The Agony of Survival: Chapter One

     Their first concern was to select the proper site: a hill southeast of the mountain that screened its location from the radars. It began as a firm flat plateau rolling up gently toward an inclining slope and ended in a peak overlooking the coastline. It was an expanse of interspersed olive trees and cypresses that covered an area close to twenty five acres. To the northern part, a narrow, paved, private road led toward serried pine trees and everlasting, green-clad shrubs, three thousand feet from the sea below. Often big waves swept the open bay from the west, but in calm moments, the sea became deep blue or clear green–a sea of rare beauty.

     The site was chosen about one year ago, at the beginning of spring. The exploration of the area from a helicopter proved useful. They were searching for an expanse of no more than forty acres that probably met certain requirements. They soon ended in this specific spot. Since the owner of that field was only one, the contract was signed immediately, and construction began.

     It was not something excessively impressive: a grand structure, whose partial units were constructed somewhere else, carried and assembled at this particular place–within a distance of about two hundred meters from the local road. It occupied the center of the area, which remained almost clear of cypresses and pine trees, and where foundations had been excavated in great depth, on a firm layer of earth, and proper bases from concrete had been made. The structure as a whole had a touch of old country style, especially on the inclining red tiled roofs. Next to it, at a distance of about twenty-five meters, was placed a smaller rather circular building. Both buildings, which were connected with an enclosed arcade, were artfully adjusted to the natural environment and stood in harmony with each other.

     The residents of the village, about two kilometers west, had said at that time: “One more villa; we must get used to seeing them.” Some others added the common talk of those years: “We must get used to the idea that we will serve to live.” (The verb “get used to” has remained in frequent use for many centuries.)

     Besides, in those years, the interest of buying land from multinational companies, or from intermediate multinational companies, from rich and less rich civilians, and every type–clever and less clever–adventurers was very common. Generally, the whole so-called developed, rich, industrial North–and every type of rich and less rich, from every part of the earth–seemed for a moment (and it’s possible it was a misleading impression that was not considering the multiple, imponderable factors) that they were going to move, for a few days or for a few months, to the picturesque so-called underdeveloped South, a good and vigorous, in its realization, snapshot of movement, which in turn was dragging along the “powerful” residents of the area to adjust by building. However, this new period of rendering of services, which existed for centuries, was now at its new great development and bound with the joy of life of the village. It was unknown how long it would last and what fruits it was going to bring.

     One year after the selection of the site, toward the end of June, the construction was completed. The place around was landscaped; some olive trees were uprooted, and replaced by various plants, trees and bushes. Flower beds were created and the land was fenced (already from the beginning of the purchase this by itself was impressive) with a special, strong wire netting of about three meters in height.

     There were two entrances to the property. One which faced the main road and was shut by a big, metallic door; and a second one facing north to the narrow road which led to the sea through bushes and pine trees. The second entrance seemed to consist of a combination of wood and metal.

     The edifice was done in early July. The wild flowers had already wilted in the nearby fields. The ashen color of the desiccated plants in combination with the ashen limbs of olive trees, branches that ended in bright green leaves, and the blue–once deep blue–of the sky dominated. They were welcomed by the increasing buzz of cicadas hiding in olive trees and cypresses and the cool western breeze from the sea. The building, as well as the construction, presented nothing of interest. Besides, the equipment inside the buildings was put in place in an overly slow pace so as not to attract much attention. Some villagers had remarked: “It’s about a house with supermodern electronic equipment.” Perhaps they borrowed those expressions “supermodern” and “electronic equipment” from TV advertisements. Yet, the matter didn’t cause long discussions as to create mystery or even fear, as, for instance, in older times, when there was talk about the establishment of radars on the surrounding mountains or of nuclear plants near the lakes and swamps. They hadn’t discovered anything formidably dark, as when they talked about “excavated areas,” of mountains with “underground tunnels,” or of caves near the sea, that could have been areas with stored nuclear weapons or launching-site pads.

     The establishment almost escaped notice. Early July, on Monday, around four o’clock in the afternoon, they arrived in two cars. There was only a man and a woman. Neither domestic staff nor bodyguards nor friends were seen. Aris carried the suitcases himself from the car to the house. Danae carried two multi-colored handbags holding them with exceptional care. Aris was a strongly built, well trained man, around forty-five, with rough features and a rather dark face. Young Danae, fresh and joyful, with a smile always on her face, was one of those women whose age you can hardly be guessed by their external appearance.

     “So we have arrived,” Aris commented, locking the door using a remote control, “and we did arrive alive,” he added giving emphasis to this last word, while stepping aside for Danae to pass.

     He placed the suitcases in the lobby and he closed the door behind him. Then he turned slowly and hugged Danae in an embrace showing strength yet tenderness.

     “It’s so important to arrive somewhere alive… At least, we will enjoy love without interruptions for a few days.”

     “Not only love… We will try to enjoy life itself.”

     “The latter has indeed a wider sense which could be analyzed in tens of other senses… Let’s enjoy everything offered to us.”

     Danae freed herself from his embrace with an imperceptible touch and moved on to the inner structure.

     “It’s really an impressive place!”

     “Everything is as in the ‘original plan’”, Aris said in a low voice while stepping next to her. “Such a great development in such wondrous diminution. It seems that a chronic relationship exists within this house, or that all will be definitely decided here.”

     It sounded like a monologue.

     “Still, nothing can be decided anywhere,” he said again and walked toward an arcade decorated with fine climbing plants, leading to a circular chamber.

     The inner space, in the main structure, was an expression of a refined form of art with multiple combinations from classical to modern, with abstractions leading to superior aesthetics, with genuine paintings, from the renaissance to the end of the twentieth century. All the spaces were distinctively covered, even with TV screens on the walls and sunlit ablations, or even with distant chirping of scanty birds still alive outside, giving this “library-workshop” in the circular chamber an unusual intensity.

     There were super modern computers of multiple connections with every kind of data banks, super advanced devices of text modification with digital figures, of digital signals transmitting to every kind of communication network, every kind of “detectors,” videos and TV screens, closed TV circuits that covered the entire compound, plus electronic alarms, and minor circuits everywhere. The automation could indeed function at high levels without its own insertion, while the books, on the fine elaborate shelves, showed that they played a rather decorative part to “break the coldness,” none-the-less, of that warm place.

     Aris intended to live in this room for a great deal of time. So, fine stereos could offer every kind of music; a rather small and apparently decorative recamier, at the north part, could easily be converted to a love bed; a dull to deep green, joined crystal offered a panoramic picture of the room beyond the library-workshop and, refracting adeptly the sunlight, created the deepest sense of tranquility.

     Exactly under the library-workshop the shelter had been constructed and organized.

     Observing in its totality that secure place, he felt relieved. The place showed indeed that it corresponded to its mission. He knew why he was there: They were chosen, of their own free will, for the days of “optimistic attack”; and with him, other persons of unusual capabilities–mainly the ultimate reserves for the safety of the systems at critical hours… This concerned strictly selected persons, with a tradition of loyalty to the system, who could hardly be detected and murdered, because nowhere did they seem to play any significant part and, exactly for this reason, they didn’t need glamorous protection with a retinue of armed guards; persons who were destined, for that matter, to live under the most stringent scientific conditions in order to survive. There were multiple offensive and defensive mechanisms, some extremely imperceptible, yet exceptionally effective as a whole, the essential outcome of the wisdom and experience of many years of continuous research.

     Leaving the library-workshop and walking toward the quietly lighted arcade that led to the main structure, Aris didn’t fear. He always was a self-confident man, a lively man, with love serving as a basic part of his actions. Only after making love to strong women for hours, he could act, feel alive, and enjoy what himself understood as the “poetry of life.”

     After the first weeks, Danae was somewhat annoyed at times.

     Still, she didn’t want to object because she understood that the first period of sexual intercourse had actually helped her comprehend her deeper feminine nature–despite the fact that occasionally she had met tens of men. Aris had assumed several times that the reason which kept her close to him–beyond the general fears and compulsions–was love, although he couldn’t avoid doubting the objectivity of fleeting impressions or the simplest reasoning which was greatly utilized these days–and after the excessive abuse of an illogical and automatic cohesion.

     He reached the southern part of the structure with the bedrooms. Beyond the narrow windows, the green of the olive trees appeared climbing up the nearby hills, about one thousand five hundred meters south-west. Danae, who had just finished bathing, wrapped in a white bathing towel, sat on the low, carved bed made of solid wood and artful recondition. She was holding a glass of pure orange juice, while rifling through some magazines of excellent quality regarding the advertisements–attractive, indeed highly aesthetic, lending an artistic touch to daily life.

     “Don’t forget the detectors.”

     She raised her head, looking at him smiling.

     “But it’s only a few sips…”

     “Everything should be tested in the workshop.”

     “Wouldn’t you like to taste it?”

     “Only from our own products,” he said.

     This was a set phrase he repeated more frequently now.

    Then he noticed the rosy color of her legs above the knee. He nearly touched those legs to the buttocks. He felt the same irresistible attraction–something quite unexpected. While he was embracing her, he noticed how insensibly she resisted him. Suddenly he sensed the strong, feminine body reviving and longing passionately for that union.

     He fell asleep almost immediately after making love–contrary to his previous habit of lying down sleepless for a long time, without smoking, dominated always by the same thoughts, rather dangling between the threat and the action. Danae’s presence the last few years was an essential strength for his stability and action.

***

     He woke up from an attentively steady inclination. Danae was still asleep at his side. Her body, half-naked and uncovered, emitted eminent charm. He breathed deeply. It wasn’t dark. He headed instinctively to the library-workshop.

     He remained cool and calm, as usual, while he was decoding the information. There were rumors a long time ago, he was already informed. Yet, lately “their own people” managed to work themselves into their ways more and more. They always maintained a nearly complete supervision of all the sources of information from the internet to the downgraded sources. So they discovered that a strange, dark plan was plotted which, although ambiguous, should call for utterly special attention. “They said”–or seemed to say–that “history then could dawn with its new face!”

     Analyzing in detail the clues, the computers considered that they could indeed attempt to achieve a similar plan. But they could never reach at the heart of the system. Successive mechanisms of attack and defense, complex and dark mechanisms, that were difficult to deteriorate, rendered fruitless every effort.

     There were no reasons of particular anxiety. But he had to confιrm to the directions and to be directly in touch with them. They would bring every new fact to his notice.

     Aris returned to the main building. He was relaxed and his face didn’t show anxiety. A few moments later, sitting on a nice, anatomically designed and very comfortable seat, he drank a sip of whiskey, looking far at the trees beyond the blurred crystal.

     Danae, light from a bath–the second one that afternoon–was the personification of joy, as the last sunrays from the western windows lit her face. There was the warbling of some birds and westward, beyond the trees, beyond the naked hills, the hazy red of the sun dominated, diffusing at a vast extent in the sky, but fading increasingly. She came toward him but before she could say anything, Aris, with an imperceptible smile on the face, asked:

     “How do you imagine the person who will be selected to murder you?”

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