A symptom of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was reoccurrence of the terrible events. Jesse hated the feeling of helplessness when it struck him.
In this world Jesse was seen as one of the higher ups, to never feel want for anything as it was all provided for him. A beautiful wife, a respected position in a top industry, allies in wealthy positions, no hunger. Yet it was all provided with the cold clinical hand of the Community.
Jesse like the rest of society was oppressed by the ruling Community (May We Reunite and Prosper under Community). PTSD was a side-effect and the flashback was always the same.
That sweet scent of apple exhuming from the pristine white Great Hall, blinding against the grey of the city. Cordoned off by a black metal fence, which ended in curved hooks and spindles of barb wire that would shred the flesh of anyone who attempted to climb it.
He passed through the open gates feeling like an intruder.
Jesse stood on the lower steps of the Great Hall, dressed in a stiff cotton shirt and trousers like the rest of those who had turned sixteen. The rough shirt was chafing against his sore arm where he was tested for gene activation. If activated he was invited to give up his entire life up to the ‘Community Association of Human Advancement’. A huge complex in which those activated live and take part in experiments designed to improve those who live in the Main Community lives.
Mayor Yasmin Jonathan stood at the top of the steps. Her black hair straightened so it looked like a sheet of black card. She wore the Community uniform, a dark blue blazer emblazoned with the symbol of the Community, and matching shirt and trousers.
She began to talk but he wondered where Nina was. Jesse searched desperately for the flash of red hair or that familiar rebellious expression she always wore. Why did he always lose her?
“Here are those with genes that have been activated, enabling them to do the selfless act of devoting their lives to the ‘Community Association of Human Advancement’.
And there she was.
Pouring out of the hall with the rest of the activated.
Horror caused him to shout, self-preservation killed the sound in his throat. A fake smile had been forced upon her face but those eyes spoke of fear and loss.
Seconds later one of the activated screamed defiance and pulled out a gun. Aiming it at the Mayor.
Scared cries sounded.
Guards tackled them down.
They pulled the trigger.
It didn’t hit the intended target.
Jesse was pushed off his feet by a strong gush of wind. Pain shattered his body like a fragile glass sculpture, red caught his attention which had suddenly grown huge, something exploded inside him and liquidised his insides.
A sliver of cold slipped from Jesse’s loosening hold and he clutched his side feeling the gush of phantom blood. He faintly heard the shattering of glass that tugged him back to the present. His vision centred on the glass shards and brown sludge of Daily Nutrition solution soaking into his socks. Jesse took a sharp intake of air and became aware of his hand holding the scarred side of his torso. He straightened up, gripping the counter.
“I’ll have to make another one,” Jesse thought, frustrated.
He heard the scrap of a glass shard and spun round to see his wife crouched down on the floor, a piece held between finger and thumb of one hand. He saw the thin stream of blood decorating it.
“Meera leave it,” he said in a strained voice.
“You could cut yourself if it’s not cleaned up,” she murmured, letting it drop with a small clink against the tiled floor.
“You need to get ready and stick to your Community schedule, or people will be questioning your behaviour.”
She glanced down at the white dressing gown and nightgown. He noticed the small teddy bear cradled against her chest like a precious treasure. He felt his throat constrict at the sight, his eyes welled up.
“Why- Why have you got that?” Jesse asked.
Meera glanced up with her eyes wide and vulnerable, her bottom lip trembled when she replied.
“In my schedule the Community permits social interaction with group twenty-two today, the topic is what good have the Community done for us as an individual.” She stroked her stomach. “I thought I would show his teddy bear, so the others would understand how the Community tried to save my baby.”
Jesse wanted to comfort her, to help her through this. But he couldn’t move from his position, he was powerless. So instead he said, “Get ready, you have social interaction in thirty minutes and you need to change into your uniform.”
She still stood there.
“Go and get changed!” Jesse shouted.
Meera cried and ran out of the kitchen.
His expression softened. He felt angry at upsetting her but he had to snap her out of this grief. “Social inadequacy of any sort in the Community will result in that person’s removal to the Experimental Community, in which they will serve a better purpose,” he recalled and added. “That translates as you’ll be sent to hell.”