Chapter 1: Arrival to the Facility
I’m sitting patiently on the cold mattress. Scars run up and down my arms from where they inserted the IVs. My long blonde hair is held perfectly in a high ponytail. I wear nothing except a thin hospital gown and my undergarments. I can hear the clock ticking on the wall opposite where I sit. An empty metal tray and cup are on the table by the door from my breakfast this morning. The walls look depressing from the plain white paint that covered them. I had been at this facility ever since I was thirteen, and I remember the day I was taken from my family.
Three years ago
It was a bright summer day. The sun was high in the sky, and there was a warm breeze while my brother Cahal and I played in the field behind our house. We played for what felt like hours, but my mother called for the two of us after a while.
“Cahal, Sophrona,” she said, “come inside, please!” So we ran inside, and our mother guided us into the living room where two government officials and my father were sitting. The two men wore black suits and ties and sat professionally on the couch across from my father, and their faces had little emotion.
“Here they are,” my mother said, her voice strained, possibly from holding back tears.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” one of the men said. Both got up from the couch and began escorting the two of us out of the house. My brother and I started screaming and crying, wondering how and why our parents would do such a thing to us.
And that’s how I ended up here. I haven’t seen Cahal since that day three years ago. I sometimes wonder how he’s doing and if he’s okay. I always hope that I’ll see him again one day. But then, I begin to think about my childhood with him. As I do so, I feel a tear run down my cheek. How did we get here? I wonder, And what is the purpose of keeping us here, taking our blood without explanation and inserting an unknown liquid into us? I probably should have been asking these questions a long time ago, but unfortunately, I’d been that naive. I was cooperating with them to stay alive, so I had never asked questions.
It’s funny; no one but me can remember their past before their life here. For some reason, they take all of the details of that life away from us but allow us to remember our names. Everyone talks to each other during recreational time like they’ve known each other for years. Still, when I listen closely to their conversations, no one includes the usual conversation starters like “How did you get here?” or “Where are you from?” Call me crazy, but I would want to know those things about someone I just met. I suppose the staff here have to do that to keep our mouths shut and to keep us in the dark; that way, we can’t say anything about it, and the staff here can’t get in trouble for it. But what I don’t understand is what they do once the children’s memories are removed. Do they replace them with false memories, or do they just let them form new ones? I’m guessing that I won’t be getting the answers to those questions any time soon, though, considering my situation.
I’m snapped out of my thoughts when the large metal door that separates me from the world outside this room is opened. A guard dressed in a black military uniform walks in and grabs my arm roughly.
“Get up,” he says gruffly. I stand, and he puts handcuffs on my wrists before the two of us exit the room and walk down a long, dull-looking hallway with lights that won’t stop flickering. The floor is cold against my bare feet as I walk behind him.
“You could have at least let me brush my hair or put some shoes on,” I mutter as I stare at the floor.
“Quit your whining,” the guard says irritatedly.
“Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” I tease, amused with his reaction. It’s kind of funny how easy it is to get on the guard’s nerves—probably because the only thing they do is stand outside of our rooms all day until it’s time for us to go to the lab or the courtyard for our two hours of recreational time before dinner. They probably do that so none of us lose our sanity and start bouncing off the walls like a bunch of monkeys. Finally, after what seems like forever, we turn left and continue down another long hallway. The lights continue flickering, making it challenging to focus, but I do my best to do so. Something was different about this route; it shouldn’t take this long to get to the lab. It usually takes about five minutes to get there, ten minutes if there are many people scheduled for the lab, but not today.
“I don’t recall it taking this long to get to the lab,” I say, struggling to keep up with his accelerating pace.
“That’s because we’re taking a longer way,” the guard said with impatience evident in his voice.
’Why?” I ask.
“Because the other way is receiving maintenance.”
“Is it receiving maintenance, or is it because of something else?” I speculate, intrigued by the sudden change of route.
“You ask way too many questions,” he states flatly. We make a right turn and come to a halt to let the medical team pass with one of the other teens. “Did she go overboard again?” the guard escorting me asks one of the nurses in scrubs, who had chestnut-colored hair.
“No,” she replies, “This one forgot to eat before going to the lab and passed out shortly after she drew her blood.”
The guard nods and continues towards our destination. We make a few more turns, and by the time we arrive at the hallway that leads to the entrance to the lab, my toenails are a little blue, and my feet are ice cold. As we approach the steel metal doors, I could hear the awful sound of screams, restraints moving, and people yelling orders. It sounded like peoples’ souls burning in the fiery pits of hell—And that’s all I hear in my sleep now, every night: I listen to people crying in pain and sorrow. We miss our families and the comforts of home. We miss the days when we could go out and play for as long as we wanted. We miss the ability to touch each other without worrying about contamination. We miss our fundamental human rights.
When the guard opens the doors, I can’t believe the sight in front of me. “Cahal?”