Deep in her heart, Nicole knew that her most profound fears had come to fruition. Up until a week earlier, the sprawling correctional institution located on the eastern fringes of Kamloops had held over two-hundred and fifty mostly male minimum-security inmates. Kept hushed by the increasingly state-run corporate media, the federal government had released all of the inmates on the condition that they fight for the North American Armed Forces. The regime in Denver had been working overtime liquidating hundreds of correctional facilities throughout Canada, the U.S.A and Mexico to make room for millions of citizens who’d been deemed ‘enemies of the state.’ It was designed as a grand system of labor camps and re-education centres that would rival the gulags of the former Soviet Union. And now Nicole was one of countless prisoners in that system.
The short ride across the city by bus had seemed like forever. Upon arriving at the institution, mothers were separated from their children, who were to be housed in a separate wing of the facility. It crushed Nicole to see her only child torn away from her. The entire situation seemed so surreal. Like the twenty other women that were forced to strip and shower under the watchful eye of two thuggish-looking prison guards, Nicole was fraught with paralyzing fear and trepidation. Just as with the North American Police, all correctional agencies had been placed under the control of a single centralized bureaucracy.
The women cringed as the guards threw delousing powder over their wet bodies. Nicole didn’t recognize any of them. A young woman, barely twenty, cried uncontrollably. A guard with a sadistic smile on her lips whacked the girl across the back with her baton. She crumpled to the floor. A couple of the prisoners standing nearby tried to help their fellow prisoner but were quickly thrust back by the guards, who waved their batons threateningly.
“Every one of you shut the fuck up!” one of the guards screamed.
The young woman, her face grimacing in pain, slowly got to her feet.
The next stop for these women who would all be living in the same unit was the supply area. Here they were issued grey/bluish sweatpants, t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, undergarments and Velcro shoes, then told to get dressed Janet Paynter, a stocky guard with the single gold bar of a lieutenant on the epaulets of her crisp uniform, entered. With her intimidating butch expression and short hair she exuded toughness and a penchant for cruelty against inmates. Nicole glanced at Paynter disdainfully.
“Listen up you pieces of rubbish!” Paynter’s voice was commanding and forced one to listen. “You have displayed your insolence toward ideals of our federal government and President Asher. You have forfeited all of the rights you previously had. The purpose of your incarceration is to re-educate you, to drive all thoughts of subversion from your minds. Only then will you be allowed to rejoin our grand new society.”
Paynter held a list in her hand. She nodded to three other guards who were standing around the inmates.
“These enemies of the state will be housed in H Block. March them there now,” she ordered.
Stanford, a baby-faced guard in his early twenties, stood inside of a small pod. Stanford opened a barred gate into the correctional institution’s eight units. Nicole had never been inside the former regional correctional facility before. Recently, the fence surrounding the perimeter had been topped with concertina wire. Guard towers had been constructed at each corner of the perimeter. A fifth guard tower loomed over the entrance to the prison. Nicole and a woman in her early thirties with long, straight brown hair and a kindly, angelic face were shown to the door of a cell.
“Prisoner number 78093 Nicole Clare,” one of the guards said. “Prisoner number 13607 Bridgette Shaw. Get inside. This is your new home.”
The two strangers entered. The cell was small. No more than two-by-three meters. Bridgette’s eyes were heavy. Nicole could sense that she was on the verge of breaking down in tears.
“Come on, sit down,” Nicole said in a soft voice.
Bridgette and Nicole sat together on the bottom bunk.
“My name is Nicole Clare.”
“Bridgette.” There was almost no life in the woman at all. Nicole did her best to comfort her.
“My husband had decided to take the afternoon off. The three of us were going to have an early dinner. Our son, Josiah, is nine.” It tortured Bridgette to talk about this. “They just burst into our home, grabbed me and Josiah and put us into the back of a truck. My husband was thrown onto the floor and beaten.”
Nicole looked Bridgette in the eye.
“Do you have any idea where they could have taken your husband?”
“I have no idea. Josiah is in the children’s wing.”
“That’s probably where my daughter is too.”
“What’s your daughter’s name?”
“Arielle. She’s seven. Bridgette, why did they target you?”
“My husband Matt is the pastor of Good News Christian Missionary Alliance Church. He’s on record for saying some rather unflattering things about the regime. He called President Asher the Antichrist. Nicole, they are trying to eradicate Christianity as part of the New World Order. I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I truly feel in my heart that we are living in the End Times. I fully expect the Lord to return any day now.”
“I can’t say I quite share your passionate beliefs. I do believe in God and Jesus though.”
“Are you saved?”
“Don’t know what you mean by that. I grew in the church. Still go on occasion. Arielle made her first communion recently.”
“More of the cafeteria variety.”
“You are married Nicole?”
“I have a fiancé.”
“Where’s he now?”
“I’m not a hundred percent sure. Knowing Jake, my gut feeling tells me he escaped the city and fled into the mountains. Jake spent twenty years in the U.S. Air Force. He knows how to survive and fight like the devil himself. And I know he will come back to rescue me.”
Bridgette turned to her cellmate with inquiring eyes.
“Why were you targeted?”
“I operate a blog called Liberty for Canada. I have scathingly attacked pretty well every federal law enforcement agency in both Canada and the United States. They’ve probably had me on a watch list for years.”
“I’m terrified Nicole. As things stand right now, I’ll most likely never see my husband or even my son again. You know what? These demonic fascists can harass and torture me. Even take my life. But my soul belongs to Jesus.”
“I admire your fighting spirit, Bridgette. Don’t worry. You and I will get through this together.”