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A gleaming beam of sunlight seeped into the pure gray room, landing above Aida’s face as though it were gently stroking her hair. She opened her eyes slowly, releasing a monstrous yawn as she stood from her rickety cot. The morning was no different than any other; Aida hated facing this realization every day, as she looked through the window at what was once a flourishing society of differences. She looked down at young children who once bounced with bubbling joy and eagerness. She looked down at the adults who once doted on those children with boundless love and affection. Now, they all walked in a great blur of grey, making an orderly, stiff line as though they were marching through the grimmest parade.
She let out a heavy sigh, making her way into the living room with a weighted feeling of sadness. Her mother, Francesca, sat in her wheelchair in front of the TV, as though she was patiently expecting her daughter’s entry. The gray clothes she wore practically blended her in with the mundane atmosphere; she was in front of the TV so often, her daughter was often unsure of whether or not she even took the time to sleep. Aida rested a hand on her shoulder lightly, being sure not to startle her.
“Good morning, mom.”
Francesca turned to face her daughter with a practically blank stare. Though it was rather emotionless, Aida felt a sense of sorrow emanating from her mother’s frozen facial expression. Francesca pointed her finger at the screen of the TV, clearly giving Aida a silent demand to look at the program. Aida’s face contorted into one of confusion when she realized the screen showed nothing but an image of distorted, black and white bars. Her mother looked up at her with a strange, innocent air.
“Colors…” Aida’s mother said softly, continuing to gesture at the screen like a giddy child. “Colors, Adi!”
She called her nothing but “Adi” since the day they went for the injections. Aida could never tell if it was because it was easier for her to pronounce, or simply because her mother couldn’t quite compute who she was anymore. Neither possibility seemed very reassuring to her.
Aida thought about them every day. The memory of when her mother and everyone else was forever changed stuck to her like a vivid dream she couldn’t wake up from. Yet, that wasn’t the only thing she wondered about since that day.
“Come now, Aida! We’re going to be late!”
Aida heard the rushing calls of her mother echo throughout the house. She rolled her eyes, slipping into her loosely-fit outfit quickly.
“I’m coming, mama!”
And with that, she met her mother by the door within moments. Francesca ushered her daughter out the door quickly, rapidly gesturing for her to get into the blue van that pulled up in front of their home. She wasn’t sure why they were in such a rush to leave. The alert that everyone was expected to leave their home for the next day was televised throughout the city. When Aida asked her mother what the fuss was about, her mother would sigh and simply answer,
“They’ve decided to make some drastic changes around here. It’s for the best, really.”
Before Aida stepped into the van, she glanced at the family next door. They were in as much of a rush as they were, though their escorts were rather forceful in getting them to hurry. She watched with an expression of terror as an escort firmly grasped a young girl by the arm, pulling her roughly into the van as her family members froze in shock and hurried after her. The van drove off hastily, and Aida suddenly felt her stomach drop with hesitancy. Her mother ran out of the house with urgency, approaching her in a flustered frenzy.
“Aida, we need to get into the van. They won’t accept any late comers.”
Aida trembled furiously, the weight of the unknown circumstances ahead of her kept her tied to the ground in front of the open door to the van. Her mother sighed, and pushed her through the door encouragingly. With that, the two escorts closed the door and sat in the front two seats. The drive from there seemed to drag on painfully, as Aida observed other vans carrying families through the car windows. Within the hour, the van parked in front of what appeared to be a large laboratory, indicating the end of the trip. Before Aida could even comprehend what happened, she found herself amidst a crowd of people. Each person looked at one another as though it was the end of the world, yet Aida still hadn’t a clue why.
Multiple people dressed in lab coats divided the massive crowd into long lines, instructing them to make their way into the buildings. Aida’s line walked into the building slowly; she felt her heart sink once she saw a long row of seats along the walls of the interior, the same lab officials bustling around the confinements of the laboratory. Each person sat down in an assigned seat, a boy about Aida’s age sitting in the one beside her. She turned to face him, noticing an expression of fear similar to hers on his face.
“What’s going on? Why are we here?”
He turned to her, and with a large gulp said,
“They’re injecting us with some sort of serum they developed recently. It’s to prevent any more fatalities due to mental illnesses and depression.”
Aida’s grip on the arm of her chair tightened at hearing this. She felt overwhelmed by a sense of fear, which only heightened when she suddenly realized her mother hadn’t been with her for at least ten minutes.
“My mother… my mother! I-I’ve lost her- “
“She’s probably in a different ward. They’re going to be here soon to give us the injection.”
He looked at her with an emotional intensity that she immediately recognized. He was in utter terror, as Aida had already realized. She couldn’t describe the feeling she had, but it urged her to reach out for his hand. He silently obliged, even tightening his grasp on her small hand as though he could feel the last grips of humanity in her. Aida somehow couldn’t help it. She looked at the stranger as though they had known each other for a lifetime. The memory would remain warm within her, as she saw two employees make their way over to them.
Aida shook with sheer panic as she saw one ready the sickeningly long syringe. In the same moment, she heard a small gasp and grimly realized that the boy had just received his injection. The grasp on her hand suddenly loosened, and she glanced at him hesitantly, a now empty expression frozen on his face. She jolted, causing the official by her seat to hold her arm down steadily.
“I don’t want it! Keep away from me!”
She received no answer, but rather a sense of sudden pain as she felt the injection enter her arm. In practically a snap of her fingers, the injection was gone as was the official. However, Aida felt no different than she did before. In fact, she felt almost relieved at the fact that the process was over. She turned again to her quick companion, but nothing of his expression changed; she observed only the exact lack of expression from all the others in the room. Only one thought rang louder than any of the other flighting sensations inside of her.
“Where are you, mother?”
The memory faded away gloomily. Aida lifted a hand to cover her mouth, feeling her body racked with violent sobs. It felt like she had held back her emotions for years at that point, yet it had only been about a few months since the injections were given. Measures that were taken to avoid emotional destruction became her own demise, as she wasn’t even recognized by her own mother anymore. She even saw the young boy who gave her her last human sense before the injection, but any attempts to speak to him were of no avail. To her amazement, it seemed as though she were somehow immune to the injections that forever tormented her life. It was what made her unique above all else.
“Cry?” Her mother looked at her with eyes of an oblivious innocence, as she continued, “Adi cry?”
Aida wiped away a few tears, stifling another loud sob. Finally, she straightened her posture, taking a moment to clear her throat.
“Yes, mama. Adi is crying.”
She bent over to leave a small kiss on her mother’s forehead, giving a weak smile.
“But Adi is also unique, and she refuses to have it any other way.”