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~Chapter Fourteen- A Day with Eugenio~

~Chapter Fourteen~



I’m walking through a field, with mom and Juaquin walking alongside me. It’s so beautiful outside, just like I always imagined. On top of a hill there is a figure of a man with his back to us. It’s our dad, I know it. I run to him. It feels so amazing to be able to run. Dad begins to turn to me.

But then I wake up.

I’m in my bed. Through the closed window shades, I can tell it’s night time. Mom and Juaquin should still be asleep. I close my eyes and try to fall back asleep but I just can’t. I wish I could’ve stayed in that dream just a little longer.

I get my arms under me and push up until I’m upright. I begun to hunch over. I sweep the blanket off of me and look at my limp legs. I know it’s no good, but I try to lift my legs briefly. But they just don’t have the strength. I grab each leg and put them over the side of the bed until I face my wheelchair. Mom and Juaquin usually help me out of bed every morning, but I’ve been trying to do it on my own.

“You might hurt yourself. Just let me or Juaquin help you. Okay sweetie?” Mom had said. When she is around, she’d help me with everything. But I like being able to do some things on my own.

“I don’t see anything wrong with him trying on his own,” Juaquin suggested.

I place my hands on each of the armrests of my wheelchair. I take a deep breath and throw my weight forward, lifting myself while I did. I wildly fall into the wheelchair, with my rear hitting the back of the seat. Maybe if I was strong like Juaquin, I could lift myself into the wheelchair in a better way.

I put my gloves on, and grip the wheels of my wheelchair. I navigate my wheelchair towards my TV with a video game system wired up to it. Mom initially bought it for Juaquin, but he gave it to me since he never used it. I used to ask him to play with me, but I could tell he didn’t enjoy it. In these games, I could be strong. A hero. Like Juaquin.

Beneath the TV are a number of books, all of which I’ve read through several times. TV and video games are nice, but there’s no limit to the sort of adventures you can go on in books. I learned how to read when I was pretty young compared to other kids.

I reach under my bed for a notebook I’ve kept secret. In it are story ideas I’ve come up with... They’re not very good yet. I’ve started to like this one story about a magical land, filled with people so strong that they can jump over mountains and shatter boulders, but are still peaceful. I’m hoping one day I can make something good, then I’ll share it with everyone.

I turn on a lamp and begin to read through one of my favorite books again. Light starts to peer through the tightly shut window shades of my room. The sun is starting to rise. I set the book down and go into the living room. The window shades were shut tightly there as well. I only see the sun when I would occasionally peek through the shades. Or on Television.

There are pictures of Juaquin, mom, and my dad out on the walls, but none of me. There couldn’t be. No one outside is supposed to know I exist. Even Arturo isn’t technically supposed to know. Mom and Juaquin never wanted to explain why that was. Arturo was the first to explain that Population Control didn’t want people like me alive. I was mad that Mom wouldn’t tell me that.

There is a picture of Juaquin and Dad on the beach, they look a lot alike.

“What was dad like?” I once asked Juaquin.

Juaquin thought for a while and said, “The strongest, bravest man in the world.”

“Sounds like you,” I asked.

Juaquin laughed, “I wish.”

When dad was alive, it seemed like he and Juaquin were really close. I wondered if he’d like me if he was still alive.

I turn on the TV and began to go through the channels. I used to like cartoons the most, but lately, all I’ve wanted to see is what the real world looks like, since I might never be able to see it myself.

I come across the news channel. It was the same as usual. The Rhiveran Liberation Army is causing trouble, and the military is doing what it can to stop them. They were the bad guys, and Juaquin was helping to stop them.

Lately, the news has been talking about Miro and his revolution. Whenever Miro came on, it was confusing. Juaquin and Raul said he’s bad and killed a lot of people, but Melissa and Arturo would tell me that he’s good and are trying to save people like me. Melissa and Arturo wouldn’t say that when anyone was around though. Mom didn’t seem sure about who to believe. Even if Miro was trying to help people like me, I don’t like that he killed people.

At 6:30PM there will be an announcement from the Emperor.

That sounds important. We’ll all be home then.

Mom comes out of her room, rubbing her tired eyes, “Good morning sweetie.” She says as she sees me, “How did you get into your wheelchair?”

“Juaquin helped me,” I lie. “He went back to sleep though.” Mom nods. She gets anxious when I do stuff on my own.

After breakfast, mom says, “Okay, your brother will have to feed you for lunch. I’ll see you after work, okay sweetie?” She gives me a big kiss on the cheek and heads out.

I’m alone again.

On Juaquin’s off days, he would sleep in pretty late. Ever since he made the trip out of Uneva, he’s seemed drained. He wouldn’t let mom see, but I can tell.

While he sleeps, I watch a bit more TV, read a little more, and played a match against myself on the strategy board game called ‘Damin’ that Arturo dropped off when he was last here. When I was alone I had to find new ways to have fun. Occasionally, I’d peer through the window shades outside, even though they said it was a bad idea.

I go to the bathroom. They installed a bar next to the toilet so I could grab onto it for support when I transitioned myself to and from my wheelchair. Before that I needed their help each time. I’ve fallen to the ground many times but I’m proud that I’m able to do it on my own now.

There are footsteps upstairs and I know Juaquin is awake. I pause the racing video game I’m playing and meet him as he comes downstairs. “Hi Bro!” I say happily.

“Hey bro.” Juaquin responds with a soft smile. He’s still in his pajamas. We spend the day watching TV, though Juaquin doesn’t seem to be paying much attention.

“Juaquin, do you think Melissa and Arturo can come over today?” I ask.

“Sorry bud, the two of them went on a trip yesterday,” Juaquin answers regretfully.

“Where are they?”

“They didn’t tell us. Raul was pretty mad about it. Especially with everything that’s been going on lately.” Juaquin says, referring to Miro, “He doesn’t think it’s safe.”


Juaquin cooks for us when I get hungry. If I was on my own I’d usually grab snacks until someone came home. But I’ve been wanting to do more.

“Can I help?” I ask Juaquin.

He smiles, “Sure bud,” He picks up an onion, the cutting board, and a knife and brought it to the dining room table where I can reach it, “Can you cut that into really small pieces for me? Be careful of your fingers. Make sure to cut away from your body.”

Juaquin demonstrates the right way to do it and leaves me try it on my own. I’m embarrassed at how slow I am compared to him.

“I’m not as good as you at this sort of stuff,” I say under my breath.

“You’ll learn! I didn’t know anything about cooking when I was your age. You’re already better off than me.” Juaquin comes over to me as I finish up. He has me watch him cook the rest, giving me tips as he goes along, “Just make sure me or mom are with you whenever you try anything. We don’t want an accident to happen while you’re alone. At least until you’re really good.”


After eating, I convince Juaquin to try the Damin Board game with me. It turns out, he’s really good! It always feels like he’s several moves ahead of me. Mom comes through the door while we play. After she ate, I told both of them that the Emperor had an announcement at 6:30 PM.

The time comes, and the news station shows a press conference. A tall man with broad shoulders goes onto a podium before them. He has a dark tan and black hair.

“Is that the Emperor?” I ask.

“No. That’s Xander Veran.” Mom answers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Emperor make any public appearances.” Juaquin points out.

“You’re right,” Mom agrees, “Maybe he died of old age? That’s what the press conference could be about.”

Xander Veran stands at the podium in front of countless people. I can only imagine how nervous I would be, but he seems so calm. As if it’s normal.

“Hello everyone. Unfortunately, the Emperor was unable to come today, so he’s asked me to act in his stead.” Xander begins, “With the goings-on in our country as of late, the Emperor and I believe that certain measures must be taken. After a meeting, we’ve decided to revive the Equality Zone.”

Suddenly, the crowd watching stirs. Mom sat up in her seat. Both Juaquin and I aren’t sure about what the big deal is.

“Mom, what’s the Equality Zone?” Juaquin asks. Mom simply raises her finger to us to be quiet.

Xander continues, “For those of you unaware, the Equality Zone is an area in which Population Control will not be active, and its residents will be provided for. Only those who choose to reside there will be permitted to enter.”

Juaquin and I look at each other. Juaquin has a look of uncertainty about him. Mom is still listening intently. Could I live there?

“It shall not be the same as it was before, that would only lead to the same failure that occurred 40 years ago. A population limit will be set on the Zone. When that limit is met, no new individuals will be allowed to live within the zone until the population has lowered naturally. Just as with the original Zone, if you decide to leave the Equality Zone you will not be allowed to return to it. Brief visits outside of the zone may be taken with permission however. Anyone under the age of 38 will not be allowed to live within the zone, with some exceptions. After some discussion, we’ve also decided to allow Weaktown residents to join the Equality Zone. All who do will be pardoned of their crimes so as long as they remain within the Equality Zone. The ruins of the old Equality Zone will be torn down, and the New Equality Zone will be built on top of it in the region of Rhy.”

Xander continues to go through various other aspects of the Equality Zone. The idea of going somewhere new, having more than just this house to live in sounds nice. He said they wouldn’t accept anyone under 38, but maybe I would be an exception. Mom could live in the zone too... but not Juaquin.

“We will be holding a conference acting as an open forum in the region of Rhy. We invite anyone who has suggestions on how the Zone should operate to attend, and that will also be the first opportunity for people to register to live in the Equality Zone.” Xander explains.

Xander makes his closing statements before ending the press conference. The three of us are completely silent when it ends. For a long time.

“Am I going to live in the Equality Zone?” I ask, stirring mom and Juaquin out of their daze.

“I-I don’t know.” Mom utters, “Do... Do you want to?”

Juaquin’s head whipped towards mom, surprised that mom would even consider it.

“I don’t know. Maybe?” I say softly.

We all sat in silence for a while longer before Juaquin says, “We should wait and see how it turns out. Then we’ll talk about it.”

We went about our night, but the air was tense.

Mom helps me into bed when I get tired. Juaquin insists I can do it on my own, but mom wants to help anyways. As I start to fall asleep, I can hear faint whispers from the two of them.

“What happened at the Old Equality Zone, mom?” Juaquin whispers just loud enough that I can hear. I prop myself up in bed and listen very closely.

Mom explains, “I was only a baby, but my parents told me about it. Apparently, my grandparents stopped working and moved in there when it opened. The first few months were fine. My grandmother actually passed away there and they even held a funeral for her. But more and more people moved in, and they couldn’t support them anymore. People inside started fighting over supplies and it escalated from there. I know my grandfather ended up being killed by other residents of the zone. Eventually, the military had to get involved to shut the entire Zone down.”

“Were you thinking of actually letting him live there?” An astonished Juaquin asks.

“He might want to.” Mom says, “It sounds like it’ll be different this time with the population limit and all of those other changes they talked about.”

“He wouldn’t know anyone there; he’d be all alone.”

“I’d go with him,” Mom says.

“You’d live in the Equality Zone?” Juaquin asks, unintentionally raising his voice. “That’s not fair to you.”

Mom pauses for a moment, “I just want to give Eugenio a good life. I’m not sure if what I’m doing now is enough.” I start to tear up. How could she possibly think that after she does so much? She’s the best mom in the world.

“Okay. Okay. No matter what, we need to wait a while and see how it turns out.” Juaquin states somewhat coldly.

“There might not be much time, they said that once it fills up they won’t accept new people.” Mom says anxiously.

“I know. I know. But I-I don’t want to lose you too.” Juaquin says, sounding like he was choking up. Is he crying? Has he ever cried before?

Mom must be holding him when she says, “It’s okay honey. It’ll be okay.”

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