Orange Dawn - Chapter 11

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We arrived at the hut just as darkness fell. The moon was clear in the sky. It had been a long day. We were tired and hungry. I prepared some guacamole with tortilla chips and Aphra made burritos with beans and rice. While we ate, Tosh finished his narrative.
“Over the next two weeks, many courageous souls wouldn’t register. They remained at home and were apprehended and jailed. But their attitude proved contagious. Others would soon follow their example; and just as Glen had promised, their actions decreased the intensity of the orange. The more change that occurred, the more people stayed home. Even some government employees began to stay away. I was relieved to see Glen’s promise fulfilled and wished I could have participated. But I followed Glen’s instructions.
“How did Ben Jr. take all this?” I asked.
“Oh, he would stop Glen if he could,” Aphra said, between bites. 
“You’re right,” Tosh said. “When the orange started to decrease, Ben took credit for the change. ‘We have imprisoned the madman who had threatened the people,’ he announced. ‘Now we’re able to put in motion the means to end the orange.’”
“What an awful man,” Aphra said.
“That was his way of trying to be the town savior. Since the day Glen made his speech, no new commercial developments had occurred. Existing businesses and industries had been targeted and given ultimatums. Ben Sr. and his commercial partners had been losing the game.
“The police released Abe, Melinda and Paul. But they were all back in jail the following day for not appearing at their registration. Many others were to join them.”
“Is Mummy OK?” Aphra asked. “They won’t hurt her, will they?”
“No, Aphra,” Tosh said quickly. “She may not be home, but she’s safe. The jails are filling up with a lot of tired and impatient people. Since there were no other jails in the area, the city took over old factories and warehouses, and quickly and inadequately converted them with minimal heat and light and barely adequate food. As Ben Jr.  constantly explained, ‘These people broke the law. People must work. People must register. If they don’t, they must pay the penalties. There must be no exceptions.’ 
John Clark Smith
“There were indeed no exceptions. The jails became full of whole families, widowers, widows, teenagers, the elderly, the disabled, a few honored citizens, most of them law-abiding people. There were many stories of mothers separated from their children, husbands and wives placed in different jails. Recent immigrants said the hard times they’d had in their homelands were comparable to the situation in Harding. 
“Yet the government believed it couldn’t back down. 
“‘We’re keeping our citizens safe,’ Ben Jr. boasted, ‘even if from themselves.’ 
“By the time I left to reach you here, I estimate that one third of the city was incarcerated. Harding had fallen apart. Ben’s regime was losing whatever credibility remained with the rest of the populace. 
“As the orange diminished, Glen's stature grew; he’s considered a hero by many.”
“Yeah!” Aphra said. 
“Over and over I heard people repeating the story of him on the pole, how he’d found the secret that the government and its laboratories could not. We named that day Orange Dawn. 
“Many wanted to avoid jail, so they disguised themselves, becoming marauders of the night. They bludgeoned police cars, broke windows and doors of government buildings, splattered the statue of Ben Sheffield with various colored paints, and tore up streets with firebombs. Gangs taunted and attacked the Guard and police. Senior government officials had to be escorted to and from work. The ‘Orange Dawn’ flag, a bright orange sun surrounded by a black background, was raised in the square. The police removed it, but each time somehow it would reappear. It was assumed that secretly a few members of the Guard, police or both were supporting the protest. 
“The city was in turmoil and no one was above suspicion. Ben Jr. asked for more troops. Harding, he said, was in an urban civil war.” 
“After watching the city fall apart, Glen asked me to come up here. I worried about leaving the city. I feared that someone was following me, that I would be placed in one of the camps or factory prisons, even though I wasn’t in as much danger as others. I had registered as a retiree and kept out of sight. In any case, I hadn’t the stamina to contribute to any protest or to survive the factory prisons, though in my heart I wanted to rebel.
“I felt guilty leaving when my friends were in jail or were afraid to stay in their homes on workdays. But Glen insisted I go. He wanted me to bring Aphra back.” 
He fell quiet and took up his fork. While he finished eating, I gathered the dishes and began washing them. Aphra stood next to me drying each dish as I passed them to her. 
I kept repeating in my mind the chaotic images Tosh told us. Paul had been right when he warned me and suggested that I turn back.
Tosh moved over to one of the cots and lay down, letting out a tired sound of relief. He spoke as he looked up at the ceiling. "The sad truth is that the government is as frightened as the rest of us.”
“No one has been hurt,” I said, placing the dishes into the cupboard.
“The hurt is cultural. Events in Harding today were unthinkable a year ago.”
“Glen says once fear sets in,” Aphra said, “there’s no return.”
When neither of them offered a reply, she brought out the list of animals we had spotted and sat at the table going through them. Beside each name she tried to make a little drawing.
“Look how many we’ve checked off,” she said, showing me the list. I sat down beside her and looked at it. We had a simple organization into plants, mammals, insects, birds and water creatures. The largest group were the plants, followed by the insects, birds, water creatures and finally the mammals. The list made me feel a little nostalgic. I reached over and hugged her.
"Could it be that they do know what’s going on?” I asked. “Suppose they caused the orange, by mistake?"
“No,” Tosh said, “I think it’s their ignorance that’s made them paranoid."
"Assuming you’re right, how far will they go? Is there some more extreme plan to come?”
Tosh sat up.  “Ben Jr. wants to be greater than his grandfather. Maybe he thinks the orange is giving him that chance."
“Glen calls him the snake in paradise.” Aphra said.
“He has a plan to deal with Ben Jr,” Aphra said, tidily folding her list. “Even when I was little, I had my Amazon dolls and he had his old stuffed animals, and we would battle the Destroyers. And do you know who the Destroyers were? The Sheffields.”
Tosh stood up and walked to the window. 
"I know where they're keeping him," Tosh said. "Your mother is in the same building. It’s the old jail near the river."
"Well, let’s do something!" Aphra said standing up impatiently.
"Hold on, Aphra," I said. “We can't just go down there and ask for them. We might be put in prison too."
"We have to be sneaky, like Glen.”
Tosh shook his head. “Glen says we must do nothing until it’s time."
"What good is waiting!" Aphra shouted.
"I don’t know," Tosh said.
The old fellow seemed in a state of confusion. I gestured to Aphra to leave him be, though in my heart I had to agree. Let’s go, I thought. Let’s get down there and find out what’s going on. 

[To be continued ...]

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