The door bursts open, nearly breaking off its hinges as they push their way into our home. They wear light blue uniforms. The gold buttons glisten in the morning light that peaks through our windows. Ignoring the glimmer, something seems wrong. Aggression consumes the men as they cast their gazes about our house as if in search of something. What? I don’t know. We don’t have anything to hide. We’ve never done anything wrong.
Suddenly, my mother grabs me by the hand. Yanking me up the stairs we disappear into my bedroom where she shoves me underneath my bed. Fear clings to her.
“Don’t come out,” she whispers.
“What do you want?!” My father booms. His voice climbs up the staircase to my mother and I, loud enough to carry his fear with it.
Why is he afraid? Why’s mom afraid? What’s going on?
My father shouts again. “We haven’t done anything wrong!”
“The council has decreed,” a man begins, “that every citizen will henceforth be quartered off by their adaptation.”
“What on earth does that mean?!” My father snaps, fear giving way to anger.
My mother’s hand trembles as it holds mine. Her eyes gaze off to a place where I can’t follow. Still, I don’t understand why she’s so afraid. I don’t understand what’s going on. Who are these men? What do they want?
The house shakes beneath us. Biting her lip, my mother closes her eyes tightly. Suddenly, a loud thud resounds followed by a man shouting, “stop this instant!”
“Stop this resistance! Your wife and daughter are coming with us!” A new voice shouts.
“Like hell they are!” My father returns. The house shakes once more, the walls creak as if in protest.
My mother snaps her attention behind her where a line travels rapidly up the wall, breaking it in two. Gasping she lets go of my hand and races towards the door. In a moment’s hesitation she looks back to me. “Don’t come out whatever happens, Clara!” Her eyes are wide. Something lingers behind them, but what, I don’t know. Then, she’s gone.
“You stay away from my daughter!” My mother yells as she descends the staircase.
Anguished screams respond. They rattle me to my core. The sound freezes me to the floor beneath my bed, causing me to shiver despite the sudden heat.
“No!” My father shrieks seconds before my mother’s scream of agony joins the others, but her cry cuts short. “No!” My father walls weakly, barely audible over the commotion.
Feet travel up the stairs, pounding down on the wood in a flurry of noise. Neither of my parents make a sound. The bedroom door cracks against the broken wall as someone slams it open. I gasp.
Immediately, I silence myself. Clasping a hand over my mouth I pray they won’t find me. As I hide, questions swirl around me. Where are my parents? What did they do to them? My heart pounds in my chest. I dare not breathe even though my lungs feel scream for air.
Feet walk right past my head. I could reach out and grab them so easily it scares me.
“Are you sure the child’s even here?”
“Where else would she be?” Another returns, just as annoyed as the first.
“I still can’t believe they’re sending us out to round up kids.”
“Better to round ’em all up now before they find out what’s going on than have to deal with them as adults.”
The other gives a grunt in response before they both fall silent. From their feet they appear to be facing each other, but they don’t say anything more. They don’t make a sound. My heart tries to beat out of my chest and run away just like my feet want to when a face appears at the edge of the bed.
“There you are!” He exclaims.
Air expels from my lungs in a scream as I fight my way out from under the bed. I don’t care what my mother said. I’m not staying here with these people, but just as I wiggle out one of them grabs the back of my shirt. Yanking me off the ground with one arm they whip me around. A dark smirk lingers on their faces. It chills my blood. Ice runs through my veins, but my heart continues to pound wildly, quickening my breaths.
Hauling me from the room, they drag me downstairs. There, my father stands with his hands tied. Tears soak his down-turned face. Why does he look so sad? What’s going on?
“Dad!” I shriek.
He looks up to me. The overwhelming sadness crashes into me like a blow to the face. My father’s the strong one. He’s the happy one. He’s never sad!
The sadness washes away to fear. “Clara!” He calls, fighting against his binds. He’s tied to the kitchen cabinet. “No! You can’t take her! She’s only a child! She’ll never survive on her own!”
In a burst of adrenaline I rip away from the man in the blue uniform to stand in front of my father. My arms wrap around his waist. “What’s going on?!” I cry into his shirt, tears of my own sprouting as I bury my face against him. “Where’s mom?” My voice cracks.
My father continues to try and break free of his restraints, revealing the scene behind him. Our living room’s on fire. The flames blaze up over the furniture, licking the walls while the ceiling taunts them to climb higher. The sight mixes horror into my sadness. Our home. The place where I grew up, where I always felt safe, is on fire. It vanishes right in front of me.
As I watch the fire consume our house a hand squeezes my shoulder and pulls me away into the street. Confusion takes over. What’s happening? Where’s my mother?
“What about the woman? Aren’t we supposed to remove her to the Fire quarter?” One of the men asks.
The one holding me answers in a disgruntled tone saying, “nah. We’ll just say the crazy woman set the house on fire and they both died before we could get them out.”
Their words don’t register right away. It isn’t until the flames dance behind the front window that I realize what’s happening. They’re burning my parents alive! “No!” I scream, struggling to break free. “Mom! Dad!” I wail. Freeing one hand, I reach towards the burning house until the other man snatches it up again. Tears stream down my cheeks. The two men haul me down the street while the flames prance out the front door, waving at my departure.
Next Installment: ‘Mixtures‘