The Arrow on My Wrist
I always knew how I was going to die. It was written on my skin from the day I was born... or rather drawn, if you may...
I always knew how I was going to die. It was written on my skin from the day I was born... or rather drawn, if you may. I wonder if it was a blessing or a curse. It is inherited, you see; like mix-match things with your parents’ destiny… you are their hybrid.
My mother, whose tattoo was a chalice, was told she is going to die in a closed one’s place. And she did. While giving birth to me. My father, open hands. Which meant he was supposed to live giving and die peacefully. I, their son, got an arrow. The interpreter said I would die fighting for the needy. I am also going to be a sacrifice. But for a multitude.
The loud silence in my brain was now mute replaced by the overwhelming chatter in the conference room. I took my seat among the recruits.
“Hi, are you here to serve or because of your tattoo?” a man next to me asked. I silently showed him my tattoo. “Well, I am here to serve this great nation,” the man added. I just smiled stiffly because ironically I am a terrible people person. The man continued to prattle. Apparently, his tattoo shows that he is going to die at an old age.
A strong-looking man, seemingly from the higher ranks, got on stage and welcomed us. We are supposed to be the new team that is going to be trained and sent on a spying mission. I think it would be a good opportunity to get it all done.
We are given a dormitory, three men per cell. The man from the conference, his code name C52, was one of my dorm mates. The other is quite reserved to himself. His code name is F01. And I am supposed to be X33.
The alarm went off at 04:00. We had a long day ahead of us. F01 was already up making his bed. C52 and I are still trying to open our eyes. “Well, you should probably get up and get ready lest you get punished, fellas,” he told us. We got up soon after that.
After doing one of the most intense workouts of our lives, we went to the room where a sharp-looking man was waiting for us. He is supposed to be our psychology instructor. After that, we were back in the dormitory. C52 stayed in the seminar room making new peers.
As we got to the room, F01 started taking off his shirt, revealing the tattoo on his back. It was a simple dagger.
“They told me it means I would die from betrayal,” he said, catching me off-guard. I told him about mine. He turned around and asked, “Do you really think this is the only way? Confused, I went, “Pardon?” He let out a sigh and told me to forget about it.
It was now around 23:30. C52 and F01 were asleep. Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop thinking about what F01 said. Does he think we can change our fates?
It’s 04:00 again. We went through the same routine. I tried talking to F01, but he ignored and avoided me at sight. This went on for about a month till one day in one of our training, I asked the instructor if one could ever change their destiny. The instructor told me trying would just be futile and unhealthy.
That day F01 came to me and went, “So it worked, huh? I knew you were a bright kid. I knew you would chew on it.” I asked him how we could ever do that. He smirked, “Use the tattoo against it, 33.”
We got much closer with F01. He is such an enlightened man, curious and open-minded. The months of training passed like days with him.
One winter day, F01 told me to meet him around 22:00 at the library. Inside there was a constricted section. There, he showed me files on people who tried to change their fate and were close but the D692 unit silenced them. I was intrigued and we learnt how some learnt that they were being controlled by a strong placebo effect backed up with tattoos passed down not genetically but given in hospitals after thorough analysis. We were just getting started when we heard curfew alarms. We went back to our dorms.
C52 noticed we came in late and asked us where we were. F01 simply ignored him. C52 started pressing more questions. I said it was not much of a deal so he dropped it after a few but it’s obvious he isn’t satisfied.
The next day after F01 and I did all our chores, we headed to the library again. We continued our research. Again when time was up we went back to our dorms. This became our routine for weeks till one damned day.
As we were going back from the library we noticed footprints on the snow trail that did not belong to us. In an instant, we knew we were being followed. I noticed the prints are accompanied by a walker’s print. And interestingly C52 had recently injured his knee and uses one. We entered our dorms but C52 didn’t. We were worried that someone found him lurking around the constricted section past curfew. Irritated by his actions, we still went out to look for him. Instead of C52, however, what we got was a group of men sent from the upper ranks for questioning.
We found ourselves in a bright room and started getting asked about how much we know about the tattoo placebo otherwise known as The Eikon. According to what we read it was a Greek wordplay suggested by one of the founders. Eikon is the Greek word for “icon” drawn on temples to tell the story of the Bible. And the tattoos, well, tell your story in a way.
We knew we were going to either think our way out of there or die in the bright room. We overheard C52 being told he did an excellent job reporting this. “You will be given an hour to set your mind. It’s either confession or, well,” the man interrogating us said and left.
“We can escape this,” F01 whispered. “Are you insane?” I almost shouted. “I am. And I have a plan,” he replied.
When the interrogator was back, it was as though the room was empty. He left the room and gave orders to search for us everywhere and to get us killed on sight.
We were too close to go out of the camp when I heard a gunshot. I looked over and saw F01 fall from the wall we were climbing. He told me to leave him there. I did. He died changing his fate. But died of betrayal nonetheless.
I started living a life of running away from the government. It was interesting to me because I am seeing my destiny change. I started publishing papers here and there by myself for people to read, but many think it’s a fable. Some however are rebelling. But like the previous ones, they are getting silenced almost immediately.
One day I got an encrypted message. It explained how the sender knows about The Eikon and how they want to work with me to change the whole system. It sounded perfect. Nevertheless, I couldn’t trust them. I didn’t respond until a few days later. I received another message. This time wanting to meet up. The bombarding guilt of F01’s death gave me a push to go and see this person.
We met and talked more about the system. It was a she. And she was a reliable person. I told her about F01 and the whole camp training. She helped me devise a plan on how we can convince people to rebel but in a managed way where their voices can actually be heard.
We started with more awareness-raising works. But the feedback was not fruitful. On one of our plan reviews, with her and a few other friends she introduced me to, she suggested that we could steal the files from the constricted section. She reminds me of how F01 was so daring. And for that, I agreed. We devised a plan to get it at night with one of her best men.
We got in. We got our files. As we were going out, though, that man who interrogated me and F01 appeared from the shadows and said, “Finally. I knew you’d return.” And he went on and commanded the other men to seize us. We tried dodging the guy. It was like our brain was in sync. We ran out of the room to the gates. This felt like a Deja Vu. Our breaths are ragged and our hearts were pounding. I stumbled on a damned rock and fell. "Come on, get up!" my mate yelled. I heard a gun cocking. "Go, I'll hold them off!" I shouted, brandishing a broken bottle he had picked up from the ground.
He hesitated for a moment, but then he left. As he was about to jump off the wall, he heard the sound of a scuffle behind him, followed by a shot. He turned around and saw me lying on the ground, surrounded by armed men.
He wanted to go back and help, but he knew it was too late. He had to keep running, the files must be out.
The next morning, the files were out and published for the public. And throughout the following days, finally, the people remembered they were stronger than the government and have always been in control of their choices. And as ironic as it is, I died serving them.