I don’t like it.
Just a number – that’s what they were. A five digit number, starting with one and a hyphen. That was what everyone was represented by. All the work they did (every question marked with pristine red ink dabbling over blocky print, every question marked with a check, an A, and a 100%) had their number stamped in the top right hand corner. The leering crimson marks glared at the students cheerfully – You got a Perfect!! Your parents will be so proud of you! – and the paper would reflect the fluorescent lights sharply into the eyes of the students.
Everyday and sometimes every night, they would read books. Books with black covers and cream pages with squares of text that seemed to never end. They were textbooks, and the students were to study for a test that they would always get 100% on.
I said, I don’t like it!
Whenever someone was late, or tied his navy-and-white tie wrong, the instructors would pull an alarm. When it began trilling shrilly, everyone hid under their desks in sync while the lone offender would stand beside their desk quietly. Then an officer would come in, armed with a heavy looking rusty gun and a crusty leer. After scanning the large white room slowly while still grinning, he would thump towards the student, clicking his gun and his war-weary boots. He would then point his gun at the student noisily, snapping his gum, the noise resounding across the classroom. Sometimes he would pause a little longer, but most times, after ten meticulously counted seconds, there would be a loud bang and a splattering sound. Immediately another bell would sound and people would come to clean up. Rarely would the student be dead – though if they were . . . well, they were.
For more serious offences, the instructor would order everyone into the halls (including themselves), then pull the alarm. The same officer would come and would thump into the empty classroom, cocking his gun and twirling a slim knife between the fingers of his left hand. No one knew what would happen after – the victim would always disappear afterwards, as well as any sign of a murder.
Let us out.
Only once in a blue moon, however, would someone mess up. Most years would pass by peacefully and calmly, everything under control. Everything was fine . . . until someone broke down the walls containing the masterminds of their prison. That student had feigned a casual mistake and waited for the old soldier patiently and unsuspiciously (they had thought). Then the grinning officer arrived, gun pointed carelessly near the boy’s left shoulder. The student watched the man carefully, and as soon as his forearm tensed, he turned and grabbed the soldier’s shoulders from behind. Years of no practice had torn the survival skills from the man, and the boy had quickly gained the gun, the slim silver knife, and the upper hand. He shifted the gun and shot.
Killing the killer was the first step; the second and third were much more complicated. As soon as the others heard the gunshot, they came out of their hiding spaces and the janitors kicked open the door. The student whipped around and shot at the door spasmodically. Some time after, the boy had landed himself a talk with the government heads (We have seen your skill and we think you’d be a great addition to our queue of outstanding soldiers and fighters!!). Throughout a series of gang fights outside the wooden walls of the House, the boy could only talk to the officials through a computer screen. They offered him a job, but he declined. Politely.
Or we’ll let ourselves out.
The recent uprisings and the story of the boy with the gun had spread fear into the hearts of everyone (for the first time!) and anyone. The tightness around the townspeople and schools were just the beginning. A few days after the boy had “met” with the heads, the main schools were infested with people wearing and spreading red. They cut through everyone but encountered the Slaughterhouse at the gates of the official’s headquarters.
The Red Plague, though cut down, were not gone. They had left scars on the otherwise unblemished mentality of the weak city-dwellers. The boy was covered in slices, thin cuts long and jagged on his pale skin. He was marred. He was desperate – for now, although everyone was different and everyone was themselves (what he had wanted) they were bleeding and dying and hungry. The House had remained stable and unmarked during the course of it all, thanks to the Slaughterhouse (I told you that you should work for us!).
He cursed his luck and scrabbled painfully for a rock around him as he kneeled on the desert surrounding the wooden walls. Finally, his fingers closed around something sharp and light. He shut his eyes and grit his teeth. Five . . . four . . . three . . two . . . one . . .
He threw the rock at the wooden walls with all of his might and the walls crashed down.
We’ll let ourselves out.