Sarah Tylczak – Eleven

        The boy struggled against the rough hold of the back-clothed men. They clenched their jaws at the high pitched screams of the boy. His fear and the rush of adrenaline made it so it was harder for the older men to restrain him.

         “M-Mom!” The boy cried, looking towards the figures of his parents. They stood in the dark hallway, silent and emotionless. The boy’s face fell. He stopped struggling and the tall men led the limp figure through the rain and into the back of the dark blue automobile. They slammed the door and ordered that he put on the seat belt. His numb hands fumbled with the cord; he clenched his jaw against the tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. The boy finally heard the familiar click as the seatbelt finally snapped into place. He melted into his seat and closed his hazel eyes, letting two identical tears slide down his cheeks.

          “Damien Rosebrooke, your ID number is 67119.” One of the men ordered. “I suggest you remember that.” Damien got up out of his relaxed state and gazed out the window. He swept his black hair out of his eyes. And let out an affirmative ‘hmph’. He started to repeat the numbers under his breath, tracing them onto the frost of the window. This was not how he assumed his eleventh birthday would go. Of course, his parents had warned him this day would arrive, but he hoped they were playing a joke on him. The scratches on his arm from his struggle with the men assured him that this was not a joke. His eyes darted around the completely black car. What were they trying to hide? Damien thought as the fear and adrenaline started to wear off, and he felt a wave of exhaustion. His head fell against the window, letting the rain lull him to sleep.

          “67119!” The man shouted; his deep voice ate away at Damien’s dream world until he returned to reality.

          “Wha-” he was barely able to make out as he was pushed out of the car. He fell to his hands and knees on the wet cement. “Hey!” Damien yelled. One of the men grabbed Damien by his forearm and forced him to his feet, leaving yet more red marks on the poor boy’s body. He clenched his jaw and quickly wiped the tears from his eyes with his sweatshirt sleeve. His sweatshirt still smelled like home.

          “You will be staying in province number 7” the man firmly ordered. “With 82992”. Damien could almost see a smirk on both the men’s faces as he said that. A worried expression fell over Damien’s face. The man manually turned the boy’s head with his strong hand. The boy gaped. The landscape was much like the one he was torn away from, but for the most part, people were children and teens. There were no stores, just apartment buildings and schools.

          “67119, there” the man pointed to a building in the distance, “room 67.” He gave a slight push to the boy. Which, in his weakened state, almost caused Damien to fall to the ground again. The fear rose in his chest as he slowly started walking, his head felt light, and his heart hurt.

          “Wait!” He called, spinning around to where the men stood. They had already gone. Damien felt like wailing to the sky, he wanted his mom, he wanted his home. He cried, as he sat against a light pole, covering his face with his hands. His tears didn’t seem so big against the rain.

Six Years Later.

          “Eh, Damien, you got any more o’ that?” Damien let out a laugh,

          “You know I do, man” He handed the other boy the dark glass bottle he was sipping from.

          “Attaboy” the blond boy said as he touched the bottle to his lips and let the dark liquid sit in his mouth for a minute before swallowing. He coughed slightly, squinting at the slight burn. “Hell yeah” he managed to stutter out. “Where’d you even get this stuff?” He asked in between coughs. Damien laughed and took another drink easily from the bottle.

          “Don’t worry bout’ it, Mason.” Damien looked to the right as Mason mumbled something about legalization of alcohol.

          “Well well well. 67119 and 82992.” The man sighed as he stepped into the darkness of the alley. Damien jumped and rushed to hide the bottles and stuttered a greeting.

          “General Rose! This isn’t what it looks like.”

          “Eh, Rose. Want some?” Mason said in a drunk state and held out an empty bottle to the man. Damien shot a look at the other boy.

          “67119. Four fights this week and now I catch you drinking?” General Rose said roughly. Damien looked to the ground. “At this rate you’d never have a chance to see your parents again.”

          “Stop using that stupid line on us, Rose. We know you guys probably killed ‘em. Damien, you believe in parents?” Mason said in a drunken high pitched tone. Damien snorted in reply. General Rose stepped forward and took Damien by the shirt sleeve and forced him to his feet.

          “Get some water, Mason.” General Rose said as he led the other boy out of the alley.

          “General I-” Damien stuttered out as the older man loosened his grip on the poor boy’s arm.

          “Damien, I expect better of you.” Damien widened his eyes at hearing his name being spoken by an adult. “You’re a smart boy.” The general went on without notice. “As I’ve said before, you’re almost eighteen. Your dad has been working very hard throughout these years-”

          “What about my mom?” Damien interrupted. The general looked down, and the boy swore he heard a tint of sadness in his voice.

          “We weren’t going to tell you yet, but, your mom.” He sighed. “She didn’t follow protocol.”

          “Well, what’s that supposed to mean??” Damien almost yelled, becoming more anxious and desperate by the second.

          “Once our-their children are taken away, they must work ceaselessly with the government to, well, restore the climate. Those who can’t focus are eliminated. They are not needed here.” Damien choked on his own breath. He could feel the sting of tears that he hadn’t felt since the final day he was with his parents. He quickly stood up straight, although the lump in his throat made his voice give his despair away.

          “So does that mean you’re just gonna kill us all?” General Rose began a reply but had nothing to say. “What’s the point of even being here if we’re all just going to die??” Damien said, choking on the tears that finally slipped from his eyes. He quickly wiped them away and clenched his jaw before speaking again, “what’s the point.” He said in a barely audible high pitched voice. General Rose cleared his breath.

          “You have a chance to…survive. Join the ranks of your father.” Damien looked into the man’s eyes, fury giving them a red tint. “The top ten in your province by the month of December after you turn eighteen have the chance to be with their parents again-” the General sputtered out. Damien spat on the ground.

          “Good bye, General Rose.” He said before stepping around the corner.

          Damien spent days in his bed, only arising for needs. Sometimes, he was screaming into his pillow, other times, he mirrored that of his parents as they watched him be taken away, emotionless. Eventually, he thought about his mom. How disappointed she would be if she saw him now, but at least she’d see him again soon, as he only had two more months until December. Rank 121 out of 176, he would never be in the final ten.

          Suddenly, Mason burst through the door, shooting Damien into a sitting up position.

          “Damien Rosebrook, my man!” He yelled. “Get up, we’re gonna snag some chicks tonight!” Damien sighed.

          “I’m not in the mood tonight, bro.” Mason gave the other boy an annoyed glance.

          “Stop moping, get up and get drunk or something.” He said before slamming the door behind him. Damien hmphed and slammed his head back down on his pillow.

          “Mason was in the final rank, 176, there was no chance for him. So why was the general so aggressive in wanting me to be in the final ten? It’s not like I’d have any chance either.’ Damien thought. He was sure General Rose knew that as well, and just wanted to tempt him with false hope. Damien became angry at the thought. He wanted to prove the general wrong, and make his mom proud. He wiped away the wetness from his cheeks and slowly got to his feet, ignoring the dizzy feeling. He limped from his messy room to his desk, where he cautiously opened his laptop. A holographic image of the province logo appeared amidst the inky black screen. Irritated, he clicked rapidly in hopes that the loading process would go faster. Suddenly the home screen appeared and Damien quickly went to his school’s website with ease. His stomach dropped as he read the requirements to get ranked in the top ten. ‘A 3.8 to 4.0 gpa, a clean record for at least one and a half months, a good reputation around the province, etc.’ he read. He furiously threw himself out of his chair, knocking it over. He paced around his small messy room, his hands going from his face, and back down at his hips again, panic setting in. Crumpling to the ground, he had never felt so isolated and small in that room before.

          Finally, he got to his feet. He was weak, he never wanted to feel so powerless again. He wanted to be in control of himself again, make his own rules, decide when he felt emotions. He turned his attention to his desk, the idle computer, still open to the school’s website. He begrudgingly walked and placed his chair back up, sitting down slowly. He became more determined than ever. The small clicks of his keyboard assured him of his work being completed.

          As the days went on, the teachers took notice of Damien, his grades began to rise, and his clear interest in becoming one of the final ten was apparent. His rank slowly rose as well. 121 slowly became 116, and jumped swiftly to 109. Damien’s determination finally made an impact for the good as two months later, he finally made it.

          “Rank 10; Damien Rosebrook #67119.” General Rose read the title with pride. Damien was beaming. The general shook the boy’s hand.

          “So where’s my dad?” Damien questioned. General Rose smiled and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

          “Right here, I’m proud of you son.”

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