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I Was Stolen As A Child

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Furiosa wakes. She’s being shaken around on a hard metal floor. The sound of an engine revvs sharply as the rattling vehicle tears along. Her ears are ringing; sounds seem to be coming from underwater. Her head feels like its splitting open. She tries to move, but her good arm is fastened to a bar low down in the wall. Her feet are tied together. She pulls with her arm, slides herself back until she’s in a sitting position. Only then can she look around properly. There’s a young man sitting watching her warily, knife in hand. He is hairless, his eye sockets blackened and lips scarred. He would look like death himself if it wasn’t for the reddish clay smeared over his head and face. She looks around wildly, but there’s no-one else to be seen. She remembers the shooting, the frantic roar of bikes…the whole world seemed to shudder, a noise louder than anything she’d ever heard before. It seemed so close – how was she not dead? Then she remembers…her mother’s body pinning her down…the smell of burning. She clenches, nausea rising.

“Shambo!” the red death-man calls out. “She’s up!”  

This rouses her. “Mum…where’s mum?” She tries to pull her hand through the cuff securing her to the wall. He makes no reply. “Where’s my mother?!” she screams hoarsely, as the metal edges tear at her wrist.  

“Shambo!” the man yells, louder. The vehicle rattles to a halt. A screen slides open and the driver’s cab is in view. An older man with tufts of grey hair sticks his head through to take in the situation.  

“Settle down, wee girl. Your mother’s in the other ride.” After a pause, he adds, “She’s fine”. The younger man glances at him.  

“There was an explosion. How – can – she – be fine?” Furiosa asks, trying not to panic against her bonds. She was sick with shock and dread.  

“Look wait ‘til we camp up for the night. You’ll see her then. Not far now.”  

*****  

They leave a deep blue sky behind. As she curls up against the wall of the vehicle, hugging her tied legs tightly, she glares at the man sitting near. It’s hard to distinguish much under his grotesque paint. He’s wearing a loose, dirty shirt and baggy dark pants covered in pockets. He looks troubled, uncertain, but less wary now that she’s awake and her rage appears spent. The driver’s slide is still open and a fiery glow is flooding through from ahead, dazzling him. If only she had her hand free…but her wrist is raw and bleeding, she can do no more. The vehicle judders to a halt and the back doors swing open. Furiosa is permitted to get out of the Rover. Her feet are tied together loosely, so she would be unable to run even if she wasn’t well enough secured by the need to see her mother. A small blue hatchback is parked up nearby. The driver gets out, shuffles round to the back and opens the boot. “This one’s fucked, Sham!” he yells. The older man gives him an angry look. In the back of the vehicle, where back seats once had been, there are two figures. One is a skinny young man dressed like the others. He’s fussing over what at first looked like a pile of blankets on the floor. He fills a cup of water from a canister by his side. Furiosa looks closer, looks past the two men blocking her view. “Mum…?” her voice cracks.

The pile of blankets quivers slightly. Furiosa sees her mother’s face, ashen white under a layer of grime. No blood, Furiosa thinks, hopefully. But then the blanket is pulled back by the skinny boy. “Awww…mum…” Furiosa wails, raising her hands helplessly to her head. She doesn’t want to believe what her eyes are telling her. The fabric of her mother’s trousers have been cut away and the skinny man is bathing them with water. The skin looks like it has come away in places from the severity of the burns. Her torso seemed to have escaped the worst of the blast, but her legs were a horrific sight. Stunned, Furiosa pawed at her mother’s face and hands in an attempt to rouse her. Mary was conscious, but in a detached, lethargic state. After a few moments, she focused on her daughter’s face and smiled a little. “Fury…you’re alright…” The relief seemed to take all the force out of her and she sank into oblivion. The men returned to the Rover to give their prisoners some privacy. After all, they wouldn’t be going anywhere. 

***** 

When Mary returned to consciousness, Furiosa was holding her hand and gazing at her in blank despair. “Fury…it’s alright.” 

“But how…you must be in so much pain…” Furiosa protested. “You must be in shock, or something…” 

“I can’t feel it…is it bad?” The look on her daughter’s face spoke volumes. Mary tries to move, but it feels all wrong. The truth dawns. She can’t feel it because she can’t feel anything. She can move her arms, but that’s it. “Must have hurt my back…” she whispered. “Fury…be brave. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get up again. But it doesn’t hurt.” 

Furiosa looked down. The blanket her mother was lying on was stained with blood. Closer inspection showed that her mother’s ribs were bound tightly, but she could see no wound. “Hey!” she called, to bring their captors over. “What happened to her?” she pleaded. 

The older one spoke. “Got caught in the blast. Bit of shrapnel in her spine. We had to pull it out. Got burned” he added, somewhat redundantly. Furiosa suddenly thought of her mother’s plans for the new baby when it came. Seemed like a lifetime ago. The tears that hadn’t come yet were pricking her eyelids. No…don’t think

Why did you attack us? Why take us? What did we ever do to you?” she demanded. She’d never seen these strange tribe before, had heard nothing of them. 

“We’re taking you to the Citadel” the youngest one spoke now, eyes wide. Like this was supposed to mean something. 

Why?” she repeated. 

“You’ll be well looked after” the tall one chipped in. “It’ll be way better that what you’re used to, for sure.” 

“You sound like you think you’re doing us a favour here!” she spat, losing her temper. “Why the fuck did you have to blow us up if it’s all that great?” 

“Well…you shot at us first…”  

Furiosa shook her head. This conversation was going nowhere. She calmed herself and tried again. “So are we slaves? Is that why you’re taking us to this…Citadel?” 

The tall one looked offended. “We don’t keep slaves at the Citadel.” 

“Looks like slaves to me” she retorted. “If you don’t have a choice, then you’re a slave.” She appealed to the older one. “Please, just tell me...what's happening?” 

He took a breath. “Okay. We’re taking you…” he looked at Mary and looked away quickly. “We were taking you as a gift to the Immortan. So he’ll let us come home.” 

Furiosa looked at him for a moment. Then she lost her temper. Fist clenched and nostrils flaring, as she took a step closer to him. “Wait. So you’ve done this because you want to go home. Can you hear yourself? Do you have any idea how fucked up that sounds?” she yelled and kicked out at the vehicle as much as her bonds would allow. The man was silent. 

As her anger faded, she realised something - such a little thing, but it was enough to break her at last. Saying the F word was frowned upon until you’re grown up. Then the tears came, with the realisation that her mum would probably never tell her off again for swearing, or anything else. She hadn't heard a word of it, might never wake up again. Furiosa dropped to her knees under the weight of it. She was grown up now, for sure. She’d always striven for that elusive thing…without imagining what it might mean. You were grown up when you didn’t have a mother to make you a feel like a child. She’d gladly be a little kid all her life if her mother could be fixed. But she was bleeding, burned, broken. She wasn’t going to get up again. 

***** 

Furiosa curled up next to her mother in the back of the blue car that night. The skinny man joined the car’s driver in the front. Furiosa slept a little, while her mother drifted in and out of what might be mistaken for sleep.

**** 

The next morning, they drove on. Furiosa had refused point blank to return to the larger vehicle. There was room for both of them, she insisted. The older man nodded agreement. So they drove to the west. Furiosa’s attention was divided between her mother and the road. Mountains rose around them. Briefly, they stopped. The tall man got out and waved his arms at someone unseen. There was a brief conversation, then the sound of bikes departing. Furiosa’s heart leapt for few moment. Had the Mothers chased them down? But no, they wouldn’t be having any friendly conversation with these men, their captors. The tall man got back into the Rover. The youngest of them shouted back to her from the passenger seat. “Just paying the toll.” They carried on their way. The sun was beginning to sink again. How much further? 

***** 

As twilight fell, there was a shout from the front of the car, jolting Furiosa awake. “Eyes right!” and “Fuck's sake, of course these arseholes’d show up.” They were soon flanked on both sides by spiked jalopies. Sparks were flying from the Rover as the attackers’ circular saws bit into its chassis. 

“What do they want?” Furiosa yelled.  

“Everything! Cars, bodies, they’ll strip us bare and chew our bones!” came the reply. Not a rescue party, then

“Let me help!” she shouted, as the skinny man swung out of the car door, aiming a rocket launcher. She looked out of the window towards the other vehicle. The tall man was crouched on the roof of the Rover, hurling long sticks that exploded when they hit. They’d taken out two of the spiked vehicles, but more were bearing down on them and the Rover was struggling to maintain speed. “Let me help” she repeated. The driver looked at her suspiciously but handed her a long-gauge rifle. She glared at him. “This is my mother’s gun.” He yelled back, “Good! You’ll know how to use it then!”  

She got to her feet, wrenched open the sunroof and quickly brought her head and shoulders through. She shot once and a spiked car veered away and overturned. One man, one bullet she thought, even in half-light. She reloaded and took out several others. The attack was weakening. The remaining spiked cars were speeding off. Clearly they weren’t the soft target they’d been taken for. 

***** 

They camped that night by the flames of the wrecked vehicles. Furiosa, feet still tied, was holding a cup of water to her mother’s lips when the skinny man approached. “That was some touch back there. Might have expected it the way your lot can shoot!” 

Furiosa sighed. It would be worth a try. “Won’t you just take us back?” she looked at them imploringly. “Mum’s not going to last long, but at least she can die at home.”  

The skinny one looked at the old one, spoke in a low voice. “Sham, what about it? She helped us out a bit there. Might owe her one?” The older one shook his head stubbornly. “Can’t do it. Got to go on. Besides, she’ll be well looked after.” The skinny one nodded half-heartedly. “True enough. They get all the best stuff. Sure we’re nearly there anyway.” 

***** 

Furiosa held her mother’s hand as the night wore on. We’re nearly there, they said. 

***** 

As the sun rose, Mary made an extra effort to rouse herself. She could sense the end of her journey coming. But she wept silently in frustration that she would have to leave her daughter. She was too young to face…whatever it would be…alone.

Pull yourself together, Mary... 

“Furiosa!” she took her daughter’s hand and looked her in the face. Tried to assemble her thoughts, to give some advice, the last advice she’d ever give. “Remember who you are. However long it takes to get away, don’t forget…you are one of the Vuvalini, from the clan Swaddle Dog. Furiosa Jabassa. And you always will be…Do what you do best. Proud of you, my little Fury…”  

Furiosa wiped the tears from her mother’s face. Mary smiled. “It’ll take more than this to take my girl down.” Her eyes dulled a little.  

“Mum? Does it hurt?” 

“No love, it doesn’t hurt.” She reached up to her daughter’s face and pulled her towards her. Their foreheads touched. And she lost consciousness. 

Mary Jabassa died as the Citadel’s lift descended to meet them. As they slowly climbed, higher than Furiosa had ever been in her life, small white-chalked boys clustered around the blue car. 

“Has she gone to Valhalla?” asked one. “Looks like she died historic.” 

Furiosa replied quietly, “She’s gone to the stars.” 

The boy interlaced the tips of his fingers and bowed his head. “Witness.”