When I go to sleep at night, I lay a hand across my ribs and pretend it's yours. It does not give me comfort to imagine you and I am all too aware of the unforgiving dirt beneath my back. I welcome the ache of missing you because I like to imagine, however bitterly, that you're doing the same in your rumpled sheets. It would be an insult to push you from my mind.
I hate you. I truly do.
You sat at the table beside me at the graffiti-stained cafe and I noticed you because you had your strong-bridged nose buried in the pages of a book. Not a Reader, not a Tablet, but a collection of yellowed pages messily bound together that probably sent dizzy waves of ink into your head. Your brows were knit together in intense concentration but your spine was slumped loosely and seemed to say, my body is here, but not my mind. It reminded me of when my mother used to sit me on her lap and tell stories. Like all parents, she stopped the moment I was old enough to work a Screen and watch other worlds rather than hear them. I hadn't seen a book in over a decade and as I watched that dreamlike smile paint itself across your lips, though I didn't know your name, I knew I could not bear to lose you.
Dawn breaks and I rise slowly and cautiously, scanning the wood for threats. I spot a yellow shape in the corner of my eye and adrenaline chills down my spine. If I stand, I run the risk of activating whatever that thing is. However, if I stay kneeling on the forest floor, I am easy prey to snipers; I wouldn't be surprised if five men are sheathed in the greenery looking through lenses to aim at my head. My breath quickens and I blink several times.
Without time to think, I leap to my feet and sprint madly to the suspicious sight, praying desperately that speed will be in my favor and throw any attackers by surprise. Blood throbs in my ears as I run and I finally reach my target. It rests high in a tree and, as I dare to look closer, bears small cameras embedded on three sides. It's a weapon I haven't seen before. Figuring it 's best not to wait around and get acquainted with it lest it explode, I turn back and take off in the other direction.
It terrifies me to think of how quickly they found my hiding place. My feet won't keep going forever.
I knew from that first night your fingers had been sculpted to trail across my shoulders and your lips were meant to crash against mine like tidal waves, and when I awoke beside you, there was nothing in the world but the rough scent of your mussed tree bark hair. As if guided by a need too strong for either of us to understand, your sleeping body turned over and encased me in a shelter of warmth. When your eyes lazily drifted open because the streaming sunlight was to strong to keep you in your dreams, you did not move.
It is difficult to know when I am being followed since police have cloaking devices so advanced the science behind them make my head spin. However, all I can do is trust my naked human vision. Violent pants heave through my chest like a hammer on fingers and the moment I stumble into the cave I've found I collapse to my knees and draw in desperate gulps of air. Once my heart has steadied itself and my body is not too paralyzed in exhaustion to move, I fish the map from my pocket and hold it to my sweat-stained face. I am four miles from the man who was with you at the protest and knows precisely what you did. My hands are trembling to a point where I am struggling to make sense of the winding paths. I promise myself I will be in town by the end of the day. I refuse to let you escape.
They dragged you through the door writhing and scratching and yelling like a caged animal, your shirtsleeves badly torn and bruises stamped over your arms and ruddy cheeks like mud. Your mouth was contorted in rage that was written clearly on your fevered cheeks.
"Do you know this man, miss?"
"We caught him leading a mob outside the Factory. You understand, miss, that if he is found breaking protocol again he will be arrested. This is his final warning."
"I understand, sir. It won't happen again. Thank you. Goodnight."
After the door echoed shut, you fell to the carpet and sobbed and I wrapped my arms around you and buried my face in your battered chest. I did not want to hear that the robots were taking the peoples' jobs; it was irrelevant that something must be done about this "infringement of basic rights." The tyranny of the technological age meant nothing. You were my everything and each picket sign you held seemed to tear part of my soul away. I believed deep down that they were stronger than you and you would be taken from me by their guns. Your determination was one of the most beautiful things about you, but sometimes all I wanted was to tuck you under the blankets like a child and keep you out of harm's way forever.
Hardly a minute has passed before I heard heavy footsteps pounding across stone and warning shots firing into the air.
"Come quietly and we won't shoot!"
I freeze and panic seizes me in it's icy grip. I thought I'd lost them. Just four miles, just four miles! I cannot be this close only to be caught. No. It's impossible. I'm going to escape again and keep running and not stop until the world knows I'm innocent. They aren't closing in, those machines aren't pointing at my head, there are no flashlights dashing the dark walls like knives. I scramble to my feet and try to skirt past them, but my legs are lead and I am knocked to the ground within seconds by a force to my knees. Pain courses through me and I scream, willing this fear-driven haze to clear from my skull. I tumble into blackness.
"You are under arrest for the murder of Jerome Cummings."
The CEO of the Factory of Robotic Development. I did not want to believe that you had done this to me, although the conclusion seemed painfully obvious."You're after the wrong woman. I swear I've been in this house all week."
"There is a knife at the scene with your fingerprints. DNA doesn't lie. Put your hands behind your back."
I saw an open window. I ran.
The metal restraints dig into my wrists like thorns and I find myself immobilized when I try to struggle. My mind is clear but any message to my muscles is cut off at a blockade - I realize it must be gas. The small room is pitch black save for a scathing spotlight above me and the more I strain to move the more sweat it causes to roll down my back.
"Where were you on the night of the 27th?"
My voice comes out small. "In my home, cooking dinner for my boyfriend, who was out."
"Can anyone attest to that alibi?"
I hope ruining my life is worth it. Your little game of rebellion had better lead to a revolution. I wonder if everything we had was a lie - did you plan this all along? Did you see a lonely girl on the barstool and think, she'll do? Did you lay in bed with your arms around her while picturing her behind bars for your greater good?
I loved you.