Short Story Sunday | The Turning of Times (part 2)

The Turning of Times will continue on this weeks Short Story Sunday!

Part 2

The next morning I was rudely woken by the irritating singing of the morning alarm. Every single morning was the same. Just as every single day was the same. I stepped out onto the cold floor and peeled away my gray sleepwear. The gray t-shirt and matching sweats hit the floor and I didn’t bother to pick them up. The cleaner comes on Mondays; I wanted her to have something to do. A fresh uniform was waiting for me along with two others. Every night at 10:00 everyone puts their uniforms in their closets and the power wash goes on. All laundry is done at exactly the same time using perfectly programmed machines that measure for the perfect balance of soap and water. Nothing is wasted.

I walked into our bathroom and brushed out my short choppy hair. All the girls my age had the same or similar haircuts. All one length at the chin. Once a month during classes everyone gets a haircut. For the longest time I thought we were all born like that. The only difference is the color. Mine is a rich red that matches my pale skin tone and freckled nose. Grandmother always told me that I was one of a kind. I am in a way. No one else has the same hair color I do, not that I have seen in our villa anyway.

I brushed my teeth and washed the sleep from my eyes but I still felt drained. My parents are never home in the mornings. Once I’d turned 16 their work shifts changed to a 7:00 start because of my age. So I could learn to be on my own I guess which is fine with me. They are poor company anyhow.

I opened up the food box and my Early Meal was the only thing in there; already prepared for me to eat. I took the oatmeal and banana and ate it alone at the table. I honestly didn’t feel like going to classes today. Thankfully I was almost done with this year level and I would soon be going out on my own and joining the workforce. A husband will be assigned to me when I am 18 in a few years we will begin making our own children. At least that is what everyone has been expected to do.  I often thought about how I don’t have any desire to have children, but it’s not like I have much of a choice. President says it’s our duty to re-populate after the disaster. While I was eating, all I could think of was the journal. I was glad to have found it because for some reason I can feel it’s importance. I decided to keep it secret and store it in my mattress knowing that there would never be a reason for someone to look under it.

I put the remains of my breakfast in the disposal and put on my silver blue shoes. I wiggled my toes inside of them and stared down at my now covered feet. I felt like running. Far away… away from this normal life… unfortunately work out time isn’t for another 4 hours. I’d have to wait that long until I could blow off some steam.

Classes begin every morning at 8 o’clock sharp. I left c12 at 7:45 and started the seven and a half minute walk to my classroom. Today we are going to start studying different jobs and what they entail. Eventually, we will be tested over each department. In a month or so all of us will take a placement test and will be assigned to jobs that should suit us individually. They tell us that we should have a goal job in mind when we take the test. If you have an idea for yourself chances are you’ll get what you want, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes jobs are just given because there is a need for them. My parents always tell me how important this stage in my life is and that I must take the placement process seriously. Perhaps they’re right. No one ever complains about their assigned job though so I don’t see the point.

I continue walking with thoughts floating aimlessly in my head until a loud cracking noise gets my attention. I stop suddenly and look around. Everything appears to be normal. I continue walking a bit further and I notice that there are only a few guardsmen wandering about. I didn’t get the memo. One of the Off Limits doors opened and a huge gust of air hit my face. The force was strong enough to push me to the ground. I struggled to regain my balance but that’s when I saw him. His pale blue eyes, lost and painful, met mine. An OS agent was standing above him. The frail boy was bent over on his knees, face sweaty and bruised. His grimy hair hanging in his eyes. Why was his hair so long? All males have the coded buzzed cut.

Someone had gone through the open door but my eyes were locked on his. The door shut just as quickly and with just as much force as when it opened. He was gone. I turned around and went back to c12. Sure enough there was a memo flashing brightly on the information center. Delay all progress by 10 minutes. I was probably going to get in trouble for this. I knew they shouldn’t, but my thoughts kept flashing back to the poor boy. Why had he looked so afraid? I hadn’t recognized him. Didn’t he know nothing could hurt him here? Had he come from the outside? Every part of me wanted to find out more. A knock came at my door.

I walked to the door and opened it just a crack and peaked around. “Ms. Piper!” A loud booming voice shouted my name through the half closed door.

“Yes.” I whispered and hesitantly opened the door the rest of the way revealing a massive OS agent. He was dressed in a bright orange suit that, despite his size, fit perfectly. His shoulders hunched just slightly making his muscles look huge.

“Look, I saw you outside; there was a 10 minute delay. Were you aware of that?” His face softened a bit when he said this, but something told me that I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

“No, I didn’t know.” My voice sounded small and childish compared to his.

“What did you see?”

I was tempted to tell him that I saw the frightened boy that come from the outside but thought better of it and fought my instincts and lied. “Nothing sir, I came back inside as soon as I noticed no one else was out.”

“Make sure you check your memos every morning from now on.”

“Yes sir,” I said in a small girl’s voice. He nodded his head and turned to leave. “Wait,” I said back, “Aren’t you going to do something to punish me?” I thought for sure I’d at least deserved a demerit for not checking the memos. He stopped and turned to me with a puzzled look on his face that seemed forced. He looked around to see if anyone was watching.

“Why should I?” he winked at me, “Oh by the way… my name is Jeff,” but then continued walking back to the Off Limits Door where the boy was. I closed the door with more attitude than I had intended.

“That was odd…” I went back to my bedroom and plopped on the bed. The small journal fell from my mattress and hit the floor with a smack. I reached down and picked it up carefully. I examined the cover and turned it over in my hand as if it was made of glass and opened it up where I had left off.
June 14, 2012
We had to leave the house today. It’s not safe anymore. They have taken over our entire neighborhood. I’m trying to find hope but it’s getting harder. I still have my sisters with me. I want to find Travis today but I’m not hopeful. The Colds, as we’ve come to call them, are multiplying beyond control. President Curtis came over the radio this morning to announce that over half of the United States has been overthrown. Including the tiny state of Ohio. It doesn’t look like we have much of a chance. Mom told me that it’s a good idea to record what is happening in our world during this distressful time. I had thought it to be a waste of time but I will do my best for her sake. She’s afraid that humanity will be completely lost and that everyone will lose faith and stop believing in God. I am too. Where is he now that we need him? 
– JP

I closed it carefully and sat there, not sure what to think. I looked at the date on the top of the page for the first time. Really examined the penmanship. Very rarely have I ever written anything with my own hand. Except my signature, this looks pretty much like my writing. Sloppy, smudgy, and hard to read at times. I looked again at the date. June 2012, according to my history lessons, is when the disaster began whipping out the human race.

A few weeks passed and I didn’t see the boy again. I still hadn’t told anyone about the journal and just kept it to myself. Most evenings instead of watching the news with the rest of our villa I sat in my room reading the journal.  Mother started threatening to take me to Counseling, saying that I was acting out of character but I refused; reassuring her that I would be better soon. How would she know anything about my character?
August 10, 2012
My sister Kels is a total wreck. I don’t really know what to do about her.  She is hysterical with fear. All of humanity is going under. Sinking… Good news though, I found Travis and his little sister Maddie and his dog Hammer. He got split up from his family in a panic. He looked for them a while but didn’t want to put Maddie in danger. They were hunkered down in Mr. H’s old cellar. The place is slightly damp but it’s not too bad so we’re all going to camp out here for as long as it’s safe. There are a lot of cans and some supplies. Travis and I are going to go out and look for some more weapons and such soon. In the meantime we put Mom and Maddie to work in the cellar; making up beds and organizing what we have. It’s good to stay busy. For now we’re safe. My God have mercy on us.
-JP

I wasn’t totally sure what JP was talking about most of the time, but I did know that something called the Colds was killing them. One entry in particular struck me…

September 1, 2012
We’ve seen a lot of death in the last few weeks and I have avoided describing the experience in detail because of the pain it causes me, but things are being destroyed. We are still hunkered down in the celler but we won’t be able to stay here much longer I am afraid. Did I mention that it is unbearably hot?! The Colds don’t seem to mind it though and continue to stay active all hours of the day. Our cellar was ambushed by two male Colds. It was the first time I had to kill them. Only sharp blows to the head can destroy them. We can’t keep running from them though. Travis and I fended them off with a rake and a shovel. Not the best of weapons,but good enough for now. Thankfully Maddie, Mom and Travis are still safe. My trust is in you oh Lord. 
-JP

I had never heard of or could even imagine what was going on in the journals. How could there been such terrifying creatures? Why wasn’t there any Government help? I knew I had to get to the bottom of all of this. My placement test is scheduled for Friday this week in the AM hours. Only two days away. My plans on becoming an OS Agent are going to be tested and hopefully I succeed!

That night and the night after that I studied for hours. I knew the answers I would need to put in order to get the placement I desired. Finally, Friday came and at 10:15 I walked to the Testing Stations located in the west wing. This is where I’ve taken all of my tests. I went to my usual booth and prepared to log into my account in the Learning Center Database.

“Excuse me miss Piper.” A low toned voice spoke to me from behind. I turned around and saw that the deep voice belonged to an Educator by the name of Mr.Hanley. I’d never had him in lessons before but I knew of him.

“Yes? Is there something wrong?”

“Your Test Booth has been moved a space to the right.”

“Oh, I apologize,” I said as i pushed my chair back and stood up. “If I may ask.. why am I moved?”

“We have a new comer by the name of Philip. His name comes before yours alphabetically dear.” As if i couldn’t have figured that out myself; still I smiled and moved. I logged in and began my test. The first several questions I knew right off the bat. When I got to question 36 I got stuck.. I was searching my brain for the correct answer when I noticed that Philip, who had moved into my formar Testing Booth looked very familar. Mr. Hanley was showing him the proper way to log in. The only part of him I could see was his lower body and back of his head. His brown hair wasn’t quite as short as the other male’s usual are. It was slightly wavy too. I could tell I had been staring too long. I got back to my test.

I ended up finishing at 11:45. “Not bad,” I thought. I was confident in myself. I submitted my answers and turned to go back to v12 and wait for my results. Phillip finished whatever it was he was doing and was leaving just as I was. I walked up behind him and touched his shoulder. “Hello, Phillip…” He turned towards me so fast it startled me. His blue eyes wide with fear I recognized him instantly as the boy who had come in from the outside. “I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to say hi.” He just stared at me; in my eyes so deeply I felt my stomach wrench. I looked away and kept walking.

“Wait!” He shouted at me.

“Please, keep your voice down,” I put in and turned around to face him.

“Sorry… I’m new here.”

“I can see that.”

“Ok… Well… Hello back atcha.”

“Hi,” I chuckled, “So how are you doing?”

“Aaaright I guess.” He stuttered. I felt for him. He seemed so lonely and scared. I wanted to help him , but I wasn’t sure how.

“Do you have some place you need to be?”

“No.. I don’t think so…”

“Good. Now come with me.” I motioned for him to follow me and he did. I wanted to take him someplace private so I could ask him questions about the first day I saw him. In my room in c12 seemed to be my only option.

We came to the door and I paused. Listened a moment; then opened the door a crack. “Mother?” Nothing. “Good,” I whispered. “Please come in Philip.” He stepped inside slowly and I closed the door behind him. His hands were shaking slightly and his brow was sweaty. “I’m not going to hurt you or anything if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m not worried about that.”

“Then why do you look so nervous?”

“You just never know what to expect.”

“What do you mean? Well i’m assuming that you’re not from anywhere in Dominium.” We continued to walk to my room and I closed and locked the door. He didn’t seem bothered by this.

“No, I’m from Ohio.” My heart fluttered a little in my chest. I knew the word “Ohio”. That was the place JP talked about in her journal. “Cleveland Ohio, but you probably have no idea what that is.”

“Actually I do. I saw you come in from the outside.” I reached under my bed and pulled out the journal.

He looked at me, curious. I knew he had to be around my age but in that moment he seemed no older than year five. “What do you have there?” He stood closer to me and peared over my shoulder at the leather book. “Where did you get that?”

“How do you know what it is?”

“We have one very similar to it back home we found when we started to re-build.”

“Wait, what? Back up… you need to tell me where you came from.”

Philip described the trees, plants, and animals and how he came from a community that lived underground several miles from Dominion. “The elders in my community have been working on a plan to free all of you from Dominion. The Colds have been whipped out and we want to re-build, but we have been hiding from your president and his army. He has captured several of us who have come close and forced us into those, “meetings” as you all call them. They are brain washing you Piper, all of you.”

All of this information probably should have come as a shock, but it all sounded vagillay familiar. These were the kinds of things my Grandmother had talked about. “If we’re being brain washed how is it that I am able to hang on to my own thoughts and memories, unlike my parents. Even my grandmother spoke of similar things that you are talking about, like what the outside looks like and everything.”

“Some of the folks in my community believe that the brain wash system them use doesn’t work on every type of mind. You and your grandmother must be apart of that exception. There have been others to escape from Dominion and join our community.”

“How do we escape then?”

“That is why I am here. I need to map out Dominion and locate where President Curtis is hiding, then report back my findings so we can set you all free at last.”

 

A high pitched buzzer sounded cutting off my next thought. The Information Center. “I’m sorry but I have to look at this.” I unlocked the door stepped out. He followed me. I pushed the green button on the center and my test results flashed across the screen.

Congratulations Ms. Piper Field! You are to report to the OS Office tomorrow morning at 10:00 to begin your training and receive your assignment. Thank you for your hard work and dedication.

“Do you know what this means, Piper?”

“I will have access to the outside, I will be apart of President Curtis’s army.”

“Are you willing to help my complete my mission?”

“Of course.” A huge smile wrapped across his face.

 

It wasn’t long after he left when my parents returned home. We went through the motions, as usual, asking each other and telling the short version of each other’s day. They seemed excited enough about my placement. After Late Meal I retired to bed, but I laid there a long while thinking about Phillip before I finally fell asleep. For once in my life I laid there wondering about what tomorrow would bring.

 

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