Four walls, no windows I am confined in a steel box. They broke each of my fingers, one at a time. Each finger healed wrong, facing different directions. My wrists have permanent scars from being rubbed raw with metal straps. My left knee will forever be damaged by an iron hammer. My hair is growing back, finally, after being shaved and torn from my head. Bruises slowly fading, memories drilled into my brain forever. They warned us. They warned everyone. “Anyone who is thought to be a threat will be eliminated.”
The metal box that has become my home has a small bed with no mattress, a rag that I use as a blanket and a toilet but, no sink. It’s been days, weeks, or months since I have had a shower or seen sunshine. I have no idea what day it is or even what time of day it is. My husband is gone, I’m sure of it. We taught ourselves Morse code in the last days so that we could communicate even if the worst happened. For days I pounded his name onto the thick metal walls and have only received silence. I can hear screams and cries though, so I know I am not alone. Wherever I am.
Once a day the slot below the door opens and a cold metal tray slides in with food on it. Some days it goes forgotten and the tray doesn’t come. I have learned if I don’t slide the tray back under when I am finished I will go hungry. So everyday I sprint to the door pick the food off the tray and immediately return it. Today the metal squeaks open with the most unpleasant sound and the tray appears with a small piece of bread on it.
“NO!” I kneel on the floor peering under the door. “Please! I need more than this!” Laying down onto my side I reach my hand under the door. Wiggling my fingers and begging for more. “Please…” my voice goes weak as a rubber boot slams onto my wrist. I slink back to my bed with my bread in one hand and my limp hand hanging from my broken wrist. Wincing as I tear pieces of bread and savor the small portion of food that I have received. Leaving a few bites left I place the bread beside me and tear a piece of fabric from my frayed pants. Carefully I wrap the fabric tightly around my wrist holding it upright.
In my past I worked to rehabilitate veterans after they came back from war. I considered myself tough, I dealt with difficult cases and emotional stories, I was trained to defend myself in case of a PTSD relapse. My life trained me to be thought yet, I have never felt more weak. I can no longer remember the days as a newlywed spending weekends by the pool and commuting to work during the week. I had a perfect life. A husband that loved me, a rewarding job, and a family that was close knit. Now I lay on a metal bed frame; a widow, with broken bones, and I have no idea where my family is.
We were a threat. My husband, a hunter, had guns. We had a basement stocked with rations and ammunition. The last days we spent practicing for the “what if”. We ran drills and collected necessities. Some thought we were out of our minds, others followed our footsteps. I could disarm a man in .5 seconds and get him on his knees with his own gun to his head in 1 second. What we weren’t prepared for was our friends turning us in. Fear changed people. We saw friends turn into enemies and shadows. A person I once trusted is the reason I am here in this box.
The door slammed open and a large pale skinned man stood in the doorway. The light from the hall behind him was blinding and brought painful tears to my eyes.
“Follow me.” His voice was kind and stern and his eyes were black as night. I got up immediately following behind him, leaving the door open. My eyes outlined the thick muscles on his back as we approached the next door. “Paige Aldridge” He slammed the door open and a thin woman just a few years older than I sat huddled in the corner of the room. Our eyes connected before she buried her head in her knees. “Paige Aldridge” He said again. She didn’t move. I looked at the tall man as he snapped his neck and turned in my direction. He was looking past me at men that I had no idea were even there. Two of the men rushed into the room grabbing Paige as she screamed and kicked. Her screams filled the hallway as she thrashed her body back and forth. A third man entered the room with a black stick, at the top was and electrical current wiggling between two metal prongs. He held it to Paige’s neck, I could see sweat forming on her neck as she anticipated the harsh shock that was about to enter her body.“Wait!” I screamed at the men before realizing what I had done. The large man’s eyes were drilling holes into my skull. I wanted to help her but, now all I could imagine was that electrically charged stick turning to face me. “Let me talk to her.” My voice was much less bold this time. The two men stepped back and let her body collapse to the floor. I walked hesitantly to the woman’s side, pushed her hair back, and laid my warm hand on her cheek. Her skin was cold and dry, “You’re not alone.” I whispered to her. Slowly she lifted her head and stood beside me. Her body trembled as she looked forward at the open door. I took her hand in mine and took my place behind the large man.
The next room was a young man who needed no coaxing and the rooms to follow all obediently stood and walked out of their rooms. I assumed they all heard Paige’s screams. We added about ten frail bodies to our line before coming to the last room in the row. The door opened and face down on the floor was a young man. One of the men from behind stepped loudly into the room, his footsteps echoing off the walls. He placed two fingers on the neck of the young man before swinging the body over his shoulder. Silently he walked the opposite way down the hall as I watched him disappear through the flickering lights. Whispers spread before the large man shouted for silence. With Paige’s hand still in mine we followed the line of pale bodies, all the while wondering where they were taking us. Were we free or were these my last breaths.