Julia Maciel walked to Kenyatta’s farm. Between the walk with Godfrey and the talk with Aquinas, this had been one of the worst mornings of her life.
It all started so simply, didn’t it? She thought about looking at the website back in her dorm room. War doesn’t prove who’s right, only who’s left. War is costly, peace is priceless. War is unhealthy, aren’t you sick of it? Those were so right, so right. How did New Dagreb screw all that up?
Or maybe it hadn’t, not entirely. She looked around at her beloved fellow farmers. They didn’t mind; they were good little worker bees. They might even make better soldiers for how deferent they were, especially during bojutsu training. They were happy and at peace. Wasn’t that the point?
Somehow Julia doubted that Godfrey would be Aquinas’ kind of “benevolent dictator.” Now, if she were to…ugh…be with him, would she be enabling him, or curbing his worst instincts? Or both?
Julia wanted to talk to Kenyatta. She still trusted him, on some level. She was now at his farm, but she couldn’t see him anywhere. Julia asked around. The first two berry-pickers just shrugged. The third one said that he’d heard Kenyatta had gone looking for her.
Julia walked the five minutes to this farm’s community house – where Kenyatta lived. He wasn’t there. If they still had their rings, she could just call him, or even find him on a GPS. But rings were so un-New Dagreb.
Julia walked to the lake, feeling silly. Of course Kenyatta wasn’t there either. Come on, they were in a snow globe, in the middle of a volcano. There were only so many places Kenyatta could go, right?
Then why could she feel herself panicking?
Julia decided to walk back to Dr. Aquinas’ house. Maybe he would know. Somehow it seemed like he would.
Ten minutes later, Julia arrived at Aquinas’ manse and stopped at the little guest-house.
“Hi, I need to see the leader again.”
“He’s busy for the rest of the day,” Bridget said icily.
“Really? But I was just…”
“Sorry, I can’t alter his schedule.”
Julia had spent months fantasizing about using her fist to alter Bridget’s catalog-model face. She didn’t like these violent feelings, but there they were. Julia walked out of the little cottage, befuddled and bothered.
It was a study in contrasts; Aquinas’ overgrown manse was at the end of the street, with his secretary’s tiny shack flanking it on one side, and his son’s less leafy Tudor-style mansion on the other. Julia looked at Godfrey’s house and pictured living there for the rest of her life. What was she thinking, coming to Olympus Mons?
At that instant, Julia heard what sounded like a muffled scream. It was a very distinct “mmmmmmmmm” covering an “ahhhhhhhhhhh.” She listened carefully, and heard it again.
Julia ran down Godfrey’s pathway to his front door. She was about to knock when she heard the sound again. Some instinct told her not to knock, but instead to sneak around and see what was going on.
Godfrey’s frosted windows made it hard for Julia to see inside the front room and the adjacent room, but it was clear enough that there were no people in them.
When she came to the next room, however, the windows lost their frost, and in the full volcano-reflected daylight she could see, through a stylish meter-wide round window, a nightmare: Kenyatta, tied with Wazgretco cuffs to the room’s central table. His arms were splayed and his feet bound together, like a horizontal Jesus. A kitchen towel had been tied around his mouth, and something else placed in it besides, to keep him quiet. Kenyatta’s expression was one of sheer terror, worse than she’d seen when they met the bear.
The solarium where Kenyatta lay bound was a sort of homage to roundness. It was a big cylinder with a long, long plush sofa that formed most of the room’s perimeter, though the chamber also had a round skylight in the top that looked to be positioned exactly over the 2-meter-wide round table in the middle where Kenyatta had been tied. There was even a round desk near the window as well as a round computer screen. Only the chair next to the desk had right angles – just the legs, not the round back. Father and son did like their antiquities.
Wángbā, Julia thought, if only she had a bo. Looking around, she noticed that Godfrey had a pile of firewood outside – right, why not, considering it never rained. She found the longest, thinnest piece, which was still far thicker than any bo, more of a pine-tree low-branch that her one hand could barely wrap around.
Julia hoped to use the branch to prop open the door, but when she came back to the window, she saw Godfrey standing over Kenyatta with a 25-cm kitchen knife, glistening like a jaguar’s tooth. Godfrey said – muffled through the window – “I’m only going to ask you one more time, what did you see?”
Julia reflexively gasped, causing Godfrey to notice her through the round window. Godfrey gestured, and the window’s pane slid into the wall, leaving an open round portal. Julia pointed the branch at a 45-degree angle in front of her, ready for battle. “Put down the knife, Godfrey.”
“First you put down that log.”
“First you…tell me what this is all about.”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out, from Kenyatta here.”
“How’s he supposed to talk with that thing on his mouth?”
“Fine,” said Godfrey, and removed the rag and ball from Kenyatta’s mouth.
“He’s crazy, Julia, run,” said Kenyatta.
“You think I’m just going to leave you?”
“I may be crazy,” said Godfrey, “But did you break into my house?”
“Not exactly,” answered Kenyatta.
“What is that supposed to mean?” spluttered Godfrey.
“Look, Julia,” said Kenyatta, “I did come over here. I still love you. I saw you leave bojutsu practice with him, and I’ve always seen how he looks at you…what was I supposed to think?”
“Godfrey, can’t you untie him?”
“He’s not telling you the whole truth,” insisted Godfrey.
Kenyatta sighed. “I only meant to look in the windows and see if he was doing something to you. But then I saw his antenna, and I had to take a closer look.”
“Had to?” shouted Godfrey. “Had to?”
“Antenna?” asked Julia. “What antenna?”
“He has a receiver and internet, he’s been talking to people outside New Dagreb. I looked at his recent activi…” Godfrey put the rag and ball back on his mouth.
Godfrey gave Julia a cold stare. “Now that I think about it, the less we both know about what he saw, the better.”
Julia felt her heart sink in her chest. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Put down your weapon, my dear,” ordered Godfrey.
Julia was still standing just outside the open portal; Godfrey was still standing indoors, next to the table. He put the fearsome knife next to Kenyatta’s hand. “Put it down, Julia, or Kenyatta loses a finger.”
Julia coiled her rage inside of her. She put the log down on the grass, thinking she could pick it up again quicker than Godfrey realized. “How did you…do this to him?”
“Oh, a little something-something. This is my house, I know where everything is. And I know where everything should be.” He licked his lips. “Julia, step in here.” When she hesitated, he ran the point of his knife along the line that connected Kenyatta’s thumb to the rest of his hand. Julia wondered if her scream would carry all the way to Aquinas’ house right now, outside or inside. The blade began to cut…
Julia did as he commanded. He gestured and the portal shut behind her. Oh my God, she thought, he’s pure evil. She thought about grabbing the chair, though he’d think of that. There have to be other possible weapons in this solarium, if I can just…why is it so hot in here?…what is that thing? His computer? Who is he talking to? Is this how he knew about Martina’s kids?
“Now,” Godfrey said to Julia, “Take off your clothes.”
“What? I can’t…you’re kidding, right?”
“Do it, now.”
“We don’t have time to waste, and I’m not going to be aroused enough if you’re not naked.”
“What are you talking about?”
With one confident stroke, Godfrey severed Kenyatta’s right-hand thumb from his hand. “Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!” was the sound of Kenyatta’s muffled scream.
“We’re not playing games here, Julia. We did that when we were kids, I know how you play.” Julia felt her blood turn to ice. “This isn’t one finger per article of clothing time. Take them all off, now.” He put the bloody blade to Kenyatta’s wrist.
Training, training. Sims. What do I do? Julia stared at Kenyatta’s severed thumb, lying fallow and bloody on the floor.
“You’re going to let your ex-boyfriend lose his hand because of your modesty? Wow, that’s cold. Okay…”
“Godfrey, this is all my fault.” He stopped cutting. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted peace, I wanted your father to show me the way, but I kept a part of me mistrustful, not believing. I was selfish and naïve. I should have known myself better, I should have been better with you. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry.”
“Not bad.” Godfrey smiled. “Not good enough. Strip, or his hand goes.” He began to slice, the blood began to spurt…
“Okay, fine.” Julia could not think what else to do. She began by taking off her shoes, socks, and pants; perhaps it would be easier to kick him. She hesitated, then started to take off her shirt.
At that moment, she heard footsteps outside. A person unlocked and stepped through the round-window portal. It was Dr. Aquinas.
“Godfrey,” Aquinas sighed, “can I speak with you in private?”
“Regarding what?” Godfrey’s tone sounded as though they had been at a picnic for hours, not as though he had a knife to a bound, innocent man’s arm.
“I’d rather not discuss it here.”
“There’s nothing to discuss!” Godfrey’s rage returned.
“Godfrey, you know this isn’t the way.”
Julia almost whispered, “I think you should listen to your father.”
“Oh shut up, little girl!” Godfrey’s nostrils flared like a slapped horse’s. “He’d love you to believe that we’re this peaceful organization where nothing happens but peace, peace, peace. But my father isn’t the Gandhi you think he is. And I’m not the Stalin either. We’re not as far apart as you wish we were. Who do you think sent Bridget after your boyfriend?”
Julia considered attacking them both. But Godfrey kept the point of his knife at Kenyatta’s neck, and one wrong flinch could kill a man she still loved.
“Godfrey,” Aquinas said calmly, “I don’t deny a scintilla of that. But this isn’t right.”
“Yeah, I heard how you tried to convince her an hour ago. I heard how you got her to agree to consider me if Kenyatta wasn’t around.”
Julia shared a look with Kenyatta. Julia tried to say It’s not true with her eyes, but doubted she’d succeeded.
“But we tried that with Olivia, remember?” Godfrey continued. “And then we tried it with Bridget. Didn’t work.”
“What are we trying now?” asked Aquinas wearily.
“We don’t kill Kenyatta. We just threaten him. As long as she still has feelings for him, she’ll have to do what we say. I’ll get her pregnant and then we’ll unite the planet!”
Julia was equally horrified and flabbergasted. She wished she had some way to tape all this and play it to everyone in New Dagreb – but she had no ring.
“Let me get this straight.” Aquinas was clearly exasperated. “Your brilliant plan is to rape Julia while we hold Kenyatta at knife-point. How long do you feel you can keep this up?”
“Long enough. She looks fertile.”
“Godfrey, this is not peaceful. This is not achieving another mindstate. This is not leaving your past behind and making a better you.”
“He’s right,” said Julia.
“Oh, very well,” said Godfrey, removing the knife from Kenyatta’s neck while keeping his eyes on Julia. “Don’t move, you,” he said to her as he pulled a key from a pocket and unlocked Kenyatta’s Wazgretco cuffs.
Kenyatta sat up on the table, pulled off his gag, and began sucking on his bleeding stump where his thumb had been. Godfrey strolled to the other side of the table from Julia, near to his computer. “Fine, fine. We’ll just do it the usual way, then.”
Something clicked: the table suddenly split down the middle and swung on hinges on each far side, opening it up like a trap door. Now, finally, Kenyatta screamed loudly, as he plummeted into the hole.
Julia bounded to the edge and peered over the side, but Kenyatta had to be 20 meters down a straight, slick tube that went on for at least another 100 meters. There was absolutely nothing she could do but watch Kenyatta fall, fall, fall into the tiny red-orange pool at the bottom of this interior well – into the Olympus Mons he’d so worshipped.
It was one more time that Julia’s passivity had cost lives. The final time, she swore to herself. She had to act like her sister now. Or at least her mother.
Julia leapt at Godfrey, not the way he wanted. “You’re next, you lousy excuse for…” He thrust forward his knife; she knocked it out of his hand before he knew her hand was even coming. As she swung his body around to the hole, she saw the table had already clicked back into place. She threw him on top of it anyway. She grabbed his genitals and squeezed like they were overripe oranges.
“Before you kill my son, Julia,” said Aquinas, approaching her, “I’d ask you to consider something. If he dies, or if we both do, everyone in New Dagreb will, like Kenyatta, fall into the lava of the volcano.”
Almost subliminally, Julia registered the strangeness of Aquinas talking as he walked up behind her; she later realized she was too blinded by rage to follow training. Instead she wanted to see Godfrey’s face as she twisted…
…when she felt her skin punctured by a needle. What the…Aquinas?
As she lost consciousness, Julia said to herself, the two of you will somehow, someway suffer for what you did to Kenyatta. If there’s breath in my body, you will pay…