The sound of a far-away klaxon rumbles through the hot air, causing me to remain still while I try to observe what is happening. The noise must symbolize something big because the entire group has also paused their labour, and are staring up, waiting for the noise to drown out.
“You know what the noise means,” a supervisor shouts from across the field. “Move!”
Breathless and weak, I copy the actions from the other girls and I slowly rise to my feet, leaving my half-full basket behind as I waddle forwards while stumbling through the air. I know that I must walk, I know that I must continue, but the more I try to move further, the more my legs just give way and I fall towards the ground.
I manage to keep vertically adrift without falling completely, but it’s taking everything I have to do so. My limbs are frail like doll parts, my breathing pattern is so staggered that I don’t know which way is out or in, I don’t even have a sense of direction--I just keep fumbling my way towards anywhere that is away from this field.
That way is freedom, and I approach it quicker and quicker while my feet keep turning into bizarre directions as I walk. Soon, I’m out of the field, and I’m blending with the crowd of bodies that are dragging themselves in perfect straight lines, as I’m the odd one out, treading everywhere.
“Get in line,” a voice snarls at me.
I turn my head to look at Ruth whom stares at me from one of the lines. I side-step until I fall into her line and I place myself behind her.
“W-where are we g-going?” I blurt out.
“Assembly,” she whispers quickly over her shoulder. “Pastor’s called it early. That isn’t good.”
I go to reply but the blonde supervisor glances back from the front of the line, rolling her eyes across each face, until becoming satisfied that we’re all under her control and glances forwards. The other supervisors are scattered across the path, leading their own lines of members and still swing their whips at the back of their bodies.
To my left, in a different line, is one of the young girls. She moves as though someone has hacked into her joints, she doesn’t walk, she pulls herself--her eyes remain down, her expression sad as she tries her best to keep up. She’s a pretty girl. She has diamond-blue eyes and raven-colored hair that has almost completely fallen out of her bun. She carries herself with so much pain that my heart breaks for her. Just like myself, she has probably never known love in her life. She has never known safety or company, she has always felt alone, misunderstood and insignificant. No one has ever helped her, no one has ever stood up for her, no one has ever tried to console her or lift her spirits--no one has ever gave her a reason to live.
But I will.
Suddenly, I feel less drained and stronger, just by observing this girl. She inspires me to walk, to resist the weakness that drowns me, she lifts me. I shake the desperation to drink and to rest. I suppress it, allowing myself to heal instead.
I won’t be broken. I’m lucky to still be standing, to still be alive, but I am not broken. The women and children around me might be halfway there, but I’m the only one that can see what they can’t. I’m their only hope to bring them back, just like I did with Elijah.
From what I know of cults, their motive is brainwash. Torture, slavery and control are just standard procedures to speed up the process. But brainwash is the endgame, it is their purpose. The members around me are not yet entirely brainwashed, hence why we are group C. Group B will be a step up--less likely to be saved.
But group A?
The thought of meeting them terrifies me. They’ve most likely lost themselves completely, forced into believing that the years of suffering that they have endured here is necessary. Then again, Elijah is a leader, and he’s been here his whole life and I was able to snap him out of his trance.
If I can bring back a leader, someone that was much far gone than any of the members here, then getting through to the groups should be easy. But what if my encounter with Elijah was just something short of a miracle?
What if the reality is that everyone here is beyond saving and beyond bringing back--what if, I am too?
What if. . . none of us can ever be saved?