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~Chapter 1B- Population Control~

The next few days had an air of dread we knew death was coming, we just didn’t know when. I spent as much of what precious little time I had with dad as possible. When Arturo and Melissa wanted to play, I turned them away. I know they just wanted to cheer me up, but that wasn’t important to me then.

I listened in on conversations I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to. Mom proposed all these ideas to save him, saying we should hide away in a Weaktown- illegal settlements created to escape Population Control. That or take a boat and flee the country to the nearest continent. Anything to save him.

Dad countered everything she proposed. He said that most people who try to flee the country never make it far at sea, and that it’d be wrong for us to throw our lives away here to save him. Most of all, he didn’t want to be a burden us.

“I’m too proud a person to stand not being able to take care of myself.”

“I can’t live without you. I can’t Eugenio.” Mom spoke Dad’s name so lovingly. She truly didn’t believe she could go on without him.

“Yes you can.” Dad placed his hand on mom’s belly, “You have to.”

Mom struggled to compose herself and reluctantly nodded in agreement, “I was thinking about what to name them when they’re born. If it’s a boy, I was thinking Eugenio Jr.”

“My name?” Dad softly chuckled, caressing her belly “Hopefully they aren’t as much trouble as I am,” Mom laughed for the first time in a while.

Raul and Dad spent time recounting all the trouble they got into as kids over the next few days. Everyone in the area knew them as the two troublemakers turned soldiers. They’ve been inseparable their whole lives.

Visitors came by the house to say goodbye as well; old friends of my dad, comrades from the military and so on. Dad put on a brave face, but I could tell he didn’t want anyone to see him bedbound. It wounded his pride.

Raul told Melissa and I to go out onto the beach one evening. I didn’t want to leave dad, but he urged me to. After a few minutes outside, I heard a vehicle pull up in front of our house. I sprinted into the house to my dad’s bedroom. My bedridden father was missing. My mom was sitting on the bed whimper, face full of tears, with Raul and Yolanda next to her doing their best to hold back theirs.

A vehicle started up outside, I burst through the front door and saw the words ‘Population Control Officers’ imprinted on the side of the van, and it began to pull away. I sprinted after the car and followed it for as long as I could, but it was no use. He was gone.

I walked along the coast of the beach for a few hours in deep thought.

“Are you okay?” A kid’s voice came from behind me. Arturo had found me.

I rushed to wipe away my tears. I wanted to say I was fine, but I couldn’t. “No.”

“I’m sorry about your dad. I know what you’re going through.”

“No.” I responded lowly, “No you don’t.”

Arturo took a deep breath, “Population Control killed my mom almost a year ago after she married my stepdad,” Arturo explained with a calm disposition, “I guess they thought I wouldn’t need her anymore.”

“You never told me,” I sniffled a bit.

“I don’t like to talk about it,” Arturo responded.

Arturo sat with me on the beach until I felt ready to head back home. We must’ve sat out there for hours.

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