I wake up — every day the same as the last. I put on my grey jumper and tattered pants, attempt to smooth out my noticeably tangled golden hair, and wait by the wrought iron gates. A piece of broken glass across from my cell serves as my mirror. I catch myself staring at the girl with the crack going down the middle of her face. Her eyes show back green and hopeful but I know only sadness lies beyond the clouded reflection. Those who created this place call it The Primaries, serving as an education and rehabilitation center for troubled youth and the occasional orphan like myself. The guards here have begun to like me, I read them stories and they let me have a few minutes in the garden every day, my oasis in this hell that is my life. The garden is only a slab of grass behind the housing building with one patch consisting of five flowers and one giant willow tree, hunched over like someone who carries the world on their back.
It is my last day here at The Primaries, it’s also my 18th birthday today, so the guards gave me fifteen minutes to spend in my oasis as long as I recited to them the ending of a story I wrote for the last time. I spent the few moments I had left admiring the buzzing of the bees and the air flowing through the weeping willow’s long and devastated leaves. As crazy as it may sound, I really would miss this place. Those who reside beyond the concrete walls think that the facility houses savages, but I believe the true damnation lies beyond the barbed wire fences. I know when I exit the building and breathe in the smog infested oxygen, the dread of what is yet to come will take control.
Everything used to be so different. There were parks with playgrounds, people on bikes, vendors selling flowers and food on every street, and color – the color is what I miss the most. Signs are posted everywhere, Chancellor Titus reminds my people, the deviants, of the war we lost. Grey posters that demanded, “Victory in their demise — Praise Titus!”, smothered every light pole, fire hydrant, and doorway in the city. Titus, or as I like to call him “the devil incarnate”, announced his ascension to power after the murder of Chancellor Michaelson. Some say he was weak, cared too much about the wrong things, and that’s why his power was taken so easily. He cared about our people, he wanted to feed the hungry, not the war, and that is what made him a target. I remember the day the Chancellor died, I was there, I hid in fear, I bit into my hand instead of screaming in terror. I realized that night that no matter how quiet I was, nothing would get in the way of a power-hungry dictator, not even a child.
I remember it like it was yesterday, the beginning of the panic started with the guards being shot, one bullet at a time. I heard it all as I lie hidden underneath a bed. I heard the distress in their voices as they begged and pleaded for mercy. I remember they found my mother first. She hid me in the cellar before the brutalities began. She told me over and over again, her voice full of quivering uncertainty, “It will all be okay”. I didn’t understand how she was so calm, she was screaming just hours earlier, some sort of pain was coming from her stomach. Drenched in sweat, her brown hair looked matted and her eyes shown red with distress. She looked worn thirty years by the time of the invasion, almost sickly. The doors came crashing down and I was forced backward by the blast. She held my hand, whispered, “I love you, Josephine” then we were ripped apart, my eardrums drowning from the sounds of her screams. “Jo run! Run now! Don’t look back!” I heard her yelling.
The adrenaline racing through me, I didn’t look back, I ran as fast as I could, tears running down my face, heart beating, gasping for air. I made it upstairs and immediately found myself in a room where I found the Chancellor. He rushed me underneath his bed and put his finger over his lips, urging me to keep quiet. I felt as if the familiar scents and dust bunnies would keep me safe, but, the gunshots grew louder and louder.
“Find the girl!” I heard in the halls.
There was a loud bang on the door, and another, and another. The door finally gave in, I expected the Chancellor to plead, just like the guards outside of the door. He didn’t, instead, he only uttered, “Do what you need to do to me, but don’t hurt her”.
The sound of the gun firing was never-ending. I heard the ringing in my ears until the Chancellor’s face met mine as he crashed to the floor gasping for his last breaths. I looked into his green eyes and silently pleaded for him to get up and fight. As he let out his last breath, I saw the life flee from his gaze and the blood drip through the blonde in his hair. I went numb, my cries stifled and my body lost all sense of fight or flight. I was dragged from underneath my invaded haven and didn’t put up a fight. The last thing I remember from that night was looking back on the lifeless body with eyes still open, searching for me, his daughter.
Everything from then until now has been a blurry nightmare which I only avoid through books. After the demise of my family, I was thrown into The Primaries and that’s where I have been for the past twelve years.
Elysian was no longer the home I once loved.