I don’t know what genre I am. And I haven’t known for the longest time.
Phew, that feels good to get that off my chest! I really hate genre. I don’t fit in anywhere. My story has science fiction elements, but also borrowed fantasy elements. Ultimately it’s about the people. A slice of life in this strange world made from my imagination. My boyfriend says I like to set up strange situations. And it’s true. At my heart, I think I’m a wanna be scientist.
So I bring the first bite size sampling of chapter 1. Maybe someone will know where we fit?
They call it a waiting room. This isn’t a waiting room. It’s a holding cell.
I lay on my side curled up in a ball on the hard mattress. The stiff threads of the wool blanket scratch at my cheek. It’s hard to say exactly how long I’ve been down here. There’s no clock and no windows. Between breaths I can hear the bare bulb buzzing softly above my head. The bright light reflects off all the gray surfaces in the room and hurts my eyes. So I close them though I can still see the light dancing before me, burned into my sight.
There hasn’t been any other sound in what’s probably been hours. It feels like hours. Somewhere out there I can only imagine that my mother is talking to someone to clear this all up. My mother the Neutral Politician– fighting against injustice to make a better tomorrow.
My eyes slip open. I rub at the blanket watching the fibers flatten against my fingertips as I listen for noises. There are none, surprisingly. I start to breathe again through my nose and my mouth. There are no scents here. The room is completely sterile with no hint that there was ever anyone else here before me. Not even a hospital is this clean.
In the corner of the room, the duffle bag they forced me to pack slouches against the wall like it’s had a long day. Deep green like the blanket I lay on, I can’t help but get the feeling that it is military issue. All it contains are my clothes. That’s all I put inside it when they forced me to pack. I didn’t know I’d need anything else. I mean, I don’t know.
I press my cold toes against the insides of my shoes and curl my limbs closer to my body. The blanket is so perfectly tucked in that it looks like a part of the mattress meant more for show than actual use. I doubt I’d be strong enough to actually pull it up, and I probably wouldn’t want to lay under it either considering how uncomfortable it is to lay on top of.
Thoughts tumble around inside my head painfully as my stomach rumbles, twisting with the realization that I haven’t been fed and the thought that they might never come back. I don’t sleep because I can’t even with the light overhead cutting away shadows.
And because I remember. In the middle of the night, I woke up, a sliver of moonlight falling in through my window as I lay comfortably in my bed, my mother asleep in the room next door. There wasn’t a sound, but I could feel it like waking from a bad dream. My heart beat oddly in my chest, pumping enough blood to make my ears hot. As my hand went up to press my ear lobe against my skin, letting the warmth spread out, my door burst open.
Sitting in this gray room now, my hand automatically goes up to my earlobe the same as it did hours earlier. It’s brought on by the memory, and when I realize it, I put my hand down on the blanket again and give it a rub letting it cut at my fingertips.
I remember screaming, I think. People dressed completely in black invaded my room like shadows. Their faces were covered and they wore dark shades over their eyes so that the only thing my eyes had to latch onto were their weapons. Large guns that weren’t trained on me. They didn’t have to be.
“Don’t scream,” the person in front said roughly. From the voice, I could tell it was a woman, but there was no comfort in that. She looked like the rest and held just as dangerous a weapon. She was the one to toss me the duffle bag. “Get your clothes. Let’s go. Now.”
All I could think about was Mom as I shoved the clothes into the bag. My eyes stung in fright as I shoved and kept trying to breathe. Mom hadn’t said– she couldn’t have– but I could remember her words from days ago. She said to me one morning over waffles she’d actually made herself, “Times are changing, Paula.” There was something of a sad smile to her face. Maybe it was just a cautious smile. “We’ll have to be prepared in case things change too much.”
I only looked at her like she was crazy. “And live underground like Uncle Wiley?”
She shushed me. We weren’t supposed to talk about Uncle Wiley. Still, she kept her smile plastered on her face. “And eat food out of cans. Don’t forget that part.”
Now lying on this hard mattress, I crumple. My face presses into the blanket but no tears come though I can feel them deep inside locked in my chest filling my lungs. It’s a struggle for air. I don’t know where Mom is. I don’t even know where I am.
But I still remembered the glimpse I caught of her as they hauled us to different dark vans parked askew in front of our house. Her eyes were wide enough that I could see the white edging, the black irises like perfectly round holes. In that instant I drunk in the sight of her as if I knew I wouldn’t see her again. Her short hair, dark against her light skin, was all over the place, hanging in her face wildly as she fought them. The top she wore clung tightly to her body and rode up as she struggled. But when she saw me, when her eyes went wide, she stopped. The group around her stopped too like she’d suddenly become too heavy to push on even though she’s hardly over 100 pounds all together.
And then she screamed my name. Surrounded by the noise suppressing darkness, her voice pierced through the enforced quiet. “Paula!” She began to fight again ferociously in a way I never believed she could fight, but it was useless. The darkness surrounded the both of us and pulled us in different directions. Before I even had a chance to call back I was in the van being pulled to the cold steel floor and held there as we set off.