Once I had a normal life. At least that was before the world ended. You might be wondering who I am. My name is Ramona, I am 16 years old and grew up in fear of my government. Why? My parents were revolutionaries. They were in neighborhoods during the night, hanging up flyers, going to meetings, and leaving anti-government pamphlets laying around. Because they believed in a free country, a free country that was called America.
That country doesn’t exist anymore. It was renamed the Sisterland. We took a page out of Hitler and Russia’s book. When our new dictator came in she slowly took away our rights. Our right to keep and bear arms, our right to free speech, privacy rights, and other similar basic rights. After this happened other things slowly started to disappear, small business became hard to run and Madame President often demanded goods to be sent for the wars we were fighting.
Soldiers eventually were brought home, but then they were used to terrorize the weak and helpless. First it was the homeless. It became illegal to be homeless and they killed the people who didn’t comply. Next it was people they labeled ‘Religious Nuts’. That included conservative Christians, Jews, Mennonites, and Amish. The people who were excluded from the rounding up were homosexuals and Muslims. That is, unless certain people from the group objected to the treatment of others. But the group wasn’t specifically targeted. The soldiers were renamed the Royal Guard.
Next came journalists, authors, and reporters. Anyone who said anything against the Sisterland was taken away by the SSL (Soldiers for the Sisterland). Anyone who said anything against a people group were accused of ‘hate speech’ and taken away. Anything said against Muslims or homosexuals ended up being beaten and thrown in jail. If it happened two more times you mysteriously disappeared.
Heaven help you if you said anything against abortion. You would be thrown into jail, beaten, and sterilized/castrated. If you had children, they were taken away from you. You would forever be labeled a child abuser. And after those laws were in place they raised the age for child murders. Now if your child was a pest you could simply drop them off at a clinic and never have to worry about them again.
By the time I was 14 we had lost all our freedoms and my family became freedom fighters. We couldn’t just let them get away with that. All our computers were unhooked from the internet and we wrote propaganda on our laptops and desktops. We’ve been doing this for two years.
Lately I’ve noticed something strange. My dad said they are undercover cops watching us. Which I believe, I mean, the moment someone starts talking to themselves about ‘insurgence’ and ‘the rebels’ you are either crazy or a government agent. And crazy people are taken away quicker than anyone else.
Closer to present times, I currently watched another arrest on the news, this time it was someone I knew. I flinched every time the boy resisted, each time he resisted he was beaten with the club. Police/soldier violence wasn’t unknown. In fact, it was encouraged to an extent. “I wish that boy had been more careful,” my father, Warren, said with sadness. He liked my friend, even if he had been reckless. James had been getting bold with spray painting government buildings. Vandalism is something my family doesn’t do; destruction of privet property was still a law that seemed like a good one in our eyes. “He wasn’t arrested for vandalism,” I said quietly and with sadness, “He was arrested for keeping anti-government pamphlets.” I rubbed my hands together as I looked at my father, “Do you think he will tell anyone?” Warren’s eyebrows wrinkled together, “Hm, I hope not.” Then he tried to put on a lighthearted face, “He is a good boy, very brave. I doubt he will tell anyone about what we are doing.” I, quite frankly, did not believe that. Anyone under torture would say anything. I remained quiet about this opinion as I started writing up another pamphlet. Warren sat down next to me and gave a heavy sigh. I glanced at my father with slight concern, but didn’t pause in my typing.
“Ramona, I heard something disturbing a week ago. The government is thinking about starting to round up the Printers that they use for their changed books,” Warren informed me in a tired voice. That would mean more than half my friends would soon be in a concentration camp. That is the other thing about my father, he is a government worker. He is a translator for the Deaf in the Castle and has a lot of access to everything secret.
“That wouldn’t be good. How do they expect to continue printing books?” I asked as my fingers flew over the keys. I glanced at my father as he digested this question, he still hadn’t answered. He was staring at the TV with his mouth gaping opened. I glanced at the TV and froze in shock, the newscasters were filming our house, “Mom turn it up!”
My mother scrambled for the remote and turned it up so my father and I could hear it. “The Royal Guard are coming up to the rebel house now.”
“Ramona, go into the basement. There is a panel in the basement wall that leads to a tunnel. Find it and crawl through it. It will lead you out of the country, there is a gun in the tunnel as well. Take it and don’t look back,” Warren said as he looked at me seriously. I was ready to protest and say that my place was with my parents. But I knew dad would sooner drag me to the basement and throw me into the tunnel, so I was obedient. I ran down the basement steps as the door started to be kicked in. I was in the tunnel when my father open fired. I was near the middle of the tunnel when my parents were taken. I knew because I could hear my mother’s high pitched scream, telling me that my father was dead.
My heart was torn to pieces and I was left alone in the tunnel to piece it back together. To take the broken parts and sew them carefully together. The product of the broken heart became who I was meant to be, I just didn’t know it yet.
I crawled through the tunnel as I tried to block out my mother’s horrific scream. Her gentle spirit and mothering heart would now be in the castle, most likely being tortured. I shuddered at the very thought of that. When I climbed out of the tunnel I came face to face with a longtime friend, coming out of an adjoining tunnel. Walter stared at me in surprise and said quietly, “Ramona? What are you doing here?”
“Walter?” I answered in surprise, only able to force out his name. I had grown up with this boy before he had moved away, “What are you doing here?” After asking it I knew it was a stupid question, what happened to my parents must have happened to his.
“My parents are dead, the royal guard came in and started shooting. My mother had left the door unlocked by accident,” Walter said quietly, his dark blue eyes darting around, “I never even knew this place existed. My older sister pushed me through the wall and told me it led to the country.”
“I didn’t know it existed either, my father told me about it when we saw that our house was being filmed by the news station,” I answered as I crawled forward some more, Walter took up his vigil beside me. It was comforting to know my friend was with me. Now we crawled forward in silence until we heard an animal like noise. A grief noise and another voice telling it to be quiet. When we came up to that tunnel a couple of Mexican boys crawled into our path. I stopped, Walter ran into me, and the older boy pointed a pistol at me while keeping himself between me and the weeping brother.
“Who are you?” The older boy asked while scuttling backwards, still making sure that his younger brother was behind him, “What do you want?” His eyes were still clouded with fear and anger; his judgement would not be the best at the moment. So I reached back and touched Walter’s forehead, silently asking him to be quiet.
“My name is Ramona; this is my friend Walter. Our parents were just killed by the Royal Guard. Our parents told us that we can get to the country by this tunnel,” I made my voice calm and diplomatic so that I wouldn’t trigger the boy, “What’s your name?”
“My name is Abraham; this is my brother Moses. Our parents were also killed by the Royal Guard, my uncle told us about the tunnel, he and my aunt are our guardians,” Abe replied as he slowly started to relax, “My brother’s Deaf, he didn’t know what was going on until we were shoved into the tunnel.”
Abraham looked to be around fifteen years old, Moses had to have been only thirteen or fourteen. The poor boy also looked terrified. I crawled past them and started to lead the way out of the tunnel. Everyone followed obediently and without question. I was unnerved by the silence as we crawled so I ventured a question, “How old are you?”
“I am sixteen years old. Moses is fifteen years old. How old are you and your friend?” Abe asked in a quiet voice. It seemed that now he was calm, he could be a reasonable person. I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with answering the question. But he answered when I asked him, so it was only fair that I replied.
“I am sixteen years old. Walter is eighteen years old, we kind of grew up together,” I answered in a conversational manner, “What kind of stuff did you like to do?” And that is how past tense started, we started referring to our lives in the past tense because it was less painful.
“I liked to read. We had illegal books in our house and I would read them all the time. I could lose myself in great fantasy books, classics, and science fiction,” Abraham answered, his passion for books obvious in the way he talked about them. “My brother used to like to carve things. He could carve the most beautiful animals out of a simple piece of wood. We used to joke that his carvings could spark a revolution. He also loved to hang around with his Deaf friends, they would all talk about music.” Abe had a smile in his voice as he talked about the memories he had. His voice was reserved when he asked, “What do you and Walter like to do?”
“I liked to read, write pamphlets, run, and swim. I loved swimming, there was nothing quite like it,” I sat with my back to the tunnel wall and everyone else followed suit, “I also loved horses, my grandparents used to have them before they were deemed an unnecessary convenience. They could make you feel so free and peaceful just from watching them. What about you Walter?”
“I was the captain of the Royal Guard Youth. I was a model member until I started passing out pamphlets, which started because I was gentle towards a young Jewish girl. She started lending me books and I couldn’t get enough of them. I started helping draw silly cartoons for the pamphlets. I have always liked to draw,” Walter’s voice trailed off after the last part. He tensed and I looked towards what he was looking at. The sight made me gasp, there was a women laying in the tunnel and bleeding. She had cuts all over her face and arms. I could count at least four wounds that were probably made by a gun.
Walter crawled over to the women and dragged her the rest of the way into the body of the tunnel. He sucked in a sharp breath at her other wounds, she looked very bad. Abraham also crawled over and said quietly, “Someone needs to go into her house and get some first aid. We need to clean these up a little bit.” Then he turned to his brother and rattled off orders in Sign Language. Now I wished that I had bothered to learn it from my father. Moses started applying pressure to the women’s wounds.
I watched all this then volunteered, “I will go inside,” I crawled to the secret door and leapt out of the wall and behind a desk. I poked my head over it and looked around, I gagged when I saw the carnage. The women had done more damage to the Guard then they had done to her. They were laying around in pieces. Heads in one direction, bodies in another, arms and legs scattered across the room. She had gone axe crazy on them. I picked my way around the bodies and went upstairs, only to find an even more depressing picture. I was in a women’s home and every single one of the ladies were dead. Illegal pamphlets were lying around everywhere. I walked into the bathroom and pulled out a first aid kit from underneath the sink. After checking the contents to make sure I had everything I would need I walked back into the basement and re-found the tunnel. I crawled through and handed it to Abraham. Moses tapped me on the shoulder and glanced at the door. I wrote in the dirt, bad and he showed me the sign for it. I parroted it and then nodded in affirmation. Moses nodded sympathetically and then went back to helping his brother fix the wounded women.
Walter scooted over next to me and said in a lowered voice, “We should just leave them, they are slowing us down.” I stared at him in shock, I couldn’t believe he had just suggested that. I couldn’t leave these people, that would be wrong. And we were probably far ahead of the government now, they also couldn’t possibly know that we were down here.