~~I’m woken by someone gently shaking my shoulders, “Anna, it’s time to go,” I’m relieved to hear Casper’s voice because if Roebai had dared to enter my room there would have been serious consequences.
I slowly begin to stir and let out a low moan so that Casper knows I’m awake. He gets up and goes downstairs after reminding me that breakfast is being served so if I want some I’ll have to come downstairs before the others eat it all.
I half fall and half climb out of bed then walk into the bathroom to freshen up. I feel a little stiff and tiered but not from lack of sleep but from lack of sunlight. I quickly look downstairs to check the others are occupied then I lock my door and open the window. Sunlight floods into the room and I turn my chloroplasts on and breathe in the sun’s rays, letting it fill me up. I begin to relax, the achiness goes and I don’t feel tiered anymore so after about 10 minutes I turn it off then close the window. I make sure I no longer look green then make my way downstairs and find the boys pigging out on what must be a fridge lode of food.
Casper looks up when I walk in and smiles, Clay waves from across the room and Roebai doesn’t notice me, he’s too busy devouring a slice of bacon. I walk over and sit next to Casper. “Are you hungry?” he asks and I shake my head. He frowns at me then shrugs and continues eating his meal.
When the boys have all finished eating we all hand our keys in then walk outside. I then follow the boys as they navigate expertly around the streets towards the work camp that all inefficient are required to work in between the age of 16 and 24. My dad used to own one before he got promoted to work in the government. He’d never let me come with him to see his work when I used to ask him as a child so I’ve never seen the inside of one. I’ve seen video footage though and it looks decent enough, everyone gets a cabin to share with a few other people and the work is hard but fulfilling, or so the voice over said.
We reach the huge brass gates and a guard walks over. As he approaches I think to myself, this is your last chance to go home, all you have to do is tell him who you are. I keep my mouth shut though and stand behind Casper so the guard doesn’t look at me, I don’t want to risk him recognising me, then my plan would be over before it even begun.
“We’ve returned for work” Casper says and I watch Clay shuffle uncomfortably beside him. When I look at Roebai he has his normal stone cold expression on with his hands stuffed into his pocket. The guard nods at someone and the gates open slowly. We walk through them then they shut behind us. I’m shut inside now, no turning back.
I look around and I have to stop myself from gasping. It’s not like the video footage that I was shown in school. No, people are walking round with huge black bags under their eyes. I notice some people lying on the floor clutching their stomachs and groaning. In one area of the dirty courtyard we’re standing in there’s a line for food and instead of making their way to the canteen we were shown in the video the workers are eating it on the floor, in the mud and dirt. I cover my mouth with my hand and push back tears. Everything they told me was a lie, these people are being treated like animals and I will be too.
I follow the boys and we reach a huge hall full of beds and I bite my lip. If this is where we’re going to have to sleep then I’ll get no privacy so I won’t be able to photosynthesis. Casper see’s the expression on my face “Which camp did you say you used to work in?” He asks and I look up at him feeling a little panicked. “I didn’t” I say and Casper frowns.
“How old are you?”
“I was 17 last month” I tell him and he frowns then looks a little impressed.
“You managed to avoid the work camps all this time then voluntarily came with us, why?” His words take me by surprise and I decide I need to tell him as much of the truth as possible because I’m such an awful liar. “I’m looking for someone,” I tell him.
“The person who killed my father” I say quickly instantly regretting it because he looks surprised, that’s it I’ve somehow given myself away haven’t I? I brace myself for him to start shouting or something but he doesn’t he just shakes his head. “You shouldn’t look for revenge, you seem like a good person but it will ruin you. Believe me I should know.” He says quietly then he looks around the hall looking for someone. He must see them because he waves them over, forgetting our conversation.
A tall slim girl walks over with a short bob of black hair bouncing against her chin as she walks over. “Hey Casper, where’d you get to last night?” She asks then notices me and smiles. “Who’s this?”
“This is Anna, she’s new here and I was wondering if you could find any clothes for her. I don’t think the ones she’s wearing now are going to be very practical” The girl nods as she looks at my summer dress and sandals. “I’m sure I can sort something out, come with me” She says then motions for me to follow her. “I’m Erin by the way” She adds and I smile at her.
She leads me to a box of clothes in the corner of the room then starts rummaging around and manages to produce some black jean like trousers and a long sleeved navy top. She nods towards a door a few meters away “You can get changing in there” She says then hands me some leather boots “Hopefully they’re the right size” I nod then shuffle over the room and slide inside.
I wriggle out of the dress and pull the clothes on. They aren’t a perfect fit, the tops a little baggy and the jeans cut into my hips a little. I deicide to keep my denim jacket that I was wearing under my cloak so pull that on as well. The boots fit well enough that they stay on my feet as I walk out of the room.
Erin is waiting outside and smiles at me “Nice jacket, who’d you steal it from?” She asks and it takes me a second to realise she isn’t joking. “Umm some rich girl left it on the back of her chair while she went to the toilet” I say remembering what had once happened to me. I’d really liked that coat as well. Erin nods in approval “You might need this” She says then drops a hair band into my hand. I bite my lip trying to not imagine how many peoples hair it’s been in before mine. “Thanks,” I mumble. “You can also have the bed next to mine if you want cause my sisters just turned 25 and left yesterday”
Relief floods through me when she says this, at least I don’t have to worry about finding a bed now. I follow Erin as she leads me towards the middle of the hall then she sits on one bed which is covered in scrunched up sheets. She then gestures the neater one beside hers and I gingerly sit down on it. “You can keep your stuff in here” She explains and gestures to the small cupboard beside the bed. I lean over and push my clothes inside. I look up and see Erin looking at me strangely “You don’t seem like the normal inefficient…there’s something different about you,” she say and she narrows her eyes at me. Luckily Casper decides to interrupt our conversation before I have to come up with an answer. “Hey Anna, we need to get you registered here so that they can assign you to a group” He explains and I stand up and follow him out of the hall.
Outside I try not to notice the dirt and misery I’m now going to be living in. I watch people wondering into other buildings with guards manning the doors. For a moment I feel worried that one of the guards is bound to recognise me but then I realise, they won’t be looking to recognise my face amongst the inefficient. To them the inefficient seem to be sheep that they have to round up, this makes me feel a little sick because I am now a sheep and not a farmer.
Casper leads me to a door labelled ‘office’ then knocks it firmly and pushes it open. Inside a man with spectacles sitting half way down his nose is lounging on a leather chair behind a long oak desk. He raises a well plucked eye brow at us when we enter. I bite my lip nervously waiting for him to ask us why we’re here. He doesn’t so Casper takes a step forward “Sir this is Anna, she’s just arrived here and would like to register to be in a work group” The man leans forward staring down his nose at me, looking me up and down as if I’m a piece of meat. He purses his lips then leans back in his chair “How old are you Anna?” He asks and pull at the sleeve of my jacket nervously, I don’t like the way he’s looking at me with his sly eyes. “17” I mumble and the man raises his eyebrows.
“Why have you waited this long to register, surely you know that everyone has to work from the age of 16 or do you think that the rules don’t apply to you?” He demands and I wince and the sharpness of his voice. Casper puts a hand on my shoulder “She’s had the plague sir, she was unable to work,” he says and the man narrows his eyes then nods. I give Casper a grateful nod while the spectacles guy scans a piece of paper on his desk.
“She can be in Sargent Fletcher’s group, they’re numbers have dropped after the gas attack yesterday” Casper sighs in relief so I take this as a good sign.
“Come and sign on this line” The man barks at me and I shakily walk up to the desk. The man slides a piece of paper toward me and I hesitantly take the pen from him, I have 5 seconds to come up with a new last name because he’s instantly know who I am if I put ‘Morgestern’
I sign my name ‘Anna Prince’ because one of my servants has that last name so it must be suitable. Spectacles man picks the piece of paper up then checks it quickly “Well Anna Prince, welcome aboard” He says flatly then waves his hand in a gesture for us to leave. I quickly cross the room and slide out the door with Casper but before he closes the door Spectacles adds “Oh Casper make sure that friend of yours turns up to work today otherwise he’ll be put up for a whipping” I shiver at the threat, 3 guesses to who it’s aimed at.