3. The result...
The next morning, while Isa is out in the garden, I confront my parents.
“Dad, you could have died yesterday, and I could have been captured...and I have no idea what for.”
Mom and Dad glance at each other, before he nods. “What do you need to know?”
“The agent’s at headquarters called the pamphlets...Foreign material?”
“That’s correct. In your two years of school, you may remember that our country is at war?”
“Oh...the Border war? The small skirmish along the North-West barrier?”
“Unfortunately, it is much worse than a skirmish. Creatures, who the government has called Foreigners, are seeking to enter our country. They claim their land is being overpowered by a genocidal dictator. The government has denied them entry, so they are trying to force themselves in.”
“It’s a huge political debate, but the Foreign materials…basically they are memorandums from the Foreigners notifying the Rebels of anything from battle plans to supply needs.”
“But, nothing is written on them. How does the empath translate them?”
“Quin, the memorandums are encrypted obviously. What if they were to fall into enemy hands? How exactly they are encrypted…I could give a guess, but I don’t know.”
“Ok…but why was the empath chained? She was just-” I stop as I see Isa pop his head through the door.
“Mom! Can you tell me if this is a weed or a sprout?”
“Sure, I’ll be right there.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve got my hands dirty…mind if I join you for a bit?” Dad asked, ruffling Isa’s hair.
“Yes, please! It’s so miserable weeding alone!”
“Well, that settles it.”
I sigh. Watching as they disappear out the door. I wish I had more answers than questions.
It’s been three weeks since the whole headquarters incident, but I’m still don’t feel back to normal. Even though it’s the middle of the night, sleep evades me. I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, letting the faint sound of the crickets calm me. I suppose things are finally starting to flow into their normal rhythm. Right now, I can even hear Isa snoring in the next room. I smile. I’m so glad he’s not having nightmares anymore. I love him...so much. It’s in moments like this where I imagine we’re just a normal family. I can almost believe that everything that happened three weeks ago is just a dream, a terrible dream. The weeks have been hard, but Dad’s injury is less severe than might be expected. Dad has recovered from his blood loss and even left for another “business trip” yesterday. Mom told him he should stay, but everybody knows he is as dedicated as he is-
Bang! Bang! Bang!
I jump up out of bed. My vision disappears for a moment as the blood rushes down from my head. Lurching forward into the hallway, I see my mom reach the door. She throws it open. Who would knock like that at this time of night?
“Jeri!” Mom shrieks in joy, trying to throw her arms around him.
Dad doesn’t even pause. Pushing her away, he closes the door and motions for her to be quiet. He rushes up to me.
His voice is tight and low, making a shiver run down my spine. He doesn’t need to say anything more. My hands are already outspread as he dumps four packages of pamphlets into my hands. Before we can move I hear,
Isa comes down the hall rubbing his eyes. I paste on a smile as I turn around to face him, he mustn’t think anything of the packages I am holding.
“Why are you here so late?”
“Come here, Son, give me a hug. I’m back early.”
Isa crosses his arms.
“Seriously? You guys are all hiding something...and you always say I can’t get away with a lie.”
I push past him, letting my parents deal with this one. I need to get the packages safe. Besides, how are they going to explain this? Something is obviously very wrong.
I arrange them all inside the sill, and then I head back to the hallway. Dad is in pajamas and a housecoat, Isa is wide-eyed, and Mom’s face is red like she’s about to start shouting. What’s happening?
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Open up! This is the government! Open your doors immediately!”
“Try to look sleepy? Please?” Dad pleads as he turns away from us.
Sleepy? My face must be as white as a ghost. I feel my heart rate climbing, and I swallow to keep from crying. I’m going to be ok. This is just a dream. Dad will keep all of us safe.
Dad opens the door with a yawn, confusion written all over his face.
“We have been given a warrant to search your house. Step aside.”
“Warrant? Search?” Dad looks shocked, horrified. I never thought he could act so well. “What have we done? We’re innocent of-”
“Sir! Step aside!”
The sergeant firmly pushes my dad against the wall and steps into the house, closely followed by two soldiers. The three of us press against the walls of the living room as they scour our home from top to bottom. I flinch as I hear items falling…breaking. I close my eyes, trying not to envision them searching my room...going to the window. I begin to tremble. What if they find it?
Isa reaches out and grabs my hand. I glance down at him.
“It’s going to be ok. Don’t worry, Sis.” he mouths, trying to smile.
The corners of my mouth twitch as I try to smile. Instead, tears fill my eyes. Does he truly even realize everything that is at stake?
My heart freezes. Both soldiers come down from the hallway. Have they-
“We’ve searched the house, and...there is nothing here.”
The sergeant turns and surveys us for a moment. I shift my gaze downward, hoping he doesn’t see the relief on my face.
“No matter. Bring them anyway.”
Mom falls to her knees. “Please! Please! Whatever you think we did, spare the children. I beg-”
The soldiers never hesitate. One grabs Isa’s and my hand while the other pulls Mom up and drags her away. I turn back and see the captain looking deep into my dad’s eyes.
“You may have been able to hide the Foreign material, but I can assure you, we will find it. Oh, and if we don’t...”
I strain my ears trying to catch the last of what he is saying, but all I can hear is my mom crying and pleading.
We are thrown into the back of a conveyor truck. They must be putting Dad in another vehicle because they immediately close the hatch behind us and start driving away. I peer through the slats in the walls, trying to get one last glimpse of my childhood home. I know I will never see it again.
Time passes, but I have no way of measuring it except by the constant bumps that jostle us back and forth. Isa and I are still holding hands when the trucks grind to a halt. The hatch swings open, the faint morning light blinds us. We slide out, and I look around.
We are in front of a huge complex. The tall cement walls block any view of the outside world. I glance over at Mom. Her face looks grey and worn. The three of us are dragged inside, but not before I see Dad being loaded off another van. As we enter the vestibule, the soldiers push us to our knees. The place is so loud, the sound of whimpering and yelling, anger and fear filling the air. A few minutes later, Dad comes in, flanked by two more soldiers and followed by the Sergeant. I try to catch Dad’s eye, but he keeps them pinned to the floor. As soon as he arrives, we are pulled to the front desk.
“This is the family, soldier. See to it that they are prepped for interrogation.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
As we are led away, I begin to notice the building around me. The bright fluorescent lights make everything shimmery and blurry. All the walls are painted white, and every possible mechanical gadget fills this complex. We are led down a hallway to a room where we are lined up against the wall. Soon others are brought in and line up with us. Could all of these people have been plotting against the government as well?
Row by row we are lined up till the room is packed. I strain my neck upward, trying to get a gulp of free air. I glance at the pale, drear faces around me. They are so lifeless. I think most of them have given up hope. Not that I blame them. I’m not sure if I have any hope now either. I do know that part of me is happy. They didn’t find the pamphlets…at least not yet.
Somehow, more people are forced in. Isa pulls on my hand.
“Quin…it’s so hard to-”
Dad grabs him and lifts him onto his shoulders. The crush of the people is so intense, the people around me are groaning. The heat radiating off of all of us creates a miasma that makes it disgusting to breathe. Suddenly, we hear a sickening creak, and then a crash as the door locks closed. I feel so claustrophobic. The lights flicker out. I don’t think I can do this, I start wriggling, desperate to punch my way out of this human cage.
“Shh…” Dad soothes.
I can’t tell how time is passing, but it feels like hours. Worse than the physical pains that begin to taunt me, there is nothing to keep me away from my worst enemy: my mind. I struggle with myself, desperately trying to keep at bay the dreadful thoughts hounding me. What if they never let us out? What if I die here? What if I have to pee? Oh, I should not have thought of that. From the other side of the room, I hear someone having a panic attack.
The sound of breathing becomes deafening, pounding into my head. Beads of sweat and tears trickle down my face and neck. I’m disgusting. Mom’s legs give out, yet the press of everyone around us keeps her upright. We’re going to die.
Then, in the darkness of that pit, we hear a different sound. The squeak…the door. It’s opening. Dad pulls us together as we are carried by the crowd. All of us flow out of the cell like a river of terror back into the hall. The hall is dark now, only lit with the flashlights of yelling soldiers. They herd us through the building until we enter an auditorium. Dad finds us seats and we quickly slump into them, our muscles trembling. On one side of the auditorium is a lineup of Captains, each more terrifying than the next. A Corporal walks in and gives us instructions.
“The last set is just finishing up their interrogations. You all will be taken, group by group, to the interrogation desk where they will assign you an interrogation room. You may have to wait, though,” he grinned cruelly, “there are very few openings, and each interrogation takes a very, very long time. The first group will head to the front desk now, while all the rest will be escorted to living quarters by your assigned captains. Jeri and family, if you will please report to the front.”
As we stumble forward, three Captains step out and shove us out of the auditorium. Isa clings to my hand as we wander through endless hallways, flanked by our captains. One captain is right behind me, and I can almost feel his breath on my neck. I try not to think about it. Instead, I bend my head and whisper encouragement to Isa. He smiles and whispers some back. I love him so much.
“Please, sir, do whatever you want to me, only please...do not harm my family.”
We all stand before the interrogation desk, the original sergeant who searched our home proudly leering at us beside an interrogation officer. The officer studies us closely, calmly folding his hands in front of him.
“If you merely tell us the location of the Foreign material during your interrogation, there will be no need to torture your wife and children.” the officer smoothly replies, an evil smile playing across his face. “It is you who will determine their suffering, not us.”
I see my dad tremble as if an invisible force is tearing him in two. The torture currently seems more emotional, than physical. Dad turns and looks at us, tears streaming down his face. I glance at Mom. She is the only one of us who is not crying. Her eyes are hard and determined, drilling into my dad. He walks toward her and speaks as if continuing a conversation they’d already started with their eyes.
“If I don’t...we could all die.”
“I would rather be dead than married to a man who breaks his word.”
My mouth opens, but I feel my breath snatched away.
“I promised I would protect you.” he murmurs, still testing her.
“Then go and protect our honor.”
He doesn’t smile, but he leans forward and presses a kiss onto her forehead. At his touch, she melts, going limp into his arms. I can tell she’s trying to be strong, but she must be falling apart inside.
Dad slowly lets her go, and then stretches out his arms to us. In a moment Isa and I are there, crying our eyes out. I take a deep breath savoring the feel of his hug and his faint musky smell. I want to store the moment. I want it seared into my mind so that it can never be forgotten.
All too soon he lets go, gently prying Isa’s arms from around his neck. Almost as if in slow motion he turns and walks away from us, led away by a captain. He doesn’t even turn around, no parting glance. I collapse on the floor, mute with grief as I try to keep myself from imagining what they are going to do to him. Mom sits next to me and wraps her arms around me. Isa kneels down too and cuddles up next to me. Together we mourn, unsure of what will happen next.
Why is this happening? Why is this our life? Why couldn’t my parents just turn a blind eye to the stupid stuff the government was doing and choose to be happy. At the same time...I’m proud of them. I’m proud to be in this family. They are so strong...so dedicated to what they believe in. There’s only one problem. Now our family is broken forever.