The True Meaning of Love


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1. One

The city of Philadelphia is deserted.

Well, besides the prisoners, that is. And the people hiding. I used to be hiding, trying not to be seen. But then I got caught.

But they'll eventually get everyone.

I feel a prod in my back. As I stumble, my chains jingle. Some strands of my unique reddish-brown hair fall into my mouth, and I don’t even try to spit them out. I just hang my head, knowing that my luck has run out.

Luck. What is luck, exactly? I sure haven't seen any lately. Is luck just something that was made up a long time ago, to keep us going?

Before my mother was captured, I remember her telling me about how things used to be. No one had to hide to survive. You could move about freely. And it was certainly better than what the world is like today.

But did she make it all up to keep her daughter moving forward? All that's keeping me going right now is the government official behind me, and the long line of people in front of me, all of us chained together by the arm and leg.

My mother also told me that there is an evil in the world now, one that is so strong that it can take over the planet. And nobody knows why the new leader of the world is having every single human being on Earth imprisoned.

I lift up my head a little bit so my eyes can scan the line next to me, scrutinizing all of the heads and faces of the people ahead of me and next to me. They're all looking straight ahead, or down at their feet. Except....

I look back through the line, searching for the girl I just saw. There she is, a small child--maybe six or seven years old. She’s not doing what the others are. The little girl has her head bowed, her eyes closed, and hands folded. It looked as if she was silently saying something.

Noting the dirt all over her body and how every bone seemed to stick out, I assumed that her parents were either dead or captured. She didn't have anybody to clean and feed her, like many children. And even the ones who did weren't much better off. But it still helps to have someone older than you accompany you. I would know, since my life was better when my parents were around, before my mom was captured and my dad killed. Not that my life was ever good.

I see a building up ahead, whose lights are on, unlike the others. The only houses that have electricity are the government buildings. My dad said that there are more government buildings than there used to be. They need more places to keep the prisoners in, since they’re brought in by the hundreds each day.

A wave of despair trembled throughout my body, and I find my lips subconsciously, silently, forming a name.

Miriam.

My name.

I can imagine my mom wiping my hair out of my startling green eyes, comforting me.

“Miriam.”

This time I whispered it. Startled at my boldness, I almost stop walking, but instead trip over my own feet. The official gave me an irritated prod, but he hadn't heard my murmur.

Mother used to say my name in a hushed, yet beautiful, voice, to calm me. And it had worked.

“Miriam.”

I said it a little louder than before. He still didn't hear me.

Maybe I wanted to be comforted again, but it wasn't the same. And I didn't dare say anything more. Two times was a stretch, but a third time, who knows what would happen?

Nobody would care if they killed me. I’m just an ordinary girl, another youth who can't even imagine a safe world to live in. A lonely teenager who can only imagine what it was like back before the world was taken over by a demented megalomaniac.

Why should anyone care? It’s not like I hold the key to their freedom.

 

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