It’s hard to find the right words to describe it. Whether it was nightmarish, desolate, haunting, or just plain depressing. All I know is that the G.O.T. had somehow managed to turn our peaceful, serene home into a mass of wildfires and barren streets. They told us that change was good, that they had the ultimate plan so that in the future there would never be another war, no one would have to die unnecessarily. That we would be the start of a new era. I think I’d rather be dead. So did the Circle. We were stuck in a dystopia, but at some point, we would take them down. We will.
My cousin Anna was watching promos for the G.O.T. Of course, to the untrained eye it was just another soap opera; they’d weaselled in a compliment into every show now.
“Why should I fear, Milly?” The blonde, over-dramatic actress asked in a bad fake southern accent. “Our government will protect us, after all…”
“I can’t believe we’re the only ones who realize this,” Anna said, throwing her hands up in the air. “They always put too much emphasis when they talk about how great their government is! How does no one else notice they’re trying to crawl into our brains and fill us with their poison?”
We all hated the G.O.T. – at least our small Circle who saw through their little black lies – but Anna loathed them with a burning passion. She had a right to; they took her family from her – but their death was considered necessary, despite no one knowing what they did in the first place. Our underground group that opposed the GOT suspected they were secretly wiping out families, one by one. It was only by fluke that Anna survived.
“The Government Of Tomorrow…” she mused. “Hey Mark? How much longer do you think it’ll be before people outside the Circle start realizing they’re out for control and they just go ahead and kill everybody?”
I shook my head solemnly. “I don’t know. But control is an understatement. The GOT’s gone completely world domination on us.”
“Won’t be much left to dominate if they keep wiping people out. Yesterday the news said there were ten unreported deaths.”
“If they were unreported then how did she know about it?”
“I dunno. But now there’s eleven, because today they had a new anchor.”
We spent most of our time secretly gossiping about things like this. We barely left the house, too afraid to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just me and Anna living together. My parents had gone off to the war effort. Yes, the Government who said they found a solution so there was no need for war, started a war. The war to end all wars, they called it. I read a history book once that said the same thing, some hundred years ago. Now that entire side of the earth is an empty, lifeless graveyard.
“What do you suppose. . .” Anna trailed off.
“Shh.” She tiptoed to the window and slowly pulled back the curtain, just enough so that she could peek out without being noticed.
“What is it?” I whispered.
“Just listen.” I did. At first I heard nothing, but then I picked up on it. Outside there was screaming and crying, And the sounds of shattering windows and beating down doors that could only be the GOT forcing their way into houses.
We normally managed to be overlooked in these random raids, and whether or not that was a flaw or purposely because they knew Anna was hiding here we didn’t know, but the severity of the screaming outside left an eerie atmosphere surrounding us.
I heard Anna curse under her breath. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Go lock the door.” I stood frozen and stared at her, dazed. “Someone’s coming. Go lock the door. Lock the door! Lock the door!” The urgency in her voice rose as we both ran for the door, praying we’d beat whoever was outside to it. I turned the lock just in time; we could see an outline of a man behind the stained-glass window, and both of us had to hold the door shut to prevent them from getting in.
“Anna! It’s me! Hurry the hell up and let me in!” The both of us breathed a sigh of relief at the familiar voice as Anna opened the door and let Jordan in. They pulled each other in for a hug. “Thank God you’re alright,” Anna whispered before they kissed. I pretended to gag and Anna hit me over the head. “Shut up, Mark.”
“Oh, he’s just still bitter from when Chelsea dumped him.”
I winced at the thought of my ex. “What’s the damage out there?” I asked in an attempt to change the subject.
Jordan and I started barricading the door. “I think this is the worst raid yet. You’d think people would be suspicious by now. If we’re supposedly winning the war, then why are we getting attacked so often?”
“Because we’re not winning the war,” Anna said icily. “The war’s their excuse to kill as many of us as possible.”
“What about the Circle?” I asked. “How many did we lose so far?”
“I saw four on my way over here. About three more injured, hiding out and hoping for the best. I had nothing to give them.”
Every member of the Circle had a tiny tattoo on their wrist, not so big that everyone would notice it, but just big enough that those looking for it could see it. It was still a risky move, the GOT knew the majority of people that they should keep a close eye on. We were lucky we’d gotten this far without them noticing, especially since they keep an eye on me and Anna.
“Maggie and her brother, Samantha, and that old man Caine.”
“That guy was a drunk anyway,” Anna said matter-of-factly. “Sucks about Maggie and the others though…”
An explosion went off outside that sounded dangerously close. We all ran away from the door and into the Safe Room. Technically it wasn’t “safe”, just a small crawlspace that took us down to the basement, but it was safer than outside.
We all huddled up against the back wall and stayed quiet. We stared up at the entrance we just came in through and listened for the loud footsteps of the raiders, but heard nothing. I took one look at the terror on Anna’s face and knew that she was thinking the same thing I was: That explosion was meant to hit us.
Jordan broke the silence. “There’s something not right about this.”
“There’s nothing right about any of this,” I whispered. “It’s sick that -”
“No,” Anna cut me off. “That’s not what he means. Why’d they miss?”
“They just did. It was a mistake, a fluke.”
She let out a bitter laugh. “They’re planning something bigger. They don’t have flukes anymore.”
A wave of pity washed over me as I remembered Anna showing up on my doorstep a year ago, bloodied and crying, begging for me to help her. She was two years older than me and asking me to be the adult. I was only twelve at the time. I had no idea what to do. I let her in but once I closed the door I didn’t have a clue what to say to her. So, she cried. Anna was never the same after that. She’d break out into a fit of rage without warning, and every time she’d see one of the GOT’s troops, it took everything me and Jordan had to hold her back and not lunge at them with her. That was what sparked the creation of the Circle. We wouldn’t lunge at them because we knew three people couldn’t take them down. But once it was big enough, the Circle would challenge them, intimidate them. So that’s what we planned to do.
“In a minute they’ll realize they missed, turn back around, and hit us. There’s no bigger plan. They just missed,” I reassured her. And the sad thing was, it did reassure her. All three of us. Being bombed to death was a safe haven compared to anything they’d do if they had us alive.
Anna curled up in the fetal position and rocked herself back and forth. She closed her eyes tight and started singing to herself, trying to block out the sounds. The Safe Room wasn’t exactly soundproof.
And thank goodness for that.
“Footsteps,” Jordan mouthed to me as he glanced nervously at Anna, hoping she would just keep singing and not notice.
I slowly stood up and inched toward the crawlspace door. I opened a small compartment in the wall and pulled out a gun. It wasn’t much, and a bit of an action movie cliche, but once the bullets locked on a target they would aim for it until they hit it. Unless someone got in the way. Then they’d hit them.
As I listened to the footsteps overhead get closer, I pressed myself against the wall and got ready to aim whenever the door opened. I wasn’t ready for the door exploding and knocking me back three feet.
A man dressed in camouflage came through the newly-made hole in the wall. I recognized his outfit from an old documentary; it was an old fashioned army outfit. It used to be worn by people fighting for their country. Now it was only ever worn by people fighting against their country.
A burning sensation passed through my back when I tried to stand up. I watched Anna go into hysterics as her and Jordan started yelling at the soldier. I only saw their mouths moving, which made me suddenly aware of the ringing in my ears. I looked around for my gun, and spotted it just a few feet away. I reached for it, but winced at the searing pain in my hand when the soldier’s foot crashed onto it.
“Nice try, kid,” I vaguely heard him say. “So nice, in fact, that maybe I’ll be nice myself and get rid of you quicker than planned.” His foot sideswiped me, making me spit out some blood.
“Is that your definition of nice?”
“Well, if you want,” he whispered, crouching down to my level, “I could keep you alive while I take care of your girlfriend over there.”
“Ew!” Anna yelled. “I’m his cousin you idiot!”
The soldier wasn’t expecting that. Not that we were family, but for Anna to be yelling at him instead of cowering, even though he just said he was going to kill her. She might blubber like a baby around me or Jordan, but you’ll get nothing out of her besides sarcasm and wit when she’s dealing with someone she doesn’t like. Or in this case, someone she loathes.
He stormed over to her and grabbed her arm. She pulled away. “Don’t touch me.”
The man threw back his head and laughed. “Do you think you scare me, girly?”
Anna’s voice was stone cold. “Do you think you scare me?”
He stepped closer to her, making Jordan take a step closer, too. “I don’t scare you? Come on now, you’re a bright young girl. You’ve figured out things a few members of the government itself still don’t know. Let’s just be honest with each other. You’re afraid of me just as much as a cat’s afraid of a ticked off rottweiler. And if you’re not, what else could you possibly think of someone like me?”
A smile spread across her face and I knew what she was going to do before it even happened. She stayed still and quiet for a minute, and then just when the soldier was about to say “Exactly” (because they always did), she spit in his face. The man wiped his face with his sleeve and glared at her.
“I’ll repeat myself. Maybe this time you’ll understand and it’ll get through your fat head. You. Don’t. Scare. Me.” She enunciated.
Anna glanced over at me and then to the door, and I realized she was stalling so I could escape. I didn’t move, and not just because of the pain it would cause. She was stupid if she thought I was going to leave her here.
“I don’t scare you…” The soldier seemed to be letting it sink in. I don’t think they were ever trained for what to do in a situation like this. “What about you? You scared of me?” He growled at Jordan.
I watched his Adam’s apple rise and fall, and I knew he was more nervous than he was letting on. His hands slipped around Anna’s waist and he pulled her close, all the while making sure not to break eye contact with the man. “No. I’m not scared of you. I’m disgusted by you.”
“We all are,” Anna mumbled.
For whatever reason, this seemed to humour him. “Is that so? Disgusted? Well then what’s the purpose of this?” He grabbed Anna’s wrist and pushed back her sleeve, revealing the Circle’s trademark tattoo. I silently cursed myself for ever thinking it was a good idea.
“You don’t think we never knew about this?” The man yelled. “You think we’re that stupid? You going around saying you’re disgusted by us, ha! Well then, what was your plan? Did you honestly expect to take out the GOT without killing anybody?”
Rage bubbled up inside of me. “At least we’d have a reason!” I yelled.
He laughed again. “You don’t even know the meaning of justice, kid. None of you do. And yeah, that includes you, Miss Save The World.”
It was then that it occurred to me there was something that I didn’t know. And from the confused look on his face, my guess was Jordan didn’t either. It was me who came up with the Circle, so that I’d have something to keep in Anna’s mind and stop her from lashing out so much. If they’d known the Circle existed, the GOT would’ve known that too. Anna had done something to hurt the GOT and never told me. She’d gone and done something completely stupid, most likely knowing there would be consequences.
But while the soldier stood in front of her, ridiculing her and claiming we were in the wrong just as much as he was, her face never changed. She listened to his annoying accent and crappy English threaten her and everything she loved, and when he was finally finished all that she said was, “You still don’t scare me.”
My heart sank as I watched him point a gun towards her head and pull the trigger.
It’s hard to describe it. Whether it was dreary, merciless, overwhelming, or just plain hopeless. All I know is that at that moment the GOT was about to take away one of the few people I had left. They told us that change was good, that they had the ultimate plan so that in the future there would never be another war, no one would have to die unnecessarily . That we would be the start of a new era. I think I’d rather be dead. So did Anna. We were stuck in a dystopia, but at some point, we would take them down. We will.
And I won’t let her die.