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The Secret Colony

By , Alpharetta, GA
“Fellow colonists”, a voice boomed, causing several blackbirds to flutter into the distance. “Fourteen years ago, the government granted us our freedom.”

“Freedom? Ha! They don’t know the meaning of the word,” I muttered, the delicate, barely audible phrase seeping into the brown sleeve of my once-white jacket. But then again, I thought, I’m not sure of it myself. I resented the thought – almost as much as I abhorred the lecture that our leader, Pelham Kozak, gave annually. Nevertheless, deep inside, I knew that freedom wasn't where I was now. Freedom is not an enclosed forest with a canopy of light green, broad leaves, that cast a deep green shadow over my world. Nor is it an invisible forcefield comprised of threats and lies that keeps you segregated from the normal world, I told myself.

"They told us that without their help and resources, we'd last for only three years. Yet here we are, eleven years later, and we are still a strong people," Pelham continued, interrupted.

"Strong people! Ha!" I bellowed a deep chuckle slightly louder than I intended, and many of the dirt-encrusted, weary faces turned around and shot a stern glance in my general direction. I didn't care; I was used to these kinds of reactions to my eccentric behavior. At least I knew the truth. Although everyone wanted to believe, and pretended to believe, that our small colony was unbreakable, we were not a strong people. We were broken, disheartened, without hope, and most importantly, running out of time.

I kept quiet for the rest of the speech to avoid drawing any other attention to myself. My silence, however, didn't mean that I believed any ounce of the lies that our leader spewed out of his mouth. I stood there like the rest of the colony, my deep blue eyes focused on the speaker, but my mind could not have been farther away from his fabrications of the truth. In fact, my thoughts were the complete opposite; he spoke of staying together in times of hardship - I thought of how to break away. He bellowed nonsense about being content with our lives - my mind wallowed in its own discontent. He said that we should praise the government for their kindness, but I knew that I would rather slander their name and until they felt the same emotional agony that the people of this colony feel daily.
About fifty years ago, Earth was in the middle of a war with an unidentifiable race, presumably from the planet Mars. The war was one of, if not the most, violent war in Earth's history; both interplanetary and intra-planetary. Because a majority of the battles were fought on our planet, life became increasingly difficult for humans. Earth's resources were rapidly depleting, most humans had to focus their energy on manufacturing supplies for the war, and most importantly, our armed forces were facing many more casualties than the Martian militia. There was also the constant, looming threat of death that frightened many humans every day. The odds were stacked against the humans, and they were simply too great to overcome. The government of Earth almost gave up hope, but right before they made a decision to surrender, their one last resort; us, the colonists, was completed. Of course, back then, we weren't called by that name - we were Project Z67-11C, or as we became commonly (and much more simply) known, the Projections; we were the only government project that mattered to anyone at the time. The government created us, merging human qualities and parts with robotic powers to create human-looking devices that they believed they could control. As it turned out, they could not control us, but we had been programmed so accurately that we were able to fulfill our main task; defeating the Martians. Although there were only about 300 of us, and over one thousand times more soldiers from Mars, we had superior intellect and weaponry built into our minds and bodies. The war continued for many years, as the original products of Project Z67-11C strived to defeat all of the Martian troops, or at least get them to a point where they would be forced to surrender. Eventually, we did, with only 38 of us left in tact to tell the story. But those lucky, strategically-adept thirty eight, were praised among the entire Earth as heroes. They traveled through every country, and gifts and riches were bestowed upon them. When they returned to America, they laid low for quite some time, reveling in their life of luxury. Then, about twenty-five years after the war ended, about twenty years ago, several government officials had a spontaneous worry that their creations were much more powerful than them. Because the remaining members of the Hope, had practically fallen off of the grid after their war victory, the government began to suspect that something was wrong; that a rebellion was in stir. They also thought, that if a rebellion were to occur, they would lose because of the immense power of The Projections. This belief was so far from the truth, but nevertheless, the American government decided to deprogram the war heroes. Not only would this remove their super-human qualities, it would most likely end in their ultimate destruction; death. One fateful day, the government called all of The Projections to come to the government's central location, where they would be given a briefing on another assignment. The government officials clearly had another idea in mind, and as the war heroes arrived, they began to execute their master plan. First, they called in the most supreme of our kind. According to the other thirty seven, everything seemed quite normal, until they heard the bolting of a door, and a scream so bloodcurdling that it could pierce the most silent of nights. Next, there was silence. They then heard the unlocking of the door, and the summoning of the second-in-command. Yet again, the lock was bolted, and another screech echoed through the blank white halls of the government establishment. It was clear that a briefing was not the reason for the meeting with the government. At that moment, the remaining thirty-six Projections decided to flee the scene; they sprinted as fast as they could through the maze of sterile-looking halls, until they reached the exit.

For the next few months, life continued in its usual pattern. Every morning, when the sun rose, the colonists traveled the short distance over the rugged path from their tents to the large stone building, kindly given the affectionate name, The Mess Hall. There, we ate a sloppy mixture of vibrantly colored berries. The recipe was the same every morning, but the taste of the slop seemed to get blander each time we ate it. We were allotted about twenty minutes to eat it, but most people finished in about three. For the other seventeen minutes, they made generic conversation. After the sun had fully risen, our leader, Pelham Kozak, chimed a bell three times; the noise was loud enough for us to hear, but quiet enough as to not attract the attention of our neighboring animals. When the sound smashed into our eardrums, we knew it was time to work. A typical day's work included the collection of the berries that comprised the disgusting slop, searching for earthy vegetables like potatoes and onions, gathering and purifying river water, and the occasional trap-setting. The traps were unsofisticated, and they rarely caught any animals. Protein in our diets was essentially nonixistent. We worked until lunch, a time signified by another bell. With our baskets and buckets full of bland vegetables and berries, we sludged back to The Mess Hall, where we ate a stew of water, onions, and potatoes. The routine was similar to that of the morning; small talk, then more work.
However, when the bell rung to go back to work, I disregarded orders, and set off to the murky waters of the river on the edge of our boundaries. Although I knew how much trouble I'd be in if I were caught, I didn't care. The boring routine of the day couldn't supress me any longer. No, I didn't go back to collect tasteless berries. Rather, I indulged in the most pure scents of nature, given off by the trees and wild grasses that sprouted alongside the river. Here was the one place that I could think, the one place where I found comfort in my solitude. The river was deep and not very dense, so I could easily float atop the rippling waters, and the broad leaves that created a complex, woven web above my head blocked out the sun's harmful rays from my eyes. Perfection was the only word I could use to describe the feeling of my sanctuary. The feeling was temporary, though, because once I reached the mouth of the river, I knew I couldn't continue any farther. At that very spot, an invisible boundary prevented me from escaping the daily hell that was this forest. A single, neon orange line, marked the limits of my existence. At any point, I could have crossed, but for some odd, incomprehensible reason, I couldn't bring myself to take one more step, or even lay my head down into life beyond barriers. Every day, I traveled back against the slowly-moving current to get back to the camp. Never did I leave the premises. But soon after I started trudging up through the muddy waters of the river, I forgot completely about my lack of freedom. Instead, I basked in the ambiance of the river, and in the depth of my thoughts. In these days, I released my anger, and I focused it on the idiots that resided in my camp.
However, one day, something felt off. Although I couldn't place my finger on what it was, I knew that I didn't feel like I was in a place of perfection anymore. The larks were still singing their sweet song overhead, and the grasses continued to grow as usual - but not all was at peace. While I drifted down the river one day, I felt something - someone - watching, waiting. Then I heard it - a rustle in the tall grasses that hid me. My head jerked up from its usual place of rest in the river, causing water droplets to spray everywhere from the tips of my thick, brown hair. I scanned the area with my eyes, but I found nothing - noone. I slowly eased my head back down into its usual place of rest, yet, something still felt wrong. As I began wading back to the shore, in hopes of finding who lay behind the trees, I saw a small body move.
"Come out!" I called.
No response. Hmph, typical, I thought in irritation. Yes, way to disrupt my alone time for no reason. Thank you, kind sir. My eyes rolled to the back of my head, although the unkind gesture was not directed at anyone in particular.
"Come out!" I repeated. My voice did not waver; it was clear that I was serious.
After a few seconds more of pure and utter silence, a blond-haired head peeped out from behind a rotting tree. I recognized the thing, golden locks; we had met before. In this very spot. Next, a small arm and leg emerged, followed by a pair of striking green eyes. Then, a weak voice whispered, "Hello Hoffen."
It occurred to me that this was the boy that I told the story of the Projections, but I had never asked his name. I never saw the boy around camp, even in the mornings and afternoons when the entire colony gathered around the mess hall. Perplexed, I responded, "Hello; it's been a while since we've last talked. I don't think I've ever caught your name."
"I'm Fuga. It means escape in Italian."
The name caught me off guard, and the tone of voice that he used shocked me. The boy had been quiet, unsuspecting, and innocent, but today, he expressed a stronger, violent tone. "I've never heard of that language," I stuttered.
"You've never heard of a lot of things," he arrogantly replied.
"And how would you think I should have? I'm stuck here; in this camp full of sluggish workers who don't understand their true abilities. You've never left, either."
"Who said that I ever entered?"
Now, I was more confused than ever. "Wh-what? I know you're a colonist! You're just so... nieve!"
The little boy bellowed a deep-throated chuckle. "Oh, you have so much more to learn. I'm the nieve one? I believe that is you."
At this point in the conversation, I became infuriated. First, this strange little boy, Fuga, decides to interrupt my peaceful thoughts. Then, he starts to play games with my mind. Not in my own turf. "Ha! You're just a little boy! What do you know? I'm eighteen years of age, and I know nothing! This colony tells us nothing! That story I told you - passed down for generations! Probably not even the truth! No, you sir, are the nieve one here!"
A smirk spread across Fuga's face, stretching to its very corners. "Ahh, how much you don't know. Come with me." The boy's small feet began awkwardly striding through the shallow mud on the riverbed. He carried a sack, and I wondered where he got it from, but it seemed of little importance.
I ignored the minor detail, and hollered "No, no! You think you can command me - no one can! That's why I'm here, goddamnit! I disobey orders!" I screamed at the top of my lungs and the boy who was gradually increasing in distance. When I didn't see the blonde head twitch, I chased him down in pursuit. Yet, I approached him, but he continued to walk calmly, seemingly undisturbed by my vicious screeches. I jolted around the boy, almost tripping over the smooth rocks deposited on the riverbed. My icy blue eyes stared into his green eyes, and immediately, I felt at ease. It was not a feeling like that of the river's perfection. It was indescribable with any human, or for that matter, Projection, word. In silence, I trekked behind Fuga for a long while, until we reached the Northernmost border of the camp. Night wasn't yet falling, but it had been a few hours since I'd traveled the winding path down to the flowing waters of the babbling stream.
I was looking down at my dirt-encrusted feet, and I almost didn't realize the orange line that drew the boundaries of our colony. Fuga was about six steps away; I was right behind. But there, as usual, I stood frozen by fear. What would happen if I were to cross? I asked myself. He was now five steps away. Nothing across the line looks very deadly; it was all very much the same as this side. Now four. There are sprouting grasses, mossy trees, and a river with a slow current. Three steps. I even hear the whistles of a lark in the distance. Two steps. No, no. I can't do it. I would probably die. Or be captured and tortured for information. One step.
"No! Fuga! Don't cross!" I yelled as I lunged for him. My body made contact with his right as his right foot was about to step over the line. Luckily, we crashed into a bed of ferns, and not the jagged rocks that lay just feet away.
It took a few seconds for Fuga to regain composure, but he eventually came to, and yelled in rage, “What did you do that for?!”
“You’re a colonist; you can’t pass the lines. Do you know what could happen to you?”
“Hoffen, I am not a colonist! Nor a Projection, nor whatever you want to call yourself! I am not one of you!”
“Yes you are!” I shrieked in denial. “There’s no way that you could come into our territory if you are not one of us!”
“Oh contraire! I visit this haven every day; sometimes, I even camp out under the blanket of stars. This is a beautiful place, you know, and you take it for granted.”
“Beautiful? Look at me! My clothes are stained brown - they were once white. My skin is dry and itchy, and my hair is a wet lump. I sleep on the hard, rocky ground every night without a single blanket, only a fire, to keep me warm. I eat the same brown slop every morning, afternoon, and evening, and there is NOTHING to do in this forest. This place is not a haven; this is hell!” I passionately and wildly wailed, as I paced in circles around Fuga.
“You don’t understand, Hoffen. I am from the outside world, and it is in chaos. Yes, you might be the most intelligent in the camp, but you have no idea what’s happening past the boundary,” he continued, pointing at the orange mark along the tree.
I halted. Then, there was silence… “What does that have to do with me?”

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