The Cleansing

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Most major cities across the world bore little resemblance to their pre-war magnificence. I compared them to archery targets. The yellow centre is Zone 1, where the rich lived in their bubble of perfection. Vast buildings reached into the sky and technology was entwined in every aspect of the lives of the population. There was no dirt, no grime, everything worked to perfection. The city centres were ringed by a wall of steel and stone one hundred feet tall and thirty feet thick.

Immense gates were guarded by automated defences. If you don’t have a pass you can’t get in or out. The next ring on the archery target, blue, was Zone 2. This was where I lived with the other manual labourers. It was dirty and noisy 24 hours a day. I had a small apartment, one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. The power was cut off at midnight and returned at 7am. Zone 2 wasn't beautiful like the city centre. There were no trees or parks, and people didn't smile as much, if at all. Those in Zone 2 worked to survive, to give those in Zone 1 their perfect lives.

Beyond the walls of Zone 2 lies the Wastelands. If you were born in the Wastelands you’d die in the Wastelands. There was no chance of ever making it through the gates to Zone 2. Don’t even try. Gate defences would cut you to shreds if you didn't show the correct I.D in thirty seconds. I’ve seen it happen. Kids as young as five were employed as Moppers. They'd clean up after an I.D fail. No one took any notice when a child scurried across a street carrying a bloody torso to the burners. I’ve seen people try to help. The drones were quick to react.

After the war, governments around the world adopted the Freeman-Walsh Principle and the Zoned Society was formed. The population was segmented into the rich, the workers and the poor. Donald Freeman and Serenity Walsh were scientists working on bringing philosophy, religion and science together under one banner – Zoneism. They blamed the integration of classes for the spread of the plague and the reason why the war lasted as long as it did.

In 1985, the year I was born, the plague had already decimated half the world’s population, mainly the poorer countries, those whose governments couldn’t afford mass inoculation. I was drafted into the army the day I finished high school. I hoped for a back line position. My grades were good and I keen interest for science. Sadly the tests showed I had an aptitude for violence. My psychological profile showed I was a natural born killer. It didn’t help that I was physically strong and able.

I fought alongside many brave men, most of whom didn’t live and die for their country or government but to kill the plague before it reached their families. I lost count of the number of countries and the number of battles I fought. In 2005 the plague took hold in the cities and even those free from infection were considered a risk. My wife and son were butchered in the Green Park Massacre in what used to be called London.

The UK Government argued fiercely against the Freeman-Walsh Principle. But when the plague took root in the London the Prime Minister was left with little choice. In one year the class system was abolished in favour of Zoneism. Religion was abolished as it was deemed a breeding ground for dissension and terrorism.

The day of the Green Park Massacre my wife and son were part of a peaceful protest against Zoneism. The same day Peacekeeper Drones were revealed as protectors of the peace and guardians against the plague. The protesters cheered the drones as they circled over the cheering crowds. They would be safe from the infected.

I watched the news in the mess hall of our temporary outpost in Spain as the drones scanned the crowds. I knew my wife was there. I pleaded with her on the phone the night before. I didn’t want her anywhere near the protest. She should have stayed at our home and kept our son, Lucas, safe and not risk exposing him to the plague. The protest would have been peaceful if not for a group of infected who broke through the police cordon.

The war stripped the population down so much that police numbers were at an all time low. They had no chance of stopping the infected from breaching the fences, and indeed some policemen and women abandoned their posts for fear of being infected themselves. Peacekeeper Drones swarmed the protesters but even with their advanced A.I they failed to stop all the infected. Left with no option the drones opened fire and slaughtered every single person at Green Park, including my wife and son.

I held out hope that my family had stayed at home but as the days went by with no word from them I realised they had been killed. At the end of that terrible week our outpost had lost dozens of soldiers.

No one stopped the deserters. I wanted to leave but where would I go? I had been fighting to protect my family and now there were gone I couldn’t bring myself to leave and return to an empty home. Besides, I had friends who needed me, who relied on me for guidance and strength.

I fought on, no longer caring why so long as I could block out the memories of that day.

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