Them

By
Eyes open. Gain a little consciousness. Twitch. Blink. Stare. Arms and legs bound to a wooden chair. I cringe as I watch one of Them approach me. Sudden jarring pain in my head. Black.


I awoke to the sound of sirens. As I slid off of my loud springy mattress, I noticed screams in the distance. I slyly nudged the blinds, giving me a limited view of the events unfolding. Two large black vans were parked hastily in the street. Four police dogs, chained to one of the vans, loudly growl; slobber dripping from their mouths as they viciously bare their decaying teeth. A team of men, dressed in uniforms, had a middle-aged man and a young woman pinned down. I sighed as I lowered the blind, reminding myself, once again, of the confusing mess our world had become.

When I was a child, I would often stare at pictures of the past, when society was different. I would imagine myself living there, before They controlled us. I could only dream though, because I was born into the present world, where They reign supreme.

I was raised into a family of “patriotic rebels”; people who strongly opposed Them, but were too worried that the country would crumble (much like what happened with communist countries that abandoned their government). Another word for a “patriotic rebel” is lazy.

At school, I quickly learned that my parents’ radical views should not be shared, as they were punishable by death. Students were taught to accept Them, and were told to abhor and fear these “terrorists bent on humankind’s extinction”.

We were taught to thank Them at appropriate moments, and devote the last day of every week to Their needs. We were taught to fear Them, for They are vengeful and almighty. We should also appreciate Them, for they have created us as we are and have created this “utopia” of a society. They should give us hope in tragic and disastrous times.

Eventually, my father broke down and became vocal about his beliefs. He disappeared, presumably kidnapped by Them, and in this act, effectively kidnapped my childhood, for my mother was forced into mental submission by this tragic act.

As I quickly descended the stairs of my small apartment complex, I heard the black vans’ ignitions kick in, shortly followed by the screech of tires. I walked down the small hallway and tiptoed past my landlord’s door. Just as I was about to open the front door, the pungent of smell perfume and tobacco struck my nostrils, notifying me that I had awaken the beast.

“Hello Andrew,” she calmly said as I cringed violently, “It’s been a while since you last paid me.”

I slowly turned to face the tangled mess of wrinkles that formed my rent-collector. She was in her late fifties, and generously displayed the cruel effects of age. Her pink bathrobe, the ends torn and tattered, sagged slightly over her slim body.

“Mrs. Sanders,” I quietly replied, “I will have the money soon; I am waiting for my next paycheck to go through. You know how it is when They tax you.”

Her dark lavender eyes glared at me for a moment, only giving up on the game of vicious scrutiny when I walked out of the front door.

As I stepped onto the concrete sidewalk, I glanced up, the highly polluted New York skyline perfectly framed in my view. I continued down the tranquil street, only stopping to acknowledge the occasional bystander.

A man, dressed in dark pastels, stood eerily in the center of the street, his face hidden from view by a baseball cap and dark sunglasses. As I walked, my eyes following his every move, I accidently collided with a young woman walking her dog. I turned back towards the street and realized that it, once again, was empty. Suddenly, I felt slight prick in my neck, as if a mosquito was fiercely dining on the contents of my circulatory system. I calmly swatted the area, but instead crushing the small insect, my hand gripped a needle.

Surprised, I swiftly spun to see the mysterious man holding a syringe filled with the dregs of a pulsating auburn liquid. It dripped from the tip of the needle, landing on the concrete below. A subtle hiss was heard, and after an awkward moment of suspense, the man lunged towards me. Though his face was still covered, his body language displayed his prominent emotion. Enraged fear.

I swung my right arm, thwarting his attempt to finish emptying the foul acidic contents of the syringe into my veins. Foot after foot, I bolted down the street, furthering myself into the city. Mailboxes, cars, buildings shot by, turning to blurs as I passed them. Suddenly, a woman stepped out of an alleyway. She violently grabbed me and pulled me off of the sidewalk, halting my escape. I struggled with her as she dragged me down the alleyway, towards the back entrance of a building. Swiftly, she covered my mouth with her hand, silencing my violent protests. She opened the door and, dragging me down the steps, brought me into a dark, musty room. A loud bang was heard as she slammed the door shut.

“How long have They been following you?” she demanded, her long brown hair bouncing angrily, as if it was being as forceful as she was.

“Who are They?” I asked, completely confused by this sudden change of events.

“Them!” she yelled as she pointed upwards.

As I realized what this meant, an unforgettable noise emanated from the front door. Sparks flew as the door burst open violently. Four armed officers charged in, brandishing large shotguns.

“Go! Go! Go!” the closest intruder commanded to their fellow officers, their angry voice shaking my entire body.

The woman quickly grabbed my arm and jerked me off the damp, moldy floor. We sprinted expeditiously into a dingy hallway, the stench of rotting rat carcasses making my eyes water exceedingly. Suddenly, we violently came to a halt. The woman began to desperately search for something on the wall, and as I waited impatiently, staring at the bounding shadows of the officers in the distance, she finally found what she had been looking for. She quickly compressed her hands against the object rigorously; as if performing CPR.

“Jump through!” she demanded in a deafening whisper.

I, realizing that questioning this woman (who obviously seemed to be quite unworldly) is completely futile, hoped towards what I thought was a wall. Preparing for the harsh impact against cold, clammy bricks, I cringed. Instead of pain, all I felt was surprise.

My legs buckled with the sudden impact against the floor. As I looked around, I realized I had appeared in a small apartment bedroom. The decaying lavender carpeting was cluttered with abandoned articles of clothing too dirty for the owner to wear. A window was hastily covered with a burgundy curtain. I slowly explored the room, searching for a clue that would help explain my whereabouts.

As I inquisitively poked my head under the bed, my female counterpart appeared in the room. She was in complete disarray, and as soon as her feet made contact with the lavender floor, she collapsed violently. Her body showed signs of a desperate escape; her face was raw and bloody, pus seeping from a slit next to her left eye. Her clothes were shredded to pieces, blood stains and spatters covering the majority of her white shirt.

I stared blankly, still in the confused state of shock that I had been in for the past day. She groaned loudly, awakening me from my mental slumber.

“Where are we?” I asked quietly.

“T… Thhh…. Theaaa…. They…. They want you… Juh… Just leave…. Go here and…. Get… help…” she whispered as she handed me a small slip of paper, spurting and coughing blood between each struggled word. With a final gasp, she faded from existence in our world and into Their hypothetical lands, forever confined to an afterlife’s fate decided by Them.

My pallet of emotions, now reluctantly accepting the addition of mourning and sorrowful confusion, was completely overloaded. At the point of a mental withdrawal, I glanced at the paper, dripping with the semi-coagulated blood of my expired counterpart, and was immediately struck with an extreme frustration that furthered my advancement into a deep state of shock.

“Unit 731; Cell 117”

It was one of Their secret “re-education camps” that They had set up during Their revolution, when the idea of democracy was overthrown. These “camps” had always been a sort of urban legend in my mind, never superimposing any of my other thoughts long enough for me to see clearly.

Vigorously contemplating my current predicament, I fiercely yanked the silky curtains away from the small window. It creaked loudly as I opened it, showing its age. Still confused about my whereabouts, I scanned the street for clues. I squinted as the earliest of rays from the sun shone in my face. The harder I concentrated, the blurrier my vision got, and suddenly, I was looking at the sky. I turned my head to see the ground rapidly approaching me, and felt my mind lose grip as I passed out.



Eyes open. Gain a little consciousness. Twitch. Blink. Stare. Arms and legs bound to a wooden chair. I cringe as I watch one of Them approach me. Sudden jarring pain in my head. Black.


I groan loudly as I wake. My entire body, sprawled haphazardly across the deteriorating mattress of a two-level cot, is filled with agonizing pain; stinging my flesh and bringing saline tears to my eyes. I cautiously look over my body, checking for any visible injuries. Spotting a few bruises, I sigh, gaining a small sense of relief and resting my head onto the blood and urine stained mattress. Exhausted, I begin to soak my surroundings in, inspecting every inch of the room that confines me from my current lethargic, bedridden state. The stone walls are uninterrupted throughout the dingy room, save for an stainless-steel door lacking a handle, reminding me of the hostile environment I’ve entered. A thick lead pipe, dripping with what looks like the remains of decomposing feces leads from a small hole in the ceiling to an oval-shaped metal bowl, which I assume is a pitiful attempt at providing prisoners with private facilities. I glimpse a small book behind the toilet, its cover peaking cautiously past the bolts that prevent the excrement-disposing bowl from becoming a weapon.

Intrigued, I hop from the top of the cot, my feet heavily colliding with the concrete, and excitedly creep towards the book, as if I were confronting a small animal. I kneel on the ground next to the toilet, avoiding the evaporating urine and semen stains that stagnantly cover the filthily contaminated concrete. I carefully reach for the small leather-bound object, and as I pluck it from its shelter, I hear a blanket shuffle in the background, as if the wrinkled sheets were yelling in agony, calling for an end to their dreadful occupational-driven existences. I react on instinct, instantaneously spinning my body to face this sudden confrontation. A man sits on the bottom of the cot, his wavy grey hair running to his shoulders and conjoining with his beard, creating a unified sign of old age and a tortured existence.

“I see you have found my book,” the man calmly states, his glossy eyes wisely observing my every move.

In an awkward moment of silence, I stare at him, continuing to have an insurmountable persevered sense of frustrated confusion.

“Not the social type, eh?” he continues, obviously attempting to make due with the situation.

Finally deciding to speak, I violently clear my throat, thick deposits of phlegm sliding to the back of my esophagus.

“No, I’m just so… confused,” I said, realizing that only one word could describe my situation.

“Aren’t we all?” he retorted, ”We are born into this police state, expected to conform with the flow of society, and those of us fortunate enough to be born with open and freethinking minds are pushed into the lower class, dragged into prisons, and become the dregs of society. They ruin our lives, pulling the rug from under our feet and using our absence to further Their presence as leaders. There needs to be a rebellion, a wake up call for the citizens of Their world, and a way for everyone to remove the constricting binds that They give to us at youth.”

“I still just don’t know why I was taken.”

“How long ago were you captured?”

“Just before I arrived here. I really don’t remember much.”

“Did you ever notice Them following you before They took you?”

“A man approached me when I was on the way to work. He tried to inject me with this strange liquid with an auburn hue.”
A troubled look appears on his face, and he asks “Was he successful?”

I look up slowly, making full eye contact as I reply, “Yes…”

Before I have any time to register what is happening, he lunges towards me, his fist penetrating my stomach. I look down in bemusement, eyes affixed on this anomaly. His hand slowly retreats from my internal organs, but instead of returning empty, he clenched a large glob of the now solidified auburn liquid.

“How?” I ask, still confused about what is occurring.

He quickly drops the glob into the toilet, a loud plop sounding simultaneously with the splash of water. Calmly turning to face me, I feel his penetrating gaze speak, telling me stories of the rebellion against the mental refuge They have placed us in.

“We can all do this,” he explained, pointing to his clenched fist, veins penetrating from the wrinkled leather of his wrist, “you just have to fully eradicate the binds They hold you with. That liquid, duly dubbed conformium, is a multi-stage chemical that They developed to capture rebels like us. It begins by setting the victim into a state of unconsciousness when they are close to a Transmitter, allowing Them to transport the unlucky rebel to one of the camps. The second stage begins slowly throughout the rebel’s state of captivity. It weakens the victim’s mind, becoming venerable to the brainwashed sense of unified safety that They promote. Finally, it shuts the victim’s brain down. Luckily, I removed it from your system before it could enter the second stage. Though the chemical had no adverse affects on you, you will still have to fully clear your mind in order to discover your abilities.”

“When I was running,” I began, only to be interrupted by the fierce crash of a large explosion, echoing throughout the building. The entire structure shook violently, walls built in days and collapsing in seconds in an act of immense irony. Concrete was flung from the ceiling and shattered sporadically as it collided with the ground.

“RUN!” my cellmate yelled as he bolted for the door, damaged in the collapse. He smashed into the steel barrier with the grace and stability of a young animal. I promptly followed in his tracks, sprinting through the debris, avoiding protruding pieces of rebar. As I shot through the door, I took a final look at my cell.

There, printed on the door, was the number 286. I reach into my back pocket, grasping the bloodstained note, and reminding myself of my mission. I look towards my partner, who is already meters ahead of me and barely visible due to the mass of escaping prisioners. I call for him, and he abruptly turns towards me.

“We need to go to cell 117!” I yell, my voice barely superimposing the rumble of the collapsing structure.

Without question, he begins to walk towards me, only to be knocked down by the force of a bullet. His liver spotted arms reach slowly towards his injury, as if they were to soothe the wound into healing, when he is struck with another slug, this one penetrating his heart.

Enraged, I charge towards the source of the gunshot, ignoring all other distractions, only focusing on revenge. I spot the murderer, one of Them, and fiercely knock him to the ground. Walk towards his head, I grasp his rifle, its warm metal body still smoking from the preceding shots. Distraught and angry, I smash his skull with the heel of my boot, ending his brainwashed existence. Disgusted with my actions, I begin to walk in the direction of cell 117.

Reaching my destination, I burst through the door, brandishing the rifle awkwardly but prepared for anything. As I step through the frame, I look up to see that They are there, towering above me with Their judgmental gaze.

“The Rebel has arrived,” They state, Their booming voice silencing all other ambient noises.

I stare at Them, eyes and mind affixed on Their presence. I quickly realize that this is my fate, to end Their ruling in my world.

“It was predicted that you would be the most powerful rebel, for you have the most powerful ability of them all. But you will fail, for you are still young.” They say.

“No,” I calmly state as my entire vision of the world clears itself, becoming an unbiased glimpse of the human race.

“We are all born into Your ruling, and are forced into submission by Your followers. It is time the We stand up for ourselves and become Our own followers, only thinking Our own thoughts and living up to Our un-interceded fates. We must take a stand and eradicate the unified thoughts created by Your regime,” I continue.

As They slowly fade from existence, I slowly and proudly walk from the wreckage.

“We are individuals,” I quietly whisper to myself.

“We are Andrew Coon, and We have an ability. An ability to be an individual.”





Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

CatCave said...
Apr. 5, 2009 at 4:07 am
the resolution of your story should've been more dramatic, or more detailed. But your writing is amazing and i really liked it. good job!
 
wrtrgirl4ever said...
Apr. 3, 2009 at 8:16 pm
Wow. You used the mystery throughtout the story to keep your reader holding on. The action was sometimes confusing, though.It is certainly a story of how some governments will treat their citizens like dirt unless they meet with the government's ideals. It's sad how some countries don't let their citizens be their own people. The story is a total nail-biter. Great job! :-)
 
Zero_Kiryu This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 2, 2009 at 9:51 pm
Confusing at the end, but good. It kind of sounds like where our government is going now.
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback