THE TRUTH IS…
Author's Note: I was so happily surprised by the positive response to my last V for Vendetta oneshot that I wrote this one in a probably unjustified wave of enthusiasm. Thankyou everyone! Last one was for Evey, this one is for V. I hope you enjoy. Yet another incidence of movie/graphic novel cross-pollination.
Disclaimer: V for Vendetta created by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, published by DC Vertigo. I make no claim on the characters or profit from them- I write these stories purely for love.
The truth is…
The pen halts in its passage across the page: the hand that holds it pauses, as if in an agony of creative indecision. Moments pass. The Wurlitzer clicks and makes happy mechanical noises as it concludes one tune and prepares to play another, then the pen is laid down with an exhalation of breath through the static lips of the mask.
He has spent a great deal of time and effort already on preparing the arrangements for his debut performance. The little red symbol, the letter V in a circle, has been brewing digitally for a week or so, and is now ready to take its place in the corner of the screen. He has carefully chosen and lit the stage on which his recital is to be filmed - after all, it would not do for a clever man to discover his location from a glimpse of the wrong sort of stone, a hint of the Gallery's furnishings.
But all this, although the orchestration of it has been a careful delight in itself…all this is nothing without the right words. The mask is all-concealing, anonymous, the backdrop is unremarkable: all this is deliberately done because it is the words that are important. Nothing less than the works of Shakespeare, no less powerful than the lyrics of Bob Dylan, will do for this moment.
For the man who now calls himself V, as far as he recalls, it has always been so. Words have always been important. Human names and memories are fleeting things, but words, and the patterns they can make in human minds, endure. Words bought him his rose garden while he was imprisoned at Larkhill: patterns bought him his freedom from it. It is an important lesson, one which the staff at Larkhill learnt too late, that by concentrating too hard upon the intricate weavings of the pattern you may miss the overall meaning. Oh yes, V is very familiar with the power of words.
So why is this speech proving so difficult for him to write?
V examines the fountain pen on his desk, rolls it idly with one black-gloved finger. Like most of the contents of the Shadow Gallery, this ink pen is a beautiful anachronism. But one cannot compose a symphony in biro, or create epic poetry in crayon. Nor will the somewhat soulless efficiency of a computer serve. No, no. He picks up the pen again, weighs it in his palm. An ink pen allows the writer connection with the words. The physical act of forming the letters, forming the curved and straight black ink patterns with your hand, gives the author the purest link possible between their mind and their work. V flips the pen in his grip, presses it to the page. An opus like this…it needs heart.
He is reminded briefly of the look on the girl's face as she stood bathed in the light of destruction, as the Bailey's monument toppled in ignominy. She had at first been afraid. Terrified, in fact. Understandable. The explosion had seemed so very loud against the silence of the curfew contained night, and she was obviously already afraid of her own shadow, despite the brash whorish makeup she had smeared all over her. But then the fireworks had soared above the flames of the explosion, red, green, blue, white, and she had smiled.
She had smiled as only children smiled these days, very small children who weren't old enough yet to realise what kind of world they had been born into. Utterly unselfconscious - simple joy, simple delight.
She'd not seen fireworks before.
The mask's smile seems to impossibly soften, as, hidden behind it, V himself smiles.
He thought that everybody should see fireworks, not that anyone had much chance these days. Fireworks are another pleasure people only appreciate properly as children. They serve no useful function: they do not run turbines or heat houses. They are purely aesthetic and as an adult you may exclaim at the mechanics that produces the explosion, or bemoan the cost of such a frivolous thing. But a child smiles and laughs because he has seen something amazing, a magic show that the world has put on just for him.
Sometimes V considers his own detachment from the world with a jaundiced eye, and being able to share the beginning of his revolution with someone who was still capable of showing every precious emotion on her young face, clear and pure, was a rare treasure indeed.
V takes his paper and pen away from his desk. He crosses to his chair, and sits down, feeling the familiar, well-used give of the cushion as his weight sinks into it. The memory of the girl tugs at him as the jukebox starts playing "Farewell My Lovely." He rests his head on one hand, knuckles pushing at the hard surface of the mask, and tries to continue composing his words.
Around the legs of the desk are a few balls of paper, abandoned drafts of the speech that V will, in an hour or so, return to and tidy away carefully. He doesn't like throwing away writings, even if they have not met his standards, and there is a sizeable box in one corner of his room that he keeps specifically for this purpose. The book balanced on his knee, he writes a few lines, mask tilted thoughtfully. There is a long moment as he considers what he has just created - and then another page joins its fellows on the floor.
His apparent inability to put together what is possibly the most important British speech of the past ten years is beginning to perturb him a little. It should be so simple. For years his conviction has driven him, it is his life. Since the rage became cold behind the mask, once it had crystallised like salt into something far more valuable and dangerous - unassailable certainty - he has grown used to being able to marshall his thoughts exactly as he wants them. Curlicues of self-doubt are as alien to him now as feeling the rain on his naked face.
He writes and discards another paragraph as the jukebox continues to play. In his mind he can see what needs to be said. He has known it for years, and there is a lot of it, and none of it is easy. If he were writing this purely for himself, he would have been finished hours ago. But like every good writer, he has his audience constantly in mind. His frightened, cowed audience, who have been fed their bite-sized chunks of media information in simple format for years now. How to catch them, capture their spirit and desire, so they would not instinctively turn against the unknown in favour of the familiar? How to tell your audience at what vast cost the freedom they don't yet know they want can be bought?
Most importantly, how to gently break it to them that they and only they are responsible for how their country has fallen - and that only they can pick it up, dust it off, and polish it until it is bright again?
Now V remembers other faces, considerably less pretty than Evey Hammond's - the faces of the Fingermen, remembers the scorn and then growing fear with which they had first regarded him when he challenged them in the street. The pen falls loose in his fingers. That is what his writing must fight against. The government has been so militant against the different, the unfamiliar, that people will not readily accept the words of an apparent madman in a mask, whether he speaks the truth or not. He frowns, invisibly. Their leader has wrapped up the truth in a web of lies and deceit so complex that they really have no chance of deciphering it.
And once again, it is the memory of Evey that provides enlightenment. The memory of her firework-inspired smile. The eagerness with which she greeted such small, simple pleasures. He'd almost made the same mistake as his keepers at Larkhill - concentrating so much on the little circles of wrongness that spread out around the government like ripples from a pebble dropped into a lake - that he'd been in danger of missing the lake altogether. The set of V's shoulders, under the smooth black tunic, alters as everything becomes suddenly so clear. Of course. He tightens his grip on the pen, leans forward as he concentrates. The nib makes rapid scratching sounds as it flies across the paper.
The truth is…there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?
The Guy Fawkes mask tilts down, forever smiling, but now seeming pleased. There really is nothing like simplicity in the face of imposed complexity. And after all, when the heart speaks, it always speaks simply.