Darkness enveloped my body as I laid curled up in the secluded corner, my petite figure trembling as goosebumps pricked up my arms and legs. The room felt empty, yet it was so full of serfs I could hardly breathe. The moldy, damp smell of a basement leak tickled at my nose. The walls were blank cement slabs, a few stained with blood, as was the hard, frigid floor I was seated on. I sat there for what felt like hours, my body becoming uncomfortably sore, staring blankly at the serfs on the other side of the enclosure. This was where all the serfs were held at night when they were off duty.
I quickly scanned the room of neatly scattered cots and mattresses in search of my friends, before I remembered they were all about to return from work.
“Well, you look like hell,” Monica teased with a huge grin on her face. She took a seat next to me, followed by Eliza and Trey. I admired how she always spoke her mind, but I never understood how she could smile that wide, or at all, while we were trapped in a hell hole like this.
“Nice to see you, too,” I replied, rolling my eyes, my body shaking. “Is it always this cold in here?” I said, vigorously rubbing my arms.
“Um, yes, it is--” Eliza paused, an alarmed look across her face as she was interrupted by the intercom.
“All serfs who did not attend their normal work schedules today, report to the government headquarters immediately. If not obedient, we will send deputies down to retrieve you,” the voice echoed throughout the enclosure, causing me to shiver. It continued in an evil tone, “Remember, you cannot hide.” I could sense that who ever said it had a large grin on their face, and I would do anything to slap it off. I’m guessing it was one of President Donovan’s minions, or as they call them, deputies.
“I have to go,” I said lowering my eyes to the floor, feeling naive for skipping two of my shifts today and pretending to be sick. I knew there would be consequences, but I also knew I could handle them.
“Why would you skip your shifts?” Trey hollered from across the room as he climbed onto his mattress in his sleeping quarters. “They could assign you the most traumatizing job, or even worse. I can’t believe you’d do something so stupid,” he said looking irritated.
“Trey, I know what I’m doing. You just need to take care of yourself and the girls.” I returned, vacating the room before he could even respond. I quickly rushed into the bathroom to fix my long brunette waves into a braid, so it was out of my way. A few stray hairs dangled out, but I simply brushed them away. I stared into the mirror for a long moment, my dark blue eyes looking lost but full of hope. You can do this Aria. You can find a way out. You can save your friends. It’s the only way…
I quickly jogged over to the headquarters despite the considerable distance. The hallways were long and narrow but they all looked identical. I noticed a few others heading this way as well with their heads lowered, most likely dreading this next moment and regretting skipping their shifts. I rushed into the main office, busy with people and followed a deputy down a lengthy hall, one that I wasn’t familiar with. The hallway didn’t at all resemble a leading from the enclosure like I was used to, the floors were lined with polished marble tile and the walls of chiseled quartz. The deputy’s lavish bluchers, clicked on the titles as he walked. I was expecting us to end up in some type of extravagant execution room but instead, we ended up in an empty room that resembled your typical, unadorned enclosure room with nothing in it expect a large wooden stick and a metal pole with ropes.
My stomach dropped and I took a large gulp. I could feel the blood draining from my face as I walked towards the back of the room where the equipment stood.
“So,” the deputy said, sounding sinister, his malicious eyes paused in my direction. “Who wants to go first?” He smirked at me. “It will only hurt for a second.”
What a sadistic man. What happened to the humanity in this world?
“You,” he said pointing to the girl next to me. Her skin paled and she laid a hand over her small stomach, like she might faint, or vomit. “Come along. Get it over with,” he sounded sympathetic for a moment, until he chained her to the pole and picked up the long wooden stick.
I squeezed my eyes shut. I couldn’t bare to see something so horrific happen right before me. I covered my ears, but heard a piercing scream and a loud smack sounding like a firecracker. I narrowly opened my eyes to see the girl lying on the ground, seemingly unconscious as a stream of blood dripped down her back. There was a red, raw slash where she was hit.
Another deputy stepped in and dragged her out.
“You’re next,” the man pointed at me.
I took a deep breath and approached the pole.
I stopped before it, looking it up and down with fear in my gut. I hugged the metal pole, my arms rubbing against it, the friction causing the hair on my arms to stand up. The man tightly tied the rope around my wrists, some of the stray pointed fibers digging into my skin. My cheek was pushed up against the cool pole, forcing a metalic smell into my nose, along with the girl’s blood that I was currently stepping in.
I squeezed my eyes shut, clenched my teeth, held my breath and counted down… 3...2… smack. The impact of the stick vibrated my entire body and drove my cheek into the pole as I thrusted forward. I bit down on my lip, hard. Pain rushed through my body like a waterfall as I winced and tears fell freely from my eyes. My mouth tasted like metal and my vision was cloudy.
The man cackled quietly as sobs racked my body, and walked around to untie me from the post. He smiled as he did it, looking me up and down, savoring my pain. The ropes released me, and I fell into a small heap on the floor.
I slowly picked myself up and staggered out into the hall to take a seat on the floor.
My head was pounding but my thoughts were flowing, almost too fast. I always wondered how the black people were able to do it.
How could they take control of the whites when they used to have no power at all? How could they become the primary race, and queer, the primary sexuality? How could the heterosexual caucasians become so trivial, so unwanted?
We basically switched roles in society. This may be what they call pay back, but I don’t see what good this will do for anyone.
Equality was our best state, but humans have some sort of evil nature. They can’t settle for something if it’s not getting their way. I guess you have to get equal to be equal.
I sat up slowly as my body quivered in pain. I stood cautiously, my back screaming at the movement, and began silently walking down the hallway, towards the president’s headquarters. I tried to blend in with the freshly painted white walls but it was almost impossible, considering the fact that my white jumper was now covered in blood.
The hallways were mostly empty due to the late hour-- it was almost time for a room check in the enclosures. I was just inches from the presidential wing, so there was no point in going back, but I needed to make it quick. After turning another corner, I spotted a secretary’s office.
I jiggled the silver doorknob to the East room where I believed the files were kept. I was surprised, yet extremely thankful that it was unlocked. The room was quite immaculate; everything looked extremely organized, and the white walls and shiny silver and glass furniture made it look even more pristine. I inhaled the fresh smell of paper, metal, and Febreze, satisfying my senses.
It had been a while since I’d smelled something other than mold, metal, blood, and piss. I crept over to one of the file cabinets and scanned the millions of orderly files.
“Not this… not this… not this…” I mumbled under my breathe. “There you are,” I squealed a bit, forgetting what I was doing and how someone could barge into the room and catch me any second. I pulled out a file that read DCCP-- Domestic Conflicts of the Caucasian Population. I began scrutinizing each page. My eyes felt heavy and droopy but they were still able to catch a few important words… caucasian population is unnecessary… wipe out caucasian population… toxic gas… cyanide … one month…
My eyes flipped back and forth as they examined the file, and I felt sweat begin to trickle down my forehead as my breathing got slower and heavier by the minute.
I thought I might faint.
Attempting to slip the folder back into its file with my shaky hands, a voice startled me and I dropped the file, the papers scattering across the polished floor.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a deep voice inquired in a harsh tone. My head shot around to find the president’s son, Nyle.
I stuttered, “I … I was just uhh..” I couldn’t get any actual words out. I didn’t even know what I was doing.
“You better get out before I call in the deputies and report this to the president,” he threatened, his hazel eyes glistening, emphasizing his bronze, glowing skin. He looked no different then he did when he was a child, except more matured and attractive… I lost my focus as I gazed into his eyes, I didn’t realize he was still talking. The sound was muffled as I got lost in my pool of thoughts. Snap out of it Aria! He could get you into a lot of trouble.
“Hello… hello?” Nyle waved his hand in front of my face, as if to see if I was paying attention. I looked around in quick pulsing movements, unleashing from my daze. I briskly picked up the papers, stuffed them back into the file cabinet, and scurried over to the door.
Just as I was about to step out of the office I was yanked backwards feeling a tight grip around my wrist. My eyes locked with Nyle’s. He opened his mouth in search of a name to call me.
“It’s Aria,” I muttered. He nodded in return.
He hesitated before sputtering, “Be careful… Aria.” He was stern, but surprisingly genuine. He loosened his grip, letting me out the door.
A small grin nipped at the corners of my mouth. Aria, he’s the enemy. Don’t be fooled.
That night, I laid on my mattress, my eyes drifting over to Monica and Trey who were peacefully sleeping on the other side of the enclosure. Monica’s blonde locks hung off the mattress like a stream of gold and lit up the room. How could their sleep always be so tranquil? I could never get a good night sleep.
I rested on my mattress and stared at the ceiling, replaying my day over and over again in my head until my eyes began to feel limp and leaden and the everything went black.
The next day, I awoke with a stiff neck and aches inching up my body. I rubbed my eyes and stretched, wincing as the wounds on my back reopened.
Eventually, I showered. By now we were used to absolutely no privacy at all--everyone showered in a wide open space with no walls, and no boundaries. The hot water stung at my scrapes and gashes but it felt incredible to be clean. Monica walked over to me in her clean, white, jumper, followed by Eliza who was currently brushing through the strenuous tangles in her black mob of hair.
“Where were you last night?” Monica demanded, a concerned tone in her voice.
Eliza chimed in, “Yeah, are you okay? What happened to you?”
Monica ran her fingers over the slashes in my back. I clenched my teeth and sucked in air while I grimaced in pain.
“Wow, these are bad,” Monica commented. A look of curiosity and sympathy crossed her face. “What did they do to you?”
“I doesn’t matter,” I retorted, “but you’ll never believe what I found and who I saw.” They both gave me a gander of eagerness. I wonder if they remember Nyle from years back, and if he remembered me. He knows my name now--who knows what he’ll do with that information.
“I saw Nyle, the president’s son,” I looked down at the floor, scratching the back of my neck. “He caught me while I was snooping through the restricted presidential files.” I gnawed at my lip, nervous for their reaction, but they just stood there, wide-eyed and speechless.
As I realized they weren’t going to say anything, I continued, “I know, it was a stupid move, but we need to find a way out of here, now.” My stare was so grave, it could almost burn a hole right through their skin.
This I was serious about. We had been trapped in the enclosure for far too long, years even, and I was getting fed up with it. We had equality, we had everything, but they ruined it, and for what? I was going to get me and my friends out of this country, out of the United States, where there was equality, where we would be safe. Once you were in, there was no escaping. All we needed to do was find a way out.
I told Trey, Monica, and Eliza my plan during our lunch break when we received our daily rations. Rice and corn was on the menu today, like usual. Eliza stared down at her food in disgust and Trey looked as pale as a ghost; he hadn’t been looking well for a while. We were seated at a long wooden table in a large dining hall with musty cement walls and the smell of something burnt tickling my nose. The room was astonishingly hot and humid, as it was packed with serfs and I could feel that every crease on my body was damp with sweat. Just being in this sweltering room made the food way less appetizing.
I was on duty with Monica this afternoon. We were helping with the installation and construction of the US Department of Defense. We mostly just lugged outrageously heavy things over to the construction workers for hours and hours. If for some reason you had the desire to break your back or neck, this was the job for you.
A week passed and I grew more tired and miserable by the day. Trey looked more ill than ever. He had been violently vomiting for the past four days and couldn’t attend work. I heard a rumor that if you become very ill, you will be executed. Apparently, you’re useless when you can no longer work. Each day, I grew more and more worried.
On top of that, Eliza was acting strange and I noticed her sneaking out of the enclosure at night, to who knows where.
No one seemed motivated to get out of this place and I began feeling despondent.
That night, I laid in my bed for hours, pretending to be sleeping so I could follow Eliza to her mysterious destination. I peered through my squinted eyes under my sheets to see her scanning the room to make sure everyone was asleep and quietly tip toed out. I have no idea how she got past the security guarding the entrance but I was about to find out. As soon as she departed from the room, I peeled off my sweaty sheets that were attached to my sticky legs, and crept out the door behind her.
I searched the narrow hallway, but there was no guard in sight. Eliza turned a corner and I tailed her, being extremely cautious so I wasn’t seen. She walked straight into the presidential lounge and shut the door behind her. I glanced through the window next to the door and saw her talking to the secretary’s daughter, Jemma. Suddenly, Jemma reached for her hand, and they began passionately kissing. I stood there, stunned. It had never occurred to me that Eliza could be gay. No wonder she didn’t want to ditch this place, she was in love, with a girl.
When Eliza returned to the enclosure, I grabbed her arm and pulled her into a corner.
“I saw you tonight,” I breathed.
“What are you talking about?” she retorted, avoiding eye contact. “I was only using the bathroom.”
I lowered my voice. “I saw you with Jemma.” A look of panic struck her brooding eyes. She said absolutely nothing.
I noticed the look of discomfort and chagrin on her small, pale face and continued, “I won’t tell any of the others. I promise.” I scooped her chin up, making direct eye contact so she could sense my sincerity.
She simply nodded with her eyes lowered and turned around to return to her sleeping quarters. She paused after the first three steps, turning to face me.
Eliza then ran up to hug me tightly, almost a little too tight, as I could feel some of the blood draining from my upper abdomin.
“Thank you,” she murmured softly into my ear. I could hear the appreciation in her voice.
She pulled away without looking at me, and tiptoed to her bed on the other side of the enclosure where all of the serfs were sound asleep.
I woke up to a muffled, but familiar screaming, echoing in my head. I was so exhausted that I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or reality. When I finally managed to unlock my eyes, the screaming continued, louder. It was coming from the other side of the enclosure.
I managed to get myself out of bed and quickly shimmy into my clean, white jumper in a corner. I followed the cries around the corner to see little Monica hitting the deputies as hard as she possibly could in her petite figure. In one of her hands she latched on to a deputy and in the other hand was the leg of Trey. He looked pale and unconscious, his ebony hair smeared across his forehead with sweat.
I immediately ran over to Monica and grabbed ahold of Trey’s other leg and tugged to the maximum of my capability. Another deputy was on his other end, grasping both of his arms, in attempt to pull him out of the room and away from us.
“Let go of him!” Monica screeched, tears streaming down her face.
Another deputy tried to loosen Monica’s grip on Trey’s foot but she threw her face onto his arm and bit him with all her might. The deputy instantly let go of Trey and Monica while wincing in pain, a large tooth mark engraved into his skin as blood was drawn.
I pulled on Trey’s leg, with Monica still latched on to the other, his arms still tightly in the grip of another deputy. My hands were pale and trembling as I clutched Trey’s leg. I wasn’t going to let go.
Five more deputies flooded into the room and yanked Monica and I away from Trey.
Monica wailed, “You heartless b*****ds, leave him alone!”
They dragged us further and further away from Trey.
We watched his limp, feeble body lugged out of the room.
I squirmed in the tight grip of the deputy and thrashed from side to side. His hands were cold, but firm. I searched the room for help but there was no one in sight. All of the serfs must’ve evacuated the enclosure and proceeded to work. I could still hear Monica’s shrieks from the other side of the enclosure.
Squirming a little harder I was able to loosen his grip from one of my hands and turn myself around to face him. My breath began to rapidly shake and my head pounded as I looked straight into the vicious eyes of the deputy who whipped me and a number of other serfs. He smiled widely as if he remembered who I was.
I instantaneously squealed and squawked as loud as I possibly could feeling the grasp on my wrists loosened and I fell to the floor. I spun around to see Nyle strike the deputy in the jaw as he fell to the floor, a puddle of blood draining from beneath his head.
“Aria!” Monica bellowed, running towards me.
She squeezed me firmly, her tear stained face buried into the nook of my shoulder. I’m guessing Nyle knocked out the other deputy as well.
“Are you guys alright?” Nyle posed, shaking his bruised hand in discomfort.
“Yeah we’re fine,” I answered as my eyes locked with his.
I remember when we were children and he always held my hand and played with me at school when the other kids wouldn’t.
Back when there was equality.
Before Nyle was taken from me, and forced to be my enemy. I remember the day they announced how the whites were the source of the world's annihilation, but I was too young to understand what was happening. I remember exactly when the scary men in white suits intruded our houses and took us away from our families, our loved ones. I remember seeing Nyle being pulled away to another area with all of the people of color and I remember being thrown into that big dark room, with a cold, hard floor, only six years old and helpless. These are eleven years I will never get back.
I felt a tear escape from my eye and silently plop onto the floor.
I hated this place more than anything. And I was going to escape tonight.
“We need to leave immediately,” Nyle demanded, offering a hand to pull me off the floor.
“Leave? What do you mean?” Monica looked curious but hopeful.
“I know how to get you guys out of here,” he answered, sounding genuine.
“You--you mean… You’re going to help us?”
“But why should we trust him?” I exchanged looks with Monica then glanced at Nyle.
“Maybe because I just practically saved the both of you and I know a way out of here.” Nyle replied sounding cocky.
“But what about Trey? What about Eliza?” Monica looked down in sorrow.
“Eliza is with the secretary’s daughter Jemma,” I noted. “She wants to stay here with her. She…” I corrected myself, “She’ll be safe.” I hated the thought of leaving Eliza behind but I knew it was what she wanted. I knew that gay whites had certain privileges over the straight whites, especially if they’re with the secretary's daughter.
“I’ll keep an eye on her,” Nyle reassured. “But Trey…” he paused looking apologetic, “Trey is very sick. They have to release him.”
I tried to shut out the thought of poor Trey’s weak body being cremated, but it wasn’t much use because the awful thought wormed its way into my brain anyway.
“It’s the only way he won’t suffer,” Nyle added. I could tell he felt pitiful.
Monica just looked at the floor as free tears slowly, but silently cascaded down her face into a small puddle on the cement floor.
“Are you ready Monica?” I asked, helping her off the floor.
She merely nodded and we followed Nyle out of the enclosure.
Nyle gripped both of our arms tightly, as if he was going to punish us, so other deputies wouldn’t become suspicious.
We accompanied Nyle down a narrow, windy, hallway, with dim, orange lighting that continued for what seemed like an hour as we advanced through several different doorways. The hallways were completely empty and smelled old and musty, like concrete. We halted at a short, circular door which looked black and grimy and seemed exceptionally heavy. It looked as if it hadn’t been opened in ages. Nyle jerked the door open with a screech as a cloud of dust and grime filled our lungs and displayed a dark, endless tunnel.
“This door leads to the very end of the government campus. From there you can board the boat to Russia. I have 3 tickets because I was supposed to go with my family this afternoon. You’ll be safe there---” Nyle paused hearing muffled voices in the distance like someone was approaching.
“Hurry,” he said, “Climb inside.”
“But what about you?” I didn’t want to leave him. “Come with us.”
Our heads shot around as seven deputies turned the corner and began to charge at us down the long hallway. The familiar deputy whom I despised was leading them, a big gash on the side of his jaw from where Nyle hit him. He must’ve faked being unconscious and heard our plan while he was laying on the floor.
In a hurry, Nyle pulled the tickets out of his pocket and handed them to me, then shoved us into the tunnel and shut the door behind us with a loud, vibrating slam.
“Lock it,” he hollered. I could barely see a thing but I managed to feel my way around to shut the lock into place. I was breathing so heavily, and my heart raced. I heard a loud grunt outside the door. Monica and I peered through a tiny hole in the door to see Nyle’s senseless frame being dragged away by his arms. My heart almost stopped and a sick feeling flooded my bloodstream. I closed my eyes and laid against the wall curving inward, my back uncomfortably arched as I shed a tear. Next to me was Monica who sat there with a blank expression.
Darkness enveloped my body as I laid curled up in the secluded tunnel.