“Inside and out I stand united. Together is strong and unbreakable. Forever is more than a word. Nations sewn together do stand tall.” No matter how many times I say the words I don’t understand them. Why should I? Our pledge was written long before I was even born. To believe something here is the most powerful force in nature. Belief gives off drive motivation which leads to action. Maybe that’s what they’re afraid of...
“El!” My mother snapped at me. She was already standing in the pews ready to leave. The pledge was our dismissal from church. We would already be the last out and at this point we would probably be noticed. My mother grabbed on to my wrist to pull me along as my little sister Danielle started to cry. This was the second week in a row I had gotten so lost in my own thoughts that I put my family in danger.
We rushed out of the pews and down the aisle. The guards gave us suspicious glares as we caught up to the elderly woman who was nearing the doors. We were breathing heavily. Once we were out of the doors I turned to my family to be sure they were alright.
“Mom, I’m so sorry. I just..” Dani cut me off.
“Eleanor! You could have gotten us killed!” My mother pulled her fragile body into a warm hug.
“Dani, it’s okay. We’re okay. El.. You have to be more careful. I love you, but I can’t keep letting our lives be put in danger for you! It’s getting too dangerous. Maybe it’s time to release you...”
“No.. No... NO! Mom please...” I couldn’t be released, not now. I don’t have the strength to last in the Borders. If she sent me away I would be picked off in a number of days. Even if I could make it back I would be so mentally damaged. “Mom, I promise it will NEVER happen again.”
A guard looked in our direction before signalling behind him. To whom he was signalling to didn’t matter. I knew what that signal meant, we all did. Without another word my small family rushed back to our petit shack of a home. With a one room inside this building never felt like a true home. On the other side of Interior families have separate rooms for each person and for every task. Growing up with just one room was always a hassle when Glenn, Matt, and Maggie were home. Once they were released home always felt very empty even though it was still packed.
When we ran through the doors I collapsed on top of our bed. I heard the bed groan as it always had. Dani moved to the small space between the bed and the window. My mother sat on the base of the door pressed against it as if her weight would keep them out if they tried to enter. Tears rushed down both of their faces while guilt coursed in my veins.
“Go to sleep girls.. I’ll keep watch.” My frail mother began to stand. As she did she started to cough.
“Mama, here.” I stood to help her up. “You shouldn’t have to do that. It’s my fault. Get some rest.” I kissed her on the forehead and guided her the extra 3 feet into bed. Dani rose up next to her. Cuddled together they fell into a deep sleep. I sat under the window waiting for them to come by searching again. I listened carefully hearing the faint sound of a plane flying overhead. Security had been upped in our region of the Interior recently. I leaned against the wall letting the dangers of the day leave my mind so I could focus on the dangers the night would bring.
It was not always this way. In fact, I was older than this world. My mother gave birth to be about a year and a half before everything changed. My oldest brother, Glenn, was the only one of my siblings with any recollection of the time before. He was about 5 years old at the time. In the days prior to his release he would tell Matt, Maggie, Dani, and I stories from when he was little. I didn’t always believe them though. One time he told us of this man living at home with him and mom. Can you imagine that? A man living with my mother? He says he called him ‘Dad.’ If he really wanted us to believe the story he should have at least made up a realistic name.
Anyway, when I was growing up laws were constantly changing and the Interior was fought over daily. I never felt a sense of belonging anywhere until the Packs took control when I was 13. Finally, my family and I were able to settle in our own home. We were given food and protection. Malcolm Thomas, the current Emperor, made sure each and every Citizen could have a life of her own and every Borderer would be controlled through release to insure safety. The fact that my mother threatened to release me really shows how bad the times were in Int74 where we have our home.
Being sent away to the Borders means that you are a danger or harm to society. Usually only the males are sent but anyone could be if anyone placed a report on them and it was actually enforced. My sister Maggie got sent one day while she was at the Labor Factory. We got a letter pushed under our door after a week of thinking that she had been murdered that told us she was at the Borders. They say she had dropped a box of threading needles when she was putting them on the shelves and that her employer and witnessed the scene. They also say he had fallen on the needles making them prick through his skin.
While it would be nice to possibly be able to see Glenn, Matt, and Maggie again, I know that Dani is not suited to take care of Mother and I would never last in the barbaric territory. Therefore, I have to stay here. I have to find a way to escape myself so that I can protect my family. For tonight I can protect them by keeping an eye on the guards walking the streets, so that’s exactly what I will do. I will sit here and wait for orders.
“El, darling, you can wake up now.” The unfamiliar deep voice called to me. With much reluctance I opened one eye to see a brand new face. “How did you sleep sweetheart?”
“Uhm... Just fine... Thanks...” I groggily wiped the sleep out of my eyes. “Who are you?”
“Oh El... You wouldn’t remember would you?” They kissed my forehead and I fell back onto the floor curling against the wall for warmth.
“ELEANOR! WAKE UP THIS INSTANT.” My eyes shuddered open at the sound of my mothers voice. I looked around our house seeing that no one strange was present.
“Mom...?” I reached out my hand only to receive no help in standing, instead she only looked down at me disapprovingly.
“We could have died thanks to your disrespect! What time did you leave guard? Eleanor you have no idea how lucky we are that orders have not been delivered yet.” Dani moved out from behind my mother where she had been hidden before. Just then a knock sounded from the door and a thud was made from outside. “Wait here.” She walked over to the door and opened it cautiously. She looked down and picked up the package before returning to my sister and I.
“CD4” My sister read aloud. “Mom, what’s that mean?”
“Church Duty room 4.” I answered for my mom who seemed out of sorts with it. This means we were noticed yesterday. Room 4 was what you could call a less than pleasant place to go. This was the first time my family had been assigned to this unit. We gathered our slim breakfast and began the trek to the Church. On the way I held the basket open while Dani reached in for the single slice of bread. She ripped it into three sections being careful not to let a single crum fall. She then handed my mother and I each our pieces and held on to her own. We all ate slowly as the walk would not end soon.
Nearly 20 minutes later we approached the gates of the Church. My mother handed the guard our CD4 card and they buzzed open the gates for us. I held Dani’s head tightly to assure her that it would be okay. We got led to the room by a guard whose shadow left us all in the dark. We knew that we had arrived when the guard had halted his steps and we stumbled into him.
“Go inside. Instructions are on the wall. Leave at 7 tonight to report to chapple.” He barked the orders at us then disappeared into the dark corridors. I pushed ahead of my family so they wouldn’t have to be the first to see what lies ahead. I slowly creaked the door open with my eyes tightly shut until I heard it slam against the wall. I opened my eyes reluctantly and stared at the wall in front of me with disbelief. I stepped inside with my family pressed closely to my back. As soon as we were fully in the room the door slammed behind us causing us to turn around.
“Well girls... this is it...” My mother looked around the small room. There was barely enough room inside for us all to stand comfortably. The walls were painted an overly bright shade of yellow that made the room feel even smaller than it was. The floor was a matted carpet that had the texture, and color, of crusted blood. There was a musty scent that can only be described as a rust covered up by a lemon air freshener. There was a humming noise that seemed to be growing louder from above us. When I looked up I noticed the ceiling 15 feet above us getting closer.
“MOM! DANI! GET DOWN!” I pointed to the sky so they could see the impending doom. “Help!” I pushed my way around my family to the door where I began to knock loudly. I reached for the door handle and as I was turning it a guard must have grabbed on to the other end because it was forced back into position and then a thud sounded as the guard must have laid their back against the door. “PLEASE! THE CEILING...” I screamed.
“El, come here!” Danielle’s voice pierced through my own. She had found a open hatch in the floor. With the ceiling only 2 feet above our head now there was no time to question this.
“Go, Dani!” I helped her into the tunnel. “You next mama.” I helped my mother slide her frail legs over the edge so she could drop them down. I was crouched when the ceiling hit my head. My mom was still making her way into the underground opening. I layed down on my stomach and once she was through i began to dive into the hole. I feel about 9 feet with my head first. Thankfully I was able to stick my hands out before my skull hit the ground. There was a crunching sound behind us as the gate was destroyed.
“Girls are you alright?” My mothers voice echoed through the crawlspace.
“Yeah I think so..” Danielle said as she inspected herself for injuries. She seemed alright. I leaned up and as I did I let out a scream of pain. “El! What is it? Are you alright?”
“My wrist.” I grunted as I lifted up my right arm. I tried to move my fingers; denied. I lifted my other hand to try to move my right arm carefully for inspection.
“El, here.” My mom took my hand into hers, I cried out. “It’s jammed. This is going to hurt Eleanor. Bite down on this.” She handed me the cloth our bread had been wrapped inside of earlier. I put it into my mouth and clenched my eyes. “Alright... On three. One... Two.. Three...”
“Aahhh!” There was a loud crack as my wrist was put back into it’s rightful place. I felt electricity burn through my entire body from the spot of my injury. After a few seconds the pain cooled and my eyes fluttered open. I looked down at my hand which was able to move again. “Thanks Mom.” Just then the floor we were on started to tilt and we all slid a long metal ramp. “Hold on guys!” We hit the end and a light blared down on us.
“You’d be surprised how many people don’t even make it this far.” I looked up from the ground only to see a woman glaring at us from above. “Congratulations.” She sighed and then began a descent down a single staircase. The room we were in seemed far too open to exist in the Church. With a ceiling that was nearly 40 feet high and walls close to the wide this was one of the largest rooms I’ve ever been inside of. “Eleanor, Eleanor, Eleanor. What are we supposed to do with you? Allow me to introduce myself, I am Teresa Lexington. You might recognize me as the Holder of Int72. As you already know, my job is a very prestigious one. I was chosen by the Emperor to hold things down here. Your behavior lately is a threat to the Empire.” She took a breath and made eye contact with my shaking mother. “Your daughter is going to get you all killed.” My mother looked away with tears in her eyes. “There is something you can do for her.”
“Anything.” My mother whimpered out. Danielle had moved over to my mother’s side to comfort her while I just sat paralyzed in the center of the room. “Anything.” She whimpered again.
“Release her.” There was a silence in the room. The air hung. “This is your chance to save yourself and your other child. This is not something given to just anyone Ms. Bichi.” My mother cried.
“I’ve already release three others. Please... Anything...” She begged. I began to stand.
“There is one other thing...” The woman began to speak again, making direct eye contact with Mother. “You could be released.”
“NO MAMA!” Danielle and I screamed it together.
“If I do you’ll leave my girls alone?”
“Absolutely.” Teresa’s face lit up with a sinister smile.
“Alright.” My mother stood. I rushed over to her.
“No Mom. Send me. Please. Stay here with Danielle. It’s okay, really it is. I love you so much. Please Mom!” She looked me in the eyes.
“Let me protect you. Please. I couldn’t protect the rest but now I have a choice El.”
“We all know you had to release them Mom and that’s okay. That’s okay because I love you. You’ve kept me safe for the past 16 years. I’m the one who caused the problems mom.”
“Just let her go mom!” Danielle screamed from my mothers hip.
“Eleanor, I love you very much.” She put my head in her hands and kissed my forehead. A tear fell from my eye. She turned to Dani. “Listen, be strong for your sist...”
“BANG!” There was a loud pop. I looked down at my mother who was screaming. She was holding Danielle in her arms. Blood was pouring from Danielle’s shoulder. “BANG!” My mother fell to the ground, a chunk of her leg was missing.
“Stop! God! Stop!” Tears fell from my closed eyes as I slumped to the ground to guard their bodies from further harm.
Teresa smiled down at the bodies that lie dead on the ground. She seemed almost proud of seeing my misery. It was as if every tear I cried made her that much stronger. “Stand up,” She demanded. How could I? How could I force motion through my motionless limbs? I planned on laying here until my mother told me it was time to get up. “I said up. Up or they die.” She waited for me to move. “Fine. Your way. James...” I heard a loud crashing sound as the doors behind her ripped open. Loud footsteps marched towards me. I felt a tugging on my skin and a blow to my head. Within seconds my eyes fluttered shut. The last thing I saw was my mother’s body drained of all color laying deep in her own pool of blood.
*To Whom It May Concern*
My eyes fluttered awake. Above me was a dull grey ceiling with even darker grey bars crossing from wall to wall. I tried to sit up and when I did I felt the chain that was holding my stomach down to the hard metal table I had been placed upon. I tried to lift my arm to free myself but it was bound even tighter by a cold metal shackle. A chilly breeze brushed over my sweaty torso. I lifted my head enough to see that I had been changed into some shorts and a sleeveless shirt. Just seeing that made me feel embarrassed. There was a buzzing sound that appeared to be coming from a box that was attached to the wall. Only there seemed to be something that interrupted the buzzing.
First there was static. Then, what sounded like, “9 minutes.” That was followed by another stream of static. A few seconds later I believe that I heard another gauge of time. This time it said, “8 minutes.” 8 Minutes until what? What could this possibly mean? Whatever it was it did not sound good. I shook my body fiercely against the chains. “HELP!” I screamed. I thrashed and flailed helplessly. The countdown reached what I believe was 3 minutes as finally I had a breakthrough. The thrashing had caused my wrists to grind against their keepers until they bled. The blood caused the cuffs to be slick enough for my slim wrist to find its way out. I took a sigh of relief before realizing the rest of my body was still in shackles and that the countdown was nearing its end.
My free left hand traced itself over the table until it felt something stick out from the cold metal. It felt odd, it seemed to be plastic and a triangle. I twisted at it frantically until I heard the chains around me crash to the table and free my body. I sat up just as I heard the countdown reach its 60 second mark. I sat up and screamed for help as I struggled to gain my balance. I stubbled as I tried to reach the rooms only door on the wall farthest away from me. 42, 41, 40, the countdown marched on despite my please. I fell to the ground and began pulling on the floor, yanking on it for just a sign of hope. Sadly, I only found the solid frozen ground. The sweat on my body clung to me and sent a shiver through my body. I stopped fighting my fate. 17, 16, 15, the clock drew near. By the time I rolled over to my back and looked up at the sky my time had run out. I heard the countdown reach 3, 2, 1. Suddenly a bright green gas was released into the room from all directions. Within seconds I was choking on the fumes until I felt a black darkness consume me. My life was over but nothing changed. I was an unimportant piece of this malicious world. No one could help me, just like how I could help no one. That world can’t get any better no matter who lives in it. All that anyone can ever do is have hope for the future. They sent out an announcement telling my family that I been sent to the borders just like everyone else. Now, I will wait here until my mother comes. Once she does, her and I will go to where my family here lives and we will all be together again. Each night I reach through realms to speak to her, just like my father did for me one night. Some nights she would listen, but most she would just turn away in disbelief. She may not understand now, but she will. As for Danielle, our happy lives have already begun here, together.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Lindsay Duede.
Published on e-Stories.org on 05/29/2014.