Greetings, all! Had a bit of a hiatus with the two jobs and all, but I'm back! Finally, here's the finale of 'The Valley of Tears'! Thanks for your patience, everyone.
*The Valley of Tears, Part III*
Yel seems to be studying my expression as I examine the holes in the basement ceiling, the charred concrete walls, and then him in turn. He still carries the same wild-eyed look, but the line of his mouth suggests that there is a gravity to the situation that I’m missing.
“I didn’t see any smokestacks up above,” I say.
Yel frowns. “Of course not. Those at least were destroyed, not by them but by us. How could we possibly allow the symbols of our oppression stand, after all that has been done to us?”
I scuff my boot on the floor. There is something that I am missing, something Yel has been hinting at. His frustration with me is palpable. “Why would they have a furnace down here, among the cells?”
It dawns on me right after I ask the question, but I cannot un-ask it. The realization fills me with horror and rage, and a part of me wants to deny it all but I know that I have come too far and seen too much to go back.
Yel grips me by the shirt. “You fool! You ignorant fiurth, don’t you see what’s happened here? What on earth would be burnt here, where nothing was kept but people? My people!”
The denial wells up inside me. “But...the U.P. would never stoop so low as to...”
“How dare you!” he screams in my face. “I was here, dammit, in one of these cells waiting for my turn to be incinerated, the final humiliation for a triaum who is meant to be put into the ground.” Yel begins pacing about the room feverishly, gesturing at nothing in particular. “How dare you come here and tell me that I did not experience years of brutal torture and experiments as the military of New Titania sought to unravel the secrets of the triaum, while they simultaneously subjugated and destroyed us! Words cannot describe, in mine, yours or any language...the level of atrocities that were performed here. We were raped of everything we are as New Titania spread across what was once our land and brought it all to heel.”
“I’m sorry,” I blurt, “I didn’t...”
“I came here with you for a reason, Teddy.” His voice has grown quiet. “There is no proof now that these things ever occurred, save for in the memory of those of us who survived, as well as this charred and blackened room. All other evidence was destroyed, and those of us who managed to return later put the last remnants of ash and bone in this room to rest underneath the soil. There is no proof but our stories of how we were humiliated, forced to trade our secrets for scraps of food and the promise of living to see others burn, instead. You cannot imagine the horror, Theodor, of wondering whether it is courage or madness that makes you hold your tongue for the sake of cultural pride. Wondering whether it would be better to simply fold and give the humans everything they ask for and then burn out of existence, floating on the wind as ash, up into the sky and away from a world that never wanted the triaum or treated us with any respect.”
I stare at the floor. The truth is always a hard pill to swallow, but if Yel is not exaggerating, then the Valley of Tears is worse than anything else that has ever been done to the triaum, and humanity has never treated them kindly.
“How could we have done this to you?” I ask.
Yel slaps me. “How? After all that you have learned of your own kind, still you ask how you are capable of these things? You enslave the hama, you steal our land, you rape and kill each other and still you ask how humans could possibly imprison, starve and incinerate the vast majority of triaum remaining in this land?”
I hold a hand up to the stinging side of my face. “All I meant was...”
Yel steps uncomfortably close to me and I tense up. He takes my hand in his and then suddenly his lips are upon mine. My eyes widen and I pull away. “What...?”
Yel licks his lips. “Ah...sorry, Teddy. We have a different way of resolving conflicts than you do. Humans have so many barriers...maybe that is why you are such a harsh people.” He abruptly turns and beckons for me to follow him out of the furnace room. “So you’ve seen the truth, now...but that is not enough. I have years’ worth of stories to tell you about this place, both my story and those of others both living and dead. I know you are always thorough, but there is much more that you must understand.”
I follow Yel back up the stairs, through the hallways of concrete, and out into the late afternoon sunshine. I feel as though the reality of the Valley of Tears has not yet struck me. After all, it is just me and Yel, the notoriously crazy reactionary. I wonder if there is a balance somewhere, between the way he is portrayed by human media and the way he views himself. I wonder if he would lie to me about the Valley just to further his own agenda, and then a part of me thinks that might be my own hidden, indoctrinated racism, the leftovers of my parents’ generation’s beliefs that I fought so hard to erase from myself.
I notice abruptly that Yel and I aren’t alone.
They are standing a good distance away, but surround us on all sides. Right away I can tell that the crowd is comprised of triaum; the tell-tale childlike faces with wide eyes stare at me from around the corners of concrete walls. Although I am not a large man, I feel as though I am both a giant and an interloper. More startling than their sudden appearance, however, are the clothes that they wear – in the place of traditional, hand-woven outfits they are all wearing uniforms. Each triaum wears a heavy black hemp shirt and pair of slacks, and the shirts are criss-crossed with twin sashes bearing words in the triaum language. I see no clan colours or symbols, just denotations of rank and function.
I have always considered myself a friend to the triaum, but I feel more alone than ever before in my life. Yel looks up at me.
“I told you there were plenty of other stories to tell.”
“Where did they come from?” I whisper. I have no idea why I am being quiet; it is so silent in the yard of the abandoned camp that I can hear Yel breathing beside me. The uniformed triaum can undoubtedly hear my whispers. “And what uniforms are those?”
Yel does not reply to me immediately. Instead he looks around at the triaum and says something in his native language that is too quick for me to catch. The uniformed men and women begin to come closer. There are a lot more of them than I thought originally; there must be hundreds in the camp. Even the children are wearing uniforms. I can feel a bead of sweat forming on my brow.
“Are you frightened, Teddy?” Yel mutters. “Don’t be. I wouldn’t dream of harming you, although they will do whatever I command. We have need of you...and besides which, I like you. To answer your questions, they’ve been here the whole time. And those uniforms are ours.”
“I don’t...wait, here the whole time? You said this place was monitored.”
Yel makes a gesture and a cluster of triaum part to let us through. I am led to the edge of the compound, around the far wall of a building where I cannot see them. From where I am, they do not even seem to make a sound.
“I can see they were making you nervous,” Yel says. “This place is monitored, Teddy, but we know the schedules. You think we just stand around waiting to be counted?”
“But...why here, then?”
“Why not here? Here we can do what we want with no risk of being tracked. There are kilometres of tunnels under us, and with the right equipment we can even grow food underground. You’re not asking the right questions, though, Teddy. There are far more important things going on here than the logistics of a bunch of triaum hiding from the government. You want to know what the uniforms are for. You want to know what our plans are.”
The light is becoming orange as the sun creeps behind the hills. I am more immediately concerned about what Yel’s plans are for me, but I can tell that Yel isn’t done talking.
“I learned a lot from New Titania, Teddy, and I learned a lot from imprisonment.” He is not looking at me. He stares at the falling sun and his eyes are grim. “Humans have done terrible things to us over the years, it’s true, and this valley was among the worst of it. I spent my whole life trying to understand humans, trying to understand why they behave the way that they do, and then the Valley of Tears showed me the truth, the most valuable lesson I could ever learn. The world will not give you anything that you do not take for yourself, and the world does not turn on pity. It turns on fear.”
I feel a lump in my throat as I think about the uniforms.
“We were pushed to the edge, Teddy, and I know you can see what we had to become and why. Meekness and our natural desire to coexist have brought us nothing but centuries of abuse.”
“So you’re an army, then? A revolutionary army?”
Yel smiles, but there is nothing friendly in the expression. He looks altogether feral. “Something like that, but more. I told you I learned a lot from New Titania, who learned a lot in turn from the old empires of Novem. We lost the war for this land because we had no unity, no singularity of purpose.”
I peek around the corner of the wall and look at the gathered triaum. They are standing at attention. I remember suddenly what the New Titania army looked like during their victorious parade, when the United Provinces were created. When the entire continent was united. A continent that once belonged to the triaum alone, I remind myself.
“You’re talking about fascism, Yel.”
“I am.” The sun finally sinks behind the hill and the long shadows have become the grey of twilight. “And you will document it all, Teddy. All our stories, and every moment of our revenge. You’re one of us now, Theodor.” He begins walking back to his army. They stare at me with their great big eyes and I shiver.
“Revenge? What are you planning, Yel?”
Yel raises his arms and the triaum each lift a single fist to the sky in salute.
“Gaua fee kean’si!” Yel cries. Take back what once was ours.
“Ey’sku fee com’kay du’rai!” The army chants in reply. Return the harmony of the land.
Yel looks back at me. “You know exactly what we’re planning, Teddy. Oh, take that shocked look off your face. We shed lifetimes of tears in this valley, but from those tears we watered our hatred and it grew.”
“Do you really think revenge will accomplish anything?” I ask.
“Nothing else has worked in the thousands of years that your people have oppressed mine, Teddy. It’s time we started speaking your language.”