Stories from Refuge – 54 – “Playing along and staying quiet meant I would be safe.”

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-46, interview with E.M., recorded by Mary 80C
RY 100.9.19

I never got arrested. Never had my mind messed with by Empaths, never roughed up by bots. When I was younger I though this meant I was lucky. It was a good idea, keeping my head down, being quiet. Playing along and staying quiet meant I would be safe, not like my dad and my brothers who were arrested when I was a little kid, or my best friend from school that I never saw again. I got good grades, I was on track to get a good job, I’d be able to afford a living unit in one of the quiet sections where they didn’t have riots or break-ins. That’s the best you can hope for down here, and I was hoping for it with everything I had.

It’s hard to pinpoint what changed. Everyone likes to point to something dramatic, like the kid who stood up on his desk and started screaming about injustice until the Commanders were called in, and he wouldn’t stop screaming so they had the bots come in and knock him down. That’s when it happened for my best friend – the one I never saw again – she was sure the bots had killed that kid and she said that’s it, she was part of the resistance now. I told her the kid wasn’t dead, he just got knocked out, and we were so close to graduation, and it would be stupid to get in trouble now. But maybe I did have doubts, even then, whispering so quietly in the back of my head that I didn’t know what they were saying. Maybe I just didn’t want to admit what they were saying.

If I hadn’t been late to work that day I wouldn’t have seen the sign. Someone stuck it up on the wall in Section 24 just after the train had gone by, and I saw it while I was waiting for the next one, wondering if I should just walk. It was hard to read, scribbled on a torn piece of paper that already had two or three other things written on it in different directions. That was probably intentional, I thought, not just because there isn’t a lot of paper around. If it’s hard to read it’ll take longer to get the attention of anyone in Government, anyone who would take it down and try to find the person who put it up to arrest him. I remember standing there staring at that sign, practically in tears about how brilliant this person was to use that written-on scrap of paper. I started thinking about my dad and my brothers and suddenly it was how brave they were, not how angry mom was about them leaving her behind, and that was before I even read what the sign said. The resistance was looking for people with access to the computer network, it said. I had that. That was my job, maintaining records in Credit Processing. I could be like my dad and my brothers and my best friend now. I was part of the resistance.

I don’t have to say what I did, do I? That’s part of the anonymity, isn’t it? And it was the old Government, it was years ago. I only did it for a few months, and then my contact was killed in a riot. I went back to doing my job, keeping my head down, going back to my nice safe living unit at the end of the day. But when I went to sleep I kept dreaming about my best friend, seeing her again and telling her what I’d done, and hoping she’d be proud of me.

©2017 Michelle M. Welch

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