Now both sides think I am dead to them."
We stood awkwardly next to
each other for a moment, I swallowing his story, he my reactions.
Finally I let myself hug him, and we both cried for it all.
By time our awkward hug was over, I realized how tired I was. I practically fell to the floor when he let go of me, barely making it to my chair. I looked at Cea, but she was studying something pinned to the wall. I was too tired to look up again.
Stanyard offered the next helpful bit of information. "You are in the second basement of my business. It legally only has one. Keep that in mind if you are talking while down here. I'll get you both something to lie down on."
I had already found something: the floor. By time he was back I was nearly asleep and didn't even hear him come in. All I remembered was the blanket being laid over me and then the occasional whine of Cea's breathing as she bedded down near me. I dreamed of bangs and bullets, gags and dark cloth hoods.
After only an hour I awoke with a start, just stifling a cry. I watched Cea's body as she twitched and jumped her way through sleep. Neither of our brains was ready to relax.
I couldn't get back to sleep, so I sat still for a while trying to digest what we had done today. I kept feeling the spot in my hair that was missing from the bullet that had passed so close.
It was too long since I had thanked God properly for all of His blessings. Feeling that spot in my hair reminded me of that, and then of how long it had been since I read my Bible. Hopefully Stanyard would have one.
I walked at crawling speed over to the wall Cea had been studying. It had a big map, a few feet across each side, that didn't even cover the whole city. Next to it, where Cea had been looking, was a digital picture frame. The picture already displayed was of Mira and Stanyard as kids, many years ago. I flicked to the next one. It was of them two again, and even though it was out of focus I definitely recognized the old concrete wall of Street 17 camp.
I realized I was snooping outside my business, so I flipped it back and went to look at something else. There was a huge pile of papers, with ashes lightly scattered on the top. Apparently it had been the burning pile. But something on the top of one of the pages caught my attention.
It was the running header of whatever document this had come from. "Behavioral Regulations of RIUN." I couldn't guess what it stood for, but I read on, not even curious, just not wanting to be bored.
I learned by the third paragraph that RIUN stood for Religious Individuals Undergoing Naturalization. The rules list was immense. I guessed the section I was reading was on holiday observance. "On the occasion of a holiday formerly observed by the religious individual, the United benevolently recommends that no special effort be made to avoid recalling the date, but also that no celebration or recollection of the holiday be observed. To observe such a holiday would be to relapse into old thought patterns from a bygone era, but to specifically avoid them likewise recognizes their existence."
It disgusted me, so I flipped a few papers deeper. "If anyone ever asks how a RIUN lived prior to initializing naturalization, no answer should be given. It is best to ignore that such a life existed, and indeed, such is not truly living. This and other such questions should only ever be answered if asked by a United official trained in dealing with religious concerns or for purely academic concerns in religious studies."
I jumped ahead again. "If a RIUN begins to realize tendencies toward returning to the practice of a forsaken religion, or any other one it is recommended they seek counsel from a trained Religious Counselor certified by the United government. These individuals have the knowledge, resources, and power to help struggling RIUNs..."
I jumped ahead once more. I hated what I read too much to stay on it too long, but couldn't take myself away. Was this life on the Outside? At the last page I saw a diagram with two shapes. They were like tall rectangles with semi-circles on the tops. The header in deep, large, black lettering read, "Atheism Made Easy for the Previously Religious via Similar Metaphors. Figure 10: The Ten Commandments for the RIUN.
"1. You shall not allow for any dependency on a deity, in regular life or in difficult circumstances.
"2. You shall not allow yourself to celebrate days set apart as special in your former religion.
"3. You shall not permit unnecessary practice of daily rituals or routines from your former religion.
"4. If such rituals are unavoidable, such as the washing of hands, they shall be done whilst reciting these ten laws.
"5. You shall obey the United before all other institutions."
I hated it, but couldn't stop.
"6. You shall not seek contact with those who practiced your same former religion.
"7. You shall not consider as part of your identity the fact that you once practiced another religion.
"8. You shall not ever speak of your former religion as having had benefits, nor the lack of it as a problem.
"9. You shall not judge the behavior of others by the restrictions of your former religion, only by the laws of the United.
"10. You are a part of the United, which brought you out of ignorance. Your first allegiance is the government which set you free."
The cry and puke instinct was coming back again.
The next post is Crook Q: Part 42