I wasn’t out when they started.
I never was quite sure, even before. I mean, I always knew , but I didn’t act on it. I was too preoccupied with other things… we all were, back then. Latency was a luxury we could afford back then, ignoring all the shit that was happening to the world. Now with how quiet everything is it feels like latency is all there is to life; just wading through waist deep water, trying to cross a moat between the prison gate and the infinite forest of trees to disappear into.
In my mind, the moat was once something manageable-- like lapping a swimming pool. Then as the days crawled by it slowly grew longer and longer until the treetops were barely a solid line on the horizon. I would have to turn back, otherwise I’d drown before I lasted half the opportunity the night would present me in my coping analogy.
It was stupid, sure, but in Gilead it’s so quiet. Too quiet. If I didn’t think about anything I’d have used the gun on my belt to end myself before it lasted two minutes.
I remember reading something about that, in psychology class in high school: how the mind can adapt to sensory input or lack thereof within minutes. I bet if that were the case here there wouldn’t be so many bodies that were hung on the wall, but there’s less than there used to be. Back when it started the dyke purges were still fresh in everyone’s minds. I would even be called to hang some if I was seen outside nearby, waiting for my Commander to come back from whatever business he wasn’t too chatty about on the drive over.
Ten at once, they’d remarked. Busted a Quakers safe house. More were coming. I block it out and pull by the man’s shoulders, praying to myself that the bloody sleeve doesn’t rip. The dead unsettle me. Make me feel sick. Like they’re trying to pull me closer till I die myself.
I wasn’t in town the next day but Mona filled me in. I listened with dull eyes, focusing on the number of knobs on the cabinet in the corner. Sixteen, black and polished, with a braided design embossed like a halo. A crown. Then she was done. She must’ve noticed I wasn’t responding.
She’d been taking over her shopping for the day. I called her ‘her’ because I don’t know here real name, not technically at least. I know they call her Ofchester, just like they called the last one. I know I’m supposed to call her that, but I don’t. When we cross paths, I bow my head and respond to her pleasantries, quiet and meek, doing as she’s told with her shopping bag and conjoined twin waiting for her outside the front gate. Walking off to the store, feet stuck in an indestructible rail. Walking off to an exact destination and back every time, but it’s something.
I used to walk everywhere. I miss that feeling. I didn’t even own a car back then; too expensive, and getting used to driving again was a laborious task. But Commander Hawthorne apparently thought I was worthy of being his chauffeur, so here I am. I guess it could be worse. It’s not like there’s traffic jams or accidents in Gilead.
I could be on the wall, with that Quaker man and his children. The light must’ve hit them when they’d tried to get their guests through the moat. Light shone on the traitor; a divine one, they’d say, and bathed the man and his children in a forgiving glow.
More like poisoning an ant until it returns to infect its own nest; it’s own sanctuary, as its insides melt and shlosh around an empty thorax. Either way, it’s all bullshit.
But it’s where I am, waiting for something outside, whether it’s outside my door, outside the border, or even outside the planet. Hell, if aliens were to invade the earth it’d be a Godsend. At least they’d probably all kill us before we had to spend another second watching the bodies twist in the air like lifeless dolls, blood congealing on the pavement beneath their bare feet.
The bags were a good idea. Well, not a good idea, like taking the bus or investing in stock exchange. More like a ‘shut the door so the kids won’t hear us fighting’ type of good. Preventative goodness. Seeing their faces would mean they were still human to us.
Someone I once knew told me once you remember the similarities under the skin, the labels vanish. I remember learning once why eyeless things were terrifying. Eyes were a window to the soul-- something to connect to, to empathize with, to remind you there’s something there.
Not there. Now there’s nothing there. The bags over their heads blind us to them, from seeing the same angled jaw, the same lips, the same stubble or birthmark. It’s selfish. It’s disrespectful. But lack of true identity is good for my sanity. If I had to see an old colleague or classmates or even a friend from somewhere years ago, it would be much more effective in breaking my spirits.
Or on second thought, maybe it would have the opposite effect, to know the circle of people who could kill me by knowing what they knew before were being picked off, one by one, until I’m the only claim or evidence; and the defendant who claims guilt in this world is a stupid one.
I’m sorry if I sound like a horrible person for thinking this. I just can’t explain the feeling of relief when I know someone from my old life is free from torment one way or another. By border or by the wall. But I’ve only felt this way once, so it’s not true relief; not yet. There are still a few who’s fate can’t be narrowed down with any degree of certainty. So I just don’t think about it some days.
Thinking can also drive you mad, if you’re in too deep.
I guess that’s a fragile balance, true; but if that’s what it takes to survive here, I’m not sticking my neck out yet.
Maybe I shouldn’t have started writing again, writing this. I used to be all sentimental about that kind of thing-- preserving random shit for future generations. I guess back then it had no true purpose when it was made, things like personal accounts. Like that girl’s diary way back then. This doesn’t really have a purpose other than to keep myself from becoming a jumbled mess of unfinished thoughts-- like a broken word processor. Strings or words snipped and the weight falling dead towards the pavement, only for the rope round the neck to catch them.
I shouldn’t have started writing this, even in my own space above the kitchen in the seperate flat. Like that girl and her family. I’m going to be caught sometime. There was an old saying I remember reading back during my English class in college. It was a quote of the day. Something from Japanese philosophy, for us to analyze and give the professor five minutes to browse porn.
The stake that sticks out is the first to be hammered down. I am the stake. I’m not the first, but I stuck out nonetheless. The Eyes are the hammer. I just have to inch my way down into the board, with everyone else, before my brains are bashed in.
Before I join him on the wall.