Serenades, chapter 3

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Literature Text

three: it won’t bring anybody back

A man dressed in a black wool frock coat and a purple and black striped scarf, with receding and slightly unkempt dark hair, greeted us at the train platform, this one underground, with red and brown tiling on the pillars, the hum of the fluorescent lamps barely audible with the roar of the train departing and the sounds of conversation. “Yeah, you really can’t expect to say anything. Domnisoara? You’re famous here. A hero, even. Ava, yes, that is your name? I’m Parmenius.” There was something Nevdashti or Bharukan or Sophenese about his features.
“No need for formalities. Yes. Ava will do. Not short for Avalyn or anything. Don’t worry, everyone gets it wrong.”
“Those photographs you took of the war were published.”
“That’s wonderful,” she said to him.
“Were you always here?” I asked.
“I got in after you did.”
“I see.”
“So, you want food? Next stop.”

We went up, and when we exited the subway, it was raining slightly. A hard and heavy drop struck my face.
“What do you think, Nica? Can we trust him?”

We ate at a small restaurant on a side street, nestled between the tall buildings. A man was ahead of us, and a couple sat in the corner. Mirrors gave an illusion of greater size.
“Can you eat sausages, Ava?” I asked her. I ordered a grilled sausage with peppers and onions for myself.
“Pork? I really don’t know what’s in them. I’ll just have some souvlaki,” she responded, to me, and to the man attending the register. “Do they have pork? The sausages, I mean. I know what’s in the souvlaki.”
“Yes, sorry, domnisoara.”
We sat down and ate.
“Have you ever had pastrami, Ava? It’s a Jewish thing, so you’d be able to eat it.”
“Yeah, Ver introduced me to it. And she said the same thing. Well, is there something else you wanted me to see? I’m flattered that you took me out to eat, but there’s more to it, right?”

Parmenius took us through the disused alleyways and cramped streets of the city to a dilapidated building in a retro-future style, boarded up on street level, aside from a side door where the boards were pried off. Beside the door was “down with National!” in lurid red paint.

Paschasia was a tall woman with short, unkempt hair, mostly black but slightly canescent with a lock of ice white at the front, and a thin, starved face. She wore a tattered skirt that was once white and now gray eggshell, glimpses of a white silk shirt under a black jacket, and hide boots. The three of us stood in a spacious atrium, granite pillars with cornices, glazed brick and polished wood walls, and wrought iron railing like hanging wild vegetation on six levels of balconies. Torrents of water fell in the room from disused pipes, leaving puddles on the marble floor. It was foggy and dim in here, with feeble afternoon sun trying in vain to pierce the cloud cover and grime on the windows above.
She brought us in a cage elevator surrounded by wrought iron grillwork, taking us downward to a very stark and utilitarian, plaster walls with the remnants of brick red tiling, contrasting with the twisted and corroded wrought brass door with the design of a swallowtail butterfly that led in and the spacious central atrium before it, and lit by a single incandescent lamp with a pullstring hanging from the ceiling. The room smelled of mildew. There was a table covered in moldy and water-stained papers, supported on one side by a crate, some makeshift furniture brought in from abandoned vehicles. Ten others were here, in equally worn clothes and pitted armor colorful with oxidation. Half of them looked Chenlan.
“We welcome the newest members of this cell. The rules are: We do not kill indiscriminately. If anyone is caught killing wantonly or torturing, they will be turned over to the mercy of the Esercito. We don’t want to hurt the people we are trying to liberate. Otherwise, we’re just replacing old tyrants with new ones. No members of the other cells are known to us. That way, others are kept safe in case one of us is taken prisoner. They will use torture.
“Again, we use no torture. Leave that to the magistrates. People will find out if their friends, family, or lovers are taken from them, and if they didn’t support us before, they will after. News spreads fast, even when repressed. Let our enemies’ brutality be their worst enemy. And thus, only attack military, paramilitary, and political targets, thought there are a few exceptions. Targeting civilians is for our enemies, and they should know as well as we do that it doesn’t help a cause. We do not attack hicanates or optimates, that is nothing more than suicide.”

When we went back outside, the clouds still spitted rain, the sky was darker and felt more oppressive.
“So, what are we getting ourselves into?” I asked while waiting for the train. I had more time to admire the brickwork in the station, even if it was falling apart.
‘I think it’s worth it,” she said. “Might be able to get at some people in high places. Getulius, Acharius, people like them.”
“It’s done. You can’t change what happened. You won’t bring anyone back.”
“You’re right.” She sighed. “But they won’t be able to terrorize any others either.”
Recommended listening: Bark Psychosis - A Street Scene

I imagined the Bradbury Building. If you've seen Blade Runner, youd know what I'm talking about.

Paschasia's code of conduct is based on some directives for the National Liberation Front of Vietnam.

Souvlaki - a Slowdive album.
Avalyn - a Slowdive song.
Ava - a band. I was unaware of this when I named her. But it's pretty damned cool nonetheless. In fact, I actually checked out the band because of her.
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