Chapter 2 of Trials is coming this week (if you haven’t read the prologue or chapter 1, you can click here – In the mean time, enjoy the first half of this short story!

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There was no need to say anything. Everybody had already seen car lights heading up the long, winding driveway. The room became so ghastly silent that the faint drip of a faucet was audible from the other room. Although everyone in the house knew the consequences for gathering in the ways we did, in our minds, the cause was worth the risk. The charge of treason was worth the risk.

John had been having gatherings like this for months now. He would casually disguise them as dinner parties, social gatherings, or even legitimate business ventures that required the coming together of the 20 odd people in their cell. A terrorist cell. The words, although frequently used prior, had never held much meaning to any of us except the obvious fact that terrorists were enemies of the United States. Now, with John organizing meetings of his own cell, those two words held a much greater impact. Terrorist Cell. Those words marked people as enemies of their own country, those words meant the death penalty, those two words meant taking a risk for a cause worth living for… worth dying for.

It had not always been this way for John, for the rest of us. Before the great war of the twenty first century, freedom of speech was a right, not a privilege. When the riots over food and water got bad, however, the country had no choice but to declare a form of marshal law, a curfew, a form of control over its people. Eventually, the government decided that even freedom of speech was illegal. After all, what right do the uneducated and unelected people have to speak their minds concerning national politics. What does a country redneck, his three kids, and his wife without a college degree know about politics, about the complications of global relations, about the price of oil, of food, of water.

The lights got closer. I counted two cars, no, three. Coming closer still. The black and white clock in the upper right corner of the room ticked, the noise of the second drilling into the back of my skull. John had been convinced we would be safe in the country. Safe in a one-story farmhouse, in the middle of nowhere. Safe where we could conduct our…our meetings. Safe where we could conduct our business.

The house itself was rather plain. There were four couches that formed a square in the small living room. Between each couch was a set of wooden chairs for others to sit, while the rest sat on the floor and leaned up against walls. The speaker stood in the middle, near a large table, sometimes carrying a map, or set of plans, so that he could best illustrate his views to the rest of us. The speaker also, as well as the ones sitting against the far wall, had the responsibilities of looking out the large bay window, towards the driveway. On the small wooden table in the next room there was a pitcher of warm water that had just been drawn from the well that night. My throat was dry, but I was afraid to get up and get a drink. Afraid to be separated from the group, separated in the next room over.

Car doors slammed shut. My palms were sweating. We could see five men, no, six, walking towards the front door. The seconds ticked, drilling into the back of my skull. My face was hot. My whole head was hot and the hair stood up on the back of my spine, sending tingles down my back. Would we really go through with this? I can’t believe it. How did I become a terrorist? I thought I might throw up, just sitting there, helpless. The thoughts were nauseating to me. The seconds ticked. Treason is death. Terrorism is Death. They knocked and entered.

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Written by Thane Keller

Thane is a native of Northern Virginia that has been traveling the world with his wife and four children. Thane researches and writes about technology, innovation, leadership, decision-making, and organizational change.