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I’m standing on the roof of an eighteen-story building. Two Commissioners, the people in black who keep us in line—who are also dying one by one—are holding my arms behind my back as they contemplate sending me over the edge into the sea of people or not.
I’m not just some random Citizen. I’m a Perpetrator; I killed someone. It was to save my parents…until I found out the truth. It was pointless. Well, not completely. The Commission has been struggling ever since I killed their President.
I watch the people down below, protesting about programming innocent children, fighting for our cause. Buildings go up in flames here and there. People are dying everywhere.
I watch as the side of the building I’m on burns, in hot, red flames. But as the two men behind me run, I stay.
It’s no use living…They’ve got my brother and sister. I can’t help them. After years of running, hiding, fighting…Besides, I can’t do it without Mom and Dad. They betrayed us. Sided with the Commission…
I spin around, almost falling off the edge, but two pairs of little hands save me.
“Dakota! Archer!” I yell, surprised.
I bring the seven and eleven-year-old into my embrace.
“How- Where—” I can’t even form a sentence.
After two years of trying to get them back, I’ve finally got ‘em.
Archer cuts Dakota off.
“Kota saw fire and we ran out with everyone else, but we knew you were up here and we couldn’t stand leaving you. To die,” says Archer.
“Yeah. What he said,” agrees Kota.
“Oh!” I scream, coming back to reality—even though it isn’t reality that I got them back— seeing a flame almost catch my boot.
“We have to get out of here!” I yell as the fire gets closer and closer.
“Run!” yells Archer.
I nod in agreement as little blonde-haired Dakota wraps her scrawny fingers around my clammy hand and we race into the building.
I gasp at the burning fire. Dakota squeezes my hand tight.
All of us make a beeline for the stairs that go down and around the eighteen stories. We burst through the doors with black smudges on our faces. I immediately stop worrying about my family for a second and feel a twinge of guilt for the thousands of dead bodies because of the war I set in motion.
Then I remind myself that I have two little kids’ lives in my hands and I’m happy that they’re not among them. I lead my siblings away. I know they’ve seen much worse in the past few years but I don’t think they can bear much more than what they’ve already seen.
“Kids, over here!” I point to the Safety Building where Commissioners go in case of an emergency. We run the few hundred feet and find the door busted and open, practically falling off the hinges.
As soon as we step inside, two Commissioners grab my brother and sister. A man holds a needle to Dakota’s neck which will program her to forget everything and anything she’s ever known to learn the ways of the Commission. Whereas Archer is being held at gunpoint.
“Don’t you dare kill my brother, or program my sister!” I yell.
The Commissioners take off their helmets.
“Mom…Dad…” I whisper.
* * * * * *
“They are your children. Dakota’s only seven, and Archer’s only eleven. They don’t deserve this. So, don’t program her, and don’t kill him,” I demand again.
“Then we’ll do the exact opposite,” Mom says.
At the blink of an eye, my parents swap the children. A gun shot goes off and little Dakota falls to the floor. Archer falls beside her, passed out from the over-dosage of chemicals that are coursing through his brain at this very moment. I drop to my knees and bury my face in Dakota’s pink T-shirt. I grip Archer’s navy-blue one, keeping them close. I stare up at my parents.
“I’m going to have to kill you now,” I say simply. They don’t deserve to live. Nobody who’s part of the Commission does. “But, first, I must kill the commanders.”
I snatch a dagger from my back pocket and go straight for, who I think, is second in command. But right as I’m about to slit her throat, someone does it for me. I glance up to see the person that is helping me and I find a face covered by a black mask. At first I think it’s a Commissioner but then do a double-take.
This is no Commissioner. It’s a Disguiser. A Disguiser is person who is against the Commission, like everyone else in the world, and they dress up in disguise as a Commissioner to destroy the leaders from the inside. But they never succeed. If you want to spot one, you have to do a double-take every time because there’s always something different about each and every one of them. Not many people step up to become one, but some risky people have tried. That’s why our population has gone down 97 percent since five years ago. That and the war…
Shocked, I shake myself out of disbelief and turn to see that the Disguiser has gotten everyone except my parents. I set my lips in a grim line, sniffle, and walk over, one hand wrapped tightly around the grip on my dagger, and the other clenched into a fist.
I step in front of their faces and stare at them with steady blue eyes. Through clenched teeth, I confess, “I’m going to regret killing you, but it’s for everyone’s sake.”
I tighten my grip on the dagger and hold it above my mother’s heart first.
“We run the place now, Alix. And, we had four others to take our place until your little friend dressed in disguise killed them because of your lousy attempt,” Dad says sternly into my ear.
I ignore him.
“And you were one of them,” he says.
That makes my ears prick but I know he’s just messing with me. Trying to make me not kill his wife.
I stare into my mother’s blue eyes, but they are void. She no longer sees me as the daughter she once loved. If she ever really loved me…
“Besides, you wouldn’t kill you—”
As soon as she starts talking, my hand goes down fast, but, as soon as the tip of the dagger touches her skin, a spear goes through her and my father too. I have to duck out of the way so it doesn’t get me too.
My parents fall backwards onto the ground, a wooden spear of some sort sticking out of each of them. I scramble back in confusion to my sister’s dead body and my brother’s knocked out one. Once I see no one, I burst into tears and place my face in my hands.
I crawl over to Dakota and brush back her blonde hair. I brush back Archer’s brown, shaggy hair too.
I can’t stand to look at them so I bury my face in my hands again.
Moments later, I hear a shuffling noise and look up to see what it is.
“Hello?” a raspy voice asks.
I bring my head up farther.
“Archer!” I scream.
I wrap my arms around him, pulling him close to me.
“Where am I? And who are you?” he asks, clueless.
That makes me cry even harder because my very own brother doesn’t even remember who I am. He doesn’t even know that his little sister’s dead body is lying right next to him. I shield his eyes from every dead body in the room and say, “Your name is Archer Xenon. You are eleven years old and I am your older sister, Alix Xenon. It is the year 2786. Your birthday is January 23. Mine is October 31.”
I don’t mention that he has a dead sister or betraying dead parents.
I grab Archer by the hand, pulling him up.
“Excuse me?” a deep voice asks.
I turn around in panic and see that it’s the Disguiser.
“Yes?” Archer says.
I smile at his attempt to talk to the stranger. He’s still the same ol’ polite Archer at least.
“Yes?” I say, repeating Archer’s exact word.
“I’m Abe Parker. Thank you for your assistance in the fight. I couldn’t have done it without your help. By the way, I would like to help you. To get your sister and take her to where you’d like to bury her.”
Archer looks up at me, wonder in his eyes.
“Please,” I croak, tears coming on again. “Can you bring her around sunset? I need to explain some things to my brother.” I gesture to Archer.
Abe Parker nods and I walk Archer to our home.
Disguisers know where everyone lives.
* * * * * *
That evening, I stand in my burned down home that Archer, the only person I have left into the world, doesn’t remember.
I start digging my little sister’s grave as Abe Parker and Archer stand, off in the distance, backs turned, giving me some privacy. I dig her grave where her pink room used to be, which just a thin layer of ash is now.
Once I’m done, I lift Kota’s limp body and place her inside, and throw the dirt back on top of her, even though I can’t bear it.
The burnt-orange sunset pours through the trees surrounding what used to be our quaint section of safety. I tell Archer it’s time to go and grab his hand. I nod to Abe and thank him for not letting Archer watch.
I walk away, almost glad that Archer doesn’t remember anything from before.
All of the sudden, Archer stops. His face looks stricken. I’ve heard of this before! It happens sometimes if the programming injection fluid doesn’t have enough of a certain ingredient. It only lasts a little while, and then wares off. The face was described to look just like this.
“Alix, where’s my little sister?”
I stare at him in amazement. It’s time to tell him. Time to be strong. For him.
I wipe away my tears.
It’s been seven years since the war has ended. It turns out that my dead parents were lying about having four people to take their place. They didn’t have any. They were the last ones. Now we have nobody controlling us. I’m the President.
Archer seems to be getting better. Being eighteen and not knowing important things at times must be hard for him. I can’t imagine…
Every year on July 7th, we celebrate Dakota’s birthday. I hate pretending that she’s still here. It brings tears to my eyes when Archer pretends he’s talking to her, but it’s for his own sake.
A big, white house was built over Kota’s grave. A great family lives there now. We visit all the time. They’re really nice. The father in the house and his wife are second in command. They have a blonde-haired daughter named Sarah.
She has the same pink room.