by Kat Kovalevska
Fog was stretching above the river. It was enveloping the city and the tall monuments. Daisy was in her apartment, sitting by the window. A book was in her lap. Soon it would be evening, and people would turn on the lights. Those who lived on the outskirts and in the countryside didn’t have electricity. They’d be burning candles.
Daisy had come home from work about an hour ago. She worked at an office that did work for the Leadership Party. It was their job to create slogans and other forms of propaganda that were spread throughout the State. The propaganda advertised how wonderful the Party was. How they were creating a bright future. How the State was going to be a utopia in a few short years. How the only thing they had to believe in was the magnificence of the Party.
Daisy had a good job and an apartment that had been given to her by the State. However, she knew about the things that were going on while they were on their way to utopia. People who rebelled against the Party were sent to labor camps. Nobody knew exactly what was going on there, but there were terrible stories. The rebels that were considered especially dangerous were publicly executed. Children born weak or disabled were killed. There was no freedom of speech or expression.
Because of this, Daisy lived her life in an obedient manner. She was grateful for her job and the apartment and for having electricity and enough to eat. And that her parents were alive and well and living here in the city in relatively privileged circumstances.
Even though it seemed like that should be enough, Daisy wasn’t happy. Life seemed meaningless. Working for the Party, the only authority there was, was supposed to give her life meaning. But Daisy had never felt that way.
Somehow Daisy had become convinced that there was higher authority to be served than the Party. More and more she felt that there was something else out there, but the Leadership Party tried to obfuscate its existence. That human beings, all human beings, had more worth than what they were shown in the State. And a little while ago, she had found something that supported her growing beliefs.
It had happened when Daisy was cleaning the apartment. It was the first time since she had moved in when she had bothered to clean the dust behind the sofa. When she had moved the couch, she noticed that one of the floorboards was loose and not in its place. She had heard that in the past, people used to hide things under the floorboards.
Could it be the case this time? Daisy lifted the floorboard. Underneath it was a book. It was disheveled and its pages were yellowed. The cover was black with nothing written on it. She knew immediately that it wasn’t a book sanctioned by the Party since it had been hidden.
Daisy opened it slowly. All printed books available in the State were regulated and monitored by the Party. They were available in libraries. Most books were about how wonderful the Party was, about the supreme ideology that they were following, about the future utopia that awaited them. But there were also other books, not approved by the Party. There had been attempts to destroy all of them.
Ever since she had discovered the book, Daisy had been reading it every day. She kept it underneath the floorboard in case there’d be checks at the apartment. Although the police rarely inspected well-to-do apartments, it could still happen. As soon as she had started reading it, Daisy had discovered that it was a religious book. She had heard about religion, of course. They had to learn about it in school, but in minimal, superficial terms.
In lessons, she had learned that there had been polytheistic and monotheistic religions, religious texts and buildings, practices and celebrations. Right from the first page of the book, it was clear that it was a text describing a monotheistic religion.
In fact, on the very first page, it talked about God that created the earth and saw that it was good. Following that, it said that God created man in his own image. Those were stunning concepts. Daisy had never thought about the beginning of the world. She had assumed that it had simply always existed. If the earth had always existed and so had humans and other life forms, it removed the need of a creator. But could it be true that the universe was created by a higher being? And that the world was good despite all the cruelty and injustice, hunger, poverty and oppression? And that humans were created in the image of their creator, immediately giving them special value, a special place in creation?
Daisy read about God choosing a nation known as Jews to reveal himself to. She read about the many events that happened, including the exodus from a land called Egypt and the revealing of the so-called ten commandments.
Then Daisy reached the second part of the book. It was called The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Who was this lord and savior with a funny name? Daisy began reading. It told the story of God’s son, the savior of humanity. He came into the world to save humans from the consequences of their sinful nature. He was born in a land of vast inequality and barbarism, not entirely different from the State.
Daisy was transfixed by him. He healed the sick and the blind and was kind to women and children in a place where these people mattered little. But more astonishing was what he taught.
Jesus taught that the meek shall inherit the earth and that the peacemakers shall be called sons of God. That people should seek above all the Kingdom of Heaven, a spiritual place. That whoever exalted himself would be humbled and whoever humbled himself would be exalted. That a good tree couldn’t bear bad fruits, and a bad tree couldn’t give good fruits. That people should live according to his word and learn the truth, and that the truth would set them free.
In the end, this human, who was also divine, died and came back to life—just like he had predicted. God raised him from the death in his physical body. His last words before he went up to heaven to be with his Father were to make disciples of all nations and teach them everything he had commanded them.
People didn’t come back to life. Well, not ordinary people. They lived and died. But if a person was the incarnation of God, then dying and rising again wasn’t impossible. Daisy believed completely that the second part of the book was a true account of actual events, as incredible as they were.
In addition to that, the teachings that went against everything she had been taught her whole life rang true to her. Daisy was connecting what she had read with life in the State. If all humans were made in the image of God and were here to fulfill his will, the authority of the governing body should be limited. What was the Party doing terrorizing its citizens instead of serving them? If all nations should be made into disciples, why were only a few getting educated? Jesus healed the sick, but in the State children born weak were being killed.
For a while, Daisy kept returning to the book, rereading it and contemplating its messages. She underlined the passages that seemed the most important or the most poetic. It was a marvel that something could be so true and beautifully expressed. At the same time, she was also thinking about someone with whom she wanted to share her discovery. It was Prudence, her coworker.
Prudence was quiet and observant. She diligently fulfilled her tasks at the office, the same as Daisy. She never said anything against the Party. At the same time, she never supported it outside of what was legally required of her as a citizen. Daisy had often suspected that she wasn’t a true believer.
In addition to that, she had a tattoo on her ankle. It was mostly kept hidden, but Daisy had glimpsed it a few times. It looked like a cross of two lines. Only the vertical line was longer than the horizontal. Now that Daisy had read the book, she recognized it as the cross—ancient instrument of torture and execution. Of course, it was possible that it wasn’t a cross. But somehow Daisy was certain that that was exactly what it was.
Soon after, Daisy was at work. She was going through the slogans that had to be created. New propaganda was supposed to be displayed on State Day—the day when the founding of the State was being celebrated.
It was a sunny spring day. Daisy used this as an opportunity to invite Prudence to take a walk with her after work. They strolled by the river and eventually sat down on a bench. The police could be seen from where they were sitting—a bunch of men and women in gray uniforms patrolling the streets.
“So why did you want me to take a walk with you?” Prudence asked. “Surely, you wanted to speak about something that couldn’t be discussed at work.”
Daisy decided to be honest with Prudence, seeing that she already knew that something was up. “Do you ever wonder if what’s happening in the State is right?”
“You know we’re not supposed to wonder or question the Party’s decisions.”
“Still, do you? Because I do. And lately, I’ve been wondering about it all the time.”
“Look, we both know that things that shouldn’t be happening are happening. But there’s no alternative.”
“Maybe there is.”
At that moment, Daisy took out the book and passed it to Prudence. “I think you should read this. See what you think about it. You’re the only one I can trust with it. I found it compelling and true. If its lessons would be implemented, life in the State would change. More than that, I don’t believe in the State anymore. I don’t believe in the propaganda. This, what’s written in this book, this is the truth.”
Prudence took the book.
“I have an inkling that you’re already familiar with what’s in it,” Daisy said.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because of the tattoo on you ankle.”
Prudence’s expression was unreadable. “I’ll read it and tell you what I think. I have to go now. I’ll see you at work.”
Then Prudence stood up and marched away, her small heels clanking—high heels weren’t allowed.
Several weeks passed. Prudence didn’t mention the book. In fact, she barely even talked to Daisy. Then, finally, Prudence came up to her. It happened when work was over, and Daisy was about to leave. “Do you have time for another walk?” she asked.
“I do,” Daisy answered.
They went outside. It was sunny again, and cherry blossom trees that had been planted along the river were flowering. On days like this, it was easy to forget about the atrocities that were happening in the State.
“I read the book,” Prudence said.
“How did you find it?”
“I loved it. It was the first time when I got to read it from start to finish, and it made perfect sense. The fall of humanity, the inescapable consequences of our sins, the savior who came to rescue us. I’ve heard about it before. You were right about the tattoo, of course. It’s a cross—a symbol of Christianity.”
“Is that how—”
“That’s how the religion is called, yes. The book is called the Bible. It means Books in Greek, one of the languages of the past. It used to be the most famous and influential book in the world. When the Leadership Party came to power, they tried to destroy all religious texts and forbid religious practices, as you very well know.
“But a few rebels remained. The same as there were political rebels, there were also religious rebels. My uncle was one of them. He collected pieces of the Bible; he could never obtain the whole thing. He became convinced that it was the truth, the same as you. And so he started hosting secret meetings.”
Daisy was listening attentively. Every word seemed important. She had always suspected that Prudence knew more than she was supposed to. But this was the first time when she had opened up about it.
“What happened then?” Daisy asked.
“The meetings were discovered. Uncle was sent to a camp. We never heard from him again. Because me and my mother were close to him, we took the Bible scraps and the journals that he kept. I still have them at home.
“I also decided to get a tattoo in his honor. I didn’t really believe in Jesus back then. It seemed like a nice story—an innocent man dying for those who were guilty. But now when I’ve read the whole thing, I understand it fully, and I see why Uncle believed in it. And I believe in it too.”
“The meetings that your uncle used to organize—I think I want to start something like that,” Daisy whispered.
“What? You can’t. Do you want to end up in a camp? Do you want your parents to live the rest of their lives thinking that you’re being tortured and starved? Wondering if you’re even still alive?”
“I don’t want that. At the same time, I don’t think I can continue living without sharing this with others. That’d be wrong. If this is really the truth, I have to tell others. Jesus told his disciples, as few as they were, to teach everyone this. And that’s what they did, through great difficulties. You should join me on this mission. I’d rather live a life full of meaning and be sent to a camp than live a meaningless life where all I’m doing is spreading lies.”
“That’s an insane idea. You won’t change anything. You’ll only become another victim of the State’s brutality. I have to go now. I’ll return the book to you soon.”
A week passed. Prudence hadn’t spoken to Daisy or returned the book. It was Friday evening, and Daisy was in her apartment. She was sitting in an armchair and looking at the city and the river. Tall monuments were rising into the sky. They had been created to celebrate the supposed greatness and invincibility of the State. And yet, they symbolized something that wasn’t real. The greatness wasn’t really great, and the State wasn’t going to last forever. God was forever and so was the human soul, and that was what mattered.
Someone rang the doorbell. Daisy went up to it and looked through the peephole. It was Prudence. Daisy opened the door.
“Can I come in?” she asked.
Prudence walked in. She took out the Bible from her purse and put it on the table. “I’ve come to return it. And also, to tell you that I’ve changed my mind.”
This was flabbergasting. “You have? How come?”
“At first, I thought that what you were proposing was ridiculous. But then I went home and got all his journals. I wanted to know what his justification was for doing what he did. So I read them for the first time. I’ve never done it before; I just knew that we had them. And, by doing that, I realized how committed he was to this cause. He was willing to accept the punishment if he got caught. He wrote about the same things that you talked about. He knew that he was doing something valuable—spreading the truth.”
“Because that’s not what we’re doing while working for the Party.”
“No, it’s not. So I read his journals, the same as I read the Bible. And I realized that I agree with you and him. The truth and salvation is what matters, in this life and in heaven. I don’t know where Uncle is right now. I don’t know if he’s still alive. But I know that he was at peace. He had found inner peace through Christianity and a purpose in teaching about it.”
“So, what do you want to do?” Daisy asked.
“Let’s resume the meetings, like you said. You and me. Uncle had an apartment on the outskirts—that’s where he and other followers used to gather. I still have the key.”
“That’s good,” Daisy said. “We can use that. I was also thinking that we should spread information about the meetings.”
“Word of mouth is the best way. No leaflets or anything like that. And let’s leave our little society nameless. Uncle called his group The Light of the World, but I feel like it’s risky to give it a name. If the authorities discover that there’s a group with a religious-sounding name, it could make them suspicious.”
“I agree—let’s do it that way.”
Prudence was silent for a bit. “Daisy?”
“What if we fail? And get sent to a camp?”
“Like I said, torture and starvation don’t scare me. If that’s the price I have to pay, so be it. But I am sometimes afraid of failure. Your uncle’s plan to change our society for the better failed. Of course, I’m afraid our efforts will too. But us picking up his work could be successful. We could end up gathering a large amount of followers. Start a revolution of our own.”
“It’s inspiring how brave you are. Should we go and see the apartment?”
“Yes. We can go on Saturday.”
“Let’s do that.”
Prudence then said that it was time to go. She said goodbye and left. Daisy went into the bedroom. She placed the Bible on the nightstand and got under the duvet. She was overwhelmed, nervous, and excited. But she was also convinced that what she was about to do was right.
She was thinking about Jesus’s words. Peace I give you, my peace I leave with you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Trust in God, trust in me as well. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.
Jesus also said that he left them the Holy Spirit. If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.
Jesus was with her, and the Holy Spirit. And she was chosen to bear fruit and lead people to the truth.Perhaps they’d really be able to bring about the evangelization of the nation and an overturning of the tyrannical regime. She didn’t know if it would happen, but she knew that she had to try.
Kat Kovalevska is a writer who lives in London, United Kingdom. She has always loved literature and has been writing starting from a young age. With her work, she attempts to transport readers to new places, introduce them to compelling characters and have them follow intriguing plots.