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The Escape from the Snatchers
He had said that it would be okay. He had said that nothing would happen. He had said that they were protected. He had said everything, every word.
But he’d been wrong.
She swam in the shadows, lurking within the boundaries where her thoughts were free—they could do anything, they could hurt her. And as she stared out, groping at the darkness, her mind overwhelmed her and a drench of her past emerged….
“Be safe,” she said, her tone stern like a mother’s, yet joking like a mischievous child. She knew there was nothing to worry about—well, almost nothing. The last time a Snatching had been executed was five years ago. “And I mean it,” she added, her voice hardening.
“Yes, Mother,” he mocked. “I won’t do anything rash.”
She watched as he pushed off at a gentle stroll, smooth and casual yet slightly hastened. She was unaware that it was the last time she’d see him.
She wavered for a few seconds, intoxicated by the cradled aromas emanating from the cheery townsfolk. She remembered the smell—a wafting scent only recognized as that of home.
She began her lope back to their base, not even sparing a glance behind her as she left him to face Them alone…
She wished she could squeeze a tear out of her blatantly dry eyes—a small, insignificant indication of her sadness. But the storm delving through her was not one of sorrow, but one of rage. Her mind dawdled at his unfulfilled promises, his shattered reassurances. She was alone, morbid, forlorn. She had adapted to her life of poverty with him, not alone. She was now meek and vulnerable to her fears and especially to the Snatchers from which she had already pleaded mercy. Her flaws, her incapabilities, were all complemented with his strengths and powers. And now, she was nothing.
A breeze hustled through the blurred scenery, stealing her grandeur and her invincibility; it knocked out her hopes and her dreams. With him, she was unbeatable; without, she was hollow and empty. She draped a hand on a sill in the rock and knelt her head on it, as if any minute she could break. Her pearly gray eyes probed the darkness, searching for an answer, any answer.
The bustling clamor perturbing the town halted abruptly. It wasn’t right, and she knew it. But now that he was gone, what was the use of caring? She shook off her feelings of depression and searched to find the reason of their silence.
“Loyal citizens of this town,” scratched a voice from the intercom. “It was brought to my awareness that a young man was found this morning in one of our townhouses.”
Her darting eyes dropped their gaze, the gray overwhelming them. She wished she could pause the world, stop all existence, and cease continuation of anything. But no, that couldn’t happen. Life proceeded: deaths occurred, life emerged, conformism enveloped the population.
“As many of you may know, we are part of the government association of Snatchers. It is our job to gather children once they turn thirteen and execute their proper training. Once they reach the age of twenty-one, we will pair them up according to biological make-up as to produce our approved set of new people. Once this occurs, the alleged parents of such child are permitted to remain with said child until he or she reaches the age of thirteen. By that time, the process will repeat itself, sending the parents to one of our certified villages along with a group, as to confirm optimal security for each of the prized members in our lovely nation.
“However, it is also our job to snatch the ‘bad’ children, the ones who run away—thus, the name Snatchers. That is, unfortunately, the reason for our visit to your town today. We would like to inform you of the tragic event that occurred just today: the Snatching of a helpless young man. He was found in house 047, meekly insisting that he was unaware of anything. Now, you all know what must happen to these bad children.” The voice paused, permitting the crowd to recite: “Harvey’s field”. “That is precisely correct. They are sent to Harvey’s field to work. Of course, they are well nourished and are given remarkably good living quarters.
“Nevertheless, there are always the unusable children who have already exceeded the age of eighteen. Of course, it is very rare that our agency is unable to capture such children, but some cunning ones manage to slip through our blockades. Those children are handed over to our medical departments, to analyze psychological explanations as to why these people wish to escape their necessary training. This process is all executed so we may attempt to prevent this in the future.
“We would like to remind you to keep your doors and windows locked at all times, in order to keep any unwanted runaways from entering your sanctuary.
“We are glad to have your support in this plan, Village 70569. Thank you for listening, and we at the government association of Snatchers wish you a good day,” the Snatcher finished.
An automatic bout of applause began, lasting precisely ten seconds. Her mouth collapsed into a lopsided ‘o’, and her heart fluttered about in its binding cage. Letting her head slope down and a sigh brush through her, her thoughts overwhelmed her once again….
“Daughter,” her mother sighed, approaching the situation gingerly; the government did not approve of quarrels between parent and child, certainly not before the children were to be sent away. “Daughter,” she repeated bluntly, an uncertain firmness wavering in her voice.
She cast a look up, leaving the darkness of her shadow to which she was so accustomed. Her body was frail, but her views were not. She could and would have nothing to do with the sickening world around her. She drew in a meticulous breath, gathering herself before compacting back into her shadow, the small skeleton of her essence. For what use was living a life that you couldn’t lead yourself?
Her mother continued her chant of reassurances, her slew of promises that would never be kept. But her voice remained dull and her mind stayed impervious, impenetrable by her daughter’s previous pleas and begging questions.
But the daughter knew what would happen if she was Snatched: the same that had happened to her mother. Her whole being, her spirit, would be carried away, like dust in the wind. She would be an indifferent follower, restrained from her will and her beliefs.
And she knew what she had to do; she had to save herself. She had to be free, to risk everything to remain bonded to her own soul. She had to run, run far away, and never look back. She had to keep going and going and never stop. And so she would.
In a second, her hand flailed out and grazed her mother’s cheek. Her mother’s face plunged down, her hand gently caressing the pained area. But by then, her supposed daughter was already gone.
Her Converse clapped against the ground, etching new memories into the powdered sidewalk cement. Her steps pounded the floor in time to the thoughts rising into her mind. And so, she just ran into the wind, letting it scatter her into the night and guide her wherever it could….
She was jolted roughly out of her nostalgia by a shove from the wind, the wind that had once aided her and pushed her towards him. He had been a blessing, an asset in her noble cause. But life was cruel, the world was cruel—people were cruel. And so he had been; he had gone, left her; or so that was how she preferred to think of it. The truth was malicious and unfair, she knew. But it was the truth. It wasn’t changed or swayed, wasn’t tweaked or erased. And she knew that she was the one who had abandoned, the one who had left him to face the dangers of the outside world; she was the one who had turned and marched away without so much as a backwards glance. And nothing was as it seemed.
“Yes, yes, I completely understand,” the secretary murmured, an internal sigh of exhaustion sweeping through her. It wasn’t that she didn’t care; she could remember the day when she had mulled over an attempt of that feat. It was always the same: regretful mothers mourning the leave of their sons and daughters. But after nearly fifteen years of the same recurring dilemma, she was often indifferent to their relatively boring problems.
“Her name is Veronique Bellan; she’s my daughter,” the fretting mother rattled off hastily, “my only one, of course. I mean, you can really only have one child, is that correct? I’m not very experienced with these things; this is my first runaway situation. Well, I mean, it’s quite an obvious thing seeing as I have only one daughter and therefore couldn’t have had another runaway—”
The secretary offered up a slight clearing of her throat. The rambling mother’s complaints went into a decrescendo before muting completely. “I’m really just the receptionist; if you wish to convey your problem, you can see Mrs. Cleary: second door on the left.”
The mother’s eyes gleamed through a fresh glazing of tears. “Thank you,” she recited, “thank you, thank you!” She loomed in with her hand outstretched, reaching for a handshake. Meeting her request, she scurried off to relay her predicament to Mrs. Cleary.
“She’s been gone for seventeen days now. I’m beginning to suspect the worst,” the melting mother heaved. “Her name is Veronique. I…uh…I’ve wondered a lot whether it was something I did. I suspect that I was, ah, rather hard on her.” She peered down to her hands, loathing her perfectly manicured nails. She could still recall that day about a month ago when she had gone to get them done; she had left Veronique without even thinking to bring her. Now that she delved into the prospect, she realized that the fault rested with her. If she had paid more care to her daughter, Veronique might not have run. She might still be here, and then she would not be here. Her cumulative putting-offs led to the abrupt end, the cutoff, and then Veronique was finally free.
“Do you know him? Do you know him? Mrs. Bellan?” the officer puffed repetitively. Her palm cradled the side of her cheek as she awaited an answer.
Mrs. Bellan emerged from her foggy thoughts, finding herself lost within the depths of the other woman’s eyes. They bore down on her with the same might as the secretary: a cold, hard pry that was obviously adapted from their dull job.
“Andrew Louver; do you know him?” she cried hysterically, her voice edging on insanity. Her hands loosely pulled into a helpless gesture, she released her pleas with a sigh.
“No, never heard of him,” the weary mother managed after a moment’s contemplation.
“Well, I’m afraid that’s all I can do for now. You have our office card; call if you get any, um, ideas of where Veronique could be,” Mrs. Cleary said, displaying her doubt clearly.
Mrs. Bellan found herself twiddling a business card, looking down and reading off the simple striped card:
Lisa Cleary, room 4, General Facilitation of Runaway Issues Department. For any questions please call 905-767-2508 or email us at RunawayIssues@mhdp.gov
Mrs. Cleary suddenly had a firm grip on her hand as she shook her out of the room. With a jovial goodbye, she slammed the door and readied herself for the next ranting parent.
A tousle of dark-toned hair tumbled across her face, its color a crisp, almost pure black. She could remember when it had been a divine chocolate color, but that had been before her escape, before her meeting with—she almost couldn’t say his name—Andrew, before their departure. Perhaps it was the sullen, midnight landscape that had braided the blackness into her hair, or maybe the loss of the carefree and bubbling joy that had arrived with the boy, but her hair had darkened dangerously since she’d departed from home. Home: It was a loose definition, but it had, indeed, been the place where she’d been raised and, undoubtedly, the scheduled pick-up location for her to be whisked off to that training school, the one that everyone had or will have gone to—at least, anyone who wished to be acknowledged by the government; anyone who wanted to be no one. But she wouldn’t be forced into that life; instead, she’d chosen the cloaked path to freedom. She still wondered whether it was a mistake.