants to punish her. Physically!!! She made the big mistake to challenge her being alone with her in her room to where she was called for some reprimand. But now she wants to hit her. Femina jolts backwards and runs around the desk to get out of the fury’s way, eying for the door and the opportunity to leave. Her attacker is after her and the chase goes around the desk a few times as she would not be quick enough to reach the door unscathed. She sure has an advantage, being younger and fitter than her opponent, who is obese and puffing already with a dangerously red face and bulging eyes. The merry-go-round can go on forever as far as she is concerned, but the other one might collapse and the situation is not good for either of them. Finally the other one gives up, sinking into her chair, screaming, that Femina will regret her attitude and will pay for this, etc.etc. She does not listen to it any longer, just running out the door and in fact she keeps running, leaving the center altogether to never return.
Management decided that they would give her another chance if she apologized or it would be better for her to seek education elsewhere. Dimitri was not given a choice, because she was certainly not going to co-operate and so she could leave the place of horror behind her.
Of course, becoming a student of a public center was no ‘plain sailing’ either. “Wipe off your war paint” a lecturer told her this morning. Stupid person! Does she tell her that she looks like a scare-crow and that she better hide herself not to scare the children? Scare-crow does not even give interesting lectures but with matters that are of no significance or importance she concerns herself in demonstration of power she does not own! Igitt! It makes her puke. “Sorry”, she said to her, “but I wish to explain; this is no war paint. It is called cosmetic and I use it because I like it, not because you might like it!” Naturally, she just made herself another enemy.
Indeed! She has not been making any friends since her arrival though she tried, initially more so than now. She has lots of acquaintances, but friends, no. Her attempts usually ended in disappointments, and again and again it proved that Pia and Dimitri remained the only ones she could or would trust. Even though the relationship with Dimitri was like a minefield, she knew at least what to expect and what not. Besides, she could see at times that he actually agreed with her. Secretly! He would never admit it though. He would rather give in but not give up. He is officially, strictly speaking, a representative of this ‘World of Lies’ but has deep inside him hidden away his own doubts. Unfortunately, that is the dike she cannot bridge. She has become tired trying and wants to put an end to it by actually finding her own place to live. Dimitri did not want to let go of his control and was initially very resistant to the idea, but with Pia’s support there was some chance that he would change his mind. Then they had a big fight again starting with the issue of her wish to move out. It ended with Dimitri being so angry that he finally kicked her out not just giving her permission to leave.
“It can’t be much longer anyway that council will relieve us from the overall responsibility for you. But you can get lost right now! Do as you want but don’t expect any help from me. You shall see how far it gets you. You will sooner than later realize that you bang your head at the wall for nothing. I definitely have enough of you. I don’t want you to be still here when I come back home!”
With these words he leaves her, and Pia, slamming the door shut behind him loud enough to wake the dead.
“I don’t understand him,” says Pia lamenting. But she actually never did. “How can he be like that?” she asks perplexed. Femina shrugs her shoulders. He always was like that, at least since she came to know him.
Since she arrived, after a short honey-moon period, all three of them had their hopes and expectations ending in frustration and disappointments. Femina must admit, lots of it was her fault. Or is she to blame for everything? She feels guilty all the same. Now that is it! Finally it has been achieved, - she begins doubting herself. All this unhappiness, her fault? All this fighting, her fault? And why? Because she cannot accept what is? Did she ever have a life before this one anyway? Maybe it was all just as Dimitri said and she wasted all her time to make herself and her friends miserable. Happiness? When was the last time that she was happy? When was the last time that she made someone else happy?
She pulls herself together. It is high time! She has to leave! Now! Without delay! Otherwise she may be subdued after all.
Pia packs some food for her and gives her some money as well. Both feel deep sadness as they say their good byes because it is a step on to a road she does not know and Pia cannot follow. But it has to be that way, because her loyalty belongs to Dimitri and Femina is rather unhappy on her own than dragging her friends down with her any longer.