Stories from Refuge – 52 – “So they could justify their hatred of me, of what I look like.”

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Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report B-45, interview with A.C., recorded by Beatrice 75C
RY 100.9.14

I wrote most of that dialogue for T.A., you know, that we did yesterday? He still feels bad about it, not being able to write. He got so shaken up by that incident with the clerk in Commerce, with his nose. It’s an excuse, you know, his voice. Saying he hates his voice so much and that’s why he stopped performing, and that’s why he stopped writing. Actually, he pretty much stopped writing when I was arrested. He’ll say he felt bad that he wasn’t doing enough, that his work wasn’t important enough to get him arrested. He really felt bad that he wasn’t able to protect me. He wanted to go with me to the Media section that day when I hacked into the morning broadcast, but I wouldn’t let him.

I’m going to keep calling him T.A., though, not his name. He likes that, the anonymity. It makes him feel like a real artist.

So that speech I gave him to say: Everyone else plays along, they even look right, and you people don’t look like everyone else so you think you don’t have to act like everyone else, you stick out so you feel justified in acting out. I’ll be honest – I didn’t really write that. I didn’t need to. People have been saying that to me my whole life. Even some of the artists said that to me. Other criminals in Confinement say that to me. People said that to me even when I wasn’t acting out, when I was trying to get along and act like everyone else. Crafting that excuse so they could justify their hatred of me, of what I look like.

There’s one person who never said that to me, though. Can you guess? It’ll probably surprise you. The Commander who arrested me, who found me in Media where I’d locked myself into one of the transmission booths. She had to get one of her bots to rip off the door but she walked into the booth alone, and then she took off her helmet. It was dark in there, hard to see, but there was just enough light coming from the equipment for me to get a good look at her. She looked a little confused, like she hadn’t been programmed to deal with a civilian in this situation. I waited for her to say something to me about how I looked, but she didn’t. Then I said, Your hair is red. Look at you, you’ve got red hair. Where the hell did you get red hair from?

She ran her hand through her hair like she didn’t know, like she didn’t remember what color hair she had. Tugged at it, like she was trying to pull it over her shoulder and look at it but it was too short. Like this whole think confused her, because she didn’t know what she looked like. Now, I’ve seen a lot of things. We all have, right? That’s the point of this council, isn’t it? I’ve seen people beaten to death by bots and people who disappeared after they were involved in riots and people who were so tortured by Empaths messing around in their heads that they went crazy. All of that is exactly why I started writing. But I was never so sure of what I’d done as I was when I looked at that Commander, the person your Government programmed to keep us all in line, and saw she was every bit as oppressed as the rest of us.

©2017 Michelle M. Welch

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