POSTED 04/01/2018 08:39:48
"What were you thinking?" Lo bellowed to the four of them. He then turned to look at the young boy on the ground, a strange expression on his face.
"Take him to the healer." He commanded to one of the young men.
"And you four, especially you Sara," He paused and then turned away, "We will see in the morning." The sound of his boots brushing the earth intensified as he walked away briskly.
"What is he annoyed about?" Machi asked.
"We are forbidden to leave the camp." Sara said slowly, her fingers knotted and her head bowed low.
"But we did the right thing, didn't we?" Jak asked.
Amzhi looked up at the sky which was now growing darker as the moon retreated behind the clouds. He saw the clouds light up faintly with a lightning flash. That same oddly coloured lightning.
"That's an odd looking lightning." Jak stated, making the others to pause and look up at the sky.
The mild rumbling of thunder vibrated through the clouds. Almost at the same time, a thin blue streak of lightning flashed through the sky, lighting it up for a few seconds and then dying down.
There was a whoosh as a thin, dark, smoke escaped from the spot of the flash and disappeared into the night.
This happened just at that moment when Amzhi and the rest looked up into the clouds.
The Old man, Oro, suddenly jerked from his meditation, just in time to see the sky light up.
He frowned and shook his head.
"It has begun."
Zee Ama, a woman in her late thirties got up with mixed feelings that morning. None of her boys had been detected as a Dreamer, a good thing. On the other hand, She had the misfortune (as She put it) of living in the same section where two women, two of her fellow age grade members had lost their youngs. Taken away right in front of their eyes without any form of resistance.
Good Children, they'd even been her boys’ playmates. She felt this was a misfortune because now she'd have to be sympathizing every moment she met them. Which was often every morning at the river. She just wanted to be able to be joyous that her boys were not among those–those things (yes, She thought Dreamers were abnormal) without having to feel the grief of others.
She stepped out of her room and crossed the short hall to the opposite room. This was the typical pattern houses in the lower section of the city too; two opposite rooms and a small living space.
The floor creaked as she walked across it. Reaching the door, she placed her hands on the post and peered in. There were two small beds in the room and a battered LCD television set from thirty years ago–don't worry, one of these days I'll get you those new holo projectors that we see in the advertisements, She had assured her boys – and there was also a bunch of old toys scattered around the floor; wooden cars, box sets and recently scissored papers. I'll have to speak to them about tidying up before going to bed, she thought.
She felt a light wave of relief run through her body as she saw her boys sleeping peacefully. She began to wonder what she'd have done if the Soldiers had taken one – or worse – both of them.
Zee walked across the hall and paused at a small door. She yawned (She hadn't slept so well) and placed her fingers over the cold, silver door knob, pulling it towards her. The door creaked open and she walked into the small storage room.
The room was fairly dark but illuminated slightly by thin rays of light escaping through the cracked roof. She looked up at the roof, I'll definitely have to fix that.
The windows had been closed all through the night so the air reeked slightly of mold and– soured soup?
She looked around the room, searching for something. She found it. The Iron pot she used for storing her soup.
The refrigerating unit had been busted for a year now, so she was stuck with the old practice of warming the food last thing at night to prevent it from going bad. She slid aside the lid of the pot and winced as the slightly putrid, slightly humid smell of the soon-to-be-soured-beyond-salvaging-point soup hit her nostrils.
The broth had tiny bubbles on the surface and right there, right in the middle was a little roughness, a slight contrast to the almost smooth surface of the vegetables and meat–someone had been here last night or early this morning. This was not the first time.
And an almost professional job, too. She wouldn't have noticed it but for her keen eyes which had been trained to subconsciously note the geographical location of the pieces of the meat just after warming the food.
She mumbled some words to herself and then pushed open the small window, letting in fresh air.
She walked briskly back to the boy's room, bursting in noisily this time.
"Who did it?" She yelled.
The boys each rose up quickly from their beds. Not a good start to the day.
The oldest, Remi, was about to mumble something when his mother interrupted him.
"I am tired of warning you boys about dipping your fingers into the pot of soup!" She placed a palm on her forehead and looked menacingly at the boys, they were just so adorable, how could she figure out the right way to scold them? "Will I bite you if you asked me for more food? I know we do not have much but that one there is for you boys. I don't mind you eating!"
She breathed out and then stomped her foot on the hard floor, "You will eat that soup like that. I am not preparing anymore and that means no dinner for us!" Her voice echoed throughout the room and she turned and walked out of the room.
"And clean up your room!" She added, poking her head back in.
The boys stood transfixed for a few seconds and then began to stare at each other accusingly.
"I told you not to take the meat." The Older one, Remi, spoke.
"But you took, too." The younger one accused.
"Yes, but Mother did not find out."
Zee walked back into the storage room. Of course I wasn't too hard, she assured herself. Although, I should be grateful that I have them around to steal meat, what if they had been taken? She shuddered and picked up a basket and stared regretfully at the pot of soup, feeling her anger well up again.
She walked out the front door and came out into the crowded streets of the lower section. She wanted to get to the market quickly and get a few essentials before the memorial started.
She would have to make a new soup, not minding her threat. But this time she'd use crab meat. The boys hated crab meat, she smiled. That will certainly teach them.
Every year, after the cleansing exercise, the people of the city usually held a sort of memorial service for their lost ones.
The Supreme Leader frowned to this, of course, but his elders had told him that it helps placate the people and help suppress any tendency to protest the cleansing exercise. He had agreed and shrugged it off.
The memorial usually began at high noon at the city border, and processed with thousands of people towards the city center. As a result of this, business for the day was somewhat rushed. And the sections of the city were crowded.
One man walked absent mindedly around the river bank, inspecting his nets with less enthusiasm than was normal.
His name was Jakob. A fisherman. He was in pain at the moment and couldn't find joy in what he was doing. He dipped his feet slowly in the muddy river bank and walked along the edge, watching the water carefully and noting the early morning mist.
Jakob reached for his modified dinghy and dragged it with little effort across the mud and unto the shallow end of the river. He flung two huge baskets unto the dinghy and climbed aboard.
He placed his hand on the rough metallic body of the black outboard engine and sighed. This was the part his son had loved. He had always enjoyed watching Josef struggle with the outboard engine. Fishing was his life, but fishing with his son was all he could ever want in the world.
Now, both his life and his wish had been yanked away from him. Jakob smashed his fist into the engine making it clank loudly and making the dinghy Buck slightly.
His mind flashed back to two nights ago, the night of the cleansing. Jakob walked into the wide living room and propped himself on a chair.
"Josef!" He called out.
He heard the sound of feet against floor as his son ran out to him. He smiled faintly, a worried smile and patted the seat beside him.
"Sit." He said.
Josef walked up and sat close to his father. He heard a scream and saw lights flashing outside.
"What is happening out there, Father?" Josef asked.
Jakob looked at his son and held his shoulders, "Something wrong." He said.
Josef stared at his father, "Then why are they doing it if it is wrong?"
"Promise me, Son, that no matter what. You shall always do the right thing."
Josef nodded, not fully understanding his Father's words. At that moment their door burst open, tiny pieces of splinter flying off and the wood groaning loudly.
"Members of this household!" A masked Soldier said and marched into the house.
"That's just me and my son." Jakob said, placing a hand over his son and pulling him behind.
The Soldier gave out a grunting sound, breathing audibly through the mask and reached into his pocket. He brought out the detector and moved towards the young boy.
"Father?" Josef said nervously. He felt his father's hand cover his.
"It's going to be alright." He said. How wrong he was.
Two Soldiers also walked into the house, flanking the one with the detector. The Soldier pressed the red power button and slowly turned a knob, the springs clicking in the process.
He took a step closer to the two and slowly placed his hand above the young boy. All the time his eyes were glued on the display.
The detector vibrated and the display lit up, showing some readings. Jakob stared curiously at the device, his head getting damp from his sweat and his heartbeat slowly climbing.
"Take the boy." The Soldier commanded.
"No!" Jakob shouted and pushed his son farther behind him, shielding the now whimpering boy from the two soldiers.
"Step aside, citizen or you will be handled with force." The Soldier burred through his mask.
Jakob growled and clenched his fist. He moved quickly towards the Soldier and landed a blow below his chin. The Soldier grunted and fell backwards.
Filled with frustrated rage, he shifted his attention to the other two. He lurched himself towards them.
In just a matter of moments, he was on the ground. He wasn't a good match for the two Soldiers who were now bringing down wooden batons on him.
Josef yelled as a Soldier grabbed him and began pulling him towards the door.
Jakob lay on the ground with his eyes swollen and half closed. The sound of his boy screaming filtered into his ears in muffled bursts. He stretched out his hands as if to reach his struggling son. He shook his head slowly as he saw one of the soldiers raise a hand behind his son and bring down a baton on him with a fairly loud smack.
"Nooo!!!" His voiced rang as his son went limp.
Jakob yelled loudly and began landing his fists heavily on the outboard engine. He would never see his boy again and it was all because of that man at the tower.
He wanted vengeance and hated the fact that the so-called Elders, the people's representatives could not even speak up to abolish the inhumane practice.
"I'll kill you someday." He spoke out loud, "I will wring your neck in my hands and snap it like a broom stick. You'll see." Jakob said with much venom in his voice.
"What if I can help you?" A shaky high pitched voice said.
Jakob gasped and turned towards a dark corner of the river, where the voice had come from.
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