2 girls, around 1,000 issues. Government issues, no escape, must choose one only.
“Hey Braylon, Principal Jerald wants to speak to you,” his teacher said softly.
“Hello Braylon, how are you?” What is going on? Why is he being so nice? “Ok, I guess,” I replied. “We are going to my office” Oh no, am I getting another detention? “Ok, I have Nurse Holly here. “She’s going to be looking at your right leg,” he said. Ok, what is even happening?! Braylon pulled his pant leg up and set it on the chair. “Principle Jerald, your assumptions were right. He does not have a tag,” the nurse said sorrowly. “Braylon, you’re going to be sent to a camp. Please go pack your stuff up and come back here.”
Ok, what is even happening?! What is an ID tag, and why would it be on my leg? Braylon went to his locker and grabbed his coat and backpack. He then went back to the principal's office. An IDT (Identification Tags Officer) officer took Braylon to their police van.
The van had another girl in it who must have also been missing their identification tag. “Hi! I’m Kayla, welcome to the MIDT (Missing Identity Tag) van,” she said bubbly. “Uh… hi! What exactly is an identification tag,” I said quietly. “About 3 months ago, a new law was passed. Every person in our country must have an identification tag on their leg. But, you need surgery to get the indication tag and it's about 2,000 dollars for the surgery. My parents could not afford one and then my school found out and now I’m here,” She said less bubbly. “You do know you can’t have your own clothes on in this camp, right,” she asked curiously. “Oh, no one ever told me. What do I wear,” I asked. Kayla handed him a pair of green linen pants and a green t-shirt.
“Once we get to the camp, they test you and then give you a different color. The government thinks we are dangerous. Green is the least dangerous. Then there is yellow, pink, orange, and red. I sneaked out so I’m probably going to be either an orange or pink. There are only a few red in the whole country. Do you have any records of skipping classes or getting in trouble at school?” she asked bluntly. Braylon had gotten a lot of detentions in school. “Ya, I’ve gotten a lot of detentions in school, if that counts,” Braylon said. “You will probably be pink or yellow then. Have you ever been in a fistfight,” she asked curiously. “Ya, a few over the years,” he said. “Then you will either be pink or orange. Maybe we will share a color!”
They pulled into the entrance of the camp, Braylon counted the soldiers and estimated around 250 guarding just the entrance. This was going to be a whole new world for Braylon. “Up! Now! Walk in the line!” the soldiers shouted. “That’s our cue,” Kayla said sarcastically. “You are new, go in that line,” another soldier screamed at Braylon.
Braylon stood in line for hours until it was his turn to go in the old, caramel-colored building. “Hello, what is your name,” the doctor asked. “Braylon Mel Ledger.” The doctor pulled out some files. “I see you have gotten in a couple of fights in school before,” he said curiously. Braylon nodded his head slowly. The doctor then felt Braylon’s muscles. “You are pink,” the doctor said sorrowfully. “Every week you will come back here to see if you have gone up or down a level. Our goal is to make you go down levels,” he said while he handed him a pair of pink t-shirts and pink sweatpants. “ Since you are at a dangerous level, a soldier will follow you everywhere. One will take you to your room,” he said.
A soldier grabbed him by the elbow and dragged him forcefully to his room. He put him in his room and closed the door behind him. The room was small, musty, and had about 12 bunk beds. All the pink children share this dorm. “Kayla! You are pink! Yes, now we can stick together,” Braylon said optimistically. Kayla nodded her head. “We have to start working, our job is to clean the dorms. It is the best job they offer,” she said. Kayla handed him a broom and dustpan. “Better get to work! The carpet may be cleaned before we get there, oh darn,” she said sarcastically.
“So let me give you a rundown on how it works here. We wake up at 4 am every day, we get a granola bar for breakfast. Afterward, we start cleaning the dorms. If we finish early, we cook dinner for all the colors. For dinner, you get half a bowl of Miso soup. After dinner, our group cleans up the plates. Then, we get locked in our rooms for the rest of the night. Lights must be out by 10 pm” she said strictly.
For the rest of the day, they cleaned the rooms and cooked meals. At dinner, the two of them sat together and talked about how much they wanted to go home. “I just can’t believe this is all happening,” Braylon was astonished. “You will get used to it here. Once the law stops, we probably will get sent into foster care. Our parents are never allowed to see us again,” she said sadly. Wow, I can’t believe it. I’m never going to see my family again. I’m just going to pretend I did not just hear that and I will just keep eating this Miso soup.
It has expired beef broth in it, I think it expired about 2 years ago. It has chopped up onions, green peppers, and parsley on top. I’m still really hungry, maybe I can ask for a granola bar. Braylon walked up to a soldier. “Hello, I was wondering if I could have an extra granola bar or piece of bread,” he asked calmly. “NO! Everyone gets the same amount of food! Would you like to not get any food,” the soldier asked. The soldier screeched so loud in Braylon’s ear, he almost thought he could feel the soldier's spit in his ear. Braylon walked back to his table slowly. “That went well,” Kayla said sarcastically.
“Go back to your rooms! A soldier is assigned to watch each room tonight! Green has Officer Karasla, yellow has Officers Janko, Sumer, Loughlin, and Bell. Pink has Officers Scott, Jhonson, Mitchell, Shem, Lockton, Grantly, Ivar, and Howie. The rest of the officers go orange and red,” one of the officers said. All the pinks walked to their room. There are only 14 pinks and 8 officers. All the children who seemed they were stronger got an officer to themselves. My officer was Ivar. He was about 6 foot 4, brown hair slicked back, thin-rimmed glasses, semi-skinny jeans, and an IDT officer shirt on. Kayla got two officers since she ran away from the camp a month ago. An officer - Officer Kani-was added to the pink room because they ran out. She also had officer Howie, who was about 5 foot 7, had ruffled blonde hair, had a heavy Irish accent, and he wore skinny black jeans and a ripped pink IDT shirt on.
Officer Kani had toffee-colored skin, silky black hair pulled up in a messy bun, black leggings, and a retro IDT shirt on. “Braylon wanna share bunks,” Kayla asked. Braylon nodded his head and climbed onto the bottom part of the bunk. “This bed is disgusting. It has sheets that look like they are at least 30 years old,” Kayla complained. Braylon rolled his eyes. “Good night to you to Kayla,” he said sarcastically.
“Braylon, get up,” Officer Ivar said gently. “Hi Officer Ivar,” he said. “Please, call me Jans. You look sick today Braylon, I think I should take you to the medical center,” he said. Braylon continuously coughed while Jans took him down to the medical center. “This is prisoner Braylon Mel Ledger, I think he is sick badly and needs medical attention,” Jans said to the nurse.
“Hi Braylon, I’m Nurse Kat, I hope I will be able to help you,” she said calmly while she took a sample of blood from Braylon. She then walked away and put the blood in a machine then it beeped. “Braylon, you are very ill and have pneumonia. You will be staying in the medical area until you get better,” she said gently. Nurse Kat put an IV in his forearm and kept track of his breathing. “Jans, can my friend (Kayla) come to visit me,” he asked. “Fine, I’ll bend some rules for you this one time,” he said.
“Nurse Kat, please watch Braylon while I go and get someone to bring here,” Jans said. “Ok,” she replied. Officer Ivar left the room to go get Kayla. “Kayla Martin! You are needed in the medical center! Follow me,” Officer Ivar yelled. ‘What is happening,” Kayla asked curiously. “Braylon is very ill, he requested to see you,” he responded. They walked for a little longer until they reached the medical center. Officer Ivar opened up the door for her and followed her in. “Braylon! Are you okay,” she asked fearfully. “Ya, I got pneumonia badly,” he replied in between his deep coughs. Kayla gave him a gentle hug.
“How long is he staying here,” she asked Officer Ivar. “Until he gets better, there will be a checkup here soon for everyone. Everyone will come here and come to get a health examination and then a mental health examination,” he said. “Please bring the red child in here first. I want 8 guards following him and him to be completely in handcuffs, Nurse Kat said coldly. Jans pulled out his radio and talked into it. “Yes, I need the level red down in the medical bay. The nurse wants 8 officers following the red level,” he spoke into the radio firmly. A static voice replied from what he could make out an “Okay”.
8 officers brought the red level child in at gunpoint. They instructed him to sit on the ground and threatened that if he moved, he died. The kid looked like a 10-year-old boy with a slender body and had muscles on his arms and legs. His hair looked as if it had not been washed in weeks. “What is your name,” Nurse Kat asked hesitantly. “Arnold Swenter” he replied innocently. Oh my god, that was his best friend at school. Braylon was going to copy off Araold’s homework in the study hall on Friday. Braylon thought the child looked familiar.
“Arnold! It’s me, Braylon! How did you end up here?” he asked surprisingly. “I just got here last night,” he replied. “Oh, well I’m pink.” Braylon turned to the officers. “Is there any way Arnold and I could talk to each other sometime?” he asked hopefully. “Hmm… Maybe you two could go to a group session together with the counselor here,” Officer Jans replied. “I’ll make an appointment later.”
“Alright Arnold, I am going to check your blood pressure and do some blood work,” Nurse Kat said. Nurse Kat injected the needle into his arm and went into the other room. “Can you guys like not to point your guns at me? I am not going to go anywhere..,” Arnold said to the officers. “No. You are red, that means always at gunpoint,” one of the officers said. Arnold shook his head in disappointment. Nurse Kat came back in with a clipboard with the results of the bloodwork on them. “They all came back negative, you are free to go. Officers, please escort him back to the red area.”
“Stand up slowly and face the wall,” one of the officers ordered Arnold. When he got up, they handcuffed his arms and legs and then walked him out. I coughed deeply and was unable to stop coughing. Nurse Kat walked over and gave me medicine. “That should help with the coughing. I’m going to call down the orange..” she said fearfully. She grabbed her radio and started talking into it, “I need orange down in the medical bay. As many officers as possible to escort. There should be NO risks bringing her in here.” I coughed some more and eventually threw up.
After about half an hour, we heard a knock on the door. A group of about 10 guards walked in, and behind them was a muscular girl. She looked very strong. She had 3 guards holding her arms, and her face was covered with a cloth. Behind her were about 10 more guards. They all walked in and sat her on the floor. They handcuffed her hands and legs to the leg of a chair. “You really tied this girl up so much? She's an innocent 13-year-old girl,” she said while taking off her cloth. Underneath the cloth was a beautiful girl with caramel colored skin and long wavy black hair. She had it pulled back in a messy bun, and wore an all-orange jumpsuit with big hoop earrings. Her shoes were worn and muddy, I could tell they used to be expensive shoes. A part of a logo showed behind the mud. “Alright Sami, ready for chemo?” she said while she grabbed an IV pole. She reached for her port (Chemo tube in the chest) and connected it to the pump.
“Guards, let go of her. It's part of the protocol. No restraining during extreme treatment. You may guard the doors, I have to go get something ready for someone else, watch the patients,” she said while walking away. I coughed deeply and smiled at Sammi, she did a slight smile but then winced in pain. “Get up and move to this bed,” one of the guards said. Sammi winced in pain as she got up and sat on the bed that was next to mine. Her hair swayed when she got in bed and I watched it swoosh from side to side.
I reached over to her bed and grabbed her arm, giving her a reassuring nod that she can do this. I was in love, I knew at that moment that all I wanted to do was spend time with her. My lungs were raging from a fiery pain but I did not notice. All I could imagine was Sammi dancing with me and taking her to a movie. “Sammi will need to stay here for a few days, the tumor is growing rapidly. Only 2 guards will be needed because she will be extremely weak after treatment. Oh and Braylon, you need to get an MRI scan, I don’t think it's pneumonia anymore,” she said while unlocking the bed. She wheeled me into a room with a big circle around it. “This won't hurt at all,” she said reassuringly. The machine sounded like a loud construction site.
About half an hour later, she wheeled me back out next to Sammi. “I’m Braylon, I'm pink,” I said in a shaky voice. “Sammi, orange, I got leukemia…” We stared at each other blankly, and then a machine started to beep. “Dinner time, it's a mix of peas and chicken for you Braylon. Sami, we are going to insert a feeding tube so you can get nutrition,” she said while wheeling a cart into the room. She pulled a table up near my bed and put a plate on the table.
It consisted of brownish-green peas that were semi mushed and slimy chicken with mysterious sauces on top. I was not that hungry and just pushed my food into tiny piles. I watched as the nurse inserted a tube down Sammi’s nose and into her stomach. She squinted and then drank a glass of water.
“Well kids, it's nighttime. I am going to leave for the night. 3 guards will be standing outside,” the nurse said while walking away. After she left, Sammi and I started at each other for what seemed like forever. I got up slowly and walked over to her bed. When I hoisted myself up, I felt her touch my back.
I smiled slowly. We hugged each other for a while and talked about our lives. I found out that Sammi was a runaway teen, she hated school so she decided to run away. She ended up going to juvie for 4 months. When she was released she was sent here. I told her my story while hugging her, the rest of the night was a blur.
The bright lights flickered above me, my eyes squinted from the change. I looked forward, looking for Sammi except she wasn’t there. I tried to get up but couldn’t, I shrieked. My legs and arms were tied down to what looked like a piece of an old bookshelf. I heard the sound of clicking and the sound of a door opening. I saw a person with a pink jumpsuit come forward. I closed my eyes, reciting my last wishes in my brain. “Shhh! Braylon, you're going to put us in danger. It’s me, Kayla, I saved you. They were going to kill you, you were going to be killed. They were considering you a ‘lost cause’. You got diagnosed with tuberculosis,” she said quietly.
“Why did you lock me up here!!!''I said yelling. She threw something at me to make me be quiet, but I couldn’t see what. Then it all went black. I heard a shriek and then nothing else. Silence. I saw a sliver of light and then nothing at all. When I finally regained the ability to speak, I yelled hoping someone would answer me. I still could not see, I felt my head and something was wrapped around it. “Shut up ya loud chum!” someone said in a thick British accent.
I heard a radio static and I kept shrieking. “Ye, he awakened al’ right. Loud kid won't stop screamin’. Come quick please.” I heard the guy say into the radio. A few moments later I heard a door swing open. “Braylon, calm down! You're in your new room,” said a familiar voice. I recognized the sound, it was Nurse Kat. I shrieked again, I didn’t know what else to do. Then I felt a needle being put on my lips, they turned so numb I couldn't speak. “I didn’t want to do that Braylon, but you need to quiet down.
Kayla snuck you out of camp for hopes of freedom. She threw a brick at your eyes, causing your blindness. She freaked out that she hit your head. She came running back here. You and Kayla are now in level orange, and this is your room. I will help you learn how to do daily skills and we will continue treatment on tuberculosis. We start tomorrow, be prepared.
The rest of the day I lied on the rock floor and waited. I don’t know what I was waiting for. But, I was waiting for something to happen, or maybe I was waiting for change or chances. When treatment started, It started with walking. Something that seemed so easy with sight. Without sight, you trust a stick with every step of your life. My life has turned into a dark abyss, never-ending. I don’t understand it anymore. Everywhere I look is darkness.
My breath is running short, I see the bush I need to dive into. “Stop in the name of the law!” I heard someone scream. Sirens and dogs barking flooded my eardrums. I kicked away a dog that was biting my shin and kept running. I felt a sharp pain in my back. Darkness swept away my feet, I heard shouting and then someone turning me over. More sirens, more people.
Bright lights welcomed me when I opened my eyes. I was handcuffed to a bed. “Kayla, you are in the hospital, you got shot in the lower back,” someone in an IDT shirt said. I tug my hands against the handcuffs. “Alright, she is stable enough to go back to camp now, just make sure she changes the dressings on her back. A nurse will be in shortly to wheel her out to the van”
I watched as he left the room and the door swung back and forth afterward. A few moments later, 2 nurses came in and picked me up, and placed me in a wheelchair. The officer moved the handcuffs from the bed to the wheelchair and walked alongside us. The elevator was crowded and I was squashed. When we got downstairs, the van was waiting outside. “On the count of 3, we pick her up” I felt a hand slide under my upper thighs and they picked me up. I heard the clicking sound when they handcuffed me to the bar in the van.
We drove around for about an hour till we pulled up to a school. I saw officers holding a kid by the arms and then I saw him. Brown shaggy hair and he wore a black t-shirt and grey sweatpants. The second I saw him I turned into this flirty girl. When he got in the van I smiled at him. I fiddled with a strand of my hair. I talked to him for a while, told him what this is. We pulled up to the camp and we went our separate ways. I got dragged to a special officer called the “Runaway unit”. When I got there, it was a locked room with a doctor. “Hello Kayla, you are aware, you broke the law after breaking the law, correct? This is a serious offense. We are going to review your case some more and decide your color.”
He pulled over a table with a laptop. When he turned it on, a video started of me running away. I punched an officer to get away and ran into the bushes. When the video ended, the doctor cleared his throat. “Well the violence you committed against the officer makes you a pink.”
An officer pulled me out of the room and walked me out of the room and over to our dorm. When I got there, I changed into my pink jumpsuit. I started to unpack my bag. It didn’t consist of much since I am not allowed much, I had a notebook, pen, and a pair of grey converse.
My brain goes back to when I was 13, it was my birthday and my Aunt Bridget came over. At this point in my life, my family was poor and we lived in a single-room apartment with peeling paint and carpet. A box wrapped loosely in foil was handed to me by my mom. It had a shoe-lace bow on top. When I opened it, it was my aunt’s pair of old converse. Immediately I ran outside in them, my aunt died a year later and these shoes are all I have left of her.
My mind goes back to the present and I am disappointed. I tie the thread-bare shoelaces. I stare at the gray shoes with splotches of mud on them. I put my hand over them and closed my eyes. My eyes shoot open when I hear a door barge open. There I see Braylon with a stack of pile-high pink clothes and an officer. My frown automatically turns into a smile.