I leaned against the dirty grey wall of the holding cell, sitting, my feet stretched out in front of me on the floor. It was a square room with benches attached to the wall, all occupied by sleeping men. The floor sloped down to a central drain. The cell was made for drunks, but they weren’t using it for that now. I heard commotion in the hallway. The cell door opened with a clank, a large officer shoving a small man in. He looked back at the officer, hunching his shoulders as if he was trying to shake off a fly.
“You won’t win,” the man said. The officer laughed and turned to leave. He closed the heavy metal door and locked it.
The man looked for somebody awake. I tried to avoid eye contact. Too late, we connected. He made his way over, sitting on the floor next to me.
“Chris Thompson,” he said, extending his hand. I shook it reluctantly.
“Sean McCain.” I tried not to sound open to conversation.
“What are you in for?”
I sighed. “Hate speech. Should be out soon, though. They’re just trying to scare me a little bit.” I hoped that was true.
Chris looked at me and smiled.
“Of course. I was just playing devil’s advocate. They realize that.” I looked at Chris to gauge his reaction. He shook his head and laughed.
I looked straight ahead and didn’t say anything. Chris looked down. His hands were shaking, his surly manner melting away. Don’t get involved, I told myself, but I knew that wouldn’t fly.
“So why are you here?” I asked.
“I told my class about the Bill of Rights.”
“You’re a teacher?”
Chris laughed. “I was a teacher. They don’t want teachers anymore.”
“I thought most of you went along with the new way of thinking.”
“I did. For a long time.” He’d stopped trembling.
“What caused you to change?”
“All the people I used to have political arguments with disappeared.”
Oh, shit, I thought. He’s one of those. I can’t be talking to this guy. I got up and walked to the door, looking out the small slit window. When I turned back around, I saw him walking toward me. Shit.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” I said.
“Because you’re gonna tell me a bunch of crap about how our government exterminates people who won’t go along. Baloney – that’s just rebel propaganda. Your friends probably left to join the racist rebellion.”
“God, I hope so,” said Chris.
“That’s treason. Like I said, I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Oh, you think that the walls have ears?” He laughed. “Not in here. They don’t care. We’re done. Should have worried about that when you were outside.”
“How long has it been since you’ve seen a trial by jury?”
“There’s a war on,” I said, trying to reason with this guy.
“It’s not a war. It’s an uprising.”
I just sighed and walked back to where I was sitting. Chris followed and sat next to me again.
“You don’t take a hint, do you, asshole?”
“No. What kind of hate speech did you do?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I want my job waiting for me when I get out of here. If I engage with you, they might hold it against me.”
“What kind of job do you have?”
I looked at him, knowing what kind of reaction I’d get, feeling my face flush.
“I’m a journalist.”
Chris looked up at the ceiling and let out a big belly laugh. Then he looked at me, shook his head, and laughed some more.
“So let me guess. You pointed out some of the fairness code that isn’t so fair?”
Now I was getting really mad.
“Don’t try to make this bigger than it is. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“Well, esteemed member of the 5th Estate, what did you write?”
“I merely pointed out that Islam has many of the same failings that white male dominated society had, and that eventually it’ll need to be addressed the same way.”
“Really? I commend you, sir.”
I just stared at him, not able to think of a good reply, wanting to doze off instead of talk to him. The silence didn’t last long.
“You guys haven’t figured out, even now, that some groups are more equal than others. Why?”
“I told you I didn’t want to talk about this.” I turned my body away from him.
“No, you aren’t getting off that easy, chicken shit. My profession is partly to blame for this mess we’re in, but your profession? Those of you still alive in the ‘free’ zone are co-conspirators.”
I pretended to ignore him.
“Haven’t you figured out yet that our government embraces anybody who fights against Western Civilization? Against the Enlightenment?”
“Shut up,” I said. “That’s just more rebel propaganda. The ‘Enlightenment’, as you call it, was racist cover up. We raped the earth and all of its people as a result of the Enlightenment. Look at what we’ve done to people of color.”
“People of color.” Chris laughed heartily, for what seemed like forever.
I had the urge to punch him in the face, looking down at my balled-up fists. This was such an insensitive bastard.
“You’re a damn racist,” I shouted. “You find this funny. How sick is that?”
“Race has nothing to do with any of this. Nothing. If racism was the problem with our society, you tell me what happened to all the ‘people of color’ who disagreed with the new thinking? Where did they all go? You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed that they’re all gone.”
“They were fooled into joining the rebels, even though it was against their interest,” I said. “Everybody knows that.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. You are a journalist.” Then he laughed again, louder and longer this time. It was making my blood boil.
We were both startled by the clanking of the door. It opened, and two officers dragged in another man, wearing battered clothes. He was struggling, trying to head butt the officers as they held his arms. They pushed him to the ground and kicked him in the side and back as he rolled on the floor.
“That’s police brutality,” I said. “Stop it right now or I’ll report you.”
One of the guards looked at me and laughed. He came over and punched me in the jaw as I was trying to get up. The pain was awful, and I could feel blood flowing out my nose. I sank back to the ground. It was humiliating.
“You better learn to watch your mouth, or you won’t last long where you’re going,” the guard shouted at me. What did he mean? My heart was beating faster. There must be some mistake. I’ve got to get to somebody for help.
The guards left, slamming the door behind them. Chris rushed over to the man and helped him to his feet. He brought him to where we were sitting.
“Come on, asshole, get up and help me lower him,” Chris spat at me. I got to my feet and helped steady the man. He smelled bad. He looked up into my face with piercing eyes, showing a mixture of rage, hurt, and joy. What?
When he recovered, he looked at both of us and smiled. I smiled back, but had the queasy feeling that he was a very dangerous man.
“Chris Thompson,” Chris said, holding out his hand. They shook.
“Jake Kessler,” said the man, trying to pull his scraggly blonde hair out of his face. He had a thick beard, giving him the look of a mountain man.
“Oh, and this is Sean,” Chris said. Jake held out his hand and I shook it. I looked away quickly.
“So, Jake, why did they throw you in here? They were pretty mad,” Chris said.
“I’m a trouble maker, I guess,” Jake said, grinning, his filthy teeth showing. “They’re using any excuse they can to round up people who might hurt them. They’re running out of time, and they know it.”
“Running out of time?” I asked. My heart was beating quicker.
“The resistance now controls everywhere except for New England, the Mid Atlantic, Coastal California, and costal Washington state. Things moved quickly after we took over the military bases.”
“We take Chicago?” asked Chris.
“Yes, but it was a blood bath,” Jake said. “Don’t you guys hear anything?”
I looked at both of them, my mind reeling.
“What are you two talking about?” I asked. Jake gave me a quizzical look. Chris laughed.
“Sean here believes the propaganda, which figures since he’s a journalist,” said Chris.
“But our sources say that the resistance is dying out,” I said. Both of the men laughed at me.
“Fucking lackey press,” Jake said. “I assumed that all of them were just traitors, but I see that some of them are stupid true believers. What’s this idiot in here for, anyway?”
I could feel the rage building in me, but couldn’t get any words out.
“Hate speech,” said Chris, laughing. “He compared Islam to white privilege.”
Both men cracked up. Then they were silent for a moment. Chris looked at Jake.
“You know what camp we’re going to?”
“None,” said Jake, with a grim look on his face.
“Camp?” I asked. What the hell are you talking about? Both men looked at me and shook their heads. They kept talking as if I wasn’t there.
“We took Nevada and the eastern parts of California,” Jake said. “The last of the camps was in Redlands. It’s been liberated.”
“So they’re just going to keep us here?” asked Chris.
“I doubt it.”
“What were you doing around here, anyway?” asked Chris. “You know more about the outside than anybody I’ve talked to in a long time.”
“Shit, don’t say that in here,” Chris whispered. “They’re probably listening.”
“You don’t get it, my friend.”
I looked at Chris’s face, which went from concern to terror.
“Son of a bitch, they’re gonna shoot us,” said Chris.
“C’mon, guys, they wouldn’t do that,” I said, hoping against hope that I was right. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My mind went to all the plans I’d made in my life, what I was going to do, how I was going to have a great career. How can I get out of this?
Suddenly the door swung open, and five men in riot gear walked in.
“Everybody up!” the lead man said. The others rushed around the room, poking the sleeping men with their riot guns.
“Out the door, single file,” the lead man barked.
We fell into a line and slowly started through the door. Chris was in front of me as we walked out. My heart was pounding in my chest, and then the light of the prison yard hit my eyes, blinding me. As I walked through the door, they adjusted, and I saw a wall. Men were lining up against it. Opposite the wall was a row of machine guns. I felt light headed. Chris looked back at me, tears streaming down his face.
“Why didn’t you guys protect us?”
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2016