Chapter 25 (Aronade: age 17 — The Abortion)

It’s interesting how people will shame those who pay for the consequences of bad decisions when they themselves are engaging in the same behavior — only they are able to hide it. It’s almost as though those who aren’t able to hide it are a reminder to the others that their choices are questionable. But then invariably scapegoating occurs because those who experience fallout from their choices have unfortunate things happen to them for the same actions, lesser actions, or even in some cases having done nothing at all. It can’t be that people conclude that certain behavior is ill-advised and should be stopped! It must instead be concluded that there’s something bad about the person who is suffering the consequences!

You’re not supposed to judge the person who sins, but you shouldn’t advocate the sin. Sin has consequences for other people — both the individual in question and others — for sin hardens the heart and destroys people’s lives. But most people are so in love with themselves and their own sin.

“Oh! I want to have an abortion!” I hear a girl joke gleefully as I walk down the hall. She speaks loud enough, so that everyone around can hear her.

Where did that come from? Then, I notice that Isabelle is among the group that this girl is in, but she remains silent.

“Hey, I know. I could post it online!” the girl continues on.

“Is that supposed to be funny?” I suddenly ask.

“Why do you want to know?” they laugh.

I knew it was unwise to insert myself in this particular conversation, despite how public they had chosen to make it. And I know that I have stepped in it. I know what that girl is thinking; that anger — that fury will soon be mounting. But it bothers me … what she said bothers me.

I have often wondered how abortion and in vitro fertilization could both be approved of by the same society at the same time. Part of it is they are both about human will trumping any other consideration. But it’s also about who is being aborted and who is being born. If society doesn’t want your children, it doesn’t want you. Those who can afford in vitro are wanted. The rest of humanity … they would rather have us not carry on our traits to the next generation. That is how we are perceived — the extent to which we are valued by those with power.

“We don’t want to hear your beliefs.”

“Excuse me?”

“That it has a soul. It doesn’t. A fetus is just a mass of cells, not a human being.”

“I’ve heard it’s like a virus living off its host.” another adds.

“A virus can never replicate outside of a host.” I counter. “It enters a state of dormancy at best. All living things start off as cells — it’s a state of development. Eventually, an embryo, a yet-to-be-born child, will reach a stage of development where it can survive on its own — unless it dies on its own such as in a miscarriage, or it is killed … then it stops growing. That’s the truth. The rest is just bull.”

I know that disdain and even hatred is coming. Being right doesn’t make you popular in this world.

I retrieve a book from a dusty shelf. I slide it from the shelf. I lift the soft leather book in my hands and examine it. You can tell it had existed for a while, though it is well-cared-for. I trust the contents are as they should be. You certainly can’t be sure of that anymore. In fact, I know content has been added or subtracted in other editions by so many hands — trying to wipe out what they are offended by — what pertains to them. Removing or altering any of it is wrong, but they’ve made it so obvious that I’m surprised they can present it as the real thing with a straight face … but they do. That’s why safeguarding my authentic copy is so important. Though I try to commit as much as I can to memory, that doesn’t seem like enough. Sometimes it seems the only way I can keep my sanity in this new world order is to read the Bible.

I sit down on the floor, cross my legs, and proceed to read.

There had been noticeable tension in the air surrounding Isabelle ever since that ill-fated party she had brought me to. I don’t know what happened between Isabelle and Kurt after I left, but I figured something must have — if not that night, then at some point afterward. I had been too preoccupied with Mark and the revelations about Kurt and Katie to pay too close attention to what was happening — or not happening — between Isabelle and Kurt. Truth be told, I had concluded that Kurt was just not really interested in Isabelle, and that Isabelle was wasting her time pursuing him. His connection to Katie seemed to confirm that suspicion to me. But the tension between Isabelle and Kurt at the mock trial suggested otherwise. Really, the only thing I know about Isabelle’s movements after I met up with Mark was that she got into a cab alone. Could she just be angry that she was rejected, and that her plan to get Kurt’s attention had failed? It is possible … I suppose. And yet, it is clear her animosity doesn’t just end with Kurt at this point — it now also seems to extend to me. I figure it’s because she thinks I’m Kurt’s cousin. Certainly her humiliation couldn’t be blamed on anything I did. I never encouraged her in regards to Kurt. Could she be angry because I had witnessed her embarrassment?

Then, one day, I am surprised when I find her once again at my door.

“Isabelle.”

She seems distracted. Her eyes glance to and fro.

“Is something the matter?” I ask her.

She walks right into my room without asking — without saying anything at all actually. I stand there in bewilderment with the door grasped in my hand. She has been so cold towards me since the party. And yet, as I look at her now she seems almost lost to me, and I feel compassion towards her.

“What’s wrong?” I ask her.

She looks at me briefly, but then her eyes wander around the room. She seems hesitant to say anything.

“Is this about …” I begin.

She suddenly picks up the large book I had been reading and had left on my end table.

“So, what are you doing?” she asks me.

“Reading and writing some.” I respond.

I hope she won’t ask me any more questions.

“What’s this?” Isabelle asks, showing interest.

“A Bible.”

“A Bible? You own a Bible?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

I look at her quizzically. I try to discern where she’s coming from.

“We didn’t have one back where I’m from.” I tell her after a moment had passed. “Though I did have it read to me when I was little, the Instructor didn’t allow me to have one. I guess that’s another reason to read it through — he didn’t want me to. But, then again, that’s not really the reason …”

Isabelle begins to flip through it, without bothering to read the content.

“Huh?” she exclaims. “I’m surprised you found one. Where did you get it?”

“I’d rather not say.” I tell her, taking it out of her hands. “I had to get someone to track it down for me. As you can see, it’s vintage.”

She appears to admire my rebellious streak.

“At any rate … why do you call your onkel the Instructor?”

I pause as I am placing the Bible on an open spot on the shelf. I hesitate just a second before I slide it into place. I breathe out, recomposing myself, yet choosing my words carefully. I hadn’t realized I had slipped and called him the Instructor.

“He doesn’t go by ‘onkel’ most of the time; he goes by the Instructor.”

“Weird!” Isabelle exclaims.

I look at her. Again, I am careful what I say.

“He’s different. Always has been … since I’ve known him at any rate.”

Isabelle shrugs.

I am glad this particular line of questioning appears to be over. I don’t like all these questions.

Then suddenly, Isabelle makes a face. She had spied an article in the newspaper that’s lying on my desk and had started reading it. It is about an entitlement program.

“I hate it when they use that money.” she remarks stiffly.

“Why?” I wonder, looking at her quizzically. “Didn’t they put money into it?”

“That’s hardly the point. When you think about it, it’s really our money, after all. Well … maybe ‘our’ is a bit of an overstatement.” she mutters.

What did that mean?

“We can’t be expected to pay for everything.” she continues. “They should be paying for their future world, too.”

So, the elite don’t want to pay for their own takeover bid … they would rather we finance it.

“To spend any of it on one of them is such a waste!” Isabelle concludes.

“Well, they government came up with the aid program to begin with, so if they didn’t want to pay for it they shouldn’t have begun it.”

“But didn’t you hear? The demand for services increases the cost, and that slows down the economy.”

I look at her skeptically.

“Where did you hear that? I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make any sense.” I charge her. “The government manipulated people into going along with the program, and now you’re blaming those people for the consequences? And that’s assuming those stated consequences are even true.”

“Boy, are you naïve.” she informs me. “But anyway, that’s the problem. There are just too many people in the world.”

I feel myself flush.

Being catered to is a foreign concept in my life — let alone expecting to be treated better than everyone else and punishing people who don’t comply. And her criticism of human beings would seem to reflect badly on her as well seeing as she is one herself, but she seemed to like to distance herself from being considered a mere mortal.

“Well, it’s not like there aren’t things we could do to make things better short of reducing the population.” I speak up.

“Humph. You’re just ignorant!” she scoffs. “And there’s the rub. You have to let things get bad enough, so that some people will get that it’s the only solution.”

Do people actually believe that? Can they really be that stupid? Yes, of course, they can.

“And that one book … why do you keep holding on to that?”

“Because it feels true.”

“You know, not everyone believes the same way you do.”

“That’s fine …” I say. “I’m not the one who feels the need to force people against their will into believing the same as me. You have mistaken me for someone else.”

“No, you seriously need to be more open-minded. You have to consider and respect other points of view.” she insists.

“Open-minded. Is that a joke?” I return. “Isn’t that just a pleasant way of saying you want to make people so pliable they’ll believe anything? I’ve heard all of the arguments … ad nauseum, I might add. It may surprise you, but I’ve rejected them as being baseless. Now it’s just to me as mindless propaganda designed to wear people down, so they just give up trying to resist. But really, some things are just true and others false. Not everything is a matter of opinion. There are such things as facts. People may not always know what the facts are, but they nevertheless do exist.”

“Humph! No wonder you’re so popular.” she mutters.

“Is there a point to your being here?” I ask her.

She makes a face then admits, “Yes, actually there is … something you can do for me …”

I wait.

“Let’s not argue.” Isabelle suddenly shifts her tone.

Isabelle’s eyes then focus in on my wall clock. I find this odd given she’s the one who showed up at my door and appears to be lingering around here without any purpose. Is she just biding time here with me? Perhaps, she has suckered someone else on this floor to go to a party with her and is just waiting until that person is ready to leave.

“Isabelle, if you need a place to wait, you can have a seat.”

She makes another face at my words, but I don’t understand why. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, she bursts into tears.

“Isabelle!”

She steps back when I approach her.

“Is this about Kurt?”

She nods.

“How bad is it?” I ask her.

“It’s bad!” she insists. “I need to talk to him tonight. I have to go meet him in the park. You have to go with me, Liesel. You’re the only one who knows about us.”

I look at her skeptically. I doubt that part is true. But still, she does seem awfully desperate. I try not to think about what her news could be — I probably don’t want to know. I figure the less I know about Kurt’s business, the better. I already know too much about him. And still, how can I let Isabelle go to the park alone in the dark? It would be just like Kurt to desert her there. And she clearly doesn’t want to involve anyone else in her situation … I make up my mind. I will go with her to the park. I will probably regret it, but I’ll go.

“All right.” I say to her pleading eyes.

She seems pleased. She heads for the door. I follow her.

We use the same way out we did the last time — through the back stairwell. But I have second thoughts as we go. I haven’t really thought this thing out, I decide. Perhaps, I can persuade Isabelle to hold off talking to Kurt.

“Are you coming?” Isabelle pointedly asks me.

Apparently, I had slowed down on the stairs and am now barely moving forward.

“Isabelle …” I begin.

“You can’t back out now!” she cries. “You just can’t! I don’t know what I’ll do! Please … please, you have to help me!”

She rushes forward and pulls at my arm. I am too shocked by her emotionalism to retract my arm. I weakly continue on with her.

When we arrive at the park, we breeze past several groups of people. I am relieved to see there are still people around despite the fact it is so dark tonight. But then, Isabelle seems to have a destination in mind, and it’s unfortunately away from the other people walking along the well-lit paths. We come to a clearing just as I am about to stop her and ask her where we are going. It is she, on her own, who just abruptly stops.

She seems nervous. She wrings her hands. She turns on me suddenly when I approach her. Then, she looks relieved. I look back to see what she is looking at; I am not relieved. Instead a chill goes up my spine as I see mask-ridden forms there. I turn back to Isabelle and glare at her. There, behind her, I see two more men emerge from the thicket. It is clear to me, finally, that I have been set up. I feel like a fool. No, I am a fool. Sometimes doing what you think is the right thing can backfire on you in a world-system sense. For most of the people you try to save from their enemies will try to get in with those same enemies when they think it will be to their advantage. So, you end up putting your neck on the line — sacrificing on behalf of people who will turn on you without remorse. That is why you should only do such things for God, not for other people. Most other people aren’t worth the effort.

Now the only question is, how do I get out of this mess?

Out of nowhere, Isabelle darts past me and toward one of the men. I am surprised by this. I wonder if I should have tried to detain her, but I quickly conclude there would have been no point in trying to do that. I am assuming Kurt is one of the masked figures. And, as much of a fool as I am for allowing myself to be set up this way, I haven’t changed my opinion that Kurt doesn’t care about Isabelle at all.

Even if I could physically stop her, holding Isabelle hostage won’t make the others let me go.

After Isabelle makes it to one of the men, she just stands there in front of him for a moment. Then, she whispers something — though I can’t make out what that something is. Finally, the man hands something over to Isabelle. She looks it over. There is silence for a moment.

“All right, you can leave now.” the man states coldly.

His voice is partially muffled by his mask, and yet it is similar enough to Kurt’s voice that it could definitely be him.

Isabelle seems a bit shaken by Kurt’s response. I think she is about to look over at me. But then, she turns her gaze away at the last moment, and her eyes seem to glaze over. She then walks off back toward the lit path. Nobody follows her. I figure she’s better off than I currently am.

“You’ll get yours someday.” I hear myself say aloud. I figure out that I meant the world will kick you in the teeth someday; it always does. But, still, I shouldn’t have said it.

Still, I feel like such a fool — that I allowed her to set me up. But then I begin to wonder where I had gotten the mistaken belief I was incapable of being fooled. And then I realize it probably came from my time with the Instructor. I had bought into the idea that I could be trained out of being fooled by others. What a joke that turned out to be! Still, at least I am making progress in making my way out from under his influence. Before I would have just blamed myself for falling short of his expert instructions, but now I see the fault in his so-called wisdom.

Now with Isabelle gone, the men turn their full attention back on me.

“We who are about to die salute you!” one of the masked men yells out with glee. This confirms to me that this is the group from the mock trial.

 “So what do you intend to do with me?!” I demand. “Heckle me to death?! If you lay a hand on me, I’ll press charges!”

“And will anyone actually enforce it?” one asks.

“I guess we’ll find out!!” I shout out, trying to sound brave.

“You know, this isn’t worth it. She is annoying, but it’s not worth the fallout. I just got my allowance reinstated.”

“Are you kidding me, Edgar?”

“Listen … Kurt … thanks for using my name. One of us has a car he has every intention of getting … and why are we harassing your cousin anyway? It’s weird.”

Silence.

“Is this because of Isabelle — that she hates her now?”

Silence.

“Hey, I’m leaving.”

“Nobody’s going to call on you again if you leave here …”

“Hey, don’t bother … I don’t need this.”

The masked men began to depart one by one until there is just one left. I suppose the gawky figure is Kurt. I glare at him.

“So, this is you …” I utter.

“I suppose you think you’re going to tell the Instructor what happened here?”

I looked at him quizzically.

“What were you intending to do to me?” I ask in a horrified tone.

“Doesn’t matter now.” Kurt retorts. “You’re just fortunate the men who showed up were weak …”

“You stay away from me!” I yell at him. “I don’t want anything to do with you at all.”

“I’m surprised it took you this long to feel that way. But it will be hard to make that happen. Our lives are entwined so much. How can we not run into each other?”

I feel like I may vomit.

“She knows by the way. Isabelle … she knows.”

“How much have you told her?” I ask crestfallen.

“Enough … about you being a covert inferior. But not about the other thing. The Instructor wouldn’t like that!”

I pretty much doubted that he would like the other disclosure either.

“Why would you do that? What about your supposed plans for me?”

“Well, I can’t stand you. And it was the only way to get her to turn on you — you know so she wouldn’t fear the repercussions …” he laughs. “You know, I just got to thinking … I’ve chosen well. The people I’ve chosen won’t believe you about anything I do or why I do it. They’ll turn on you just like Isabelle did. And Mark — no one believes Mark either.”

“Is that why you didn’t bring my brother here — so he would still believe you wouldn’t hurt me?”

“Mitchell? Oh, he was supposed to be here, but he got tied up … we almost got caught by the school’s security, so he had to run interference.”

“Yeah, right.”

“It’s true!” Kurt screams in a surprisingly high-pitched voice.

And then, as though on cue, someone in a mask comes running up.

“Hey, where is everyone?” the new man demands.

His voice … my face falls as I stare blindly forward.

“Why?” I stammer.

 “‘Why?! Why …?!’ the utterances of the fool.” Kurt laughs. “It’s done.” Kurt then says to the other man. “I got what I came for. That look on her face is worth a thousand words.”

I watch them leave. I can’t seem to move … I am frozen. Mitchell … my own brother. I have felt flashes of unwellness over the years, but the episodes have increased in frequency and severity lately. Now, I am beginning to feel an episode coming on again. It scares me. I wonder if it has something to do with the disease I’m carrying. The elite disease isn’t supposed to affect me, but then where are these symptoms coming from? My head begins to spin violently. No, I can’t lose consciousness … not here … not now …

I grit my teeth. I decide to try to make it to the tram station. I have to get out of this area before I pass out. It’s just not safe here.

My head spins as I finally reach the station. I sit on a bench there. I look around me. I don’t see anyone around. I try not to think about what happened with my brother before … it makes me feel worse. I have to stay calm … Doubts come into my mind. Is there a better plan than the one I’ve come up with? The self-doubt just weakens me, but I can’t help it. I can’t handle the stress of questioning my actions, and yet I can’t afford to be wrong either.

I see a tram coming down the street. I strain my eyes to see if it’s one heading toward where I need to go. I am relieved to see that it is. Things seem to be turning around for me. And yet, as I await it, it seems to be moving impossibly slowly down the street. As my vision blurs, I begin to feel panic. Fortunately, by the time the tram finally makes it to me, the dizziness subsides. I want to dash on to the tram, but I control myself. I don’t want to overexert myself.

I sit down on one of the benches on the tram and exhale deeply. I lean my head back and attempt to restabilize myself. Unfortunately, as we drive along, I become aware that I … don’t have long … to …

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Chapter 21 (Aronade: age 16/ Mark: age 18 — Mitchell)

Things have gotten worse; the number of people taken off the trains, for example, has increased.

Mison has been cut off from the surrounding communities. Only those who are working on the outside of the boundary are bringing anything in. There is some money from the government, but it seems to flow at the whim of the bureaucracy. I don’t see how this can be sustained. After all, the community is not self-sufficient. They aren’t able to produce anywhere near the amount of food they need to support the community. There is more cement there than dirt. Maybe if they were able to produce some sort of product and sell it or trade it on the outside — but they aren’t. Instead, they have become dependent on the mercy of the government to meet basic needs. The results of this dependency, however, have proven to be largely inadequate.

There are constant shortages of food, clean water, hygiene products, and medical care. Of course, people want to leave, but where can they go? The outside world has become increasingly hostile towards the people living there. If they do succeed in leaving, they are usually brought back or placed in the local jail for vagrancy and then brought back. Nobody outside wants to be associated with them for fear that their own social status will be reduced. What’s more, the people on the outside seem to have developed a vested interest in having the people in Mison stay at the lowest level of the social hierarchy. No one wants to occupy that lowest spot, and there seems to be a general feeling someone has to occupy it, even if few will admit that that’s the way the world-system operates. A permanent underclass has to be maintained. The question is who has to be among the ones singled out for it.

It seems they find it easier when they can identify the selected group visually. Once they can find a way to readily identify the unfortunate members slated for the underclass position, then it’s simply a matter of putting them in their place and making sure they stay there.

Nothing happened when I returned to school. I wasn’t caught. Perhaps, Isabelle has more pull there than I realized. I haven’t even seen the floor matron since that day before the party.

Today I’ve been summoned to see the Instructor. So, apparently, he’s back. I go into the room Nan shows me to. I am surprised the room has been remodeled into an exact replica of the office that the Instructor had at the complex, replete with fireplace.

I am also surprised by the Instructor’s mood. He seems very pensive — possibly even angry. Why would he be angry? If anyone should be angry here, it should be me. Seriously, how did he think I would react to the decimation? How would anyone react if they saw their brother about to be killed? I had no way of knowing that my brother was in no real danger — that it was a scam of his and Kurt’s to get money — at the expense of the other men, I might add.

“Won’t you have a seat, Puppet?” the Instructor directs me in his — mostly — usual manner. Though, there is a distinctive edge to his voice. I look at him warily before sitting down.

“You have quite the attitude now.” he chastises me.

I look at him in disbelief. Is he picking a fight with me? He must be, I conclude, for I have done nothing to him.

“What did you need me for?” I ask him.

He just stares at me with intensity. If he’s trying to unnerve me, it’s certainly having the desired effect. I am flabbergasted. I don’t know what to say to him. I haven’t even seen him in quite a while. And now this? Clearly, he believes I’ve done something wrong. But what? Whatever the slight he thinks I’ve made, I’m unlikely to agree with him that I’m the one who’s wrong.

I swallow. Obviously, I’m going to have to say something. I can’t take this silence much longer.

“You’re the one who sent me there.” I tell him. “Without any warning, I might add. How did you think I would react? If you don’t want me making a spectacle of myself in public, you need to give me advanced warning. I’m obviously not like you — I’m obviously not as in as much control of my emotions.” I spell out my case. Let him make of that what he will.

The Instructor arches an eyebrow and looks at me in disbelief.

“You are being awfully dramatic about the store, Puppet.” he lets me know.

“The store?!”

“What’s with you today? You’re talking nonsense.” He waves his hand dismissively. “Granted I was going to send you to the store, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. No, you pretty much did that on your own … for your own purposes. Come now, you can at least own up to that!”

I sit back in my chair and consider. My heart is pounding. The store … I repeat the word in my mind. I had been referring to the decimation. How could he not see that that would be the bigger trauma? Once again, as with Mark’s attempted murder at the complex, the Instructor appears to be clueless as to what’s going on. This is either a game … or, like the last time it is Kurt’s doing. But how could that be? I need to think … but I can’t … not here. I don’t want the Instructor to guess what I am thinking: that Kurt had made a fool of him again.

“Don’t insult my intelligence, Puppet!” the Instructor rages.

I look up at him, devoid of emotion. I am too absorbed in my own confusion to react.

“Well, aren’t you going to own up to what you’ve done?!”

What? What could he mean? I wrack my brain but can’t seem to answer that question. What is he wanting me to say? My confusion only seems to rile him the more, and he begins to pound on the desk with his fists.

“Well, let me spell it out for you …” he spits. “I know what you’ve been doing!”

That makes one of us.

“And I resent it. I thought better of your judgment, Puppet. I had to leave town, and you took advantage of that.”

Leave town? Obviously, his frustration has built up to the breaking point and is now being unleashed.

“You could have ruined everything with your behavior! Fortunately, I was able to find out before it got out of hand, so that I could make excuses for you at the store. But still … it won’t do!!” the Instructor states with venom in his voice, his eyes black as coals. “If you’re going to hide him here, he’ll have to be hid in plain sight … like you.”

I look upon him with horror. I can’t believe this is happening. He knows about Mark! I brace myself in order not to shudder.

“People notice things, Puppet. You may think you’re being careful, but you’re not. And suspecting will eventually lead to informing … and then, where will you be? So your brother will be enrolled with you in school …”

I freeze. My brother? He thinks Mark is my brother?

“What?” the Instructor asks with irritation in his voice.

“Don’t you know Mitchell is older than I am?” I remark, thinking that will end the matter.

“Well, I’m sure he can pass as younger.” the Instructor counters with irritation in his voice.

“What — what about Kurt?” I stammer.

“What about him?”

I looked at the Instructor skeptically before quickly looking away. I become evasive. I’ve said too much by bringing up Kurt, and I know Kurt is soon to become even more of an enemy to me now.

“I’ll talk to Kurt.” the Instructor seethes, undoubtedly cueing in that there’s something to my reaction. “I trust you can handle the part with … Mitchell, is it?”

I nod.

“I hope so.” I mutter.

The Instructor stops short as he is turning.

“See to it!” he screams. I look at him blankly then watch as he leaves.

So, now what? Mark will have to pretend to be Mitchell? Kurt would have to go along with the cover-up. And the two of them would have to share the same roof.

I decide to head to my bedroom, so that I can think. Then, moments after I arrive, Kurt just walks into my bedroom and quickly shuts the door behind him. His face is red with rage.

“What were you thinking ?!” he shouts at me.

“And I suppose you had nothing to do with the Instructor finding out I was hiding someone here?” I counter.

Kurt’s silence seems to confirm my suspicions.

“So, what do you think you’re going to do now?” He sneers. “Actually bring Mark to the school?”

“I’ll just tell the Instructor my brother refuses to go.”

“There’s no way he’ll go for that. Listen! I just talked to him. He’s suspicious of me — he knows I’m hiding something. He’s going to push this thing until he finds out what it is.”

“Well, isn’t that your problem …?”

He wrenches my arm.

“It’s a problem for both of us.” he corrects me.

Of course, he’s right about that, but I wish it weren’t so. Just once it would be nice if Kurt had to face up to what he’s done. Maybe then he’d stop. Kurt finally releases me, and a smug smirk crosses his face.

“I’ll tell you what we’re going to do! I’m going to get Mitchell to enroll in that school after all. Ha! Then, there will be two of us to look after you!”

My face falls. Kurt is triumphant.

“It was great talking with you as usual … Puppet.”

Kurt finally leaves. I am grateful for that at least. But my brother being at the same school as Kurt and me? I don’t know what to make of that.

Friday finally comes, and, without the floor matron hounding me, I am able head straight off after my classes to the Instructor’s house to meet up with Mark. I am optimistic that everything will turn out all right on that front. Mark is waiting for me at the fence again. I let him leave the area first; then, I follow him.

 “I wanted to tell you something.” Mark informs me when I catch up to him. “I’ve been part of an underground resistance movement.”

I look at him questioningly, trying to determine if he’s serious. He seems to be.

“What? What do you mean?”

“I wanted to do something. For one, they are restricting the food supply.” Mark mentions in an exasperated tone. “That is their way. It’s a double bonus — insatiable greed coupled with killing people … through starvation no less. And you know how people get when there’s not enough food. It’s a great way to control and manipulate people. It would be easy to convince most everyone to go along with the depopulation — the eugenics. Apparently, it’s not enough for them to live longer; they have to kill off the rest of us, too.” Mark pauses. “And they want to make all of us into slaves — those they haven’t already killed off that is.”

“Is that why the authorities took you in?”

Mark averts his eyes.

“Could be …” he tells me.

“But Kurt knew … where you were taken …”

Mark’s eyes grow dark, and I realize that Kurt probably isn’t a subject I should breach. Yes, he would probably end up being discussed eventually, but I would have preferred to delay talking about him all the same.

“Possibly it was him then.” Mark allows. “Strangely, they didn’t bother to tell me why I was being held. Maybe they just enjoy beating people up.”

I consider.

“You’re not suggesting it was random?”

“No.” Mark responds. “I just don’t really want you involved any further with Kurt’s games.” he confesses.

“I think we both recognize that it’s too late for that. Plus, Kurt’s obsessions aren’t restricted to just you. He’s gone after my brother, too.” I speak gloomily.

“Yeah, well …” Mark breathes. “I guess he’s got quite the game going.”

“So, this resistance group … is that why you were in Mison the day I ran into you? It seems, in retrospect, someone must have sent you to guide me out.”

“Someone from the group had been assigned to do that for money. Sneaking in and out of there is an income source plus a chance for rebellion. But when I heard your name — I went instead.”

“My name?”

“Yes, it’s very distinctive.”

“But I’m not known by that name around here.” I tell him breathlessly. “They call me Liesel now. That’s the name I gave at the police station … but you didn’t know my new name, which means they must have called me Aronade. There are only a handful of people who would have called me that.”

Mark is stunned into silence … but only for a moment. Then, it seems obvious. It suggests what I had suspected, Kurt had set him up. But how did Kurt find out about Mark’s underground involvement?

“Does Katie know about your underground involvement?” I ask Mark.

At first I am afraid of how Mark will take the question, but he seems to handle it well.

“Not from me …” he responds.

Then, a thought seems to occur to Mark.

“What is it?” I ask him.

Mark’s eyes appear to be shifting.

“What?” I ask him again.

He continues to avoid eye contact with me.

“I met someone today.” he tells me.

My eyebrows furrow.

“No, it’s not like that.” he assures me. “Your brother.”

“Mitchell? Really? Where?”

Mark again hesitates.

“He was at a meeting of the underground groups.”

My jaw drops.

“Seriously?”

The possibilities of what this could mean whirl through my mind. How does this mesh with the decimation … with Kurt’s influence over him? Is his friendship with Kurt real or an act — an underground assignment? Or, maybe his underground activities are an act — something Kurt came up with for some reason. And which underground group is he associated with … and is that group even reputable? Is there hope that Mitchell has changed his attitude since the decimation?

“Aronade.” Mark recalls my attention.

I look up at him.

“I’ve been thinking. It seems your brother has been around these meetings before, though I never made note of him until today.

“Yeah?”

Mark sighs.

“Do you think he was the one who turned you in to the authorities? Or, at least told Kurt, and Kurt did it?” I ask Mark.

When Mark doesn’t answer me right away, my face falls painfully. Try as I may, I cannot deny that it is probably true.

My brother. Somehow I feel as though he is the one who is important. Then when I couldn’t save him from himself, it was as though I thought: what use am I? When I saw him at the decimation, he seemed to have this limitless emotional need — this empty hole inside himself. And I blamed myself that I couldn’t even begin to fill it.

“So, you think my brother joined the underground because of you?” I ask Mark, barely above a whisper.

“I don’t know. That would be an odd thing to do. But then, Kurt is odd.”

“But let’s not kid ourselves; Mitchell approves of Kurt. He chooses to hang out with him.”

“And Katie, too.” Mark reminds me. “Lest we forget.”

“But Mitchell is a grown man.”

“Still …”

“And Katie was traumatized by the kidnapping.”

“You are kind, Aronade. I appreciate that about you.”

I manage to smile slightly.

“Still, Mark, Mitchell obviously has some issues. And this whole underground thing — I have enough reason to worry about your safety. Quite frankly, with Kurt involved, neither my brother nor the underground can or should be trusted.”

Mark just looks at me with sympathy.

“Don’t look so sad.” I console him. “It’s not like I lost anything that was real anyway.” I pause. “Just think about what I said.” I then put forth.

When I happen to divert my eyes away from Mark and toward my surroundings, I become aware that we have made it to the train station. Could it be merely a coincidence that we happened upon here?

I stand in front of the train … he is leaving, I conclude. I can tell it by the look on his face; he just doesn’t want to say the words. My eyes drift downward. I am deep in thought. Then, I can feel Mark staring at me. Obviously, he wants to say something now … now that I’ve finally figured out what he’s up to. Reluctantly, I eventually return his gaze. I know that once I give him eye contact, it will start a chain of events that will eventually lead to his leaving. He is looking upon me with sympathy again; that annoys me.

“Why are you leaving again?” I charge him.

I am flustered.

“It won’t be forever … God willing.” he reassures me.

“That’s not an answer to my question.”

“I have to see my parents. I have to talk to them about Katie. I can’t hide it from them anymore, and there’s nothing more I can do for her. I only seem to be making things worse …”

“Not for me.” I remind him. “My life isn’t going to get better by having you leave.”

Mark looks down. Then, he swallows hard.

“Unlike the other girls, Katie got lured away by Kurt.” Mark seems to be struggling with the words. “He seduced her. Apparently, Kurt found out about the Instructor’s kidnapping scheme. I figure he wanted to try it out for himself, so he started stalking various girls. And he settled on Katie. It turns out she had an interest in him. So, he lured her away and left the kind of things the Instructor did behind at the scene. When he saw me at the complex, he probably recognized me from the times he had been watching Katie. I imagine the Instructor wouldn’t have been thrilled about Kurt’s copying him and that Kurt’s behavior had led to my tracking the Instructor down. So, I guess that’s why Kurt wanted me dead — though it seems he had his own peculiar way of going about it.”

“And that’s why the Instructor didn’t seem to know anything about you …”

“Yeah, maybe.” Mark agrees tentatively, seemingly unconvinced.

“But then there were the girls who died …” Mark reminds me. “Who knows who’s responsible for that.”

“I think the elites were sending the Instructor a message.” I tell him distractedly.

“Aronade.” Mark recalls my attention. “Let me do this with your blessing. I need to do this. Then, I’ll come back. I promise you that I’ll do everything in my power to come back …”

I look off to the side again.

“And we both know that it may not be in your power to come back, don’t we? Not anytime soon.”

Mark is quiet for a minute. Travel has become difficult these days. Everyday there seems to be a new restriction on movement. It’s true that if Mark doesn’t leave now he soon won’t be able to. I don’t want him stuck in Mison. And yet, I also know that he may not be coming back despite his intention to. It could even take years for him to come back if things continue on this way, though I won’t allow myself to believe that.

“I have to give my father the chance to come here and retrieve Katie himself if he wants to. He still has legal authority over her. I don’t. The way she is now, she’ll probably just have me arrested if I try to compel her to leave with me. And my tante has lost all control over her as well. The only one Katie listens to now is Kurt. Anyway, if all that was something I could just write in a letter, I would. But it isn’t. Not to mention, with the mail so unreliable these days, it could be weeks before my parents would even hear about Katie’s situation that way. By then, it could be too late.”

I agree with him, but I feel torn up inside about it all the same. I am tempted to run off with Mark. But just as before, I can’t. The Instructor wouldn’t allow that. I can’t do that to Mark. If I’m ever going to escape from this trap of a life, I’m going to need a solid plan — and I haven’t come up with one yet.

I breathe.

“All right.” I say, looking at him directly again. “The train is about to leave anyway. I’ll try to hold on until you return.”

I’m only half-joking. I reach out my hand and grab on to his. I squeeze his hand.

“Take care of yourself.” I tell him.

He smiles. Then, he steps toward me. I am amazed when he cups my face in his hands then leans forward and kisses me. I can’t breathe for a moment. He releases me, smiles, tells me once more he’ll return … then he’s gone.

Weeks pass, and I hear nothing. There’s nothing unusual about that, I tell myself. The mail is bad these days; I know that. I expected that. And still … it’s hard. Mark is my only friend … besides God.

It takes awhile for Kurt to follow through on his threat to enroll Mitchell in our school. In fact, I had convinced myself that Kurt had been bluffing. But then one day, I run into Mitchell in the hallway. The hallway is mostly deserted as I am running late for class.

Despite the fact I had seen him at the decimation, I stand there in amazement. Now that I can see him up close I can definitely recognize him. My brother! He is a young man rather than a child now, but his features are the same — only most of them are, of course, larger.

“How did you come to be here … around me?” I utter. Then, I hear a snickering behind me. I whirl around to find Kurt standing there. I can tell that my facial features have begun to distort into a twisted mask. I can’t seem to control the impulse.

“You!”

“Funny how you are never grateful … Liesel… not to me anyway.” Kurt’s voice mocks at being hurt.

“What is with you, sister?” I hear my brother’s now deep voice ask me.

I turn slowly back towards Mitchell; a crushing blow seems to hit me in the chest. Mitchell is taking Kurt’s side over mine. Then again, why should I be surprised? Mitchell had hardly treated me well at the decimation.

“You don’t understand!” I hear myself lamely protesting.

And he doesn’t — not if he is seriously taking Kurt’s side — he couldn’t. Kurt has already done enough in the relatively short time I have known him, and none of it has turned out well. More significantly, none of it had been intended to turn out well … not for anyone but him. If Kurt has brought Mitchell here, it isn’t for my benefit — it is for the opposite of my benefit. And yet, I know if Mitchell instinctively believes in him there will be a gulf between him and me that I can’t possibly breach. That is the way it always seems to be between me and people who just don’t get it. Only people who have a spiritual connection to God seem to get it.

“Do you know the things Kurt has done?” I whisper.

A grotesque look crosses Mitchell’s face.

“Save it!!!” he shouts at me.

I conclude Mitchell may not know everything about Kurt, but he knows enough to make him not want to hear anything I have to say about him before I can even get a word out.

“And what if people find out what you’ve done?” I remind Mitchell. “Not even that you cheated, but that you were seemingly willing to throw your life away for the chance to be rich. Don’t you see how that plays into their hands … makes it seem that your life has no value if you don’t even value it yourself?”

“Well, I guess you’d know more about how the elite think than I would given you’ve been spending all your time with them.”

Mitchell makes a sweeping motion with his arms to remind me where we are.

I flush with indignation. That isn’t exactly true. And to the extent to which it is true, it certainly isn’t by choice.

“But now you’re no better than they are!” I protest.

I am stunned when Mitchell hauls off and slaps me — hard.

“And if you hadn’t said what you did and interfered, that first guy might still be alive!” he seethes. “They may have just allowed all four of us to live … and I just wouldn’t have gotten the money!”

Mitchell seems to take pleasure in torturing me with this possibility.

“None of you seemed to be willing to walk away from the money!” I protest. “I was hoping …”

“Save it!!!” he repeats.

Mitchell then walks over to Kurt, and they walk away together.

I think on Mitchell’s violent reaction to be confronted by what he had done. I guess the thrill of getting away with eating day’s old meat is soon replaced by the repulsion of the taste of the rot.

After this episode, I am infuriated. So, I head back to the Instructor’s house to see if I can dig up dirt on Kurt … to find proof of Kurt’s machinations in order to get him in trouble with the Instructor. I know the Instructor won’t believe me otherwise. His ego won’t allow it.

Then, in one of Kurt’s bureau drawers I find something. Inside a box are stacks and stacks of cards — all in the Instructor’s handwriting — all giving me directions of what to do in various circumstances.

“What?!” I utter.

They are just like the one I received directing me to ride the tram rather than the train and the one telling me to go to Mison the day of the decimation!

“So, it was Kurt!” I utter.

“Yes, it was Kurt.” I hear Kurt’s voice confirm.

I whirl around as Kurt slams the door. He then begins to tell me what he is planning to do in the long run. He tells me he may as well let me know now as I am to be a part of it. He is intending to take up where the Instructor leaves off. It is the perfect cover. No one will suspect me of being a carrier. After all, why would Kurt, an elite, hang out with me if I could kill him? That is what the Instructor had reasoned … but with Kurt there is an additional piece.

Kurt is going to use me to blackmail the elite for actual money. While part of the effect of Instructor’s plan had kept the elite from unleashing their viruses against the general population, Kurt wants more for himself. This scenario of Kurt’s would doubtlessly prove even more dangerous for me. Even if Kurt can conceal his identity as the blackmailer, chances are the elite would find out eventually and realize it was all a bluff — that I could kill Kurt, too. And that Kurt of all people would never risk going through with destroying himself.

“But it’s not like they can live forever anyway.” I point out. “You can only take it so far.”

Kurt turns a glistening eye onto me.

“Still, what if we could live that long — or at least so long that it seemed that way?” he counters.

He grins.

“But that’s where you come in. That’s their incentive to do what I want. You change the equation back. You make them fear death.”

He laughs.

“Oh, but we do have far too many other ‘people’ taking up our space, don’t we? I won’t allow this scheme involving you to hinder humanity’s progress. I actually want these other ‘people’ to die. Unlike the Instructor, I can see the beauty in their philosophy. I’m fine with their killing people off to reduce the population. I just want to be paid. It’s much more fun to spend other people’s money!” Kurt exclaims.

I roll my eyes. He glares at me.

“But really what’s the point of money if you can’t control life and death?” Kurt asks me with amusement in his voice. “And what’s one less of these ‘people’?” Kurt laughs. “Whoops, sorry.” he says to me with absolute insincerity in his voice.

“That’s sick and demented.” I say.

“Hello, Fraulein Holier-Than-Thou.”

“Why should you care what I think?” I counter.

“You know, you’re right.” he laughs again. “I don’t really care what you think. Who are you to me? Just be glad that your being spared … for now … is the one thing the Instructor and I agree upon. Of course, since you won’t live as long as I will, I’ll have to find a replacement for you eventually.”

It is a great strategy really … as far as the Instructor goes. Kurt is the puppet master but pretends to be the Instructor’s puppet. After all, who would destroy a puppet you could use?

“Well, I guess war can kill off people just as well as anything.” Kurt shrugs. “So, maybe I can keep the Instructor’s ban on using the viruses against the masses, and ‘people’ could still die.”

“Why does everything with you always seem to lead to murder and death?”

“When you see the other guy get it instead of you … I don’t know. It’s like at that moment, and for some time after, you’re immortal. You’ve escaped death, and you feel you’ll never have to face death again.” Kurt enthuses.

He snickers awkwardly, and I just stare at him in disbelief. I then notice he is still standing purposefully in my way and doesn’t appear to have any intention of moving. Next, I realize I am still holding on to the box of the Instructor’s cards. Kurt will probably not allow me to leave with it. So, I sigh and place the box on the ground. I am surprised when I look up again and find Kurt still standing there in front of me.

“What’s with you? I don’t want anything to do with you. I want you to leave me alone. You don’t own me.”

I try to walk past him, and he grabs me by the arms.

“You’re enjoying this!” I accuse.

“So?” he responds suggestively.

I am disgusted.

Suddenly, Kurt manhandles me towards his bedroom door and shoves me into the hall. I know then there won’t be any more evidence against him kept in his room.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

The Mind Master Chronicles: The Pawn Sacrifice

Chapter 23 (Aronade: age 16 — The Speech)

People waited with baited breath to find out who the new leader would be. I, however, wasn’t surprised. He had bought the position with their lusts. His words are unnerving. He is supposed to represent all of the people. But he takes on a condemning tone when referring to those he doesn’t like. He now has favored status given to him by the world. They all want his favor. They want to bask in his power … they are consumed by it. Whoever agrees with him he likes and is, therefore, considered good. The rest are evil. He seems to enjoy trying to incite people to violence. They picked him to be favored because they wanted the rest to be considered evil. There is a thinly veiled threat in his words. “Now I’m really going to get you!” That’s the threat he is making beneath the rhetoric. True, he was going to get us all along anyway … but now? Now we’ve openly defied him, so now he’s REALLY going to get us! He will make us pay — it is only a matter of time. So, the question is what our punishment will be. Clearly, no one censors this man … but what about his critics, where are they? Surely someone must disagree with his comments.

To my way of thinking, God is King. But now we have a ruler who wants to rule in place of God.

“I guess we’ll see if you’re a more righteous dictator than your forebears were.” I mutter sarcastically.

No matter the system within the world, charismatic people will eventually take it over. There just seems to be people with a controlling type of personality who are skilled at manipulating others and who take over groups. Even if these people have lost all of their worldly assets, they have that ability to dominate others. Some people they seduce; others are just so intimidated by the influence they have over other people that they just let the charismatic persona have their way. It seems just too dangerous to have these people working against you.

Charismatic psychopaths don’t let corrupt systems deter them either. They have the confidence to think they will rise to the top of any system. People in charge of the system, charismatic psychopaths with more power, will utilize these people as enforcers. They will give them more power and affluence than the others. They will be the last to be taken out. It is better for the leadership not to make an enemy of the charismatic psychopaths — while those charismatic psychopaths still have followers that they can draw upon and manipulate. Better to take out their power base before you take them down.

Meanwhile, the charismatic psychopaths without real power are more than happy to use other people and suppress those people’s efforts to save themselves.

They want freedom to sin, but there is still one sin they don’t have to the level they want. To some extent, murder is already legal, but the wholesale slaughter of those you no longer want to exist remains somewhat of a taboo. There is a stigma attached to it and a chance for retaliation. What is to be done then? They seek a leader who will carry out their growing bloodlust. He will kill for them. And they feel they will be safe from his wrath in their group — their collective. And they think using him as a tool for their dark desires will allow them to act without the fear of being held individually responsible. For they still believe in their plausible deniability. Alas, they who seek out such a leader — a murderer — are responsible for his deeds, for he is merely their creature — an instrument of their will manifested.

The people who want to control free speech by labeling it as hate speech gain the ability to define what hate speech is once they get into power. Inevitably, their hate-filled speech, rhetoric, and threats as well as the speech of their supporters is deemed acceptable. While all the speech of those who they hate and who are critical of their policies is deemed “hate speech” and is consider to be justifiably punishable by the government.

Free speech appears to be one of the first things attacked by tyrants. And it’s not just speech that someone can find offensive that’s suppressed — since quite frankly anything a person says can offend someone. No, it is criticism — implied or direct — of the ideology and/ or behavior of those in power that is specifically targeted — under penalty of law no less. If it’s one thing control freaks can’t stand it is being criticized or challenged.

Anyway, the interview with the new leader gets me to thinking and inspires me as to what to write for my speech class. I figure I have the right to speak as much as they do.

“I am in no wise in favor of hate speech. I wish people would choose not to do it. Certainly, Hitler’s hate-filled propaganda contributed to an environment that led to unfathomable atrocities against the Jewish people. And yet, it is making the speech illegal that proves to be problematic. I approve of the old standard — the ‘inciting of violence in the present’ standard. It seemed pretty well-defined. It allowed for a certain amount of verification that it actually occurred since the implication was that the inciting was done in front of a group. The problem with other speech being designated as legally punishable is threefold. First, it isn’t well-defined. Who decides what is hate speech? Two, what standard of evidence needs to be presented to prove that the speech actually occurred in the first place? The third issue is how is the law enforced? The irony is that those most likely to be arrested for hate speech are the ones who are already being persecuted by those who have the power to enforce these laws. It’s happened before where the victims of a crime were arrested and had to pay damages for the crime committed against them! As I’ve said, it may not even be necessary for the speech to have occurred. Merely the accusation from individuals in power will be enough to prosecute those whose personal power has been taken away. What’s to stop a regime from using such laws as a weapon of persecution? They define what’s illegal, they set the standard for proof, they choose who to punish and who to allow to say whatever they please. After all, a human’s capacity to justify their own behavior seems rather boundless. How hard would it be for a group of people to decide that a double standard is fair in a given case since the individuals in question are deemed worthy of being hated?

In conclusion, as I’ve said, I am not in favor of hate speech. I hate bullying, harassment, oppression, and abuse. I hate intimidation and acts of cruelty and violence. I simply see how allowing the government to have the ability to use its power to punish people for their speech could lead to an abuse of power. It would be far too easy for the government to use it to capriciously censor its critics and to use it to persecute groups of people who those in power actually do hate.”

I was conditioned a long time ago to be afraid to express my honest opinion, so this was a big moment for me. I’ve been made sick all my life trying to be “normal” but being incapable of it.

But as I finish my speech, there is total silence. Everyone just stares a hole through me — everyone that is but Kurt, who is smirking at me … his eyes laughing. Nobody needs to tell me it didn’t go over well.

“Well, do we have to clap, or can we boo her?” Kurt suddenly laughs out loud.

Then, the whole class starts laughing.

“I don’t see what the big deal is anyway.” Kurt continues, probably emboldened by the laughter. “They are just words. You tell the masses what they want to hear until you gain power. Then you can do whatever you want.”

Nobody takes offence over what Kurt just said.

I remain silent. I don’t feel like being held accountable anymore for my thoughts.

“That will do, Liesel. You may sit down now.” the teacher interjects.

I am suddenly glad that the people around here don’t use my real name.

I guess I am a hater now … I hate the world-system. And it’s only okay to be a ‘hater’ if you direct your hatred towards something or someone the world says is worthy of it.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Chapter 24 (Aronade: age 17 — The Mock Trial)

In the world-system, being an outsider is considered the same as being evil. In our world, group consensus — consensus of the masses excluding outsiders — trumps truth. For some it’s even more severe: group consensus is truth. They lied when they got us to focus on our common ground. Now, all they do is spit on our differences and attempt to mold us around their own image.

World-system followers have never liked me. But then, why would they? Still, they seem to take peculiar satisfaction when I am chastised by the world-system rule makers. I am considered the one with faulty thinking; the followers are always right, and I am always wrong. This dynamic becomes ironic when the elite, who run the system, decide to change the rules against the best interest of the followers — for the desire of the followers to see me shamed and themselves praised by these power players remains as strong as ever. They would rather deny the truth that is right in front of them than admit they could be wrong, and I could be right. They feel this way, even if it means losing out on the one chance they have of possibly saving themselves. They seem doggedly invested in reinforcing the status quo … of keeping me in my place … in my role as the one who is perpetually wrong.

And it’s not as though they are invested in any consistent principle that they have accepted as the truth either, for the world isn’t consistent and is constantly contradicting itself. No, it is merely a desire to obey whatever the world happens to be saying at any given time that they rabidly support.

I am becoming aware of how abused I’ve been and continue to be. The harassment and criticism never seems to stop with these people. They accept diversity so long as everyone thinks and believes the way they do. And it is no longer enough to hide the difference in your opinion either, for they’ll test you. And they make you participate. They can tell when you’re not on board. It’s not enough to lie low with them anymore. It’s best to get away as soon as you can. Otherwise, they’ll either force you to do something against your conscience or destroy you.

I have to brace myself for that possibility … when I’m alone. I don’t know what they’ll do to me. Most people sell out based solely on an implied threat of personal destruction or from witnessing what they do to others …

I wish I didn’t have to be among these people at school! But truth be told they’re everywhere now. I’m done thinking about this for now; it’s too much.

I will have to focus on something else. Perhaps, I can prepare for my role in the mock trial. Before my concern for Mark overshadowed all of my other concerns, I had been a little worried about pulling off my performance and getting a good grade. Now it all seems so silly. I sigh. No, I can’t think that way. I have to pretend the last twenty-four hours never happened.

A new semester is beginning. This may be the last semi-normal school year I will experience. You can feel that change is coming; it’s in the air.

One day in art class, the teacher makes it a point to harshly criticize my work. And yet, she refuses to give me specifics as to what’s wrong with it. Oh, the assessment. How do I fit into the world-system structure? Am I an asset as another elite? The world is insane.

I am frustrated, so I go into the hall for a moment to be by myself. Upon my return, the teacher asks me to remain standing. I brace myself for the coming humiliation. I am confronted. Why had I left the room?

“It wasn’t because I did poorly on the assignment.” I explain to my skeptical classmates. “I think I did reasonably well, but with things like art and writing … I have to trust my instincts in order to do what I do. Having the teacher state that I’m wrong without giving a concrete reason as to why isn’t helpful. She wants me to conform to her viewpoint without explaining the validity of her viewpoint to me. Perhaps, if she explained I would be able to see where she is coming from and agree with her … perhaps not. But I can’t just accept her opinion that she’s right and I’m wrong when my feelings don’t agree with that. Where would I be if I did that? Filled with such self-doubt I would no longer be productive. So, you see, I had to sort through it. The talent I do have would be at stake if I didn’t.”

I then sit down without waiting to be asked. The room is silent. I am grateful Kurt isn’t here at the moment.

With some people, you always get the sense they are easily willing to write you off, and you’re afraid you’ll give them a reason. First comes the ostracizing then the dehumanizing. Then, they won’t care what happens to you — or worse they might actually enjoy your suffering. Really though, all in all, so far being blacklisted isn’t as bad as I feared it would be …

The mock trial is starting. Kurt got a role as one of the defendants. Most of his friends are on the jury. A couple of them are also defendants. I am a witness to the crime in question. Mitchell is also in this class. He is on the jury. It is clear that Kurt is proud of his new protégée … or is it lackey? Should I admit to knowing Mitchell or not? I hadn’t considered that before. As it turns out, the decision is taken out of my hands, for he quickly blows me off.

They had an announcement in the paper today that there will be a wide rationing of medical supplies. To think, if Mark had been injured today, there would have been no way I could have helped him. Also, vitamin supplements are being banned. There is to be no alternative to the eugenics system, I guess.

Well, Kurt and his friends actually admitted it in class today. They aspire to be their own gods. They seem downright obsessed by it. Good luck with that (and in case you can’t tell I’m being sarcastic!). I don’t want any part of that. Still, as I’m writing this alone in my room, I wonder if I’m being a coward. Maybe I should have said something … out loud. Would it have done any good? In other news, I’ve decided to hide my Bible in the hiding place I had been keeping my diary. I figure I’d rather have them find my diary and punish me for that than risk having the Bible confiscated; it’s much more important to me. Let them think what they will!

I saw a group of women chattering away about frivolous things while they were walking on the sidewalk in front of the school today. They seemed heedless of the descent of the world, and I wonder how they cannot see it. And yet did I see it? Was it this obvious before? Can there be hope if people won’t admit there’s a problem? Society used to admit when something was a sin — not anymore.

There is a deep aching sadness, and I want to crawl in a hole and hide from it. The world that existed when I was really young is dead. They have killed it. It was imperfect — maybe too imperfect, but it was better than this. And yet, I have to remind myself that that time led to this. All of the compromising had in it this end.

They take everything of substance and destroy it. Then, they replace it with things so superficial and trivial — it almost pains one to see it. Goodness is presented as absence of conviction and meaning. Innocence and virtue are substituted by childishness.

In other news, the rumor is that the number of decimations has increased and “volunteers” are being pulled from the streets and not given a choice in the matter. Men and women stand in line with ashen faces … waiting to see if they will live or die that day. Their sadistic guards apparently get a lot of entertainment from the show. The energy of their sadism must charge the air, and they didn’t want it to end. It’s not enough for them to just kill you; they have to break you as well.

How can anyone not be grieved by the suffering in the world, which is a direct consequence of people’s greed and lust? I really want to hide from it; and yet, there’s no place to hide. How long will I even be able to hide among them? I get the feeling we’re about to find out firsthand what human beings are capable of, and it scares me. If you rely on the world-system, then you are at their mercy for whatever they decide to do to you.

Where is all the moral outrage about all the atrocities committed? There is none. Where is the mourning over the truth as the new reality becomes based solely on lies? I don’t see it. Is the one side really okay with the other side taking over? How can that be? Maybe they just are all on the same side.

I’d like to think things are going to get better, but I know that they won’t. People are set on this course. They’ve chosen the world, so they will have it as it really is … and for as long as it lasts. I tell myself that when the world is this morally insane, it is a compliment for them to call you crazy.

A strange thing began to occur after the mock trial started. Rumors began to circulate that a secret society of some of the participants had begun. They are meeting at night somewhere on campus. I suspect right away that Kurt is probably involved, which most likely means that Mitchell is, too. The only details I’ve been able to glean are that they wear masks, and that they view themselves as a law unto themselves — doling out punishment to whomever they deem offensive. Of course, the official line circulating is that they are “bringing justice to campus.”

“Kurt must have a lot of time on his hands.” I think.

I don’t know why he bothers to hide his identity. Everyone knows or at least suspects it’s him. And the fact that he’s hanging out with a group of boys now — a group from the mock trial — isn’t obvious or anything. They roam the halls leering at the other students. It is interesting to see the phenomenon progress. At first, other students looked at them funny as though to ask, “What’s with you?” But as the rumors began to spread, Kurt got what he wanted — the intimidation of his fellow students. And no one moved to stop him either. Perhaps, there is a point to those masks after all. It gives the authority figures an excuse to do nothing. After all, they can claim there is no proof as to who is behind it. When there is no enforcement of the law, there is no law. Huh, I guess Kurt is, in fact, learning something from that mock trial.

It is the last day of the mock trial. I am a little surprised when a clean-shaven Kurt emerges from the backroom in a crisp new party uniform. My first thought is to wonder whether he’s off to a costume party. But really, in all seriousness, he fits the stereotype to a T.

But while I am slightly surprised to see Kurt dressed like that, a bigger shock is awaiting me. My brother then follows behind Kurt, and he is dressed the same way. My face falls. I am even more confused. How does this mesh with my brother attending resistance meetings? Is he an enemy to the resistance or to the regime? Is everything a game to him? I can feel my heart pounding in my chest.

“You can’t be serious!” I mutter under my breath. “If you weren’t my brother …”

“What’s the big deal?” a familiar and ominous voice says from behind me. Kurt had sneaked up on me. “That is how our onkel made his fortune.”

“Is it? I hadn’t realized.” I respond without turning in his direction. “By the way, what is this thing you have with sneaking up on me?”

I finally turn and look at him, for it’s unnerving to have him back there. He shrugs. Finally, he takes his spot in the prisoner dock. Only he’s not done talking.

“We who are about to die salute you!” Kurt cries out from behind the dock.

“That’s not funny.” Isabelle says. She is one of the prosecutors.

“I think he’s drunk …” one of her friends mentions.

“It’s still not funny.” Isabelle counters. “And really is it appropriate for you to be in that uniform in the prisoner dock?”

“Hey! We have a rally to go to today! You don’t want me to be late, do you?” he asks ominously.

“You’re right. Of course, you’re right.” Isabelle agrees eagerly.

Then suddenly, she sighs.

“Still, you don’t seem scared enough to be a prisoner who could be executed.” Isabelle speaks with some bitterness.

Kurt’s mouth twists into a sneer. Isabelle looks noticeably embarrassed as Kurt’s eyes bore into her.

“And what do you know about it? This is just a game. Why take it so personally?”

Suddenly, it occurs to me that it is personal. From her reaction, Isabelle has given away that there is — or, at least was something going on between she and Kurt. More than what had happened before the party, I suspect. The whole room laughs.

“Anyway, I’ll try to act more in fear for my life!” Kurt winks. Needless to say, Kurt is found not guilty and is released.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Chapter 22 (Aronade: age 16 — Sadism/ Virtue Signaling)

It surprises me when anyone looks favorably on the French Revolution. To me it’s a modern-day example of barbarity and sadism. Apparently to some people, being excluded from the spoils of the world-system is a form of persecution. Few people have access to the top levels; that’s the point. There’s nothing just about the world-system. Nothing can make it so. They keep saying they’re afraid we’re going to come after them, but the truth is we were perfectly fine with ignoring them before. They’re the ones who won’t let us be — who keep encroaching into our lives. We ignored them; I guess we’re not allowed to do that. In their minds, ignoring them is a form of abuse. Our idea of fighting the world-system is by telling the truth of the evil of it, but they would have none of that. So, we were marginalized, vilified, cast out.

In any event, if they call not being an elite persecution, then what do they call not only being socially excluded but also being persecuted by the government? If not having all people agree with every opinion you have is abuse, what do they call being attacked with sharp instruments of death and murdered? But they don’t care what happens to their perceived enemies — and anyone marginalized by society. They only care about what happens to themselves. Any protestations that they are interested in the well-being of humanity as a whole is a lie.

I never thought about it before this moment, but sadists are really a covert special interest group. They are like the Nazi sympathizers in Austria waiting to whip out their party badges to reveal their true selves during the Anschluss. They have been waiting to unleash themselves. The fact that they’ve hidden their true natures all this time is considered by them to be society’s fault for being too restrictive. Some people became convinced that the burden they felt wasn’t due to sin itself but rather to the belief in the concept of sin. In their minds, things such as the sexual exploitation of others is only a problem because it’s been defined as a problem. As though it wouldn’t cause harm if no one called it wrong. I’ve never known of a time in human history when it didn’t cause damage. In any event, according to them, in order to be successful in the world-system they have had to put on a façade of compassion. That’s just mean in their minds. But what really gets them off is absolute power and control over others as well as the freedom to inflict pain on those people — to make them slaves in a system of torture. Therefore, the solution seemed obvious to them: convince people who can be convinced that there is no sin and silence the rest.

And they reason why shouldn’t they be allowed to live out their natural inclinations? Why should they have to suppress these compulsions, even though it does harm to others? And why shouldn’t they have full unrestricted access to their victims? After all, the sadists are “special.” They are a step forward in the progress of the human race according to them. Their victims aren’t fully human in their minds, after all. They deserve to be punished — that’s what their propaganda says. And that’s what their so-called sciences like eugenics support. These “sciences” are nothing more than man-made justifications for their barbarity — to normalize their sadism within the world.

And the other people who are not as sadistic as they are go along with it. They buy into the propaganda that dehumanizes groups such as the sick, the elderly, the poor, and the children. It becomes normal for these groups and other groups to be treated poorly or even disposed of. But also the supporters of sadists are promised a part in the prosperity created when these groups are exploited or destroyed.

Meanwhile, with eugenics as its banner, the medical communities are increasingly becoming safe havens for sadists and their warped worldview. They create a twisted normal, wearing down the vulnerable — enjoying the suffering they cause them with impunity. They restrict access to life-saving treatments and pain medications even when there is a legitimate need. They can justify themselves by claiming that the financial costs of caring for these groups are too much of a burden to society and that these people are “useless eaters.” But it’s beyond just refusing expensive procedures or even treatment, though that would be bad enough. Another hallmark precept of eugenics is that they don’t make it easy for you to leave their “care.”

They want their own universe in which they can live by their own rules. They really don’t want anything to do with you, but they aren’t going to let you go either. You see … it’s not enough for you to do their bidding — to be their slaves. You also have to admire them and envy them while you lick their boots at their command. You certainly aren’t permitted to ignore them. They are your superiors. You have to be made to acknowledge that — to believe it. And nothing they want to do to you is off-limits either. Oh! And they will kill you if they determine there’s too many of you. You’re taking up their space and their resources, after all.

Sadists or malignant narcissists and those who support them are offended when the sadists are restricted from their desired victims. They don’t want to be denied their pleasures, and they know the victims they really want would flee if given the opportunity. But since the sadists are considered special by themselves and their supporters, they self-righteously insist the victims — the scapegoats — don’t have the right to refuse to interact with the sadists and submit to their abusive treatment.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the world-system is sadistic. The people of the world think or at least want us to believe that masochism is love — that if you completely give yourself over to a sadist they will love you. Yeah, right. When has that ever happened? The way I see it, they want you as long as they haven’t destroyed you yet. Then, once there’s nothing left of you, they don’t want you anymore. Sounds like fun. But most people relate more to the sadist nowadays. The victim is some other guy. The sadists are special and those who like them are special — who cares about the other guy? Now they’ve incorporated the sadists into the norm of society. They are no longer the boogie man with a body count. They are misunderstood charmers who just happen to like to kill and destroy others. But like I said, who cares about those others … they are less likeable, Therefore, they are hardly sympathetic, They are a small sacrifice to make in order to just be in the presence of the charismatic sadistic psychopath … who, if you feed them what society deems as throwaway victims, they will shine their engaging presence on you without harming the “special” you at all. Like I said: small price to pay.

Some people choose to view Christianity as a form of masochism. This allows them to identify with and follow sadists rather than God. Their admiration for the sadists is considered by them and by the sadists as noble … their willingness to allow the sadists to follow their lusts at the expense of other people and of God is considered enlightened and open-minded by the world. For the admirers of the sadists are very much creatures of the world — every bit as much as the sadists themselves. And they hate and disapprove of true Christians and God as much as the sadists do. To them, God doesn’t have the right to judge their behavior or the behavior of the sadists. They think there should be no standards of conduct for sadists, and they take pleasure in lecturing the rest of us. We should let the sadists victimize us and the vulnerable. They think they are immune from such treatment. Their niceness and “tolerance” will win over the sadists and heal their homicidal rages. Meanwhile, they not only think they are more righteous than we are; they think they are more righteous than God, who also condemns such behavior. To them, God is mean for holding them accountable for their actions. They also say if we cut God out of our lives then we’ll all get along — that God is divisive. Who are they to judge God? Who are any of us? And yet, they have no problem — don’t seem particularly bothered by the sadists inflicting untold cruelty on other people nor by their destroying of children. They want a world where their lust for the sadists is viewed as the ultimate form of love and self-sacrifice. And they want themselves viewed as the standard of virtue and righteousness.

We need to put God first. We need to respect Him as the Creator. It is not our place to tell Him when to judge or when not to judge. But people have elevated themselves above God in their own minds. The first commandment relates that God comes first. The fact we receive God’s consideration is a reflection of His goodness and mercy, not our worthiness. But most people who will even admit there is a God act not only as though they are entitled to God’s blessings but are, in fact, superior to God. The opposite is true. God is superior and rightfully deserves status, respect, and love above any human being. We love and care for each other by His grace and by His direction.

Conformists to the sadistic world-system have to minimize those who make them own whatever guilt they have. I think sadly on the children. If they’re even allowed to live to see the light of day, they are increasingly exploited in every imaginable way. The children are only considered useful by most of these people if they can be exploited in some way. There is no emotional attachment to them by these people that would make their absence felt if they were gone. Horrible things happen to them by people of the world and most of their parents only see value in their being alive if those children are a part of the world-system and allow those parents to draft attention and praise off of them. It’s a different way of looking at the world than what I am used to … and it takes a heart devoid of empathy in order to achieve it.

But people refuse to acknowledge the connection between the machinations of the world and that abominable and repugnant reality. They’d sell out not only their innocence but the innocence of those they know still have a shot at having a relationship with God.

The children seem to be a limitless supply of energy to feed off of. And there doesn’t seem to be any guilt about destroying their sensitive sides by exploiting them either. For the sadists believe the evolution of humanity is the psychopathic personality like their own. If the children survive their sexual abuse, then they might have the chance to grow up to be a perpetrator rather than the victim. And if they don’t survive, emotionally or otherwise, then their exploiters figure they weren’t worthy to live after all.

Scapegoating is so ingrained and normalized in our society that it can be used to justify any atrocity. Sadists feel driven to violence by the mere existence of certain other people, so they are attempting to indoctrinate the masses into thinking that their drive is normal and justifiable.

People are in part invested in scapegoating because the world-system feeds off of it. It allows people to justify the atrocities committed to others in a system that is innately evil and unjust. And it allows the people who go along with and/or participate in it to present themselves as “good people” to the world and to themselves. And then, of course, there is the sadistic thrill they experience from harming others.

Some people become so obsessed with keeping others in the scapegoat role that they allow themselves to become overtly self-destructive. Such is the desire to maintain the suffocating oppression and control over that person or people. The sadists are like stalkers who require participation by their victims in order to create the illusion that there is an interaction — a relationship — between the stalkers and their victims. The sadists can’t admit they have an overwhelming obsession — a rage —toward the target groups. They won’t admit they are the ones with the problem. Hence the campaign to convince everyone — including their victims — that the victims are the cause of the sadist’s hatred of them by their mere existence. In other words, they claim they are just reacting to their victims.

The sadists meanwhile try to dehumanize their victims. The sadists make it clear the victim is worth nothing to the sadists and to the world in general. The sadists are only interested in the pain they can inflict on their victims and the pleasure the sadists derive from that pain. This indoctrination of the victim is a form of psychological torture in and of itself. And the message of the worthlessness and guilt of the victim is reinforced by a sadistic society and its members. If the sadist who’s admired views the victim with disdain, the victim has no value in the minds of the followers of the sadist. The victim is encouraged to be masochistic and submissive. Maybe then the ire of the sadist will be appeased. It will not. Not until the victim is utterly destroyed will the sadist be appeased and move on to another victim.

It seems that one of the things people do is impoverish people they already hate. It strips them of world-system power. This plays into the aversion people who buy into the world-system — which is most people — feel toward those who are rejected by the world such as the poor or the sick. Suddenly, the masses associate the group with this social rejection and the aversion to the group spreads. If the world doesn’t value a person then the people who buy into the world don’t value that person either.

It’s strange to see the irony in the way people deal with the disadvantaged, even when they are the ones who contribute to the disadvantage existing at all. They are always circling like sharks that smell blood in the water. They drain the substance out of people who are vulnerable but then want to get rid of them when they are no longer useful or when a chance for better gain exists with their destruction. Someone may actually provide a monetary incentive for this expressed purpose. Eugenics is classic in this way. People profit off the sick but eventually just want them to die. They will milk them for personal gain and at the same time propagate the belief they are a drain on the world economic system and need to be eliminated. They are given as the reason there isn’t copious amounts of wealth for everyone. Of course, the fact that wealth is relative is not acknowledged. People only gain power from money if they have a disproportionate amount of it.

The drive for this elitism necessitates an underclass and the abuses that result there from. But very few will ever acknowledge the inherent evil of the world-system. There is no difference between the drive that leads to criminal behavior and the drive that leads to immoral behavior that is nevertheless condoned by society.

Sadists are control freaks. You can’t underestimate the importance of that to them. It isn’t about you personally; it is about them personally. It isn’t about your relative significance or insignificance. They are invested in the manipulation and the mind games. They have gleaned information about you and have found out your weaknesses. They can use those weaknesses as leverage against you should you ever try to thwart their will of having total control over you. They are aware when you are drifting away … maybe even before you’ve come to a decision to try to break free yourself. For they have anticipated that you would eventually catch on that they are sucking the life out of you and try to escape. Others have done so. But submitting won’t save you.

The outcome for the masochist is death. That is the end goal for the sadist. They feed you a line that if you give into their will they’ll let you live — they won’t punish you; they might even reward you. But it’s all a lie — a mind game. They use it to wear you down, to make you lose your independence to them, to become dependent on them. Eventually, you’ll lose yourself and eventually they will kill you if they can. The question is will they succeed in their desire to kill you emotionally and spiritually before they finish toying with you and get around to killing you physically? There is something inside of you they’ve become obsessed with destroying. But once they destroy that something, both you and the interest they once had for you is gone.

The best thing is to leave the system if you can … to preserve at least your soul and your emotional side — with God’s help — rather than allowing them to completely destroy you.

And now a wave of sadism is rising again. It is a spiritual ugliness.

People of the world actually want a corrupt system. They aren’t going to get a windfall of prosperity in a stable system. A corrupt system shakes the foundation and allows for unethical means of advancement. And they won’t be moved by tales of how some people are being destroyed by the system either. A corrupt system, in fact, requires the destruction of people. In order for there to be a windfall, one has to steal from someone else. They pretend that other people are taking away what’s rightfully theirs, but the reality is they merely want success in the world and are justifying their willingness to steal it from others in order to have it for themselves. What do you do when you’ve stolen from someone, and you don’t want to be caught? If you’re immoral, you kill them. But if you are moral and are angry with the world for not giving you what you think you deserve, then you reject the world-system.

Beware of “virtue signaling.” It is the first stage of a sadistic assault — much as a serial killer fantasizes about an impending slaughter. It also serves as a justification for the oncoming carnage. That justification seems to be a necessary component of the sadistic ritual.

People used to be motivated by a traditional “carrot” or positive reinforcement such as money. Now with the onset of a totally sadistic-based world-system, which is much like the concentration camp culture of Nazi Germany, those former carrots no longer work effectively on most people. Instead, the carrot for most people is the ability to deliver the “stick” or negative reinforcement to those they hate.

Within society, the scapegoat becomes the culprit — the victimizer becomes the victim. Sometimes people seem eager to find an underdog to defend. But they don’t do it out of some latent sense of personal justice but rather they do it to create a justification for attacking their favorite scapegoats. Scapegoats can never suffer enough to get empathy from people of the world.

It enrages them if you have more than they do. It enrages them if they can convince themselves that you are impeding their rise in the world-system — no matter how ludicrous that claim may be. It even enrages them when another group targeted for death that they happen to like better than you, dies before you die. Well, it’s obvious to them that you’re engaging in some nefarious behavior — cheating in some sort of way in order to save yourself. Unfairness becomes when there aren’t enough people dying. Such is the blind and malicious hatred of the conformist when the world-system turns against you.

With the virtue signaling justifications playing out in their minds, they are convinced their target victim group deserves to be beaten with the stick and is evil for trying to escape from it. In their minds, justice is served by delivering the stick to these people, and a sadistic thrill is also achieved. These sadistic individuals will support whatever cause is virtue signaled, for they know that those they hate will soon be punished by the corrupt government and by others in power. And there is more payoff for them in that punishment than in any amount of money.

What strikes me most is the hatred. I had thought the violence was spontaneous; I had believed the party line. But it isn’t. There is an element — a leadership that prods it along.

They literally hate anyone who doesn’t buy into their ideology. I knew about the others, who believed their superiority lies in their genetics, but I wasn’t prepared for people who view malignant narcissism or sadistic psychopathy as the determining factor in declaring themselves superior. And they can’t stand the idea that someone thinks or feels differently or has a different worldview. Those people can’t be allowed to exist. I had often wondered why they seemed to seek out where the rest of us were. Why not just avoid us altogether? But now I realize our mere existence is an affront to their egos and their attempt to recreate reality in their own image. Therefore, in their minds, we must be completely eradicated. So that’s where the rage and the fear comes in: rage at our existence; fear whenever something happens that threatens to derail their mission to destroy us.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Chapter 18 (Aronade: age 16/ Mark: age 18 — The Party)

I read in the paper that the ghetto is expanding. The government feels the need to incorporate other areas into it — areas that used to be suburbs. The reasons referenced in the article are twofold. For some, it’s marketed as a sort of punishment. The communities to be added have fallen apart due to the dereliction of the community members. The second version of reality is that the incorporated towns are considered fortunate to be able to participate in this “wondrous” program, which has done so much for so many other areas. Of course, when there is any kind of protest or resistance from the people, then it’s easy to turn group two into group one. One simply has to destroy the community from within. People expect the enemy to come from without — not from within.

And it really doesn’t turn out to be that hard to destroy a community from within. You simply introduce drugs, let the infrastructure fall into disrepair, and raid the public funding. Eventually, the area becomes derelict enough to qualify for relief help and is incorporated into the larger ghetto after all.

And so it is — one surrounding community after another is sucked into the abyss. Of course, everyone tries to avoid living within the ghetto’s ever-expanding confines. Still, people who are fortunate enough to have avoided living within the city center thus far must now use mass transit to get to the center. And this mandatory mass transit system only increases the very real fear of being trapped in the ghetto.

So, even if you are just forced to work in the ghetto, there is a feeling you could be trapped inside one day and not be able to get back out. As the boundary grows toward my school, the fear mounts. And yet, the school remains outside the ghetto at this point.

Isabelle isn’t gone for long. Later that same day, she comes knocking at my door. As I open the door, I am surprised when she just steps into my room without asking.

“So, she finally left.” Isabelle remarks as she sits on the chair near my desk.

I eye Isabelle with curiosity. I am now convinced she’s up to something, but what could she want?

I stand there waiting for Isabelle to draw to a point. She appears to be hesitant to do so. I cannot relax while she remains, so I find myself growing antsy.

“You know, there’s a party tomorrow night.” Isabelle finally speaks in a tone that resembles a confidential whisper.

“There is?” I finally ask after a moment of awkward silence.

She nods then adjusts the hem of her expensive skirt.

“It’s one of those unofficial, underground things.” she mentions.

She talks as though the topic is forbidden and therefore exciting to her.

“It’s in Mison.” she adds. “I’ve heard you’ve been there before.”

Finally, she looks me directly in the eyes again. I look at her skeptically. She heard that? Has Kurt been spreading rumors about me? In any event, that’s what it is. She wants to go to Mison and either no one else will go with her, or she doesn’t even want them to know she’s going. Apparently, going alone is not considered an option by her — not that I can blame her for that. I shudder inside when I think of my brother and the decimation … I never want to go back to that place. And yet, Mark is staying there …

“So, you want me to go with you?” I decide to ask her directly once I realize she doesn’t seem to have the intention of asking the question herself.

Isabelle nods slightly. Her eyes suggest passivity and vulnerability, but I don’t really buy that. It seems like an act to me. I consider my options — what would be best for me. Of course, I think about Mark. I had wanted a way to sneak out of here and see him again. Could this be the way? Maybe if I agree to accompany her, she’ll have some means to get me out from under the watchful eyes of the floor matron. It might be worth a shot, I conclude.

“All right.” I agree.

“You will?!” she brightens immediately.

“As long as you can help me get out of here … I’ll go with you.”

She nods, though I have to admit she does look a little unsure suddenly. I hope she came here with some sort of plan.

“We’ll meet up after class!” she assures me.

She unexpectedly hugs me then sets off on her way. I am surprised by how much this whole thing seems to mean to her.

She pauses at the door and peers out to scan the hallway … but only briefly. I am grateful she does not linger there; it would look pretty suspicious if someone saw her there looking like that.

Isabelle finally leaves without another word. Now alone, I set my mind to work on how to inform Mark of my forthcoming plans. Perhaps, he will have heard of the party and be able to get to it. I will have to go to the park tomorrow and see if I can happen upon him there. If I can’t, maybe I can leave him a note. Of course, doing anything carries with it a certain amount of risk. Since this opportunity came upon me so suddenly, I haven’t had the time to frequent the park and thereby establish a pattern of behavior that would be less suspicious.

Instead, I’ll be going there the very morning of the day I’m planning to sneak out. And worse still, if I have to leave a note, and it’s discovered … Yet, what choice do I have? The chances of Mark just happening upon that party appear to me to be slim to none. No, I will have to try to see him beforehand and just hope and pray that I am not caught.

There is a break for lunch midway through the day. On nice days in the spring, students wander outside and eat out on the grounds. If you play your cards right, you can go even farther without being stopped. I’m hoping to take this opportunity to make it to the park. It is a risk, but …

I decide not to look around me. If someone sees me, they’ll think I’m up to something. So, I decide to just take my chances. Of course, I’m unsure if I’m doing the right thing. I guess it all depends on how it turns out. After all, there is no hard and fast rule that students can’t venture out past the campus boundary. My main concern is that there is no direct permission either. If I wasn’t being targeted by the floor matron with particular scrutiny, it probably wouldn’t have even occurred to me to be nervous.

I decide to head directly to the park. I figure if I’m caught it would be better to be caught eating on a bench than roaming around; that way my actions would be largely self-explanatory. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as I approach the nearest bench. The bench becomes ever larger as I near it. I reach for it with an eager hand. Once I have a hold on it, I quickly sit down. I breathe. I’m set, I think.

I place my sack lunch, which I had bought premade in the school cafeteria, on top of my lap. I rifle through its contents, determined to find something agreeable to eat as quickly as possible.

I find a sandwich first — turkey and cheese — and begin to unwrap it. I take my first bite of it and even begin to chew when I hear an unnerving voice speak out from behind me. I shudder involuntarily at the sound of it.

Then, when I hear nothing more, I force myself to look back over my shoulder.

There stands the floor matron staring at me; a look of triumph crosses her face.

“What are you doing here?” she accuses.

I hold up my sandwich without speaking a word.

“You’re not allowed to be out here!” she tells me.

I think of retorting that there is nothing that says I can’t be, but I know I still have something left to do. Obviously, my plan to meet Mark here won’t work, but I still want to leave my note behind if I can. It is a long shot, but I want to at least try. I figure, therefore, if I antagonize this woman my plan will have no chance of succeeding. She might even try to forcibly remove me from the park herself.

“I wasn’t sure I couldn’t come here.” I decide to say, being careful to sound both calm and respectful.

She looks at me skeptically.

“Give me a moment to gather my things, and I’ll come back with you.” I offer.

Then, I proceed to rewrap my sandwich before she has a chance to object. Still, I rewrap the sandwich slowly. I am trying to stall for time. I had left the note for Mark tucked in the lunch sack, and I am waiting for an opportunity to retrieve the note then drop it when the woman isn’t staring at me.

Fortunately, I have already grasped the note between my fingers when the woman, who is apparently sick of waiting for me, grabs me by the wrist and begins pulling me towards the school. I let the piece of paper drop as she hauls me away. The dropping of the letter appears to be a natural reaction to her actions and, therefore, goes unnoticed. I can only hope that I get off as easily once I get back to the school.

I’m not exactly surprised when I end up in the waiting room of the headmaster’s office. I am told by the floor matron to sit in a chair until I am summoned. Then, she proceeds to enter into the headmaster’s inner office. I roll my eyes after she turns her back to me.

I use the time I am waiting to contemplate what I will say to the headmaster once I am asked for. It makes me nervous having to wait. Any moment I could be called upon to have to convince him that I don’t deserve to be punished. Perhaps, it was too soon for me to go to the park — and not only because the floor matron is still keeping me under surveillance. I could very well end up being labeled a problem — having two questionable incidents in such a short span of time.

I hear the door click open, and for some reason I instinctively rise to my feet. Out of the door comes the floor matron, walking rather quickly. Her face is flushed, and she looks at me with agitation. Then, surprisingly, she walks straight past me and out the office door.

I turn and watch her leave, unsure of what to make of the whole scene.

“Liesel.” I hear the headmaster say my alternative name.

I turn and look at him.

“May I have a word with you for a moment?” he requests, though I’m pretty sure it’s more of an order than a request. I nod and then head into his inner office. He shuts the door behind us. I figure it is a good sign that the floor matron didn’t smirk at me as she left. And yet, I brace myself for the possibility of punishment all the same.

“Have a seat, won’t you?” the headmaster offers.

His voice is rather cool and has me sort of worried. I take his suggestion — which once again is more like a polite command.

“I understand you went to the park today to eat your lunch?”

I nod. Then, I decide to add, “Yes.”

The headmaster leans back in his chair and scrutinizes me with his eyes.

“And why would you do that exactly?” he questions.

“Well, it is a nice day …” I point out. “So, that could be a reason.”

The headmaster looks out a nearby window and nods.

“That it is.” he agrees. Then, he turns his focus back on me. “My question really is more of a matter of the timing.”

“The timing?” I repeat.

I try not to anticipate where he might be heading with his questions. I figure I will look less guilty if I’m taken by surprise. Still, it troubles me …

“You just got into a … disagreement with Frau Schechter the other day and now this. I have to wonder if you aren’t trying to antagonize her.”

My eyes widen slightly.

“No.” I insist. “I can honestly say that I’m not.”

He nods again.

“Then, you must have your reasons for wanting to be out there today.” he mentions. “And I don’t suppose you’re likely to share those reasons with me …”

I am silent. My face flushes.

“Very well.” he states. “You can go.”

“I can?” I utter.

“Yes, there are no rules in the manual stating you can’t go to the park …”

“Oh … okay.” I begin to stand.

“Only I’m now telling you not to.” he adds.

I freeze and look at him in dismay. I hadn’t anticipated this. I have been banned from going to the one place I had the chance to run into Mark!

“You mean just at lunch?” I ask hopefully.

“No. For the time being I’d like you to just stick to the grounds.”

My face falls. I look away.

“You may go, Liesel.”

I walk out without uttering another word.

I have no intention of staying at the school tonight … I’m even considering running away and not coming back at all.

I know I’m having a sort of temper tantrum internally. It is hard not to get one’s way. I try to tell myself not to give in to these feelings of being trapped. I have to be mature. A solution could present itself, after all. And in the meantime, I can’t let the floor matron … what is her name again? I know the headmaster mentioned it, but I can’t remember it. I sigh. It may prove useful to have that information … but I simply can’t recall it at the moment. Maybe later I will …

It’s strange to think she never has introduced herself to me; and yet, she’s made it such a point to interfere in my life. On the other hand, if I ask her for her name at this point she’ll probably think I want it in order to complain about her. Then again, given what’s been happening recently that’s probably exactly what would happen.

As I approach my room, I attempt to put things into some sort of perspective. I have been banned from the park. But will that stop me from sneaking out tonight? I am more determined than ever to go, but I have to wonder if Isabelle will find out about my run-in with the floor matron and pick someone else to go with her. Then, there is the question of whether Isabelle has come up with a plan that can get me out of here without being detected at all.

If all goes well and I do get out, my priority will be to track down Mark and tell him about my current situation. Maybe he can come up with a new way for us to communicate.

Time seems to pass slowly as I wait for some sign of Isabelle. Oftentimes when I hear voices or footsteps in the hall, I think it’s her about to liberate me from my wait. Finally, I hear a soft knocking at the door, and I sigh with relief.

I quickly go to open the door. But as I open the door, my face falls. Someone I’ve never seen before is standing before me. I try to hide my disappointment as I wonder who this person could be and what she could be doing here. Hopefully, whatever business she has with me won’t last long.

Suddenly, the girl enters my room without saying a word. I don’t even have the time to protest this intrusion before she is inside.

“Shut the door.” she tells me in a frantic whisper.

“Yeah, right.” I think.

“I’m from Isabelle.” she stresses.

Finally, I shut the door.

“Who are you?” I ask her.

“Doesn’t matter.” she says. “I’m here to take your place in this room, so people will assume it’s being occupied by you … so you can leave.”

I stare back at her dumbfounded.

“No one was out there to see me come in to the room.” she insists. “I had to wait awhile, so I’m running behind now.” She then reaches into a bag that she brought. “Here, I brought you an exact replica of my outfit, so if they saw me entering the building they’ll think you’re me.”

She tries to hand me the disguise, but it takes me a moment to register what she’s telling me. This is apparently the plan Isabelle has come up with. It seems awfully convoluted to me.

“I hate this place.” Isabelle announces. “Why does it have to be here?”

I nod with agreement as we cross into the confines of Mison. I hate this place, too.

“All these … people. It’s like some sort of bad movie! Are they even humans?”

I look over at her in shock. A feeling of dread creeps into me.

I had forgotten that she and the others are different from me — as sad as that is. I guess I had grown used to being around them. And they didn’t know I wasn’t one of them — one of the elite. I mean, I knew that the lives that they led were different than the life that I led, but I always saw myself as the one who was different. Because of the Instructor, nobody had the life that I had. But it’s more than that with them. Isabelle and the others, they think they are different than the rest of humanity in a fundamental way and not just in circumstances. They view themselves as superior — not just different. If they knew I was not an elite, they would probably recoil from me. That would certainly be awkward. Really, it makes me wish even more that I didn’t have to live at the school. I want to retain some independence from them, so if they do find out that I’m not “special” it won’t be quite so disastrous.

In a way, I wish I could just confess that I’m a regular person and be done with it. Why should I be ashamed of that? And yet, I am trapped into living this lie — as I know they would kill me if they found out the truth. Now I desperately wish I had not come with her.

“Liesel?” Isabelle mentions. “What’s with you?”

I look at her blankly. Her behavior seems so civilized — so normal all of a sudden. I had caught a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface of the façade. But now the façade has returned because she doesn’t know who I am, and she thinks I’m more like her than not. Suddenly, Isabelle catches her breath and pulls at my arm.

“What?” I mutter.

Isabelle motions with her eyes, and I look toward where she is looking. I am taken aback. There stands Kurt! Now I’m even more confused. I turn back toward Isabelle, hoping to get some answers. But when I catch the look on her face, I have all the answers I need. I can imagine it’s the same besotted look I have whenever I’m around Mark. But Kurt? It is hard for me to understand the attraction there. So, Isabelle likes Kurt. Maybe, even though I didn’t see it, it shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to me. A lot of the girls in our class like Kurt for some reason or another. In fact, maybe that’s why Isabelle likes Kurt. She seems to have the unofficial distinction of being the most popular girl in our class. In keeping with that role, it would stand to reason that she would acquire the most popular boy — popular at least among the girls that is. He would be like a trophy for her, cementing her status.

It is hard to say whether I am right or not.

“Don’t you think he’s attractive?” she asks me.

“I’d rather not think about that.”

“Oh, because you’re related?”

It dawns on me that at least part of Isabelle’s motivation in seeking me out was to curry favor with Kurt. She thinks that because we are supposed to be cousins we are close. At least something about this situation is starting to make sense to me now.

I don’t comment any further on Kurt’s attractiveness … or lack thereof. There is just no point in going there. I find his personality so off-putting that I consider it irrelevant what I think of his physical façade.

Isabelle approaches Kurt, and I watch, hoping to be able to discern whether Kurt is expecting her to be here. Did he invite her? Did he have something to do with her inviting me? Is he playing games again? Does he ever stop playing games?

I frown as I realize I can’t read Kurt’s reaction. He seems indifferent to Isabelle’s appearance, but then that’s the way he generally acts — it’s one of the things I think must captivate the other girls. Kurt is a challenge for them. Personally, though, I think of Kurt as more an impossibility. I highly doubt he has affection for anyone — at least I’ve never seen it.

Kurt lifts his eyes and looks at me standing there. He smirks. Just like with Isabelle, I have no idea if my presence here was expected or not. Isabelle then turns and looks at me for a moment.

“Your cousin and I are here for the party!” she announces to Kurt.

Kurt gives her a funny look suddenly.

“Am I wrong? You are cousins, right?”

She seems to be waiting for me to confirm what she was told.

“Yeah, we’re third cousins.” Kurt smirks with the unnecessary addition of the word third. Kurt in effect makes the question of our relationship status an issue again. The truth is, of course, we aren’t related at all.

Kurt then turns to the other guys with him.

“All right! Let’s go! Jolly Ho!”

I look at Kurt doubtfully as Isabelle returns to my side.

“Your being his cousin and all … I knew you wouldn’t betray us.” Isabelle persists. “Well, it seems like we’re off!” she then giggles with amusement.

I can tell she’s pleased with herself. Everything is going according to plan in her mind. And I am a part of that ingenious plan. It is strange being witness to so many levels of falseness at the same time. There is the fake background story of Kurt and me. Then, there’s Isabelle thinking she’s clever manipulating me into coming with her for her own agenda. Then, there’s Kurt, who doubtlessly has an agenda of his own. And lest I forget, there’s me with all of my secrets.

“Yeah, we might as well go.” I answer somewhat wearily.

She seems pleased that I’m willing to continue on with her so easily. I try not to think about what kind of fool she must take me for.

As we trail after the exuberant males in our party toward the unknown destination in Mison, I think about how I can escape from Kurt’s prying eyes. I notice he is glancing at me from time to time, and I am hoping to escape from his surveillance before I run into Mark — assuming I’m fortunate enough to run into Mark. I hang back, hoping to be able to sneak away from the group.

I really want to be able to inform Mark about the changes to my living situation and possibly formulate a plan for us to meet sometime in the future. If I can accomplish just that, I figure the night will be successful — as awkward and uncomfortable as it’s turning out to be thus far.

Still, I’m a bit wary. I don’t trust Kurt, and I don’t know the rowdy boys he’s with. It seemed precarious enough to head into Mison after dark before, but I’m even more on edge now. I had been so focused on meeting up with Mark and feeling secure in his presence. Now I feel a certain sense of foreboding at the danger I’ve stepped into. But I figure the best thing I can do now is to stay strong and not let my anxiety show … oh, and pray.

I am pretty distracted as we progress to the party site. I try to look as uninterested as possible in what is going on around me. I figure it will make me look calmer than I actually am. I try not to let my feelings show. Actually, my goal becomes not feeling anything at all. I try to stuff my feelings deep inside myself; I feel safer that way.

Isabelle seems focused on Kurt and getting his attention. I suspect she is disappointed that her efforts have not been more fruitful. I am not probably the social backup she had been hoping for. I am used to seeing her surrounded by many admirers, who seem to make it their mission to make her look as good as possible. Needless to say, I’m not good at that. Plus, I’m only one person; I can’t possibly be as impressive as a group.

Still, I wonder if Isabelle might not abandon the party altogether if Kurt doesn’t show some interest in her soon. I feel conflicted about that. I think it would be safer if we left. Yet, I also worry about leaving before I see Mark lest he conclude I stood him up, or that I have gone missing. On the other hand, I know there’s nothing I can personally do to improve Isabelle’s mood. And I can tell she’s growing more annoyed by my presence with every passing moment.

Also, there is no point in going to Kurt with Isabelle’s frustrations either. Not only would it be wrong to try to get her further involved with him for my own agenda, it would probably backfire anyway. I just hope her mood will hold out long enough for me to see Mark before we have to leave. My heart beats faster as the seconds pass.

“Now there’s a guy who could make Kurt jealous!” Isabelle suddenly announces to me.

My face contorts involuntarily when I see whom she is speaking about. It is Mark! Thankfully, he isn’t looking at me as I make this face, and I, therefore, won’t need to explain the reasoning for it to him later. In reality, I am glad to see him, but I’m taken aback by Isabelle’s remarks — hence the face. I am horrified by the prospect that Isabelle is serious and that she might just approach Mark in order to make Kurt jealous.

I am already in a difficult enough position. I have to dislodge myself from Isabelle in order to talk to Mark. I certainly can’t confide in Isabelle about Mark now that I know she has designs on Kurt. She’s liable to tell Kurt everything I say just to ingratiate herself with him. Then, there’s Kurt, who I had no idea would be here. I wouldn’t have arranged to meet Mark here if I had known Kurt would be here as well. But what can I do about it now? How can I possibly escape from Kurt’s surveillance of me?

“What do I do now?” I wonder to myself.

I suddenly realize that Mark’s appearance here might cause questions about my cover story — that I am an elite. And I have yet to come up with a plan to handle this complicated situation.

Eventually, Mark scans the room as though looking for someone, and his eyes land on me. I freeze. But then, a look of surprise crosses Mark’s face, which in turn surprises me. It is almost as though he wasn’t expecting me to be here at all. But how could that be?

“I was just joking.” Isabelle states gruffly to me.

I turn and look at her questioningly.

“Stop staring at that guy; he’s noticing.” she directs me.

Isabelle then takes this opportunity to walk away from me. Clearly, her frustration with me has reached its limit. She heads directly to Kurt and, by the look of it, begins flirting with him. Kurt manages to catch a glimpse of me from over Isabelle’s head, but I figure this is my best opportunity to sneak off and go talk to Mark. At least at the moment, Kurt is partially distracted, I reason.

I wait until Kurt is looking directly at Isabelle; then, I seize my opportunity. I move as quickly as I can over toward where I last saw Mark. But just as I am pushing my way through the crowd, I realize he isn’t there anymore. I freeze. Seconds later, though, I hear his voice behind me calling out my name — my real name. I jump slightly.

Then, I turn toward him. Apparently, he had started making his way toward me, and I had passed by him without noticing. I take a moment to note how much Mark has healed since I last saw him. Then swiftly, and without a single word, I take up his hand and lead him in the opposite direction from where I last saw Kurt. Mark allows me to do this, but he does look at me doubtfully once I figure we are out of sight, and I stop.

“What was that about?” he asks me.

“Kurt’s here.” I respond.

I don’t really want to say I am here with Kurt. After all, I didn’t set out to come with him, and I probably couldn’t explain the reason for my being in the same group as he is as I really don’t understand it myself.

Mark turns and glances backward; a look of disdain crosses his face.

“I’ve been … well, grounded at the school.” I tell him, trying to dispense with what I need to tell him as quickly as possible just in case we are interrupted. “That’s why I’m glad to be able to speak with you.” I tell him, relief penetrating my voice. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to sneak out again — particularly if I’m caught tonight. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to tell you all that — that you would wonder what happened to me. Thank goodness you got my note!”

Suddenly, Mark looks at me directly. A serious look has crossed his face.

“What note?” he asks me.

I am dumbfounded.

“Didn’t you get my note from the park?” I stammer.

“No.” he tells me.

“Then, what are you doing here?”

Mark hesitates a moment, and I realize how abrupt I must have sounded.

“I’m looking for my sister.” he explains.

“Your sister? Why? Why would she be here?”

He seems reluctant to answer, and I realize I don’t have the time to wait for a response.

“I’m not going to be allowed to leave the school much.” I tell him. “Not for the foreseeable future. Like I said, I had to sneak out to see you tonight.” I explain.

I blush after giving this admission. But then, I am dismayed when I notice how distracted he is — that he doesn’t appear to be fully listening to what I have to say. I can’t help but feel a little resentful that once again my interests are taking a backseat to those of his sister.

“I don’t mean to bother you.” I speak gloomily.

“Oh, you’re not.” he tells me without looking at me at first.

“I haven’t seen her … your sister.” I tell him. “I mean ever.”

Then, his eyes finally glance at me and settle there.

“I’ll have to introduce you.” he lets me know.

I am tempted to tell him not to bother as I really don’t care to. But then, I’m ashamed at how bitter I’ve become. I mean really, how can I dislike someone I’ve never even met?

“Perhaps that would be a good idea …” is all I can manage to say to his proposal.

“Are you here with him … Kurt?” Mark finally asks me. “Is that wise?”

Mark’s concern is obvious. I have to wonder if Mark just has a strong protective instinct in general.

“Probably not, but I wasn’t expecting him to be here. I came with a girl named Isabelle. She obviously wanted to meet up with him unbeknownst to me.”

Mark suddenly shoots me a look.

“He came here with a girl?” he asks me out of nowhere.

I am taken aback by his reaction.

“I don’t know.” I admit. “It’s possible it was only Isabelle’s idea, and she tracked him down … but what difference does that make?”

Mark is frowning. He seems hesitant to reply. Then, he sighs.

“My sister …” he begins. I look around, thinking he’s mentioning her because she has suddenly made an appearance. But I see no sign of anyone of note. I look back at him questioningly.

But by then, Mark seems to have caught sight of something of interest to him. So, I once again look around the room. Now I see someone who might pass as Mark’s sister. Had I just not noticed her before?

“Odd.” I think.

Mark takes a few steps towards the girl. Then, he stops abruptly and turns towards me.

“You coming?” he asks me.

I am surprised he wants me to go with him. I nod, though I am a bit hesitant. After all, I really don’t want to draw Kurt’s attention toward Mark any more than I already have.

I follow Mark toward his sister. I watch the pretty young girl — rather tiny really — with long probably dyed blond hair pulled up. She appears to be dressed up for the party despite the fact that she lives in the Mison ghetto and probably doesn’t have the money. She crosses the room with determination, although I don’t sense a lot of confidence in her. It seems to be emotion that’s giving her a noticeable drive. It may even be anger.

I look on horrified as she appears to be heading toward Kurt! I start to reach out to grab Mark’s arm in order to hold him back, but I am too slow to make contact with him before he moves away. So much for my desire not to have Kurt see Mark!

I wince as Kurt looks over toward the three of us approaching him. Kurt looks surprised. But it isn’t Mark that he’s looking at … it’s Katie!

It takes me a moment to register what I’m seeing. The two of them know each other, I conclude. I just stare for a moment as the young girl comes forward and embraces Kurt. I am dumbfounded and a little disturbed. Could it be? Could Kurt be the guy that Katie has fallen for?

By the time Mark and I reach Katie, they are already in a heated conversation. Then, moments later, Katie is running off in tears. Mark follows her, and I follow him.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Jennifer Alice Chandler

Chapter 20 (Aronade: age 16/ Mark: age 18 — Conformity)

I’m surprised people are buying into this reality — who would want it? They say it’s progress. Progress towards what? It’s hard to fathom why anyone would want to live a life where they’re micromanaged and controlled — not to mention killed off — on somebody else’s whim.

But it seems to me that some people are more afraid to lose their place in the world than they even are of their own physical death. They will literally lose their will to live at all if they lose the world. That is why they are so desperate to cling on to the world even if its current manifestation is unrecognizable compared to what preceded it.

Conformity is what passes for righteousness in this world, even though conformists are conforming to an evil world-system. The only problems conformists seem to have with the world are that their place in it is never high enough, and that it doesn’t last.

The common belief is that conformity to the world-system breeds stability and goodness. Some people choose to believe that if everyone conformed to the world-system there would be no evil — that evil only exists when there individuals don’t conform. But this belief flies in the face of reality. In fact, some of the worst atrocities that have been committed have happened when the majority conformed to a corrupt world-system. When Satan’s involved, it’s the majority you have to fear the most, not the minority. You see, a few bad men can only do so much damage for so long before they burn out. But if you can get the masses — the conformists — to buy into your world-system then you’ve got something. The amount of damage you can do … the amount of death you can bring. And most of the conformists want that secretly … the unbounded sadism … they’re attracted to it. Having their will and their desire unleashed. But they won’t own that. That’s why they need a leader to hide behind. He can act as the instrument of their hidden will. And they feel they will never be held accountable for acting out these desires. It might take longer to turn the masses towards a new worldview then a small number of individuals, but the effects are catastrophic.

Human beings being what they are want to have their own will, their own sin. People say personal sins don’t hurt anyone else, but the fruits of their actions don’t bear that out. For whatever the reason, perhaps because it requires a worsening of the sin to get the same stimulation from it, sin always gets worse. And a society that normalizes the worsening of sin always decays. It seems people can be so invested in keeping their personal level of sin — to have society accept it and normalize it — that they’re willing to condone progressively worsening levels of depravity. It eventually gets to the point of boundless sin where even sadism, rape, and murder become socially acceptable.

The problem is that human beings gravitate towards evil and vote it in with their free will. They’ll choose whoever makes them feel good about what they’re doing. If people didn’t want the world-system and success in it then these elites wouldn’t have the power to commit their atrocious acts … at least not on the scale they do now.

Now society has rewritten its rules, and the conformists have changed their ways to match them.

I had thought that people actually believed in what they said they believed in years ago. So, I was particularly confused when the tide turned and the sadists began to take over that most people went on as though nothing different had happened. Then it dawned on me … finally … that they had never really believed what they said they believed in back then. They merely took on the beliefs of the society at that moment.

People really are like sheep — either following each other or following a shepherd. Therefore it is of the upmost importance to be following the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and thereby be following God. For the more a part of the world you are, the more susceptible you become to its brainwashing. The only way to counteract its invasive worldview is to separate yourself from it as best you can and turn to God through Jesus Christ.

In the end, it’s amazing the lengths people will go to accept and to conform to a new reality, even one that’s murderous and depraved. It’s scary to think of it. A large group lending its support and showing complicity to a criminal state does not mean that that state is good or benign. It is, in fact, extremely easy to get outwardly directed people to move down a destructive path. The pull of sin combined with the addiction to the approval of others is too seductive a snare for some.

The pecking order. How invested they are in the pecking order! Societies that are based on it seem to buy into eugenics, tyranny, and control. People of the world are desperate to rise to the top of the pecking order — the elite status. The fact is people don’t want to be equal; they want to be elite. I didn’t realize how much they want to be elite — how most ape the upper class. Give them something with a shiny veneer, and they’ll go for it.

But you can’t change who you are and what talent you have to any great extent. So people try to control their position through browbeating others. Oftentimes it’s through emotional abuse and coercion. But if the society truly degenerates, it turns to physical violence. The anger and narcissistic rage at the prospect of certain people rising above their position grows to such an extent that they could literally peck someone to death.

They want the world-system to put or keep people they don’t like and who aren’t a part of the world-system in their place. When they think the system is moving forward in this agenda, they stand off on the sidelines watching and waiting — keeping a low profile and the façade of neutrality and “niceness” while secretly in favor of the expressed worldview of the world-system. But if it appears the agenda is going to be stopped, they are willing to exit from their comfort zones and strengthen the efforts to get the agenda moving forward again. They don’t want the environment to return to one that is favorable to those whom they hate. They want their own success in the world-system at the expense of those whom they hate. And they want to use the tools of the world-system to achieve that outcome — their advancement and the suppression and persecution of their enemies.

People play by the rules of the world-system. They will allow people who are deemed expendable to be sacrificed. As long as there is someone else lower in the pecking order, people of higher status will receive a delay in the execution of their sentence. Maybe those in power won’t get around to them — maybe the conformists will find a way out of the situation. When those slated to be destroyed try to escape, the conformists of the world are invested in keeping them trapped where they are, so that they will go first. Plus, if the outcasts try to fight back, then it might ruin the conformists’ survival plan. The best chance for the conformists, in their minds, is to go along with the world and wait it out. They are all busy backing away, so they won’t be the next ones targeted. I guess it works … up until there’s no one left to step over in order to avoid that same outcome.

Even if it’s in their best interest, some people are averse to committing to the truth. They apparently want to keep their options open — don’t want the truth to restrict their ability to pursue their own will … their own personal sin. They would rather gamble on the side that wants boundless sin than willingly submit to any kind of rules. The conformists apparently think it’s a worse thing to re-establish rules that might put restrictions on or least bring disapproval on to their own behavior than it is to let it all seep into chaos and depravity. They don’t want to go back to a time when their pursuing whatever they wanted was considered wrong. They prefer lawlessness instead. After all, haven’t the anarchists assured them that they won’t be the ones persecuted?

Of course, people always have to compromise themselves or have someone else compromise themselves in order to gain world-system success. And when they see people who don’t compromise, even if those people don’t have any worldly success, the resentment and anger grows. At first there was satisfaction in having more than the people who refuse to compromise. But as the payoff wanes, or worse yet, time appears to be running out — it soon becomes not enough. Those people who held out aren’t envious enough of those who compromised themselves — they aren’t willing to sell themselves for luxury. But perhaps they would be willing to compromise themselves in order to survive? Perhaps survival is a luxury that only those who are willing to sell themselves should have? The conformists may die … eventually, but there is some satisfaction to be gleaned in outlasting those who don’t compromise. It feels like escaping death.

But the most satisfaction is gleaned in getting those nonconformists to debase themselves in order to save their own lives — even if the reprieve is momentary. It seems to prove the nonconformists are no better, and it justifies the dubious methods the conformists took in order to achieve their success.

If you want to go with the world, you are free to do so. But you don’t have the right to make that choice for someone else, or to kill those who don’t do the same.

Conformists are considered agreeable people … and they are encouraged to go with the flow … to accept the whims of those in power. And it seems true that oftentimes they will live longer than those who don’t compromise with the world. I think there must be some comfort in that for people — the ability to ingratiate yourself with those in power. In this world, you can even stay in the gray area — not committing to either side completely in order to emerge with the winner in the end. That is assuming you have the skill and are given the chance to pull it off. Conformists seem comforted by stories where a person is able to manipulate those in power in order to save themselves. That’s why I think war troubles them so much. You can’t manipulate a bomb. There is more chance for them to survive a tyranny…and maybe even come out on top with a higher social status than before the tyranny took over. Therefore, beware of people who prefer tyranny to war. They don’t mind compromising themselves to evil; they don’t mind sacrificing the innocent and the vulnerable. Just the promise of getting back into the world-system — of prospering in it — is enough to get them to participate in atrocious acts. The propaganda tells them who is at the top — who they should be like in order to get privileged status. It also tells them who not to be, so they can, in theory, avoid persecution.

There were perks for the common man during the Nazi era; there was a wooing on some level. But this time there won’t be many if any perks. The elite have gotten powerful enough — have gained enough control that they don’t have to woo any longer. The sick thing of it is you only get rewarded with something that will temporarily relieve you of some of the burden of your suffering but won’t ultimately save you. And this positive reinforcement is only given if you contribute to your own annihilation. Otherwise, you will be denied any positive reinforcement.

Instead, they offer you the choice of bad treatment or worse treatment — death delayed or death right away. Conformity will no longer save you … but it could keep you fed and alive a little longer. And then maybe you’ll survive … if you can prove useful … if things break your way. Sadly that “maybe” is enough to get most people to compromise themselves. It is far from a guarantee, but it’s apparently enough. And in this pro-death, pro-sadistic society it’s the best they are willing to give.

By removing any option but a globalist option, the elites have put a stop to the moderating effect of competition between political groups. The conformists had been flip-flopping toward whatever side they thought was winning and gave them (the conformists) what they wanted. Now the globalists have effectively removed the leverage the conformists had and left them with little power in the world.

It has become clear that the elite have the power to destroy us … in a variety of ways … including by just cutting us off of the world-system infrastructure we’ve become dependent on. So, now their efforts are going into lulling us into a false sense of security that they won’t use that power against us — the benevolent dictatorship myth. Or, at least they are trying to get people to believe they won’t use their power against the majority — the conformists. Most people won’t have a problem with the nonconformists being destroyed, especially if it means their own survival or even just the chance at having some increase in their standard of living.

And yet really, once again, it’s become a situation where conforming to the prevailing ideology won’t save you in the long run anyway. You are somewhere on the list of targets, and they will get to you eventually.

Now the sadists are taking over again. And they no longer intend to play nice in order to seduce you to their side. They no longer need you to gain power; your usefulness is over. That must be very unnerving for those with a conformist mentality — those who thought they’d escape from the consequences of the new regime.

And really, what difference could it make to the conformists if it’s the end or not? Death is coming either way. Unless, of course, they’re really worried that rather than the big payoff they’ve been seeking, they will instead receive punishment should they go along with the globalist agenda.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Chapter 26 (Aronade: age 17 — The Facility)

I wake up disoriented. It takes me a little while to come to the conclusion that I had passed out. What had happened to me then? I strain my brain to try to remember. Had I fallen into the hands of Kurt? I shudder at the thought of that. Then, I begin to look around me. Where am I?

The room is mostly dark. There are some electrical power strips that have lights, which illuminate the room somewhat. But that appears to be all the light that there is. I feel around me. I am in some sort of bed. It appears to have railings on the sides of it. It scares me that I am in a bed and confuses me that there are railings on it.

I decide to get up and escape from the room. I don’t want to be here any longer. I pull myself up into a sitting position. Then, I grasp on to one of the bars and heave myself up and over it.

I have to be careful about this maneuver. I find I am still lightheaded.

Then, something strange happens once my weight is fully lifted off the bed: an alarm goes off! I freeze. What is this about?

At first nothing more seems to happen. I wait for what feels like a long time. Then, I decide to just continue trying to escape. It seems stupid to just stay here waiting for something more to happen. I finally manage to make it to the door. Then, I even get out into the hall before someone finally catches me.

“You, stop!” a woman screams. “Just what do you think you’re doing?!” she demands of me.

I just stare at her in bewilderment. I am even more confused when she grabs me by the arm and attempts to pull me back toward the room I had just exited. Despite her apparent anger, she is not particularly strong. I stare at her hand then back at her face.

“Now!” she huffs, seemingly winded from not having remembered to breathe while she attempted to pull me. “Don’t make me call the orderly!”

“Orderly?” I repeat. “Is this a hospital?”

“No.” she corrects me. “A facility.”

I am dumbfounded, and I’m sure the look on my face reflects that. Why am I here? And why does this woman act as though it’s a given that I should be? Obviously, I didn’t sign myself into this place. I should be allowed to leave if I want to. What crime have I committed — fainting?

If the woman had shown concern rather than anger, then her behavior might have seemed understandable to me. But as it is …

“Come on. Let’s go!”

She’s still unable to move me much at all by her own efforts, and I’m unsure of what to do. I really don’t want to go with her; I don’t have a good feeling about it.

“Why is it I can’t leave?” I ask her. “Are you afraid I’ll pass out again?”

She stops trying to budge me for a moment. She seems perplexed all of a sudden as though she is surprised I can speak her language.

“You were found on a tram.” she tells me in a rather accusatory tone of voice. “You were brought here because you have no identification papers, and, therefore, no documented residence. All those who are without an established residence but who aren’t considered good candidates for work are housed in a facility pending evaluation.”

I blink … several times. What’s she saying … it’s so odd.

“If that’s true, why haven’t I heard of that before?” I ask her skeptically.

“I don’t know. Maybe you weren’t paying attention.” she scoffs.

I eye her with suspicion.

“Anyway, I have a residence.” I say. “Usually I live at a dorm at Durhorst Academy” I tell her.

She just stares at me. She is either unimpressed or doesn’t believe me. Perhaps, she thinks I stole the uniform I am wearing, so that I could fake being a student there should I ever be captured. I grow a bit frightened by my current situation suddenly. Maybe most of the people I go to school with know better than to venture outside of the narrow confines of their universe. And most of them have at least one parent looking out for them. And then there’s the fact that in reality I’m not an elite at all. Yes, I go to school at Durhorst Academy, but, in fact, I really am a fraud.

I feel myself flush. I decide to give her the Instructor’s name — which is as false as the name I give her for myself. And then I begin to wonder if the Instructor will even be there when she calls. He’s been gone quite a bit lately. I’ve even began to wonder if he’s losing interest in me.

Actually, will anyone be at the mansion? It is becoming painfully clear what a terrible position I am in. There is no plan for how I should handle a situation like this. And yet, it appears as though they’re planning to keep me here against my will. That is unacceptable to me. True, there appears to be only one woman standing between me and freedom, but if I attack her and/or try to run she will surely call in reinforcements and seal off my escape route. Then, there will be no way they will listen to anything more I have to say. They might even bind me in a straightjacket or drug me.

Though the woman is skeptical as I give her my home address, she apparently decides to check it out all the same.

“Come with me.” she tells me.

I decide to do as she says. Leaving me alone, even back in my room, is clearly not being held out as an option.

She points a chair out to me when we arrive at her office. I sit down on it and instantly wonder how many other people have had the displeasure of sitting on it before. I contemplate whether I should apologize to the woman for our “misunderstanding,” but I conclude that will do me no good. This woman has no empathy for me that I can see. Either I will pass myself off as someone of the world and will, therefore, be released, or I will be declared an outcast and be detained in this “facility” indefinitely … possibly for the rest of my life.

The woman turns her back to me as she is speaking on the phone. I am assuming she’s speaking to someone, though I can’t be sure what she is saying. Finally, she turns back around towards me.

“Well, I spoke to someone called Nan Frankfort. She says she’s your tante?”

I just look at the woman unsure whether I should confirm the lie or not. She probably takes my silence to be insolence, for she then continues to speak but only after emitting a sigh of frustration.

“In any event …” the woman continues. “It seems they’ll be sending someone over here for you.”

My mood brightens considerably. I am getting out of this place — this trap! I try not to show my elation. I figure it will only annoy the woman and make her more inclined to give me a hard time.

She then proceeds to lead me back to my room, and, of course, I willingly go. After all, it serves no purpose to alienate her further. I’m getting out!

I sit in my room quietly after she leaves. She doesn’t even bother to lock the door. Why would she? I have no incentive now to try to escape. I am soon to be set free, after all.

Time passes, and I grow worried. How far are we away from the Instructor’s house? Why is this taking so long? Is the person who had been sent over for me having a discussion with the woman?

Finally, the door to the room opens again, and I am dumbstruck. It is the Instructor! I had begun to think I might never see him again. What is more, this is one of the few times that I’ve seen him where I find I am actually happy to see him.

“Inst … Onkel Frankfort.” I mutter, catching myself.

He nods distractedly. He appears to be nervous, which makes me nervous.

“What is wrong?” I ask him.

His eyes shoot darts through me.

“What is wrong?!” he snaps. “Where do I begin?”

He starts to pace.

“How could you be so careless?!” he charges.

“Wait a minute!” I begin, my face flushed. “If you want to blame someone …”

“No!” He waves his finger at me in a jabbing motion. “No excuses!”

My face contorts as I glare at him. Then, I decide to stand and head from the room.

“And where do you think you’re going?!” he says over his shoulder after I pass him.

“Home.” I state, but my bravado fails me after I say the word.

Bad news is coming.

“What home?” he spits. “You were staying at the school. Do you think they’ll take you back now that you’ve run away?”

“But I …”

“No excuses! I don’t want to hear excuses!” He turns and faces me down.

“No, wait! She acted like I was being released …What? She changed her mind?”

“They know you’re ill …” he tells me. “So it’s between here and the hospital.”

“Ill? With what?”

He glares at me.

“But, that … how can that be?”

“You’ve always been sickly.” he tells me. “Probably your immune system is overreacting to something.”

“Then, what can we do?”

“*We* do nothing. You’re a disciplinary problem, so you will stay here. And you will hope their medical skills don’t improve. After you’ve learned your lesson, perhaps they’ll release you and all will be forgiven … and no one will ever know what trouble you can be.”

“You’re leaving me here?!”

“That’s right. And you’d better behave yourself, too. It will do you no good to act out. Get it through your head, Puppet. In this world, there are no rules, no standards, no laws to protect you anymore. You’re completely at the mercy of their whims. Act accordingly.”

I am thrown completely off-guard by his words.

“Do I get another chance?”

“You will if you play by the rules.” He takes a breath.“You know, you really shouldn’t be here.” the Instructor says as though I don’t already know that.

“You’re the one who’s leaving me here.” I remind him.

And he takes my words in as expected — as he usually does — with an indifferent stare. There’s no satisfaction in this conversation. He refuses — absolutely refuses to be held accountable to the truth. The truth is he could have fought to have me released. Or, at least I could have been transferred to a better place — one where the care would have been better. But the truth is also that if I’d have gone where the elite people go then they may have discovered my secret. And that couldn’t be allowed to happen. So, I’m stuck here instead.

But it’s more than that really. And I know the Instructor well enough at this point to be able to tell what it floating around in his mind: it’s my fault for becoming ill — for becoming symptomatic —for requiring medical treatment to begin with.

I should have willed myself to be well, or at least to appear to be well, I guess. The irony is that the Instructor would have no use for me without the disease, but now it’s become an inconvenience to him as well as an asset. It was so much better when it was just an asset.

I’m not sure why I’ve started showing obvious signs of illness. I have just been a carrier for years. Perhaps, it’s the stress. There’s certainly been a lot of that lately. No, I can’t allow myself to give into his faulty logic that it is somehow my fault. That would be playing right into his hands.

“You know, now that I think about it, I think it’s best you stay where you are. I think you may learn something.”

My eyebrows lower.

“Or, you think they might discover who I am if they move me, right? And that would be bad for you …”

“For both of us.”

“Yes …” I smirk. “For both of us.” I laugh. “I haven’t even seen you much at all recently, and you come around to tell me this?”

His face reddens.

“I’m not the one who got themselves thrown in here …” he reminds me with irritation in his voice.

“And yet we both know why I’m in here.”

“They don’t want to release you … release anyone!”

“So, what? I’m going to die here?”

“Not if you live instead.”

I stare a hole through him.

“Thank you for that.” I say. “That’s very helpful.”

He shrugs.

“If you want my advice …”

“No … I don’t want your advice.” I tell the Instructor. “I’ll get the truth elsewhere.”

He scoffs.

“Well, I’ll see what I can do. It will take some time. And like I said …”

“Yes, it’s not your fault.” I finish his thought for him.

He shrugs again. I silently watch him leave, and then I am on my own. Will he really try to help me? Probably not. He probably just said what he did to avoid a scene while he was leaving.

I really don’t know what to do now, for I don’t know how to get out. I try to come up with a plan. How can I turn this around? Being ill doesn’t help me think. It also obviously doesn’t gain me any sympathy; it merely makes people view me as weak and easily defeated. And even worse, when I try to work myself up into a bravado, I wind up feeling exhausted instead.

But then again, what is the point of bravado when you don’t have anything to back it up with? I began to pray again. My help lies in God.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020

Chapter 19 (Aronade: age 16/ Mark: age 18 — Katie)

Katie, Mark, and I all wind up in a small hovel in Mison. Katie is too busy sobbing to speak — that or she’s purposefully avoiding answering Mark’s questions. Then, out of nowhere, Kurt walks into the house. My eyes widen in disbelief. I then catch sight of the look on Mark’s face. He looks ashen suddenly.

“Hey! That coat!” I suddenly hear Katie exclaim. She heads straight toward Kurt as though she hadn’t been crying hysterically just moments before.

“It looks just like the one my brother used to have!”

Katie takes Kurt’s arm and lifts it up.

“It even has a rip on the same sleeve.” she notes.

My eyebrows furrow as many thoughts coast into my mind. My eyes return to Mark. His eyes widen into an alarming stare of pure anger. He has already made the connection that I am beginning to make. Mark’s coat. When I met Mark at the complex, he didn’t have a coat. That really didn’t make sense to me at the time because it would have meant that Mark had been running around in the winter air without a coat before he had arrived at the complex. I had rationalized that the person who tried to murder Mark had stolen his coat … I guess I had been right after all. Now it seems that Mark knows what I know — at least part of it anyway. Kurt is the one who tried to kill him. Kurt has also involved himself with Mark’s sister. And Kurt also knows that Mark is back in my life. Mark looks at me accusingly. This is a mess.

I don’t know what Mark will do. I doubt it’s the fact that his life was almost taken from him that has Mark so enraged. It would almost have to be Kurt’s involvement will Katie that has left him furious.

It doesn’t appear that Katie has any idea about Kurt’s murderous connection to her brother. But at the same time, I suspect it wouldn’t matter much to her if she did find out. She would either choose not to believe it in its entirety or make excuses for Kurt’s unseemly behavior. I base this assessment on the fact that she seems to see who Kurt is and approves of him. I could be wrong, and I doubt she would ever admit to it, but she seems more like a devoted fan of his than a starry-eyed child who is being deceived.

But what does Mark think of Katie’s attitude? I have no idea if he sees her the same way I do. He has become somewhat disillusioned with her it seems, but still …

And then there’s me. What must Mark think of me at this point? He must wonder why I didn’t tell him about Kurt sooner … about Kurt trying to murder him that is. I didn’t know about Katie and Kurt until just now. And I only found out about the murder attempt after Mark had already left the complex with Katie. Still, in the short time since I reunited with Mark, I could have mentioned what Kurt had done to Mark … but I hadn’t.

But I have more pressing concerns right now. I figure I have to get Mark out of here before something happens. Kurt is clearly trying to provoke him, and I can’t allow that to happen. I can cast my mind toward things like how Kurt and Katie came to be a couple later when I have the time.

 “Mark!” I call out to him. I then position myself, so that I’m blocking him from approaching Kurt. I grab Mark’s arm and attempt to pull him with me, though I realize I don’t have the strength to drag him away by force. I can only hope he’ll let me lead him away.

“Where are you taking my brother?” I hear Katie’s voice lash out in sudden defiance.

I turn a doubtful and frustrated look onto her.

“Where is this sudden concern for Mark coming from?” I wonder to myself.

And yet, is it concern? Katie’s face appears flushed with anger not worry. How quickly her demeanor has changed again! And yet, Kurt is consistent; he appears unabashedly amused.

“Why don’t you answer your sister’s question, Mark?” Kurt shouts out derisively. “What’s with you? You going to abandon her again?”

Mark just glares at Kurt.

“What? Can’t speak? Answer me, fool.”

“I’m not going to answer that question.” Mark informs him.

“Interesting that you don’t want to answer that question.” Kurt retorts.

“Not really. It’s invasive and insulting.”

“I need some air.” I quickly relate to Mark. “Can you hear me?” I ask him.

Mark has a serious look on his face. He nods assent to my question, and yet I can tell by the look in his eyes that he has questions of his own — for me. I think that is what is driving Mark when he follows me out the door. He does cast a look of disapproval at his sister before he goes, however. Her face doesn’t alter from its angry scowl.

I walk quickly once I get past the threshold of the door. I want to get as far away from the house as I can before Mark stops me. I don’t want Kurt, or Katie for that matter, listening in. I don’t make it all that far before Mark’s voice arrests me.

“Oh well, I guess I’ll have to whisper,” I think.

“Where are you going?” he asks me.

“Nowhere.” I say, turning back to him.

Mark shifts on his feet and eyes me suspiciously.

“I wanted to get a little distance away, so we could talk without anyone listening in.”

Mark just looks at me silently. He seems to be waiting for me to say something more — possibly for me to offer up an explanation. The problem is I don’t really know where to begin. Mark turns and stares off into the distance.

“I can see why you’d be angry.” I admit. “The question is why are you angry with me?”

“I’m not.” he states without looking at me. “So, what do you know about him?” Mark asks me.

“I met him after you left. He was the one — the one behind the music box. I figure you realize now about the coffin.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t think you had any reason to know him. I had no idea he was involved with your sister. I had just as soon have kept the two of you separated. I may have eventually said something … but I didn’t want you to confront Kurt. And I knew Kurt, once aware of you, might start fixating on you again. He might also get back into my business. But apparently, Kurt has never lost interest in messing with your life.”

Mark grimaces.

“I’m sorry.” I say. “I wish now I had told you about him.”

“You didn’t know … about Katie. And I was too ashamed to tell you.”

Mark places his hand on my arm. I look down at his hand.

“I wonder how much she knows.” Mark adds.

I’m assuming he’s referring to his sister. I think of suggesting we ask her, but then it occurs to me she might not tell him the truth. That would be awkward. What if Mark believed her, and I didn’t? This thought makes me realize how little I want to be involved in this family drama. And yet, since Kurt has already inserted himself into their lives, I, because of my association with Kurt, am already involved.

“How did Kurt get involved with your sister?” I hear myself asking.

I had grown accustomed to talking freely with Mark back at the complex. I hadn’t really felt that anything had been off-limits then. Though I was reticent to get into my living situation since it was so odd, I still trusted him more than I did anyone else. So, it hadn’t occurred to me to censor myself now.

“How is that any of your business?!” I hear a voice angrily exclaim.

I hadn’t seen Katie lurking in the shadows earlier. She must have come around from the front, I figure, since I didn’t notice the back door open. I look for Kurt briefly, but I don’t see him with her.

Mark looks on his sister with dismay as she approaches us. I can see the grief in his eyes despite the fact that there is little light outside.

“Why are you disclosing stuff about our life to her?!” Katie accuses Mark bitterly.

I have to wonder if part of her outrage isn’t just for show. Instead of having to defend her relationship with Kurt, whatever that is, she is going on the offensive instead. It also occurs to me that she may have stepped forward when she did in order to interrupt the conversation I was having with Mark. It is possible she doesn’t want me to know the answer to that question. It could be there’s something to the story — something she wants to hide about Kurt. It could also be that I did, in fact, intrude upon her and Mark’s personal life and should have stayed out of it. I redden under Katie’s fierce gaze. I really wish I weren’t already on her bad side. I don’t want her anger to come between Mark and me.

But it appears to be too late for me to make a good impression on Katie. Maybe it always was. After all, I have no idea how long Katie has known Kurt. Was it before or after I met Kurt myself?

“Back off.” Mark advises Katie once she gets within a few feet of me.

“But Mark!” Katie whines.

“What is your problem?” Mark snaps.

“She shouldn’t be in our business.” Katie grits her teeth.

“We’ll talk about this later.” Mark warns her. “We have a lot to discuss.”

“Why not now?!” Katie protests when Mark starts to turn away from her. “Come on, Mark! Stop!” Katie protests. “You’re just so negative these days! People aren’t as mean as you seem to think. They are just doing their best to solve real problems!”

“Real problems?” Mark repeats with skepticism in his voice.

“Yes. I happen to believe that they are real. And so do a lot of people. Aronade’s brother being one!”

I am surprised by this mention of my brother.

“And Kurt being another …” Mark responds.

Katie makes a face.

“So?” she begins.

“That’s where you met Aronade’s brother, isn’t it?”

Katie huffs.

“What? Have you given up on the world, Mark?”

“The world gave me up a long time ago.”

“Well, I haven’t given up on this world even if you have!” Katie explodes.

“He’s filling your head with pipedreams. There’s no future in that world for you!”

“That’s what you think! There’s a way out of here. You’re just mad because you can’t do it … but Kurt can.”

“He’s lying to you!”

“And why would he do that?!”

“He’s using you … to get at me … to get at Aronade.”

Katie rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, right. The two of you are so important! It’s all about you!!”

I can see the disapproval of Katie in Mark’s eyes. He doesn’t even bother to hide it. Katie begins to spit as she talks, flying into some sort of rage. Mark just stands there motionless … staring at her. Eventually, Katie’s anger seems to exhaust her.

She groans.

“Why don’t you just go back home, Mark?!” Katie demands. “You aren’t needed here.”

“I have to look out for you for our parents’ sake. You know Dad is ill …” Mark eventually responds.

“I’m so — so sick of hearing that! And what am I supposed to do?! Wait around there for him to die?!”

“Katie, that’s macabre.”

“No, what’s macabre is waiting for someone to die or constantly bringing up someone’s impending death to get other people to do what you want! I have no life there, and I can’t have a life there! At least here I can get something for myself before all my opportunities vanish … before someone else takes them …”

“I didn’t save you for this …”

“Oh, here we go again. You didn’t save me at all! I didn’t need to be saved! Kurt is the only one who has truly helped me — he saved me!”

Unexpectedly, Katie suddenly spins and glares at me. She seems to be directing her anger at me again.

“You enjoying yourself?” she confronts me.

I think to deny it — until I see the look on Mark’s face. He is upset that Katie is yelling at me again. And then I realize that that is probably the point. Katie is done talking to Mark and wants an excuse to break off talking with him. I look between the two of them.

“Go ahead and leave if you’re set to.” I tell her in a low tone.

She looks surprised and her face flushes.

“Don’t tell me what to do.” she mutters in an equally low tone. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not one of us. You don’t have to live like this!” Katie blasts me.

I find her statement ironic on many grounds. Clearly, I’m not one of the elites. Not only am I not genetically one, but I don’t really fit in with them either. They don’t know to what extent I’m not one of them … but I’m clearly not. And quite frankly, I don’t want to be … But now I’m being told that because I’m being forced to live with the elites that I can’t belong with the rest of humanity either. So be it, if that’s true. These arbitrary groups and labels really don’t appeal to me. Katie is a good example. She may be deemed one of the masses by the elite, but I suspect she relates more to the elite and to Kurt in particular.

“And it’s your fault! I was abducted because of you!”

I look at her stunned. She is shaking.

 “Did you hear me?!” she stammers.

I shift my weight awkwardly. It’s true. But does she know the reason why? Has Kurt told her my secret? And what harm could this spiteful girl do if she indeed has that information?

“Go inside, Katie.” Mark directs her. “I’m going to take Aronade home, but I’ll be back soon … Oh, and I want Kurt gone by the time I get back.”

“You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my father!!”

“No, but you are staying with Tante Grace. I can have a conversation with her, if you’d like.”

Katie bites her lip and grows silent. Then, she storms off. It isn’t until she leaves that it occurs to me that maybe I overstepped when I proposed that she go.

“I’m sorry.” I tell Mark. “I shouldn’t have inserted myself into the situation.”

Mark kind of shrugs. He appears tired. I feel compassion for him. I wish there were something I could do.

“We should get you back.” Mark tells me.

Mark turns from the house then quickly guides me away. I could tell by the look on Katie’s face that she thinks this isn’t over. And with Kurt involved, I’m inclined to believe it.

“I worry for you.” I tell Mark as we walk.

He looks over at me questioningly.

“Doesn’t he attend the same school as you?” he asks me. “And spend the rest of his time at the Instructor’s house?”

“Well … yes. “

“Then, it seems you’re the one who’s in danger.”

“But he’s at your house … visiting.” I remind him.

“I can handle that.” Mark assures me. “It’s time my tante and I set some boundaries for Katie. And if I have to get my parents involved, I will.”

I look off to the side, unsure if what Mark is planning to do will work.

I have to admit I’m still smarting from Katie’s rebuke. I also didn’t enjoy being accused of meddling. I want to distance myself from that accusation. And yet, I find myself caught in an awkward position. I am clearly invested in what happens to Mark. And now with Kurt involved …

I am tempted to confront Kurt when I next see him. But I know that’s the last thing that Katie would want. Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps that was the real reason she yelled at me. Maybe she was hoping to scare me away from Kurt, so I wouldn’t interfere in their relationship. It is a possibility worth considering.

And then there is Kurt … would confronting him do any good or just make a messy situation worse? There is more than a slight possibility that Kurt is wanting to create drama, and that the more I engage him the deeper I’ll be sucked in. The only real question is whether or not he will leave me alone no matter what I do. Whether it is the reason behind all of Kurt’s actions with Katie or not, Kurt has inserted himself into my relationship with Mark. I almost wish his feelings for Katie were genuine, and that her relationship would be enough for him — that he had no interest in Mark or me. But I seriously doubt that’s the case. No, I am almost certain he has an agenda again — one he’s unlikely to just walk away from.

And with the Instructor gone, there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can intimidate Kurt enough to get him to back off either. Though it doesn’t appear the Instructor was aware of Kurt’s actions the last time he took to scheming, just the fear of the Instructor finding out had caused Kurt to withdraw. Now, who knows what would.

I look over at Mark. He appears to be deep in thought as well. It is nice just being next to him, I think. I look back in front of me. We had taken the tram, and I hardly noticed the other people on it like I usually did. I credit Mark for that. He makes me feel better, I conclude. It’s nice to have someone on my side again. I hope Kurt doesn’t take that away from me. I frown.

We aren’t far away from the Instructor’s house now. I wonder if Kurt will be inside. There is nothing I can do about that either way. As we approach the gate, I stop. Mark stops moments later.

“Thank you for taking me home.” I tell him.

“I want you to find someone in that house other than Kurt before I leave.” Mark suddenly informs me.

I acquiesce. I head into the house. I manage to find Fraulein Blankenship making herself some tea in the kitchen. I then head back outside to tell Mark.

 “I’m assuming she’ll do something if there’s trouble …”

“I don’t see why she wouldn’t … I could also stay at the gardener’s shed …”

He nods.

“That probably would be best.”

I reach out my hand to him. He takes my hand in his and applies a reassuring pressure to my fingers. I smile.

“Good night.” I tell him. “I hope I see you again soon …”

“I’ll come back to check on you tomorrow morning before you go back to school.” he offers.

I am relieved. Mark nods once more then turns and leaves. I watch him until he disappears. Then, I head toward the shed.

The next morning Mark is waiting for me as he said he would. Apparently, things didn’t go any better with Katie after he returned the night before.

Mark tells me, “After we had argued for quite awhile, I said, ‘I’m done.’

‘What? What did you say?’

‘You heard me — I’m done.’

‘Done with what? You don’t mean me?!’

I averted my eyes. Katie stood there dumbstruck for a moment. Then, her lip began to quiver.

‘You don’t mean that!’

By the tone of Katie’s voice, it almost sounded as though she didn’t want it to be true. And yet, that seemed to be what she had been pushing for all the time that I’d been in Mison.

‘Yes, I do. I have to let you go. I can’t hang on to you any longer.’

‘Just because I had sex …’

I glared at her.

‘Mom and Dad won’t like what you’re saying to me. They won’t like it if you abandon me again.’

‘Abandon you? I found you.’

‘No, Kurt did. He saved me. You were too busy with *her* to keep looking for me. When Kurt told me to hide in that building, I was skeptical that you would even show up for me there. But then, he explained that you’d come there because of her … because you wanted to help her with her past. And sure enough, he was right.’

Tears, probably caused by self-pity, began to stream from her eyes. I was tempted to dispute her accusation that I didn’t care about her — that I hadn’t put her first. Instead, I shook my head in disbelief.

‘It’s true. You could have found me faster if you had tried harder … if you hadn’t been distracted by Aronade.’

‘I’m sorry for what happened to you, and even more so about the person you’ve become, but I’m not going to let you play off of me anymore. I’m not going to be used by you, so you can keep Kurt’s interest.’

‘What — what are you talking about …? If you really thought that was true, then why didn’t you bring it up before?’ Katie charged.

‘As if you would have believed me if I had said anything.’

‘Kurt loves me.’ Katie insisted.

‘Then, you don’t need my protection or my interference. You certainly don’t have any use for me as your brother. So, I figure it must be Kurt that’s motivating you to interact with me. He enjoys playing games with me, so that gives you an advantage with him over other girls. But I’m not going to be used that way anymore. I won’t bother to tell you again what I think of him. Do you really believe he’ll share his longevity with you? That the elite will ever accept you? I don’t share your self-delusion.’

‘Well, he slept with me, so that means he doesn’t think he’s better than I am.’ Katie rasped.

I rolled my eyes despite myself.

‘So, it’s clear you won’t believe me.” I told her. “And, suffice it to say, I’m sick of this rage that I’m feeling all the time — towards Kurt, towards you, towards this whole sick world you’ve chosen. If you want this life so badly, you can have it. But I want out. I can’t save you from it, but I can save myself — with God’s help anyway.’

Katie started to rant and to spit again. Then, I walked out.”

“So, what happens now with your sister?”

“I can’t control her.” he resigns himself. “I’m liable to be arrested if I try. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I should go back home. I’d hate to have to tell my parents … but I seem to be making the situation worse by staying around here. Maybe my tante can handle her if I leave. Maybe Kurt will lose interest …”

“So you’re leaving?!” I ask him.

I try to hide it, but I feel crestfallen.

“You could come with me.” he offers.

I look down, fighting back the tears.

“We have the same problem we had before. The Instructor won’t let me go.”

My lip begins to quiver as I am talking, so I bite down on it.

“Well … I won’t make a decision right away.” Mark finally concedes. “In the very least, I have to talk to my tante first. I’ll let you know what I decide. Come back here at the end of the week. I’ll camp out here until you can make it back.” He pauses. “I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll stay. There may be some good I can do here after all.”

I nod but am still feeling dismal. And yet, I have to admit I am relieved that there’s still hope Mark could stay.

Even when he parts from me, I feel like I’ll see him again. I think he was being honest with me when he told me he didn’t intend to leave without saying good-bye to me first.

I don’t want to go back to the school. Thinking, once again, about leaving town with Mark has left me even more impatient with that place. And then there’s the fact I don’t know what will happen when I return there. I may even be placed under house arrest.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2020