The Sequel to March 1st, 2056.
|The funeral was quiet, small, and nearly private. I only went to try and see if I could find any clarity. Natalie is dead, found early March 1st, with multiple bullet wounds in her torso and legs. The leg shots were the oldest by a couple of minutes. Whoever shot her let her suffer before she died. I try not to think about it, but my father says I’m too bright to let things pass me by and too dumb not to point them out. I generally take that as condescending, but not untrue. I do need to learn to hold my tongue. The preacher finishes blessing her soul, like what he has to say will impact what the Lord thinks of her. It’s finally over. She doesn’t know it, she’ll never know it, but she’s started something. Something big. It’s just no one knows what yet.
The date is March 3rd, the news is on. My mother sits in front of it, staring into the lights on the T.V long after they’ve lost meaning. I can’t stand the news, or the slave my mother has turned into when it’s on. It’s the same junk over and over again. I reach over her and turn the television off. She glares at me, another example of stellar parenting.
“It’s the middle of the night, why are we watching the news?”
“Something might come up, you don’t know. If you don’t like it, go to bed.”
So I do. My mother is paranoid after what happened to Natalie and the rest of the kids my age when they went to protest. But she doesn’t know what I’m planning could be so much more dangerous. I see Natalie’s journal peeking out at me from under a stack of papers at my desk. I should hide it better.
I look around my room carefully, looking for places to hide a small object. Desk drawers are too obvious. I don’t have a dresser, but I have a closet. It’s small and cut off from the rest of my room by a door. At first glance, it seems like a good hiding place, but I know better. I’ve hidden things there before when I was younger, and they always seem to be found. I pick up the journal, absentmindedly running my hand over the surface. It’s a small black leatherbound book, similar to the bible that my father reads out of every night. Similarly, this book contains perceived truth, which is why I feel the need to hide it. I hear stories at school of officers showing up at kid’s houses, making arrests, and seizing personal possessions. Most were religious, some weren’t. I don’t think they’re targeting religious families, that wouldn’t make sense, and since they’re still pushing the parasite story they need a target group. The redheads have disappeared from society completely, and have been gone for about a week and a half. They remain in their houses, like Natalie’s mother in mourning, but those found on the street are arrested “for the good of the people”. As if they aren’t people themselves. If the average citizen in this area of America had the IQ of a guinea pig they’d question it. But they have the mentality of sheep, these people. It’s a dangerous ocean to wade through. Quite a disturbing thought to fall asleep to.
School is boring, as per usual. Nothing happens until history class. My teacher, called Ms. Bailey, tears up her lesson plan and decides to start from scratch. She thinks it’s time to truly teach us about the real world. I for one think they should have started doing that years ago, but no one ever asked me. She said we’re going to start by watching old movies, what used to be a genre called “speculative fiction”. We talked about a man called Christopher Nolan, and his movies. She called them the pinnacle of movies that made the audience think. After we finish the movies, we’re going to read. A very popular genre of books from the past, called Dystopia, will also be talked about. The likes of Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver. Maybe even a series called The Hunger Games. Ms. Bailey could be an ally, potentially. I’ll just have to see.
“Alrighty, class, that’s it for today. Remember to research deus ex machina and how it can pertain to real life.”
I’m walking down the hall between classes, backpack slung over one shoulder, when the principal stops me. He’s a balding man, at least 50 years old, and he walks around the school like a king. He scares me if I’m honest.
“Good afternoon, Miss-er-,”
“Miss Green. If you’d just come with me, please.”
My stomach drops. The notebook, the only proof of government wrongdoing, is in my possession. I have it on me. I’m an idiot for having it on me, and I’m an idiot for getting caught. Now I don’t have any choice but to walk straight into it and accept what’s going to happen. So I follow the principal to my doom. That is until a tall kid in a hoodie dodges around the principal and runs straight into me. My possessions spill out of my backpack as I fall. He says a hurried apology as he turns and jogs off, presumably to get to his next class. I could have sworn I saw him slip something into his hoodie pocket. The principal (I just now realized I have no clue what his name is, that’s odd.) doesn’t even reprimand him. Something’s up, and I suspect I’ll figure out what it is soon enough.
The principal’s office is small but ornate. The desk is some type of dark wood, it looks heavy. The chair behind it looks more like a throne. Meanwhile, the chair I sit in is standard for most school classrooms.
“Is there a problem?”
“We’ll see. Give me your bag.”
I hand my bag over slowly, trying not to look guilty. He unzips it the rest of the way, spilling the contents onto the surface of the desk. Binders, books, and pencils spill out. I don’t see Natalie’s notebook anywhere. My heart feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest. He unzips all the pockets, seemingly frustrated.
“Are you looking for something in particular?” I ask, relieved. He stays silent, pawing through my binders and pencil case.
“Sir? If you tell me what you’re looking for I can help.”
“Shut up! I know you have it! Where is it?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” I’m struggling to keep my voice calm. I’m safe for now if I don’t mess this up.
“Just leave. I’ll get you eventually.”
I couldn’t get out of that office fast enough. I scurry down the hall to my class, then decide to just go home. I won’t be able to focus anyways.
I might have missed getting in trouble (or worse) but I still lost the notebook. I’m still screwed. I sit at my desk, thinking. How can I get it back? I’m not even sure where it is. I ponder this for a good hour before my mother discovers me home early and tells me to sit down in the living room.
“Why are you home early?”
“I felt like it.” I’m terrible, I know, but you have to consider how little she appears to care most of the time. Today just isn’t my day.
“You can’t come home just because you feel like it!”
“Well, I did.”
She takes a deep breath, about to punish me, when the doorbell rings. When I pull the door open, I see the kid from earlier.
“Um, hey.” He says. He’s out of breath, he must have run.
“Hey. You should probably come in.”
He follows me into the living room, much to my mother’s chagrin.
“May I ask who you are?”
“My name is Daniel, ma’am. Nice to meet you.” He smiles at her, and she sniffs and goes to clean the kitchen.
“Should we go somewhere else?”
“Probably.” He says bluntly.
“My room then. Follow me.”
I throw open the door and usher him inside, shutting it behind me.
“This is yours.” He tosses the notebook at me.
“How’d you know I needed help?”
“Natalie asked me to make sure you got by with whatever it is you asked her to do.”
“Deus ex machina?”
He grins at me.
“Deus ex machina. Or just ex machina if you’d prefer.”
“From the machine? No God involved?”
“Who needs a god when you can rely on yourself?”
“Fair enough. You should probably go.’
“Yeah, probably. See ya around.”
As he leaves, I look for hiding spots and finally figure it out. I’ll take one of my air conditioner grates out and hide it in the ducts. We don't have a screwdriver in the house, though, so I’ll have to improvise. Scissors could work. I wedge the flat of the blade into the screw and twist until I have all 4 screws out. Then I store the notebook in the duct, making sure it's out of sight, and restore the grate to its original position. Nothing left to do now but figure out how to spread the word.
I decide to ask Daniel for help. I’m going to need someone, and he already helped me once. I notice he’s in my history class too, maybe I can get a hold of him during class.
“Hey, Daniel, can I talk to you a second?”
“Yeah, sure. What’s up?”
“About the Note-”
“Not here. Can you come over after school?”
“Umm, yeah, I suppose.”
“Cool, meet up with me by your locker. See ya.”
I better tread carefully with this one. I'm still not sure I can trust him
I meet Daniel by my locker as planned.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
We walk out by the bike rack, past the library, and into the street.
“Where do you live?” I ask, leaning into the wind slightly. He hands me his jacket.
“Here. The rough side of town.”
“I don’t need this, you take it.”
“You’re shivering. Put the jacket on.”
I shrug it over my shoulders, sighing.
“So, the rough side of town, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s not as bad as you probably think.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that,” I say hurriedly. I start to notice people watching us. A couple of older men shout something at us, I can’t tell what.
“Ignore them. They’re probably drunk.”
We walk for a while, occasionally passing cars and shops. This part of the city is shady, to say the least. You hear stories sometimes of people going missing around here. Most turn up dead.
“This one’s mine.”
He takes a key out of his pocket and opens the door for me, flipping the light on and locking the door.
“So, are your parents home or anything?”
“Nah, they haven’t been home for years.” He says with a pained expression.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“No, you’re fine, you couldn’t have known. I barely knew. Do you want something to eat?”
“Yes, actually. If it isn’t too much trouble.”
“Not at all.”
He gestures to the worn kitchen table, pouring me a glass of water.
“Here. What’d you want?”
“Whatever is fine.”
He slides a sandwich across the table to me, then sits down, looking at me intently. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I started eating.
“So,” I say, swallowing. “What do we want to do?”
“Well, your goal is to distribute the contents of Natalie’s notebook to the population of the city right?”
“Yep. More or less the goal.”
“So we should find a way to mass send it. Do you think the internet would work?”
“I doubt it, not enough people have internet access and it’s easily blockable.”
We’re silent for a moment, both thinking.
“What if we printed the pages and put them together into leaflets?”
“I don’t think we have the resources for that. Besides, how would we distribute it?”
“Good point. What about the news? If we could get on there we could enter basically every home in the city.”
“That...just might work. Let’s see what we can do.”
“Alrighty, let’s get to work.”
By the time we finish talking, it’s well after 10:00. I curse under my breath when I realize how late it is.
“I need to get home.” He stands up as I do, easily 4 or 5 inches taller.
“It isn’t safe at this time of night. You can’t just go walking out after dark here.”
“But my parents don’t even know where I am!”
“I’m sure they’d rather you be alive than home at the moment.”
“No, you don’t understand. They’ll kill me.”
I shove past him and start walking back to my house. It’s about 20 minutes away, I should be fine. I’m actually a bit surprised he doesn’t follow me.
About 15 minutes out from my house, I swear I see someone following me. I don’t stop, because I can’t tell who it is. Shadows seem to move around me. Then something leaps out of an alleyway to my right, tackling me. I scream, hitting my head on the cold concrete. My vision goes fuzzy, and I see spots. I feel a knife blade against my throat, opening a fine gash right under my jaw. I scream again.
“Daniel! Dan-” A large hand clamps down on my month, cursing and telling me to shut up or they’ll kill me. Tears are streaming out of my eyes, mixing with the blood and sweat and coloring my shirt, and the sidewalk beneath me. I’m going to die. Oh God. I’m going to die.
A sharp crack spits fire into the night and my attacker yells in pain. Another crack, I can’t tell what it is, and he goes still. I stay still, scared stiff. Someone kneels over me, breathing heavily. Their voice is vaguely familiar as they mutter soothingly.
“Daniel?” My voice is weak, frail even.
“Yeah, I’m here. I’m here now. You’re gonna be ok. I’m here.”
He picks me up, holding me steady.
“You’re going to have to walk, ok? I’ll keep you as steady as I can, but I can’t carry you on my own.”
It takes us a good 10 minutes to get back to his house, but we finally make it. He leads me to a bedroom, helping me into the bed. I’m out as soon as my head hits the pillow.
When I wake up the next morning, sunlight streams into the window between the curtains, hurting my eyes. I open the door and walk into the living room, fully preparing to leave. Daniel is stretched out on the couch, humming slightly in his sleep. I think about waking him but decide against it. Then I decide not to go home either. I can’t face my parents right now, not with a cut across my jawline and a pretty nice bump developing on the back of my head. I decide to go home to get the journal, and then come back. I scribble a quick note and leave discreetly.
The second I ease the door open, I notice the silence. I sigh with relief, they aren’t home. I go upstairs, unscrew the grate, and grab the notebook. I make sure to screw the grate back in securely and lock the door behind me. As I walk through the city, I’m aware of how desolate it seems to have become. I only see a person now and then, and they’re almost always middle-aged women, probably running errands. That’s why when I look into a coffee shop window and glimpse auburn hair I do a double-take. Is that Natalie’s mother? It can’t be, can it? I make a B-line for the shop, opening the door. The bell over the door chimes and everyone looks up at me. I turn towards the booth, and I confirm my suspicion. It’s Natalie’s mother, alright. I approach the table.
“Can I sit?”
“Of course, dear. Make yourself comfortable.” She smiles, the wrinkles around her eyes defining themselves.
“Would you like something? I’ll pay.”
“No, no. I’m fine.”
“Alrighty. Did you want something in particular?”
“Something just told me you could use someone to talk to.”
“Oh, dear. The Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn’t he? I suppose I could use some conversation, after Natalie…”
She trails off, looking sad.
“Ma’am? It’s alright, I’m here to listen.”
As I exit the coffee shop, long after Natalie’s mother left, I have a couple of things on my mind. First of these is our plan. I don’t want to die, I’ve seen firsthand now what death does to the people you love. It ruins them emotionally for a while, and eventually, they get over it, but I doubt the pain ever fully goes away. Second is the fact that Daniel is now involved in this plan, meaning that if we both get killed, no one will be around to remember him. That’s not a great thought, but I can’t help thinking it anyway.
When I get back to Daniel’s house, he’s sitting on the couch, sipping coffee.
“I got us a spot on the news. 9:00 tomorrow morning.”
My stomach drops.
“Are you serious?”
“Ok, what are we going to do, just read it?”
“I thought we could. I mean, I have a gun…”
“Do you not remember last night at all? I killed that dude that was on you.”
“I shot the guy who was attacking you. I didn't really want to but it was the only option.”
I’m shocked. I had realized something had happened, but I didn’t put two and two together. He killed someone.
“Look, it really was the only option, trust me. I’ve been there before, it’s the only way.”
“I believe you, but jeez. Don’t you even feel bad?”
“Not really. I mean, I don’t feel good about it, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I guess it is what I’m asking. Sorry.”
“No reason to be. It’s my fault.”
We spend the rest of the afternoon planning. We realize we’ll have limited time before we’ll be met with aggression, so we have to pick and choose. I’m pretty sure I doze off a couple of times before we finish. I’m just tired.
When I wake up, I’m immediately aware of Daniel’s chest underneath my head. I can hear his heartbeat. It might not be beating later tonight, but I try to push that thought away. It’s close to an end. I can feel it.
We get dressed up nice (I had to run home to change), and we head to the news station, in the urban heart of the city. We have to ride a bus, something that I usually don’t have to do. I fidget the whole ride there, unable to wait. We finally pull up to the news station. It’s showtime.
We enter the station, entering the studio. The newscasters look at us nervously, they’re high society and we’re not. They tell us we’re live in 5 minutes.
“So, you two have a breaking news story?” The blonde woman sitting next to us says.
“Yes, Ma’am. This is the journal of Natalie Priceton, a student in our grade who was killed by the government. She wanted us to share.”
There’s silence. They’re shocked, they don’t know what to say. So I start reading.
“Here’s what she wrote, every day of February leading up to her murder on March 1st.” And I read. I read about her life, I read about what she thought, I read it all without interruption. I can hear someone in the next room talking to someone named Officer Pire. Oh, Officer. Wonderful. This is where stuff gets real.
A tall man enters the room, decked to the nines in medals and uniform.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“We’re spreading the truth, officer.”
“I can't allow you to-”
I read over him. I can feel the people at home watching me, hanging on my words, on the words of a dead girl just trying to set things straight. And I feel strong. I notice everyone but Daniel and I leave the room. I notice Officer Pire take out a gun. I see Daniel put his on the table, a sign of peace. And I hear the shot very clearly. I feel the bullet. It’s hot and it stings like nothing I’ve ever felt. I slump over in my chair and fall to the ground. I’m bleeding from my stomach, and I’m losing blood fast. Daniel kneels beside me, just like the night before last except this time it’s different, this time it’s irreparable. I see the heel crash down on Daniel’s head, forcing him flat against the ground, and then the gun that replaces the foot. His eyes widen in fear, but he doesn’t struggle. He knows where this is going. His hand reaches out for mine, my fingers intertwining with his, both of our palms sweaty. I’m scared to death, but there’s a certain stubbornness too. A part of me that won’t let anyone see me scared. I’ve done my job. I’m done. I close my eyes and hear the gun fire. Then it’s silent.
“Open your eyes, girl. See what you’ve done.”
I won’t open my eyes. He’s not dead, he’s not even here. The foreign object pressed against my head doesn’t have blood on it, and it certainly isn’t a gun. The fear I feel doesn’t exist anymore. I’m at peace.
CNN Broadcast, March 15th, 2056:
Two youths were killed earlier yesterday by none other than Officer James Pire, an esteemed member of the president’s guard. He was tried and found guilty for murder, and will be put to death by lethal injection later today. The president has been impeached and all associated with the Natalie Priceton case has been fired and await trial. A new government will be elected. The truth is finally revealed. All is well.