Friday, December 23, 2022

Close Every Door

 My mother’s eyes were full of sorrow and hatred as she tried to explain for the first time how the world sees us. Papa spat at the floor but didn’t argue or disagree. She said no matter what, never forget that I had worth. She made me promise to bow to no one, knowing full well I’d break it at the sun’s rise. I only realized later she meant my spirit. In that, my word has been true, despite everything. It wasn’t long after that night that they took us. She was ripped away from our grasp. Papa’s spirit broke. We were not essential humans. We were of less value than the food neglected to us. One day, Papa did not return.

I learned to bend around the restrictions. I learned to never pray out loud. I learned to keep my eyes open and my lips closed because it seemed the easiest way to survive. I never tried to stop what was happening. I never tried to run away. Later, those choices would haunt me. Could I have saved anyone? Just one life? What’s one life when millions were ended. Millions. It was a number I could not fathom. What were the odds that I became one of them? Would luck be on my side if I kept my promise?

We were the skeleton crew. We were the ultimate replaceable force. The plague that made the streets that we had built run red. We were a thing to be obliterated as efficiently as possible. The world was so loud we were all shell shocked. Echos of our former selves. I argued with no one that this was not the same as giving up. We were simply trying against everything to preserve our sense of self. 

Our eyes would haunt the world on the covers of magazines and it was easy to be outraged. It was easy to feel our plight and do nothing. They took our vitals and measurements daily to see the progress of their regime. They sold our photographs to medical journals across the world and told us we finally had purpose. We would help cure the world of our disease.

The lights feel dimmer. The sun lost its warmth. New faces flood in fresh and innocent. They look at us with pity and fear at the faces of their future. I pray again and again silently pleading with my god to allow this transgression in his dogma. I pray for death. I pray for salvation. We have become the desperate and the repulsed. We have become what they said we were. Is death my only respite? 

My last breath in captivity was full of ash and despair. They made the entirety of us stand in formation. They open fired and no one fled. We all fell, in our turn. No one stood. No one moved until it was safe and slowly, five of us moved. Five of us stood among the dead, abandoned by our own and by our captors. We thought it a test. We returned to work. We kept our eyes to the ground. When the gates opened and men walked in carrying our pictures, we fell to our knees and wept. We wept the sorrow of those that died before us. We wept for the freedom denied to us. They carried us away and gave us warmth.

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