A fictional short story.
Shards of glass could not help me. The broken mirror filled the bathroom sink. A single stone perched upon the glistening pile. I’m confused and irritated. Waking to the sound of broken glass did not make for a good start. I stomped to the kitchen, throwing myself on the bar stool. Eleven. Eleven items were all I needed. A small addition to my pathetic life. The grocery list of a solid eleven only deepened this reality. Most days, I found comfort buried in my studies. With a sigh, I tucked the list in the back pocket of my purple denim pants. The day was new and my back ached. Much too young to feel like I slept on a bed of steel rails.
Positive determination filled my small step. Marching to a tune of, in-and-out, toward the doors of my favorite supplier of nourishment. For a moment I studied the interior. My memory said familiar, but my sight screamed foreign. I thought remodeling would take over six days. Grabbing the nearest handbasket, I readjusted the leather strap of my purse. With each piercing stick of the plastic stitch rubbing my neck raw, I cursed the purse.
Keeping my eyes low to avoid conversation, I maneuvered through countless sale items. They filled the produce section with tropical scents and bright colors. With a quick study of my list, I set myself to choose fruits for the week. The sudden screech from a woman caused my thumb to pierce the flesh of a pear.
I threw the pear and wiped its sweet juice on my shorts. I turned to study around me, assuming I must be in the middle of someone else’s fight.
“Get that out of my sight!” she said.
With others staring from a distance, her aggression focused on me. The cursing and steps toward me sent saliva into the air. I dropped my basket, tucked the list in my pocket, and backed away from the angered woman right into the shelves of bagged lettuce. The loud scene attracted many. Store clerks and confused shoppers. People scurried away while shielding the eyes of others.
“What did I do?”
Confused and shaky, I turned to the exit, making use of my athletic thighs.
“Stop her!” shouted a nearby man as he pushed his cart in my direction.
My sneakers slid on the newly waxed floor as a burly security officer slammed his hands into my face. Nearly falling to the floor, I regained the balance of my small frame.
“I stole nothing.”
Humiliation flooded my once pale face with crimson. I clenched my hands to slow the shake. The security officer tightened my arm with penetrating force.
“We don’t want any trouble lady,” he said. “Come with me.”
I gave my best effort to run, but failed. Without warning, my body was drug out the front doors. I watched as many onlookers got further away with intense speed. A weightless criminal sent to face my unknown demise.
My head hit hard against the back seat as the vehicle came to a violent stop. Many questions unanswered as two officers pulled me out. For the first time in my young life, I knew what it felt like to be a criminal. I was certain this terror would end once they realized I was not a thief. I gulped a big breath and released the muscle tension from my arms. I was not giving up, only giving in for a moment. Surprised from the aggressive handling, it became obvious these men viewed me as a threat.
The musty air filled my nose as they pushed me inside the facility.
“Where are you taking me?”
Polite innocence glided across my voice like a dragonfly skimming the surface of a mirrored pond. One officer turned his round face to me with a smirk.
The facility looked exactly like the movies. Pale stained walls, multiple tiny desks, and plastic chairs secured to the floor with chains. The endless shouting of others frightened me. Men and women being forced in all directions. Business was good, I suppose. I wasn’t in handcuffs, which must have been a good sign. Soon they led into a room and forcefully placed in a single chair. In front of me sat a woman in a forest-green tweed skirt suit. Between us sat a small desk. Her eyes remained glued on a tablet she held. Without eye contact, the woman spat commands.
“Empty your pockets.”
With a slow movement, I followed her command.
“You’ve made a huge mistake.”
I smirked, ready to end this circus event. Within seconds, everything I had lay scattered on the table. Lip balm, a single bobby pin, and my grocery list. I cursed those eleven items. The woman slid a single piece of loosened black hair behind her ear.
“Tell me why I am here!”
The silence from this woman infuriated me. I watched as she used her stylus to slide the grocery list across the table toward her.
“Is this yours?”
What a stupid question. “Yes, so what!”
Anger vibrated my vocals. The woman raised her tablet and snapped a photo of the list. Then, with a single click of the stylus, she gently touched the corner of the paper. With a touch, the entire piece of paper waved in crimson and black, turning to ash. A blanket shimmer to all but dust. One officer to my right approached the table. In one quick breath, he blew the dust onto the floor and into my face. I felt stupid and played.
I coughed, “why did you do that?”
“Where did you get the paper?” she asked.
“From a desk drawer in my house!”
My patience was thinning.
“What is your name?”
I crossed my arms. Being treated this way over a piece of paper shocked me.
“Place her in 1C and notify Lucas.”
“Wait, who is Lucas?”
The woman chuckled under her breath, “your defense attorney.”
The officer led me into another room and locked the door behind me.
A single depressing chair chained to the floor in the corner. This room and the chair were all I had for the next hour as I waited for Lucas.
Consistent screams filled the halls around me and clouded my imaginative planning. My body ached from the chair as I picked at the cuticle of my fingers. My leg shook furiously as I cleared the old skin that tore at the edges of my nail bed. A faint shadow crossed the floor beneath me. As I peered up, a different man stared through the window with a smile. His dark beard and sideburns had the sharpest lines I had ever seen. Appearing as though he drew the lines on with a fine tip felt pen. Although he was not familiar, I felt comfort in his smile. He had a dark summer tan and eyes that glimmered. A tiny butterfly made a slow flight through my stomach. I stood to my feet just as he opened the door.
“Did they scan you?” he asked.
“Did they scan your eyes?”
His smile grew into relief. “My dear Ana. It’s been too long.”
The door locked behind him.
“We know each other?”
Confused, I slid back into the chair. The silver stitching of his black suit shimmered with each slight movement of his arms.
I straightened my posture in the chair, “is this where you tell me why I am here?”
Without notice, he rushed from the room. I persuaded myself that this unknown man could help me out of this mess. The need for an attorney over a piece of paper was dumb. Perhaps a lawsuit would be in my future for wrongful imprisonment and defamation of character. I knew nothing of law terminology, but I knew my rights.
Lucas returned sooner than expected. This time his demeanor was serious.
“I know you have questions.” Extending a hand to mine, “follow me.”
Lucas led me from the depressing room. Holding his hand for only a moment, I trusted him. I kept up with his quick pace into the scream filled halls with hope to end my own misery. I caught the snarky glance of an officer who placed me here. His eyes tracked my movement to the front of the facility. For a moment I enjoyed the false security of freedom that was coming near to reality. I whispered over the chaos in the Lucas’s ear.
“Am I being released?”
I know he heard me but clearly ignored the question.
I calmy sat, hands resting in my lap. Lucas drove us further from the police station. The only sound to fill the vehicle was the clicking of the blinker as we made turn after turn. Moving further away from my home and further from the city. I couldn’t help myself and broke the silence.
“Where are you taking me?”
“I can’t tell you,” he said, keeping his eyes forward.
“Are you going to kill me?”
He only smiled. I noticed his hand reach to hold mine, but he hesitated.
“What year is it?”
I looked to his expression, trying to gauge his joke. His eyes never left the road.
“Would you believe me if I told you it is actually 2037?”
My body forcefully turned to face him.
“Where did you escape from?” I said sarcastically.
He slowed the vehicle down and moved it to the shoulder of the road. The vehicle idled alongside a field of snowy cotton.
“My dear Ana, look here.”
Lucas pulled down a mirrored screen hidden from inside the ceiling and faced it toward me.
“Oh-my-god!” I grabbed the sides of my face.
Pulling on my skin, I felt every inch. My eyes blinked like being whipped by grains of sand in the thousands. My heart pounding to leave the confinement of my aged chest.
“This can’t — ”
“It’s still Ana, I promise.”
Lucas took a hand and rested it against my shaking back.
Tears breached the corners of my eyes. My skin wrinkled, my hair darkened with streaks of gray, my eyes were tired and saggy. I pushed my head back hard and gripped the sides of the seat, forcing the blood to leave the surface. My chest rose and fell with sharp pain. Focusing on pain shooting through each rib bone, a blanket of black crept in from the corners and my body fell limp.
A soft melody filled my ears as I rubbed my eyes. My back ached again as I attempted to reposition my body. A sudden jolt ran up my arms as I caught myself from falling to the floor. I perked up, realizing this was not my bed, but a leather sofa. The room surrounded with walls of dark timbers. A fire flickered softly in the corner next to an enormous bookshelf stretching floor to ceiling. A small white candle wavered near the record player.
“Do not be alarmed Ana, you’re safe.”
A male voice echoed from behind. I turned but remained seated.
“Where am I?”
“Far from the city,” said Lucas.
He sat at a round wooden table sipping from a coffee cup.
“I must have blacked out.”
“Yes. It’s been about four hours.”
He calmly raised the cup to his lips.
“Please tell me what’s going on.”
I moved the blanket from my legs and stood to my feet.
“Can I get you some tea first?”
I nodded, noting the two doors exiting outside. Lucas placed an extra cup in front of an empty chair beside him.
“Do you remember me?”
Lucas poured steaming water into the cup.
“You are familiar, but I don’t know from where.”
His eyes searched mine, as in trying to evoke my memory.
“Let me show you something.”
He reached under the table and grabbed a white folder. My hands warmed quickly as I gripped the cup. The tea sent ribbons of lavender and honey through my senses.
“My criminal charges?”
I perked up to read the first document. Lucas chuckled, pushing the paper closer to me.
I continued to scan down the document, “wait, I remember this!”
A smile stretched his cheeks, “we are in phase two, Ana.”
I remained silent as I shockingly read my own 34-year-old signature from fifteen years before.
“How did you do it?”
“Timing and planning were perfect. We have a sharp team.”
I sipped my tea. His eyes were just as I remembered. Without a word, he moved the document to the side and brought another in focus. I read the news article carefully.
“It dates this 2023. It got this bad so fast?”
I studied the images; book burning pits, arrests, riots, death, and starvation. One image depicted a child wailing as they ripped his mother from his arms. My heart raced and my stomach twisted. I took another sip.
“Yes, the government became aggressive sooner than we thought. It was perfect timing.”
“What about the other three?”
“Two are here, and one passed six years into phase one.”
I rested my head in the palm of my right hand.
“I guess you need my answer now?”
Lucas fanned out a dozen more articles.
“Yes. Ready for phase two?”
I slid the articles over each other, taking in as much as I could without drawing tears. After a few moments of silence, I took the last sip of my tea.
“I’m ready,” I said, ringing my finger on the rim of the cup.
I followed close behind Lucas down a narrow staircase. The glistening oak steps creaked beneath. A soft yellow light filled the room below and a slow shadow from a ceiling fan flashed on the floor.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the final weapon to complete our arsenal.”
Lucas stopped near the bottom stretching his hand toward mine with a warm smile. My cheeks arched. Flushed with emotion of fifteen years before, two of my best friends stood before me. Without words, I rushed to the open embrace of Elysse.
“Ana. I’ve missed you,” she whispered.
Dropping our embrace, our hands remained together.
“Arthur, can you believe it?” I turned from Eylsse to share another hug with my much older friend.
Arthur’s smile was just as I remembered; warm and wise. I released the embrace and stood before the two of them. With small talk, the four of us moved to the leather chairs near the fireplace.
“When did you wake?” I asked, positioning myself to the left of the fire.
“Both of us woke yesterday,” said Arthur.
Lucas pulled a laptop from the corner shelf and sat next to Arthur. Elysse sat next to me.
“Lana didn’t wake,” said Elysse, grabbing hold of my aged hand.
Heartbreak crept into my throat. I changed the subject.
“I was nearly prosecuted today for paper,” I said, turning a sarcastic smile to Lucas. “Lucas saved me again.”
Arthur let out a soft chuckle.
“I was on my way to the University library when I remembered,” said Arthur.
All four of us laughed at the sudden merging of reality. I stared at Lucas, anticipating the actions that await our small group.
“Shall we begin?” asked Lucas.
I had plenty of room on my desk. Multiple reports stacked and categorized by year. Three large monitors lined the top with a commercial printer within arm’s reach. We were given a choice of notebook style. I could not resist the unlined cardstock paper. My pen was just as important. Lucas was gracious enough to supply an endless stock of blue and black fountain ink. I loved the smell of fresh ink on new paper. Something now considered antique and forbidden.
“Ana. I have your research subject,” said Lucas as he dropped a large box spilling with loose paper at the edge of my desk.
“How much time do I have?”
Lucas pulled the box open and grabbed a sheet near the top. I studied the research discussion from an institute I once worked with.
“Live births halt in 2023?”
I pulled the paper under the desk lamp. The study started in 2018, four years before my induced coma.
“Yes. That would be the result,” he said, pulling another red folder from the side of the box. “This is the beginning.”
“Covid-19?” I asked, staring blankly into a steady glisten to breach his eyes.
I knew what he was telling me to piece together, but the truth terrified me.
“Michelle and I lost our first and only child to the vaccine.”
He wiped a tear before it could trickle down his cheek. My throat cramped while my hands grew clammy.
“Every record replaced with blaming agricultural pesticide use.”
“I — I’m so sorry Lucas,” I cleared my throat. “Am I — did I get vaccinated?”
“No, we listed all four of you in the national death records during the push.”
Relief waved across my body in ribbons of warm honey.
“Does this mean — ”
“Yes. The three of you are it,” he said.
I tapped the fountain pen hard against my forehead as I scanned the research study.
“The truth?” I asked, steadying myself for the horror that I missed.
“Global sterilization and vetted history.”
Throwing stones is foolish. Broken glass will reveal the truth.