"The fall of a leaf is a whisper to the living."
- Russian Proverb
Tears streaked my pale face as I sat under the Birch tree. I felt a mild pain course through my body, but I knew I would heal soon enough. The shrapnel scars over my arms and back would be covered up. But the fresh scar along my face wouldn't. All the bruises and signs of torture must stay. My cover-up story had to be believable.
I sighed as the night began to disappear, and the sun started to rise through the forest. Golden light swam through the icy trees, and a soft wind blew through.
Watching the sunrise reminded me of my old life, when my real mother and father took care of me. Back when I had my original birth name, eye color, hair color, and skin color. When I spoke English, when I had friends, when my life was normal.
But I could never go back.
The amount of pain over the last couple of months had finally crashed down on me. All the things I'd seen, witnessed, and done. My emotional damage was just as bad as my physical...
But today was my last day of peace. Tomorrow, [which was in a couple minutes] I would have to return to them, deceive them, and pretend to love them. He had lived through everything, and for that, I was going back to him. The man I would now have to kill.
Why had all of this happened to me? Because of my looks, an identical birthmark, and my age. All a coincidence that had ruined my life, yet saved millions. Because if I wasn't born to look just like a Russian boy, the whole Middle East would be wiped off the face of the earth.
I couldn't go back. Not now, not ever.
My life was worthless. The way I had watched my only friend disintegrate, a man be vicously stabbed in front of my eyes, and watched three people have their flesh eaten by airborne toxins.
In the midst of my thoughts, a soggy leaf fluttered from the birch tree and touched the ground in front of me. I picked up the leaf and blew off the snow crystals.
I felt hope radiate inside me. The saying; "Падение листьев шепотом жизни" or, "The fall of a leaf is a whisper to the living." Although, when translated, it said, "Falling leaves whisper of life."
The meaning was important to me. It meant that I had to appreciate life. And the falling leaf reminded me of the people who died to protect me...
I felt hot tears escape my eyes again. I didn't even know who I was anymore. Aaron or Vlad. American or Russian. Dead or Alive.
But I would have to move on. There was no other choice.
I pocketed the green leaf like it was the only thing I could hold on too. The only thing keeping me from going crazy. As I slipped that in, I grabbed my golden necklace. If I twisted the pendant at the bottom, a knife would slide out. It was my only weapon.
By now, the sun had risen a bit higher. The gray sky set out a gloomy feeling. I checked my watch, and it said 11:58 PM.
Time to go.
I walked out of the forest, making sure that I looked beat up enough. The frigid air made me shiver. Once I got to the edge of the forest, I took in my surroundings. A quiet, sloshy river to my right, and acres of farm land to my left. A large castle, which was totally out of place, stood in the middle of a field.
I broke into a sprint, running towards the castle. Vital seconds ticked by. If I arrived one second late, I would die. I might die anyways, if my cover was blown in Egypt. There was no way to know for sure. I had anticipated this moment for the past three months, hoping that I might be put out of my own misery. But after being reminded by the fallen leaf... I wanted to live.
I arrived at the stone door, putting my hands on the metal ring for knocking.
No lights were in the castle. But they were expecting me. Weren't they?
Maybe I would die. Maybe he set up the swap just to kill me.
No, he didn't know. I would be what I was before. His son. A lie the CIA made just so I could gather intelligence on him.
And at 12:00 AM, December 14, 2010, I knocked the door.
And then I was yanked in the door, my conscious fading immediately.
7 months earlier...
Friday, May 14, 2010
"My name is Aaron Rodriguez. But you can just call me A-Rod. This is my report I had to write for my honors English class, and it's worth a quarter of my grade. A "journal" Mrs. Helm wanted us to write for our big 4th quarter project, so I agreed. It's not a big problem, 'cause I've always loved writing. Right, right, I gota start about my day.
Well today there was a big drug bust at school. A bunch of the cholos brought the stuff and hid it in the locker rooms.
Wow, this journal crap is boring.
Well, right now I'm sitting at home playing on the computer.
I just got a drink of water.
I'm sitting on the couch watching Sports Center.
I'm petting my dog.
"So mom, what do you think?" I asked.
"It's pretty boring." she decided.
"Uh... a D+ maybe?"
"Honey, maybe you could work on it later tomorrow. It's late, and you need sleep."
"Yeah, okay." I said, walking to my room.
I plopped down on my bed, looking at my surroundings. Some baseball posters on the walls, a laptop, and an old alarm clock. It was almost 11.
After ten minutes of zero sleep, I got my iPod out and started playing some Phoenix songs. Then, i slipped into dreamland.
I had a pretty weird dream. I remember that it was really hot. There was the sound of crackling wood around me, and bright lights flickered in front of my eyes.
And then I realized what was happening.
There was a fire. I scrambled out of bed, only wearing boxers, and headed for the door. Flames slid down the walls like a waterfall, and above me smoke swirled. I coughed hagardly, trying to get to the hall. A piece of the ceiling crackled and exploded in front of me, sending hot ash onto my legs.
I collapsed screaming. The most intense pain I had ever felt rushed up through my shin. I have to keep going, I thought, starting to crawl into the kitchen.
I managed to pull myself up via counter, and looked around. The fire apparently started in my room, but had spread through the seiling around the house. An explosion rattled the house, and i didn't wanna know what the fire had just caused.
I went through the kitchen as fast as possible, my face getting to hot for comfort. Another piece of the ceiling fell, blocking the only path in front of me.
WIthout thinking, I jump over the burning ground. It proves to almost be a fatal mistake as my feet scream in pain. I tumble onto the carpet, the flames crawling toward me quickly.
Despite the horrible pain I was facing, I crawled for the front door. Inch by inch, I approached me destination. Even though I was on the floor, the smoke was too thick. I coughed over and over again, tears streaking my ashy face.
And next thing I knew, I was outside of my door, lying on my side, relieved by the breath of fresh air. I manage to get up on my feet, leaning against the wall.
Suddenly, I feel rough hand clamp over my mouth and pull me backwards. By the time I realize what has happened, it's too late.
I've been kidnapped.
Saturday, May 15, 2010