25th May – Луч солнца, побеждает холодную терпкую тьму.

That’s why they gave me a radio I suppose, to compensate for his loss, if not perhaps a little apology too. The punishment had been at Mareva’s instigation, but he wasn’t there when I emerged back into the light. He couldn’t have been. And I can’t see him ever endorsing the radio, even as an apology. Perhaps he’d gone already?

It makes me think that it came right at the end, but that can’t be right because I remember me and Keith realising for sure that our plight was over from something we heard on the radio. Yet I only got it as compensation for losing him.

I think we did that Arthur Koestler thing. There was a little door to the left as you went out of our room to the bathroom, which I suddenly realised probably wasn’t a cupboard but led to another small room. We did. Well, I did. I remember. When I was sure I was alone, I’d set about making contact: two dots – three dots; two dots – four dots. ‘Hi’. I did it for hours on end, I do remember that. Then I continued tapping out the news through to him, just in case he wasn’t getting the radio through the wall. Yes, that was it. That must have been how I knew that he knew.

Yet, in my memory, it was Keith’s voice on the radio. There was this programme on one day, about counter-terrorism, and it described a known, deliberately underplayed, terrorist strategy, whereby dozens of people, the children of important people, had been abducted, as we had, and had been kept in small cells distributed all over the world. Ransoms had not been demanded, no cell knew of the existence of others; and they were only connected in the sense that, one day, a signal would be given to act, like 9/11. And then, ka-boom! It would all be let loose at once, causing panic, demands, executions, the whole gamut. The PR message being, “We can do whatever we want, whenever we want.” Yet as I recall it now, Keith was one of the presenters on the radio show.

And, after it, we knew that we were part of it all, albeit in our case, we had been abducted in error. They even mentioned Aki Akerman in the programme –that had concerned us, because it meant they knew that his son had been a target, but was safe. That the people capable of saving us, were prepared to waste us in playing out their strategy.

Whether Keith was listening or I somehow conveyed it to him, I don’t know, but I can see us still, jumping for joy, really full of energy and laughing, and embracing each other. I can. I feel like that happened.

I hear on the radio, that AI has much changed things in England while I’ve been away.

And I remember Keith bringing the mood back down, by saying, ‘You know what it means, don’t you? We have no value, we’ll be a show-execution.’  Perhaps that’s when Mareva set up the faux-execution. Did he? I don’t know, I’m all mixed up. What celebrities would call a mental health issue, if I’m honest with you. What I would call fucking nuts, if I’m honest with myself. Fortunately, I’m not. Honest, that is. My father told me.

Well, something worse than execution happened. First, they took Keith. Then I was let go. “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to let you go. Your time is up. The company is going in a different direction. We don’t feel that you’re as committed to the project as the rest of us. You haven’t been pulling your weight. You don’t seem to take the job seriously enough. I’m afraid that we have to start shedding staff and you’re first. It’s a tragedy for all of us, but we’re not going to be able to renew your contract.” I became the only man in history to be sacked from the position of hostage. It’s hard to extract the positivity from that. The joy of uncommon individuality rarely endures.

The door was opened, and I was ushered out. It is bad enough being held hostage against your will, but it’s nowhere near as bad as being left to fend for yourself. I spent most of that first day wandering round in an enormous circle, wondering in what direction I’d find the rest of the world. I had no money, and the scene of abandonment and destruction told me that there were no shoplifting or scavenging opportunities to be had either.

He’s just got this thing about tarts

Eventually, half to make them laugh and like me; half out of a desperate attempt to find a purpose, and stay alive, I went back to the building where I was held hostage – and offered them my services. You should have seen their faces! What a picture. I reasoned that I had a lot to offer. I’d been with them for months, I knew all the protocols, all I need was a little transition training and I’d be ready to embark on a seamless upgrade to apprentice-terrorist.

They weren’t interested, but I was persistent. They judged me because I didn’t have the right clothes. And my accent. I had the haircut and beard. And filth. I looked just like them bar the clothes. But they were tough negotiators. Trained, you see. Spoiled with opportunity.

Eventually, they prevailed, but only at the cost of a bicycle, some bread and eggs, twenty-five dollars. And some advice. There is a minefield the size of England somewhere near here, and I am told to avoid it, if possible.

Nice lads, really. They could have said nothing. Oh, and they provided the equipment and material to shave and cut my hair, with an actual mirror! Try living without a mirror for a year – you’ll be surprised to see what your old mate looks like when you next see her. I have lost a lot of weight, my cheekbones and jawbone have become defined again, and, as soon as I get some sun on my face, I’ll look passably acceptable for a while. So, in a burst of positivity, I venture out into the world, looking for opportunities for a мальчик-красавчик. It won’t last, but I am determined to make the most of this period of starvation.

I offer up a little prayer to Saint Lady Diana, the patron saint of minefields (they being easy to lay, but difficult and expensive to get rid of), and set out to see what this latest version of the world has to offer me.

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