Friday, August 14, 2009

It Must Be a Mistake

I was just walking down the street, minding my own business. I know, that’s what they all say, right? But I really was. In a way, I wish I had done something wrong—mouthed off in class about the government, or hacked into classified documents, or jaywalked in front of a security camera—anything to explain why they took me. But I hadn’t. I was walking home from school, just like every other day of my life, when they jumped out of the van and grabbed me.

They were obviously government agents, in their black uniforms armed with guns and high tech radios and little computers clipped to their belts. Their voices were those of authority as they barked orders- “Hands in the air! Against the wall! Don’t move!” They patted me down and restrained me with the brusqueness of people who did this kind of thing every day, just doing their jobs. The van they shoved me into was grey and unmarked, the kind everyone knows is seen right before the kind of disappearances that aren’t talked about.

I think the man in the back of the van must have been some kind of doctor, but that part is woozy. I vaguely remember him leaning over me, and I know he must have injected me with something, because my panic began to dull and everything went very fuzzy and finally faded to black.

When I woke up I was strapped to a chair in an interrogation room. Everything was still fuzzy, and I still can’t remember that part with any clarity. They questioned me. I can’t remember what they wanted to know. I think that was probably the point of the drug; that I wouldn’t remember afterwards. Except, if they expected I’d be dead…. I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t plan that far ahead yet, at that point. What I do remember of that interrogation was my terror, and confusion—I had no idea what they were talking about, what they wanted from me. I remember trying to explain in a slurred voice that this must be a mistake, and my outraged indignation at the injustice of it all. I remember the feeling of the hot tears on my cheeks as I cried and tried to answer their questions, “I don’t know! I’ve never heard of that! I’ve never met that person! I don’t know anything about any of this! You’re making a mistake, maybe you have me confused with someone; I would never do anything wrong, I’m a good citizen!”

It was true. I was such a good citizen, that I really believed they must be making some horrible mistake. I thought that maybe there was someone who looked like me, or had the same name, that had done something really, really terrible—so bad as to deserve the treatment I’d been getting, and far worse. I imagined their apologies when they realized their mistake. They’d be truly, honestly, sorry; they’d drive me home and explain to everyone that they’d made a horrible error, and I’d been so brave, and they’d eventually caught the real criminal. Maybe they’d give me some kind of compensation—money, or an award, or something to make up for it all. After all, they weren’t bad people, and they were trying to do the right thing, they’d just made a mistake.

Yeah, I really was that naive.

Eventually they either realized I didn’t know anything or decided that whatever I did know, I wasn’t going to tell them, so they injected me again. When I woke up, I was in some kind of warehouse-like building, slumped in a chair. Across the table from me was a young woman maybe five or six years older than me—in her early twenties. I don’t know how I knew she was a prisoner, not an agent, but I knew. She seemed calm and alert, but wary too. I wasn’t muddled like I had been the first time I’d woken up from being drugged, but I was scared and confused and had no idea what was going on. I realized I wasn’t cuffed to the chair, but after looking around I knew better than to try to escape. I was at a table in the middle of the room, and around the edges of the room was a sort of wooden platform, with maybe twenty agents with machine guns standing all around it. So I didn’t try to move.

I studied the woman sitting across from me, the least intimidating figure in the room. Though after watching her silently for a few minutes, I realized she probably was a criminal. It’s not that she seemed like one, but I didn’t think she was just some innocent person picked up off the streets like me. She had this… attitude of not being surprised at anything.

After letting us stare at each other silently for maybe ten minutes, two of the agents came down from the platform and stepped up to the table. One was a kind of rat-like man, and the other was a small woman with cold eyes. The man announced, “Eya Foxgold, you know why you’re here. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

Terror filled me, and I began to babble, panicked, “I don’t know why I’m here! I’m innocent, I didn’t do anything, I don’t even know what you think I did but whatever it was I didn’t do it, this is all a huge mistake, I would never do anything!” I couldn’t look at the agents, so I looked at the woman across the table from me. She gave me a sad, cynical kind of smile, like, Do you really think they care? And I knew, then, that they didn’t, so I shut up.

The rat-like agent then turned to her and said in the same way, “Holly Malacrow, you know why you’re here. Do you-”

She interrupted him, mid-sentence. “Yeah, yeah, I know why I’m here. Fuck you too.”

Just a minute ago, I’d been thinking she was a criminal, and now she was confirming it, but it didn’t matter anymore. I liked her, admired her, wished I could be as brave and cool under fire as her, wished at least that we could be friends.

The agent said, in an authoritative yet somehow mocking tone, “Holly Malacrow, you are being given the honor of ridding this county of a traitorous piece of scum!” He held up a gun, not the machine gun he was armed with but a smaller one. “You understand that if you try anything stupid, you’ll be gunned down by my colleagues. Now you can shoot her, or shoot yourself.” He smirked, and looked me over, and I could feel him imagining my dead body slumping onto the floor. He handed Holly the gun.

She looked me in the eyes, and raised the gun, and I knew I was about to die. I’d never see my family or friends again, never sit down in my desk at school, never have the chance to… so many things. I’d be one of those people who just disappear, and everyone knows what happened to them but nobody talks about it for fear of joining them. I wanted to look away, but I didn’t want to spend my last moment on earth as a coward, so I met her gaze head on.

“Make it worth it,” she said, and before I could comprehend, she raised the gun to her head and pulled the trigger.

I don’t know why they let me go. I think they must have known, probably all along, that I was innocent. Was I just a trap for her? But no, the agent really had expected her to kill me. But they could have killed me too. I’ll never know why they didn’t. I was injected again, and as I slid off into unconsciousness I assumed it was a lethal poison this time. I can’t begin to describe how shocked I was when I woke up on the sidewalk sometime later.

I managed to get home. I’d been missing for a day. My parents were frantic, and demanded an explanation. “I don’t know, I don’t feel good,” I mumbled, still bleary from the drugs. I went to sleep, and when I woke up the next day I said I had no idea what had happened, and I must have gotten really sick and collapsed somewhere. Well, I couldn’t tell the truth. Everybody knows you can’t talk about that kind of thing.

I think about Holly Malacrow a lot. I’d thought she must have been a criminal, but I think now that she was actually a rebel. Before, I would have said it’s the same thing, but I don’t think that anymore. The whole thing wasn’t just a mistake, and if the government really does things that horrible—and now that I’ve been thinking about it, I know they do; not everyone who’s disappeared deserved it, and some of their laws are just ridiculous when you actually think about them—then maybe it’s right to rebel against them.

I want to find Holly’s family, or friends, or whoever her people were, and tell them what happened. I have to be careful to do it without raising suspicion, but I have some ideas. I think they’ll be rebels too, and I’m going to join them. Because what I think about most of all was that last thing she said, “Make it worth it.” And I will.

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