Beauty

"Back in formation! Get back you filthy Bugs! Back!"

The sound of the laser hangs in the air, signaling another dead. That makes five today. A sense of dread creeps around the Village as we line up in number, mine: A-77-218, meaning I'm seventh in line in the seventh row, house 218.

"As you all know, today is check-up day. Last month you had to run a mile in under five minuets, and as you can see, many of you did not complete it."

Heads turn looking for lost friends and family, all to found buried in the ground by now.

"In today's task, you all must display your strength. If you cannot lift what is placed in front of you and carry it to the gates and back, you will be sent to termination."

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1. Chapter 1

"Trisha! God damnit, get up! They'll send you to termination if you're late to work again!"

The slight warmth I had wrapped around me was suddenly ripped away and replaced the biting cold as my moms shrill voice rang in mine and my sisters bedroom, if you can even call it that. With groggy eyes and tired limbs, I manage to pull myself in to a sitting position on the rock hard bed and peer around.

The small shack we were issued in Village Rose barely held a family of three, let alone a family of five. The floorboards were curling and bowing every other step in what I guess could be considered a living room. The two bedrooms looked as if they once had beautiful beige carpeting, but over time dirt and mold took over, turning it into a filthy medium brown color. With a tin roof that doesn't cover all of our 'house', nights are long cold in the winter, hot and sweaty in the summer. The only salvation we get is the few weeks of nice weather in spring and winter. 

"I'm going to see if I can get into the showers this morning. I'll grab our rations too" I mutter to no one in particular. 

The carpet sloshes beneath my feet and in between my toes, the rain from last night soaking all but a few houses. The living conditions in all Village's are bad, but here at Village Rose, they're the worst. We've heard about Village's that have three meals a day, and proper meals at that. And Village's that only make their workers work 8 hours a day instead of 15. I even heard from  B-22-148 that down in Village Poppy, they get dessert twice a week. 

I forgot what dessert taste like a long time ago. 

The nearest shower facility is a good quarter mile down the road. I look around to see if I know any body to walk with and relief flushes through me as I see my best friend, D-19-214. She spots me to and bounces her way over to me, long honey brown hair pulled into a messy ponytail. 

She's barefoot as normal, but something bright catches my eye. Before I can get a good look she shoves the item into her pocket and calls to me. 

"Hey 77."

"Hey, 19. I'm heading to the showers, God knows I need one. If I'm lucky I'll get in today."

"Yeah, same here. I have to grab rations for my mom anyway."

We start walking and I'm drawn back to the object she hid. What is it? Maybe she traded something for extra rations. Her mom's pregnant again with her fifth kid, and right now is no time to be pregnant. Whispers around the Village say the Allies are coming closer to Village Rose, meaning the Ralik's are cracking down on food and security. They'll try and kill as many of us as possible before the Allies come. 

"How's your mom, 19?"

"Fucking huge. I swear to God if she get's any bigger, she'll take up a whole room by her self."

I agree. I seen her mom a few days ago and she really is huge. Like nine months pregnant huge. 

"She should be giving birth pretty soon right?"

"Let's hope so. I can't keep giving her part of my ration's, 77. If I go another week with out eating I mi-"

"Might, nothing. You will eat and work and stay alive. Remember our deal?"

She nods her head and clutches her stomach, nearly indenting into her by now. It's heartbreaking to see how thin she is. I met her when we were first transferred here and she was one of the prettiest people I'd ever seen. Eyes like a stormy sky, hair like an autumn leaf, skin like a Brazilian goddess and a body every girl, and guy, dreamed for. Seeing her weighing maybe 110 pounds soaking wet is devastating. 

The Village itself is full of people, Bugs the Shoanins call us, that generally look the same. The worst of us look like we just stepped out of a Death Camp from the Holocaust, the Villages aren't a far stretch though. Grotesquely pale skin, every bone outlined, sunken broken gray eyes, and nearly no hair. The small amount of muscle definition they have is quickly deplenishing with the rations getting smaller.

A little girl in a stained pink dress whizzes by us with a piece of stale, dirt covered bread in her hands. Little legs take her as far as the nook in between two shacks. She squats down and nervously glances over her should. When she's satisfied no body has seen her, she beings to nibble on the bread, joyous smile dancing on her lips. 

"Wonder where she found the bread, lucky bastard" 19 huffs, continuing our pace. 

I stay back and study the little girl. A sudden thundering voice sends her into a panic. She whips her head up to see a Ralik in a shiny new white and blue suit standing in front of her. His commands for her to give up the bread echo through out the Village, making everyone around us stop and watch. Tears roll down her tender, smudged face as she slowly holds out the bread for him to take. 

He swats at her hand, sending the bread flying and pushes her to the ground. With a thud she skids back a few inches, to shocked to say anything.

"Keep your hands off my daughter you son of a bi-"

The ring of laser cuts the man off. With a heavy thud, he falls to the ground. 

"Daddy? Daddy?!"

Kneeling by her still father, the little girl begs him to wake up. Taking his hand and shaking it, she screams for him to breath once again. 

"Please, Daddy! Please breath! Daddy!"

When her father fails to inhale, she collapses into a heap on his lifeless chest. The Village mourns in silence as the little girl processes what happened to her daddy. 

"Pathetic Bug. Get up. The rest of you, no rations for this morning. Get back in your shack's."

The Ralik pulls his laser and points it toward the small crowd of people who's gathered around. Most begin to scatter and disperse, leaving all thoughts of the little girl and her father behind. 19 decides it's time for her to get home as I catch her running in the corner of my eye.

"Why aren't you going home, Bug? Do you want to end up like him?"

I don't dare look at him, knowing he's talking to me, and muster up all the courage I have left in me.

"Sir, she's got no one to go home to. What is she going to do?"

I dare raise my eyes from the ground and see him steadying his laser on her, taking aim. 

"NO! No no no, I'll take her home. I'LL TAKE HER HOME!" I screech desperately.

He drops the laser and a bemused smile comes upon him. Breathing heavy, I manage to place myself in between the Ralik and the little girl. 

"You'll take care of her? A 15 year old girl is going to take of a 4 year old? Hahah! Don't make me laugh, Bug. Now move before I shoot you to."

"No, please! I promise I'll take care of her, and I'll even split my rations so you won't have to give her any!"

This got him thinking. He put his laser back in his holster and studied me. Orange eyes flicked back and forth from me to the girl and back to me. I wait tensely, scared to make a move.

"Fine. Take her and get back to your shack before I change my mind, Bug."

I wave of relief washes through me as I mutter my thanks. Scooping the crying girls into my arms and away from her father, I jog my way back to the shack, wondering what I'm going to do now. 

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