The next morning I don't feel much better. Although most of the exhaustion is gone, I still feel emotionally drained and the last thing I want to do is school. Not like I have a choice. The Cyborg makes everybody go to school only to stuff an altered version of knowledge into our heads so that the next generation, we, will be easy to manipulate. They think we don't realize, they consider us stupid apes whom they can enslave by telling lies. They dare lie as though we haven't even been here in the past few decades to witness the events of our own history. They keep telling us they're superior and that we used to be their servants, but then we took over and now they are just taking back what should be theirs.
The truth is that we have invented them and they were just empty, dull, inanimate bodies with a tiny speckle of awareness and intelligence so that they can fulfill their duties like patrolling on the street, helping with the chores and the homework, and replacing the cashiers and the factory workers, and every single person knows it on this Earth. Of course, nobody dares say a word, intimidating works well and if there is something, this is what they're great at. Only the most stupid, or desperate, people go against over two meters tall, mechanical monsters with bulletproof armor "skin" and immense strength with which they can kill anybody with a punch, not to mention the former-patrols who have tasers built in to their palms. Getting engaged in a fight with those beasts equals a death sentence, especially since they've gotten orders from the Cyborg that rebels can be killed on the spot without further reason.
They do have a few weak points, though, even if these are not so big or noticeable. On of them is arrogance. And except from the Cyborg, the head, the inciter of this whole mess, they are horribly imbecile and I know this will be their end. Because they will all go black before dad's execution would occur. I will stop them. I don't know how, but I can't let this happen. I can feel the flame flare up in me, but I stop it before it could bloom any further. Yesterday had put me on alarm, so no tantrum will catch me off guard again for a while. I don't think I could bear one more right now.
Today getting ready takes about double the time it usually does as I smear my eye-liner, twice, don't manage to secure the bun of hair on the top of my head and end up leaving it hang down freely and put on a lose, black, one shoulder tee, I hastily got out of my closet, inside out.
After half an hour I finally shuffle into the kitchen where I have breakfast with dad every morning while mum is still asleep, but this time I don't find him on the other side of the table with papers in hand as usual. For a moment I think he's just oversleeping, but then a suspicious thought crosses my mind. Although even I can't believe that it might possibly be true, yet there is no way I will not check it out.
I bargain into my parents' room and freeze as I see mum stirring alone in the bed standing in front of the door on the other side of the room. For a moment my mind goes blank and I can't think except from two sentences. They captured him. They won't let him come home. The first feeling to bring my mind back to life is guilt. Why didn't I realize it yesterday? It's so obvious. If they let him come home, we will run away and they know that. Bile rises into my throat as I think: The Cyborg is clever. Very clever.
"What's wrong, Dara?" Mum says, her voice is dripping from worry. She must have woken up till I was off, because now she is in sitting position, looking up to me with bleary eyes. My guilt enhances; I hate that she has to worry about me when there's already dad so I cool down as much as I can and answer "Nothing" then I leave the room.
My little appetite that I'd managed to summon so that I could eat with dad was all gone with him so I lift my backpack, which lies at the very same spot where I left it yesterday, and slowly begin the scant two miles to school that I have to take on my feet since we aren't allowed to use any kind of vehicles. Frankly, I have no problem with walking, I like the clear, sharp morning air, the paucity of people and the whole atmosphere, except every time it comes to my mind why I'm experiencing it, I barely can stop myself from running up to one of our robotic buddies and throw a punch in the middle of its face. Though fortunately self-preservation is always the winner and I stay put.
No matter how sluggishly I walk, I still arrive too soon to school, but at least I find a seat and sit down. For a few minutes I'm just staring out of my head, but when other students starting to take their own seats, I extract a notebook from my pack so that I look less like a schlep. I carry on doing it through Maths and History, a.k.a. brain-washing. The teacher doesn't care, doesn't talk to me or ask me anything and I take my time thinking about dad. Are they keeping him in one of the room in the Lab or is he in jail? The main question circles in my head, the one I can't stop thinking about. If I knew, perhaps I would be able to...
The dismissal bell breaks my train of thoughts. I throw the now almost entirely black with ink notebook into my backpack with teary eyes, ready to barrel through the crowded halls for the ladiesroom where I can lock myself up in a stall and sob it off without witnesses. I manage to make it to the door when the teacher's words make me come to a screeching halt.
"Children, tomorrow we are visiting the Lab, where we are going to learn about the evolution of the mechanical creatures" Mr. Witte thunders through the surge of students. Despite the volume, there's no hint of anger or impatience in his voice, even though his British accent has always rendered his speech a bit cold to my ears. In fact, his voice sounded tired. Even resigned. Maybe that's why he didn't care about me today, and maybe, just maybe, I should resign to the facts, too. After all, what could I do? I'm sixteen. I'm only a teen girl. Even out of all my peers I'm an especially tin-pot one. Nobody notices me in class, on the halls or on the street, and I'm fine with that. At least they don't taunt me or hurt me. Yet, now I could bear some attention. Perhaps if I could gather a major mob...
My head almost bangs against the classroom door as a body bumps into me from the back. I said so. Nobody would notice me. "Sorry." He mumbles. At least he apologizes. "You okay?" Now that he says more than one word I notice how deep and smooth his voice is, like when you slide your hand along on a scrap of red, royal velvet. I'm curious what face matches a voice like this. Surely nobody who was in this school before the overthrown, I would remember. It's indeed rather likely, since most of the current students didn't use to be here.
During that one day of fight, yes that's the span of time what it took us to realize we didn't stand a chance, many buildings were destroyed including quite a few schools, so they decided to divide Manhattan into school districts. Three, to be accurate. Three school districts mean seven in each with more than six thousand students per school. They weren't designed for this. Since the consolidation we've been packed like sardines, constantly stomping on one another's foot, hustling and jostling along the way to our classrooms. What a luck that in the new system there are no detention for being late, because if there were, I would spend all my afternoons here. On the other hand, I do spare a few minutes of breathing the stale air of eighty other kids, some of them without hot water at home, even if I have to stand through the rest.
"You okay?" He repeats sounding a bit hasty, but not harsh and I finally turn around. The first thing I see is his neck, he's so tall, and I have to lift my head up to be able to see his face. But when I do, I forget to breathe. Handsome is not a satisfactory word anymore. His dark brown, almost black hair frames his thin, triangular face, encompassing his neck and sticking out in every direction from there. His forehead, eyebrows and the top of his deep, brown eyes, which have exactly the same shade as his hair, are also draped by it. He has a perfectly straight nose and under it his full lips, the upper one a wee bit thinner than the lower, are slightly parted as he's probing me. Not with concern or curiosity, but not even with indifference. It's hard to decipher what his look really means, yet I think I find some amusement as well as nervousness there. Odd combination, but the moment is gone and I don't get to have any more time to contemplate on it, yet my heart wouldn't stop flipping back and forth over and over again. I don't like when I'm being stared at, because what else would cause it?
"Yes." The word comes out hoarsely, barely above a whisper as though I haven't been speaking forever. What's wrong with me? I clear my throat, stand up a little taller and try again "Yes." Not bad. Though it's still pretty raspy, it was audible at least. I want to keep on speaking, to ask what his name is. Which school he came from. Where he lives, just to keep him from leaving, but I'm frozen and he nods and dodges me and disappears to the left in the hall. Now that he's gone I notice that I'm the last in the classroom and I scurry out toward my next class, IT.
IT has been changed, too, just like History, Tech. History, Maths and many other subjects, even though it seems to be the same for the first sight. We still learn how to use the computer, how to program robots or repair them, only now incorrectly so that we don't know how to deactivate them.
A person who is not a pro would never find out the trick, neither did I for a while, but we had some geek guy in our class who started preaching about stuff, how it's not supposed to be like this and all that jazz. Soon the police came to take him away and I haven't heard anything from him since then. Probably he's dead. I shudder and try to concentrate on something else. Unfortunately it backlashes as my dad's execution comes to my mind and I shuddered once more. Where can he be? I start all over again the same questions like I could figure the answers out this time. Do they keep him in the Lab? Or is he in jail? If he's in the Lab maybe I could...No. It's already a big if, but even if he is there, there are still myriads of nearly unsurmountable issues. How would I find him? How would I be able to pass the guards without being noticed? How would I open the cell? How would we get out without getting ourselves captured? No. I couldn't. Tears spring to my eyes once again as I starting to indeed acknowledge his inevitable death.
I reach the last intersection of halls where I should keep going straight ahead, but this time I take a bend to the right toward an emergency exit. I can't go to class. Not now. I can't. I can't. I can't...Something wet meets the skin above my collarbone and I realize; I'm crying. I'm crying and I'm running out of the door, out of the school premises, away from the problems. Just for a few hours I want to be free. I want to be oblivious to this world and to all the things that have turned bad. Bad? No. Not bad. Awful.
I stop for a second, only to look around if there's anybody in the huge, green, lush park, but I'm alone. It used to be teeming with people, especially with parents who brought out their kids to play in almost the last remnant of nature, however, now everybody stays at home as much as it's possible so as to avoid trouble the best they can. Not like it'll stop the robots from blowing the door at them, but this is just how survival instinct is. To hide and then if you can't hide anymore, to fight, to kill, to betray.
I tiny, dilapidated hut invades my vision as I wander around and I decide it'll be a good place to spend the rest of the afternoon. I don't think anybody would come here, it looks too deserted with the dirty, grey plywood walls and roof, and the holes that I can see the dank, filthy, empty inside through. I used to come to the park a lot with my friends, I think and sadness grips my heart, but I never noticed this. Hopefully nobody else will. Not now.
By the time I sit down onto the ground, where there is no floor only the bare soil, the tears have dried up from my face, yet the hollow grief lingers. I can't even imagine it'll leave anymore. Will they make us go to watch the execution? I'm certain I couldn't bear that. No way. Neither could mum. She loves dad so so much, her heart will break into little pieces, there's no need to torture her even more. Or me. His daughter. I love him, too. I don't want him to die. I feel my throat constrict and in the next second the tears return, but now instead of a narrow trickle, a whole flood comes. I'm choking on sobs, and for a heartbeat I think there's an earthquake, but then I realize it's just my body that's shaking unrelentingly. I draw in a long breath as if I have been under water for minutes and now ascending out of it I'm greedily taking in as much air as I can, then I close my eyes when the next surge steals it again.
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