Her brain fell into the habitual and familiar pattern of scanning, seeking, searching through the vault in her mind for possible solution. But all it came up with was an unfamiliar emptiness. When everything fails what is left to do? Some action must be taken, even if it is the action of failure.
With a brisk quick brush of her hands, before she could reconsider, she dropped the last of the gunpowder residue to the ground and let it take with it her last plan, their last option for salvation.
Giving up. It was a new sensation. It didn’t hurt as much as she thought it would. It was more like being in a warm tub, where the water was slowly heated to the point of boiling – death was imminent for sure, but it wasn’t shocking. almost soothing somehow.
So this is what it feels like to give in. Her mind formed the words without permission, her subconscious slipping in and editing before she had the chance to even approve the alteration. Giving up or giving in? Was there a difference? Giving in? To what? To death? To life? To that strange sweet force that had been hunting her since before she could remember?
The lights flickered, and every face tilted upwards in the small cramped space. The glowing bulbs steadied for a moment and then flickered again, an indicator of death creeping closer. They all knew it. Some of them looked away, hiding their faces from the evidence of a countdown on life. Some of them stared, as if the lights could be kept on by the power of the human will.
They flickered again and this time stayed off. Darkness descended.
The light took with it the last of the sounds and silence fell around the room like a heavy blanket, comforting and smothering all at the same time. Giving up. Giving in.
Her sight adjusted enough that she could see the shimmer of the eyes around her. They were all looking to her. She should speak. She knew that. Offer them some last scrap of hope, some last glimmer of the possibility of escape from the doom marching towards them.
But what could she offer them? Nothing left. No more plans. No more strategies.
Giving up or giving in. What’s the difference? her heart asked, with a scoffing cynicism that couldn’t quite find a root. Because there was a difference. Because she felt the difference the closer she edged towards the whisper of giving in.
Gavin shifted beside her as his small shape pressed into her, trembling slightly. She wrapped her arms around his body. The familiar helplessness wound around her – the familiar sense that she could do nothing to keep this boy alive, but none of the usual panic that accompanied that helplessness. None of the scrambling in her soul for action or solution. Giving in, not giving up. A sense of surrender, but surrender to something. That was the difference. Giving control to another.
A thread of some unnamed feeling ran up her spine and she felt a helpless giggle scramble up her throat and attempt to escape her soul. She tucked her head next to his in the dark, and slowly, softly, in a whisper that scraped against the silence with its rawness she began to sing. Her throat was closed, clogged with plans that had no outlet now, but still the sound scraped free; the sound of the song she had refused to sing her whole life.
And we will sing the songs they gave us
The songs the fathers gave to sons and sons to sons
We will sing the songs you have given us
We will trust the truths they have trusted to us
The truths the fathers gave to sons and sons to sons
We will trust the truths the you have trusted to us
The silence wrapped around the last note, squeezing gently until it was gone. And she bent her head deeper into the neck of the boy she held and received the gift of holding him, real and solid in her arms.
But then, somewhere to the right in the dark, a voice cut through the room, and then another rusty voice rose up with it and then they were all there – quiet and soft, but strong and louder than any sound she had ever heard. All rife with wounds they raised their voices.
And as they sung, she tipped her head back, and loosened her grip on the boy and let her tears spill down her cheeks, invisible in the dark, but so very seen.
Alright. Alright. I hear you. I quit. I give up. I have done what I can do and it is not enough. You’re it. You’re our only hope. I’m giving in.
She could see now, it had all lead them here, to this bunker in the heart of a city in this darkness with the enemy coming and no way out and no plan and no hope. He had lead her here. And the words her mother had plead with her to say so long ago, the words they had tried to whip out of her, the words that they had bled her to get – the words that could never be forced, only freely given, now left her lips with delighted abandon as with a choking voice she tossed her own in the mix once again.
And we will look to You who is ours
Ours by birth and ours by blood and ours forever
We will look to you, You who is ours
And we who know not what to do will rely on the one our fathers leaned upon
Without you all is lost
Without you we are lost
Fight for us for we look to you for we are yours.
And while they were still singing, the lights turned back on.