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“I don’t get it, Dad. Why don’t they just fight back? There are so many of them, but they just let themselves become extinct?” I asked, looking up at Dad’s bright blue eyes.
A frown crept onto his face, making his sharp jaw become disfigured. He looked me in the eyes.
“Well, Aegeus, that’s hard to explain.” He said.
I wiped away the tears that spilled down my cheeks, dampening my day. The bodies on the mural above drove me mad. I turned away. A crushing feeling had come over me. It was getting too hard to breath. How could people commit something so evil?
Dad grabbed my arm and made me face the mural head on, his hairy hands standing up on end.
“Remember this, Aegeus. This is a reminder to everything that was committed that day. This is here to remind you and the future of this world to not ever do something like this again.” He said sternly.
The charred remains burned through my brain, permanently locking it into my memory. The bodies stacked onto each other in a mass grave brought more tears to my eyes.
“Why did they do this? How could someone commit this?” I snapped, suddenly angry.
All that despair. All the death. It brought hate to my heart, something I hadn’t really felt before.
“The same way you or I eat cheeseburgers. They ignore the negative effects; they believe that it is the way to go. The Jews were too scared to do anything, that’s why they didn’t do anything. And if even they had tried, they were shot down almost immediately. They weren’t strong enough.” He replied.
My dad pushed back his bangs and bent down to my height. His eyes were cold, chilling me to the core.
“You won’t understand this right now, Aegeus, but when you turn a certain age you will. Let’s go.” He said, pulling me away from the mural.
I clenched my jaw, holding back a sob. Dad didn’t like when I balled like that. Not about stuff like this.
I took a deep breath and watched as we walked through the desolate land. I wished I knew what he meant right now. Maybe things would go better.
Boy, did I wish I had known what he meant by that sooner. Things could have been done differently then. I wouldn’t have this huge lump in my throat right about now.
“Aegeus Parks, age 17. Seems about right.” The man said, flipping through papers. He showed the other man.
I held back the scream that tried pushing through my mouth. I felt like I was suffocating. I was suffocating myself. I was doing it so neither of them had reason to play with me like they always did. I wanted to scream out my frustrations so badly. It was almost unbearable.
The men nodded at each other in agreement.
“Hey, Jack! Over here!” the first man shouted, waving his arms up and down.
I shivered as the wind whipped past me, bringing goose bumps to my arms. With my shirt off, I felt violated. They were studying me. Deciding whether or not to drag me off to a camp. I didn’t care one way or the either. They could kill me. It didn’t matter anymore. Nothing would matter anymore.
I watched as “Jack” started down here. His grey jacket stood out from the rest of them. A military admiral hat cut at the circulation in his fathead. The Soviet flag stitched into his hat brought a strong distaste to my mouth.
How had this happened? How could we have fallen this far? How could the Soviets have won against the U.S.?
“A viable candidate?” Jack asked. The two men responded with holding out the papers gathered on me.
I had counted sixteen days that I’d been here. I so desperately wanted to get out of here. I didn’t care where they sent me. The dead bodies piled around me were getting horrendous. The infected were getting worse, and I had to look at Dad’s corpse every time I scrambled back to my tent.
“Hmm, an American. Young and strong, that’s a rare sight. I thought most of them died 3 years ago.” Jack said.
His eyes moved up and down, studying me. Chills stroked up and down my back. His ice-cold blue eyes ate at me, tearing a hole in my stomach.
“What do ya think, Jack?” the first man questioned.
Jack lifted my chin and gazed into my eyes. He was searching for something. I didn’t know what. Probably some hate or despair.
“You have some anger, boy? Would you like to kill me? Exterminate me like I did all of your people?” he sneered.
I gritted my teeth, ready to split teeth. I couldn’t though, I wouldn’t be able to survive a long torturous beating. Not today. Not since Dad died.
“Well, answer me! Or would you rather just be shot down like the rest of your country?” he yelled.
“I’d rather die than answer you, pig!” I shouted. The spit flew from my mouth, catching him in the eyes. I hoped some acid came out with it. I hoped it scorched through his cornea!
Jack smirked and turned to the two men.
“I like him. Take him to the bus.” He said.
My heart lurched out. I already regretted opening my mouth. They weren’t going to kill me like I had planned. They were going to make me work for them. I was going to be trained. I was going to become one of them.
“No! You’re supposed to kill me! You’re supposed to drag me away from here! You’re supposed to kill me!” I shouted.
I lurched forward, trying to grab for him. The chains held me back, keeping me from death.
Jack cackled, his dropping face contorting.
“Let’s hope that you’re name really does mean “protector”. That would be quite something.” He said.
My eyes fell to the ground. Dad used to talk about that. He used to tell me all the time that one day my name would actually mean something. I didn’t want it to be this.
“Just kill me. Kill me like you did to the rest of the Americans. If you want mass genocide then you must finish it.” I mumbled.
Jack shook his head, “No, Aegeus. You’re something else. You’re a rare breed.”
I yanked on the chains on the wrists of my arms, trying to break free. The chains were wrapped around to silver poles. It wasn’t possible to yank the chains off my arms. That didn’t stop me from trying anyway.
Jack bent down to my height, as the chains were pulled free. The two men made sure I was restrained before Jack did anything.
“I’ll see you on the bus, Aegeus. Perhaps we’ll get to know one another.” He whispered into my ear.
I dug my nails into the palms of my hands. The pain held me over from bursting with rage.
I stumbled forward, feeling as the chains were pulling me along like a dog on a dog chain. A collar saying, “property of…” was the only thing I needed.
I gazed around, watching as the other soldiers gathered all the captured into one crowd. They were only sleep deprived corpses now. Everyone knew where they were going besides maybe the crowd trying to assure themselves that they were saved like the rest of us.
That could’ve possibly have been the last time I had seen another prisoner for years.
I wished I could have died in one of their camps with them, just like the Jews and anyone else that didn’t fit Hitler’s description of perfect. That wasn’t going to happen. I was destined for something else.
“Wake up, Parks before I beat you myself!”
I jolted awake, my heart cartwheeling as I did. Jack sat across from me sipping coffee. His pale skin seemed even paler than it did outside.
“We’re at our destination, your new home with the rest of the servants.” He said.
I rubbed the back of my neck and tried to process the information correctly.
“Servant? Who’s servant?” I questioned. He shook his head.
“You’re not going to be a servant. They’re just back-ups. You’re a recruit.” He smirked.
I bit down on my tongue. I shouldn’t have been there with him. I shouldn’t be a recruit. I wasn’t one of them. I was an American. I was their enemy. A recruit was given privileges. They were held in respect by the other Soviets.
“I won’t do it. I won’t protect anyone.” I spat. Jack shrugged, taking another sip of his coffee.
“I can fix that. Doesn’t bother me any. It just makes my job more fun.” he said.
I didn’t know what to think of that. I sat up and gazed out the window. How long had I been out?
We were in a completely different climate! There was no snow. No trees. Just buildings and we were stopped at the tallest of them all. A huge Soviet flag hung down the front of it.
“Colonel, the general is waiting for you. Is this your new recruit?”
I turned around. A man in an officer’s uniform stood next to our seats. His eyes were on me, just like everyone else’s’ seemed to do.
“Aegeus Parks, seventeen years old. An American.” Jack responded. The officer looked at me with newfound interest. I was something old, something odd in this place.
They were probably wondering how I had survived through all this. That I could not answer. Dad had kept me hidden away. He had known that things were close to collapsing in America. He knew the bankruptcy would destroy the country soon enough. He had places hidden all around America and Canada. He had friends in other countries. He had it all planned out.
That was, up until two weeks ago. Dad’s friend betrayed us to the Soviets for a deal that they had made to keep the rebels from fleeing. Anyone that had turned to his friend for help, ended up in the camps outside of the real camps, waiting for judgment day.
“I thought we captured and slaughtered them all three years ago. Rare find, indeed. I’m surprised you’re so willing to give him up.” The officer replied.
I just loved how they talked about me like I wasn’t there! I wasn’t deaf!
“Oh, I’m not going to give him up. The general and I have plans.” Jack said, standing up.
He looked to me, grinning before giving het officer an order.
“Go clean him up, and get him some appropriate clothes. He’s going to need them before he meets Generalissimus.” He commanded.
“Yes, Sir. Where would you like him after that?” the officer asked.
“My quarters.” He responded.
I shook my head. Was that all I was? His personal ”plan”? What was I even doing here? I should’ve been dead by now. I should’ve been dead with Dad.
“So how did you survive all these years? You’re only seventeen.” The officer asked.
I glared at him. What did it matter? I was here now.
“Why should I tell you?” I spat. The officer smirked, opening the door.
“Because I’m not like the others. You’ll trust me in time.” He said. I raised a brow. Interesting.
“Shower, you need it. You reek of BO and scorched flesh.” He said.
My heart lurched. How could he say something like that? He knew I was at one of those camps! He knew how they died!
I clenched my jaw and walked into the washroom. The officer stayed outside. I was relieved for that. I almost thought that he would follow me in to make sure that I didn’t disappear. Apparently they didn’t feel the need to verify.
I released a deep breath, pressure falling and going down the drain, draining from my body. My dirty blonde hair had grown just a little past the end of my head. The scars around my chest and back around my back reminded me of the price we had paid for the life we had lived in America. The price everyone had paid.
Flashes of buildings collapsing, slabs of concrete impaling people covered my eyes. The screams still haunted me. The last moments of my mom’s life before they shot her down.
Tears streamed down my cheeks like they had done that day at the World War II memorial. My throat tightened as I tried holding back the sobs once again.
It wasn’t just the loss of my mother anymore. Dad was gone, and I hadn’t yet been able to believe it. It hadn’t really sunk in until now. Now, I was getting time to breath. I was getting time to think. That was a dangerous tool. That’s what Dad always said anyway.
I was starting over again, this time, on my own. There would be no Dad saving the day anymore.
I turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. I was choking myself up. I had to keep it all in. I couldn’t let anyone else see. It would make me seem weak. It would make me seem like a child. I wasn’t a child anymore. I didn’t think anyone was.
I looked at myself in the mirror. My blue eyes were the same as Dad’s. They brought the same cold-heartedness he had. They never used to be that way.
Three years ago, they would’ve been full of life, full of happiness. Now I had grown up. I was used to this way of life. Of all the killing.
I turned away from the mirror. Those eyes were too familiar. Too painful to see anymore.
I pulled on the clothes set on the counter next to the showers. A black uniform with a badge. That was what I was supposed to wear. It looked just like the officer’s uniform except for the badges. His looked higher in ranking.
The door opened a moment later. The officer nodded. I assumed it was to the uniform, but I wasn’t sure of what it was.
I studied the man for once. He had a muscular build, mostly in his torso and face. He had a cleft chin, scarred and white. His almond brown eyes looked me up and down. His brown hair was shaved to make it look like a crew cut, but it wasn’t quite there.
But behind all of that, there was something different about this officer. In those almond brown eyes, I didn’t see anger or hatred. I didn’t even see the usual coldness in his eyes. All I saw was a warmness to them. Something that the world didn’t have much of.
He was trying to hide it, but there was nothing that could keep it off him. It was like me trying to say I wasn’t American.
“There’s been a change of plans. Generalissimus wants to see you now.” he said.
I shrugged, what else could I do? It wasn’t like they were going to listen to my wants anyway.
“Let’s get out of here then.” I said.
Officers were everywhere. Everywhere I looked, I saw at least two officers and believe me, the room was gigantic. I felt as though if I were to walk into a castle it wouldn’t be much bigger.
“Why do you want to know about me? Why does my being out interest you?” I asked the officer.
He glanced down at me, seeming to think about this.
“Well, I haven’t seen an American in three years. We thought that they were dead until you. Not to mention you’re only seventeen.” He replied.
I wasn’t so sure that I should tell him. What if I escaped, but they knew exactly where to find me?
“My dad kept me hidden. We moved from place to place every week so we could stay out of your clutches.” I said. It wouldn’t hurt to just tell him that. Now if he asked exactly where we did I wouldn’t spill a detail.
He nodded, a light bulb going off in his head.
“Very smart. You did that for three years?” he asked.
I dropped my head, biting on my lip.
“Yes, for three years.” I mumbled. I didn’t wish to relive those days. They were filled of misery. The worst years of my life. The first year was the worst. I had seen many friends die that year.
“Here we are. You’d better get in there before they send a search party.” He said.
I gaped at the tallest doors I had ever seen before. Red oak doors that opened at the middle at the height of at least 8 feet.
I rested my hand on the doors before turning to the officer.
“I’m Aegeus, but you probably already know that.” I said. The officer let go of a light smile.
“Lucius Mussolini.” He replied with a bow.
I pushed open the doors and walked into a group of people. One of them was Jack, but the others I didn’t recognize. There were four in all. All dressed in the same grey uniforms.
“And how do you know that this will work? He’s American! One of our worst enemies!” a man shouted to the left of me.
Jack’s face ignited into a bright red. He slammed his fists down on the table.
“Because he’s seventeen! Teenagers are easily changed! This will work!” He shouted.
The man threw his arms up in the air. I could tell they were all very tense. And were obviously talking about me. Who else was a seventeen year old American?
“But can we really entrust something this important in a teenager’s hands? Can we really believe that he’ll be able to kill his own people?” the man countered.
My heart jumped. I was supposed to kill my own people? I wouldn’t! I would rather die! In fact, I would’ve rather died back at the camps!
“Stop arguing! We have company! Get ahold of yourselves!” a man exclaimed from the back.
I took a deep breath. I knew this was the man that had annihilated all of America and Canada. The man that had destroyed England. The man that had recreated the Axis power. Germany, Japan, and a few other allies combined to destroy us. And now I was here in front of him.
His dark green eyes sparked as he set his eyes on me. A highly decorated hat sat on top of his head with badges on his vest.
He didn’t look like a killer. He didn’t look like a mass murderer. A power hungry general.
He just looked like a regular 40 year old with a scar running down the side of his pale face.
“Generalissimus, this is Aegeus, the recruit.” Jack said, gesturing towards me. I froze. All eyes were on me now. Something I wasn’t used to. Not since the attack.
“Hello, Aegeus. I’ve heard a lot about you.” The man said.
I shook my head. I was in front of the worst man since Adolf Hitler and he wanted to just talk. No, I didn’t want to just talk. I wanted to end it all. I wanted to strangle the man. I wanted to watch him burn like he did to every other person on the Earth that didn’t fit his perfect picture.
I didn’t like that I fit his picture. A poster boy for the mass genocide.
I gritted my teeth, holding back the rage that pounded against my chest, that ate through my skin.
“Yes, I knew that you’d be upset. I’m sure I could change that, though.” He said, starting across the floor.
My heart pumped up and down. I closed my eyes. He was testing me. He wanted to see me writhe in pain. To suffer. It was the person that any one that could dream of destroying lives would be.
I wasn’t going to partake in his trials. I was ready for death. I was ready to be reunited with my family in the afterlife.
I relaxed my shoulders and braced for any kind of pain. Nothing came.
“Trying to ignore me, huh? That’s fine. Everyone leave the room.” He commanded.
I heard as the doors opened and closed within seconds. I gulped. What could he possibly be doing?
I opened my eyes, searching for him. He stood in front of me, grinning.
“I knew that’d get your attention. Sit and let’s talk.” He said.
I stood there a moment, unsure of what to do. Was it a trick?
“I’m Vladimir Amelin, by the way. Everyone else calls me Generalissimus, but you can call me Vlad if you want.” He said, leaning back in a chair.
I reluctantly sat down at a chair in front of him. He watched me, studied me. He seemed to be deeming whether or not I was worth it all. If I was to be killed or not. I could practically hear him thinking.
He wasn’t going to kill me, though, I wish he would. I know I’ve already said that, but it was all that ran through my mind right now. The only thing I could think about. It was as though I was stuck on the idea of it all. It seemed like a better place there.
“I’m sure you hate me, don’t you? I’m sure from your point of view I’m the arch nemesis, but am I really any different than your president? The U.S.A. was just as power hungry as we are. It is human nature.” He said.
“No! We weren’t! All we ever did was help other countries keep their own land!” I finally shouted. I needed that out of my system badly.
“I thought you’d never talk. Would you like some bread? It’s homemade.” He asked.
My blood boiled. I threw my arms up in frustration. His light mood was very irritating! He was making it very hard to portray him as evil! He wasn’t fitting my built up picture of a villain!
“You can’t stay mad forever. We have some plans for you, young man. Plans that you won’t yet understand.” He said.
“I won’t kill anyone! I won’t work for you either! I’m not like you!” I shouted.
He scratched the back of his head.
“But aren’t you? I was a boy once, lost and angry. I’d lost my father at a young age and my mother didn’t want anything to do with me. You’re searching for death, aren’t you? You don’t want to carry on because you believe life is futile now.” he replied.
I shook with anger, my arms literally shaking. I didn’t know I could become so mad.
“I don’t want to murder millions of people!” I snapped.
“But you admit you are looking for a purpose?” he countered.
My eyes dropped to the floor. I couldn’t deny that. I was looking for purpose. Mainly death. I had been since two years ago.
“Help me save lives then. There will be a war between the last of the rebels and it will be bloody, but we can stop that, can’t we? If we call a truce, ask the rebels to stand down, then we could stop it all. Don’t you want to save lives?” he persuaded.
I shook my head. I didn’t want to stop the battle. I didn’t want to stop the rebels from taking down this awful new government. I didn’t want liberty to be taken away. Most of all, I didn’t want to help them.
“If I helped you, then many others would still die! You’re nothing but a liar!” I argued.
He frowned, and for the first time in his act, I saw a flash of rage. I was making it hard for him to stay calm and collected.
“We’ll discuss this more when you’re calmed down. For now, you’ll wait in the Colonel’s quarters.” He said, snapping his fingers.