We stood huddled in the darkest corner of the most hidden alleyway in Ekaterinberg. Some of us had been on the run for weeks. Others had only recently realized the fate of our movement and rushed to join us, guided only by faint clues and the power of rumors. We were all that remained, and for every one person who found us, there were hundreds who fell unaided into the abyss.
Sven, the remarkably moody Swede, was crouched under the tarp supported by three crooked poles that served as our shelter from foul weather. He argued that it was safe enough to start a fire now. So many people had been driven out into the streets. By doing so we would look like a ragged band of dispossessed commoners instead of the ragged band of what we really were.
Freedom amongst filth would be our lifestyle for several days. We could see them patrolling the streets and looking for those who opposed them. Fortunately, our bedraggled appearance and fading health served us with cover, just as Sven had proposed. Then, like all good things, our peace would come to an end. Svetlana would be recognized by someone who was a friend to their cause, and a chain of whistles were blown. Our position was parlayed to a random patrol and the first crackle of gunfire would awake us from our slumber. Sven would be the first to fall, in a way ironic because this was not his war. Alexander would take a bullet to the back of the head soon after, and I had the unfortunate pleasure of standing beside him when the projectile tore through his genius.
Most were killed that night, and they were the lucky ones. My own cowardice caused an involuntary reaction in my arms. They shot up in the air and I dropped to my knees when the first rifle sounded. I remember one of the rare Avtomat Fyodorovas pointed towards my heart.
"On your feet! Come with me!"
His words were an unemotional grunt, but I could tell he was not merely another one of the new secret police. He was Gregor, the one who had been searching for Leon and myself for months. They had distributed literature calling Leon and myself the enemies of the people because we were the writers who propelled our movement. He was glad to have captured me. Leon's body was lying in a bloody pool of sewage not more than fifty feet from where I stood with arms raised.
I was led, along with the other survivors, into a shell of a building. It was not far from where I had watched Nicholas and his family executed more than a year earlier. I was brought into a room and forced to sit at a long wooden table. Two men in overcoats joined the man who had captured me. They placed a sheet of paper in front of me and told me that reading it would just "waste valuable time."
"You will feel better if you do not read the document. Just sign it and you can go free. It is little more than stating that you were mad when you wrote what you wrote. You sign, and everyone is happy, and you can go home. Perhaps your wife is still amongst the living? Admit you were foolish and go back to your family where you belong."
I sat silently and did nothing. The man who captured me came up behind me and pressed his rifle against the back of my head. I turned slightly, and noticed he was smiling. It was over. He had won.
"Sign the document. Become a contributing member of our great society again."
I picked up the pen and wondered if anyone could ever forgive me. If my comrades would forgive me. If my wife would forgive me. If history would forgive me.