Several years have passed since that last day of the old order. Despite all the suffering that occurred on the Sunshine Islands, I've never left my one and only home. I occasionally have to make trips to the Mainland, but I try to limit these expeditions as they usually end up with me getting confused about some gadget they have there and me saying something stupid.
Things have certainly changed on the Islands. We are now fully affiliated with the Mainland once again, and the entire system of quotas has ended. In many ways, this is a good thing, though we had an unpleasant welcome to a terrible thing called tax. Oh, how we all hate taxes. But don't get me wrong- I'm not asking for the Community economy again.
Not only has our way of life changed. Gramps passed away last year. It's sad, but he had lived a rather full life. I was glad to see that, before the end, he finally admitted that we were better off without the Community.
Denny and Pierre had to move to the Mainland not long after the conclusion of my earlier writings. Apparently some of their affairs, supposedly involving Lanna, have landed them with some unsavory diseases which require professional treatment. At first, I was glad to see them go. But, I've warmed up to them since then. I never really had a problem with Denny… and then there's Pierre. I had said that when the Community collapsed that it should be a time of forgiveness. For some reason I didn't completely apply that to Pierre until he started sending me letters from the Mainland. Even now, across our watery divide, he is still loyal to me. I've kept communication with him since. Apparently they're supposed to be able to return to the Islands soon. I guess they have gotten their share of justice.
Vaughn, on the other hand, returned to the Islands a couple of days after he was shot. Many of the women who have moved onto the Islands think he's cute for some reason, but he doesn't care for the attention. Thank goodness no one confuses me for being charming when I'm angry, which must be the case with Vaughn since he's always grumpy.
Lily has often talked about leaving the Islands, with her mission complete, to go on another adventure. She did for a brief while, but she returned just over a year later. Everyone has to settle down at some point, and there really is something charming about the Islands. I often disagreed with her back in the day, but we share that common bond of experience. Along with Vaughn, the three of us will often talk and do other things together.
My brother Elliot married Julia somewhere around three years ago, and they now have a small baby boy. He's even more scared of me than his father is. A few other youthful people have moved into the Islands as well.
I can't say I've achieved the happiness of my brother. I guess I thought that when we brought down the system, everything would eventually sort itself out. That wasn't my turn of fate, though. I can remember the day Mark returned to the Mainland with vivid memory. I wanted to tell him how much he means to me, but all I could choke out was a painful wave goodbye. I didn't love Mark, but he was the only person I could ever see myself with. I've gotten a few letters from him since then. He's still single, but I feel that every day that passes makes any possible relationship between us all the less likely. But it's alright- I don't need someone else to complete my life.
I'd still be considered young by most dictionaries, but I feel as if I've aged much earlier and much quicker than I should have. At first, I was angry. I was angry at a lot of people that I had lost so much of my life for the sake of the Community. Everything I had done for the first twenty years of my life went towards nothing. But I couldn't find any one person to direct my revenge at. It is true that people like Will, Regis, Kirk, and Nathan helped create the way life was, but they only built off beliefs they had learned from others. Everyone had played their part in building up this intangible monstrosity that no one person could stop.
One might ask if what I helped do was worth it. My situation in life isn't that visibly different. All I did was help a lot of people die. However, I can honestly say that I would do it all over again. No, I'm not rich or happy or famous. Sure, I got attention from the media for a few weeks. They were fascinated with me in particular- the girl from the Community who helped the government agents. They didn't even have my name on any records before that- I had been nonexistant in the eyes of the Mainland. It didn't take long, though, before the cameras found some other story to follow. Things settled back into normalcy. But for the first time in my life, I feel satisfied. I don't live in a state of fear and ignorance. For the first time, I actually know who I am.
Regis would say that education would stifle individuality. I say just the opposite. As a child, I had no idea of the possibilities that lied out there for me. One can't dream of colorful worlds if they've lived in pitch dark for their whole life. Of course, if humanity innately understood all aspects the world, Regis would have the right idea. But there are many mysteries for us to solve. Mom taught me how to read and write, but having no formal education just allowed those in charge to do whatever they want without their subjects even comprehending it.
The individual never existed under Regis's reign. All that mattered was the Community. No wonder everyone was so twisted. The Community didn't work; it couldn't work. In a perfect world, life would probably more closely resemble the old Community than the life that we now live. In case you haven't noticed, though, we aren't living in a perfect world. Humanity is not glorious, so there is little point in worshipping it. Mark once told me that man's first thoughts will direct him to do nothing more than pleasing himself. I don't think he was too far off the truth.
Will understood this. However, he decided that if the human condition was prideful, there was no point in resisting. After all, the human is currently the highest being on the evolutionary chain. I suspect Will, somewhere deep beneath the surface, knew he was wrong. In opposition to our first impulse, there is something in all of us that knows life is more than self-indulgence. It tells us to make a better world, to dream. It tells us to strive for something greater, even though we will may never reach it in this life. Life itself is not ultimately satisfying- it's fleeting. I don't think the worst Regis or the worst Will lying on his deathbed would deny this. I'm not an expert, but I feel that something inside of me tells me that if I do what I can to follow that perfect standard of living, even though no man can reach it, I can discover that part of me that has always been missing- that piece which somehow lies beyond this world.
In this, I take comfort. The satisfaction that I know I have is from this principle, even though I don't completely understand it. In my childhood, I would never have been able to accept something beyond me. But I've learned from experience that the best things are often those that lie behind the reach of humans.
I know that I'm not the only one undergoing this process. The Community forced the standard of human nature on us. And so it was this human nature, not nearly as fine as it was presented, that we adopted. Corruption riddled our leaders. Our workers manipulated the quota system. People did things only for direct personal benefit or satisfaction.
Now, though, people I once disliked are changing. People like Gannon, Nick, and Haila work harder than ever before. People like Eliza are far more tolerable. All it took was telling them that the world wasn't perfect. When I think of that, I wonder how things could have been so different. Perhaps Pierre and I would be married right now. Maybe Regis wouldn't have allowed Will to manipulate him so.
Will. I heard from one of Mark's letters that he has been the perfect inmate. He's in the pen for life, yet he always obeys orders, never gets involved in fights, and tries to be as helpful as possible. I was initially surprised, but it occurred to me that he was simply trying to get a commutation. Even in prison, he fights for nothing more than himself. There, his methods have fine results. But a society of people who think the way Will does can never be a free world. Will, along with many others I've met since my last writings, think they know all there is worth knowing, and have found nothing meaningful to it.
Yet I have. It is by that seemingly illogical moral guidance inside of us that society is strung together. We often try to fight against it when it doesn't tell us what we want, but we know it is still there. Either that compass or whatever method it got there by is the only thing I've ever found that truly makes this world a better place.
Perhaps I sound a little too philosophical. Yes, I definitely do. But I assure you that everything I say comes from my own personal experiences. It is up to you to consider what I have said and judge it. Maybe I'm right; maybe I'm wrong. As Will would put it, "To each his own."
Author's Notes: It's been a long journey, but it's been a good one. Thanks to all readers and a special thanks to all reviewers and future reviewers! If you really liked this, then don't worry- I have a few more story ideas I'm working with. I know this could be a story that could provoke quite the discussion, but I am unfortunately leaving the country for two and a half weeks tomorrow, so I'll have to answer any PMs when I get back. I really tried to get this in before I left so you wouldn't have to wait so long. As always, please alert me to any mistakes or future things to work on. Though it's sad to finally put down the pen... err... keyboard, I'll echo the words of Pit- "I'm finished!"