I started the day watching my sister die.
Her crime was delousing an elderly woman. Vanity is a sin. The Enclave forbids any “primping”. They say we should be dirty, just like our souls.
The executioner laughed as he started the game of slow death. With every scream, the crowd bellowed. She died long and painfully; tied to a post while a hooded Enclave executioner tore pieces of flesh with red-hot pincers. It took an hour. I did not weep; that is forbidden as well. They say our tears are a toxin.
All the while, a man with a loudspeaker shrieked verses from the Maxson Bible.
As the day continued, so did our regular routines. The Enclave is very efficient; everyone has a number, and everyone has a job. The ammunition factory and the textile mill were the main employers, but there was a smattering of other vocations to be had. Say, for instance, you were a botanist before the New Faith began, The Enclave would put you in the greenhouses.
My workplace was in the kitchens. I admit, I had it easier than most. I was a Chef before the division, so logic dictated that I feed people. I had two menus, The Enclave’s, and ours. Our captors ate well, upper-end cafeteria style. We, however, did not. Our food was onion and cabbage stew. Every meal, every day, with no exception. Often I would find myself chopping expensive imported fruits for the Enclave’s salad bar one minute, and then plucking three-inch maggots from cabbage the next.
I was just a worker in one of forty-five kitchens, the camp held 20,000 heretics, and the Enclave had at least 3000 personnel. I had thirteen men working with me here, and if there was such a thing, I was their boss. Mechanically, we chopped, sautéed, braised, and broiled, day in, day out.
The monotony was broken up whenever I was near Sam.
Sam was a stand-up comedian before The Division, and he was always on. He stood six foot seven, a “tall drink of water” my mom would have said if she had seen him in person. Half Irish and Half African American, his dark skin was a stark contrast to his piercing blue eyes.
Sam and his sister lived through the race riots of 2022, his mother and father were killed in a white supremacist upstart in Boston. Needless to say, conversation with him was interesting, to say the least. Today, however, he had a somber tone. He put the delivery away silently, avoiding eye contact. I let him finish, and then I asked him what was up.
“Your sister was killed this morning. Maybe tomorrow it will be mine.” Sam walked to the oven.
He was right, a morning torture was a rarity.
I knew the “cleansings” were accelerating. The usual, jovial atmosphere in our kitchen was gone. No one spoke a word the whole day. I was to dwell in my thoughts for the remainder of my shift.
I realized my mind repressed the things I had seen from the beginning of The New Faith movement. Some of the guys in the kitchen called me “Iceman” due to my lack of emotion.
Everyone had lost so much in this New Faith Movement; it seemed absurd to sit and weep for every tiny inconvenience. Torture and murder had become the norm. The large “H” tattoo on my left hand sealed my fate. I was a heretic, a refuter of the NFM.
I finished up the day, scanned out, a went back to my pod.
After a cold shower, I tried to sleep. My mind kept wandering to the past. The more I tried to repress it, the faster the memories came.
I was seventeen when I was placed for re-education. My sister, Sarah and I were detained on Christmas Eve, 2035. The Enclave raped my Mother and slit her throat. My Father was tortured and killed as well. My parents were murdered because they would not swear allegiance to the NFM.
The coils of the serpent wrapped themselves around this country very quickly. As I think back at the mess, it was plain to see what was happening, but at the time it did not seem that way.
The NFM started in late 2024. Darius Maxon, an ex-Pentecostal preacher, was elected President of the United States. Shortly after his rather bizarre inauguration, he began to vocalize his extreme views on religion. He formed the SWC (Signs and Wonders Coalition) and began a crusade across America spreading his twisted beliefs. Snake handling, slaying in the spirit, and mass “healings” were only part of the sideshow-like environment. Within three years, President Maxon had amassed a huge following. The SWC became the NFW, and large “re-education camps” were opened across the country. Those of other religions, who were not already exiled or imprisoned were sent there for “spiritual re-alignment” and conversion. Those claiming to be Christians, who did not seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, or embrace his extreme fanatical beliefs, would face the same fate.
A lengthy civil war ensued, and all those opposed the new faith movement were imprisoned or killed. Some survived, and formed small cells consisting of rebels and scholars. These cells were quickly labeled “moral terrorists” hunted down by the NFM. This period in American history would be known as “The Division.” By 2028, Maxon entered his second term as President. New Mexico was annexed off to become a large re-education camp. It was re-named New Faith. Over 1,500,000 people lived within different “centers”, the most severe offenders, slowly killed off in the name of God.
Huge mills and factories opened, mostly producing munitions and textiles, employing the inhabitants of New Faith. This free labor helped pull the U.S. out of a huge recession, causing the followers of NFM (now known as Maxonites) to become even more devout. Half of America’s armed forces were converted to “The Enclave” and given the charge of eliminating “heretics” and those opposed to the NFM.
Maxon survived over two dozen attempts on his life, only one harming him. He was shot in the back of the head by a sniper's bullet. He was thought dead but gave a speech three days later. Maxonites believed it to be a miracle, and once more the President’s popularity grew. The gunman was caught shortly after and burned at the stake on live television. This ushered in a new era of public trials and executions, fueling the bloodlust of a brainwashed America.
A new law was put in place, giving no limits to the amount of terms served by The President. Maxon started a third term in 2032 and voted in with little opposition. These following years would prove to be a horrible, dark time in history.
In 2036, Maxon’s fourth, blood-soaked term began. There was not even an election; those opposed were simply sent to the camps or killed. On the surface, the country seemed to be fine, but underneath it was a powder keg, getting ready to blow.
One year before this I started my tenure at center #5429. Sarah got a job at the textile mill, working twenty-hour days in terribly unsafe conditions. More accidents plagued this profession than all the other ones combined. The machines were outdated and decrepit, greased with the blood and sweat of women and children. You could usually tell a textile worker by their missing fingers. Even my sister was missing the tip of her left ring finger, and a small piece of her right thumb. Things were terrible in every part of the camps. I always saw the despair in Sarah’s eyes. She was only fifteen, but she looked much older. The poor girl had seen too much, too young, and it showed. The first week in the camp Sarah was raped by sixteen men and left for dead.
My thoughts often wander to suicide, but I would never do it. I believe it is my destiny to bring down The Enclave. For, the time being, I needed to get some sleep.
Before I knew it, my chip started vibrating, waking me for the day.
I didn’t sleep at all.
I scanned out of my pod and started the walk to the kitchen. On the way, I saw more Enclave soldiers than normal, and they all seemed focused on one task. They were checking people’s chips, and asking a lot of questions. One menacing-looking guard with a dead white eye put his hand up for me to stop. He grabbed my arm and scanned my wrist, and after checking the information motioned for me to go. “Be careful,” he muttered. I was startled; The Enclave rarely spoke to heretics, unless they were berating them. I looked back at him, and he was gone.
What was going on here?
People that usually greeted me walked by, looking at the ground. The sky was gray, and the air had a strange smell. Another Enclave guard looked at me and smiled. A terrible feeling washed over me. Something was not right.
When I entered the kitchen, I saw Sam. He was in the corner with the other workers, quietly talking. After seeing me, they stopped the conversation and went back to work. I made eye contact with Sam, and he looked very concerned.
“What?” I asked.
Sam hung his head. “The word is that they are starting mass executions. Out in the world, Maxon has passed insane new laws, and most people cannot comply. Tens of thousands are being rounded up for alignment, and they need the room. Everyone who has a DS is going to be dead within the next few weeks."
A DS meant death sentence, and most everyone had one. The H tattooed on my hand was outlined in red, and that showed everyone I was waiting to die. I rarely saw anyone without the outline, so the news Sam gave me was startling. I tried to regain my composure and start working. I checked the menu for the day and noticed my hand was shaking. Why was I afraid? I had accepted my fate a long time ago. After thinking for a minute, I realized it was not fear, but excitement. I had to do something. Now was the time to bring the Enclave to its knees.
I had a plan for a while, but it was very complicated. It would involve much research and a lot of help. Getting others to join my cause would be an uphill battle. Crossing our captors was risky, the soldiers had the power to kill anybody, at any time, for any reason. The threat of torture and rape kept most normal people docile, but like every other time in history, there was always a handful of people ready to stand up and fight for the greater good. The hard part would be finding them.
I had to be very careful who I spoke to, informants got special treatment for their information; a little extra food, clothes, or even books went a long way with the physically starving and intellectually thirsty. I trusted very few, and the ones I did trust, could turn on me in a heartbeat if The Enclave pushed hard enough. I needed to start compiling a list of people I could rely on. First, I thought of Sam, but he had a physically challenged sister that depended on him, and she could be used as leverage against us. I needed to find those who had nothing to lose, no family, and no ties.
That is where I would start.
With a smile on my face, I started compiling my prep lists for the day. After I had handed them out, I began to make the soups. I always made them. Even though my position didn’t dictate that I cook much, I still enjoyed to when possible. Today I made smoked salmon chowder, vegetable beef with white truffles, a nice oxtail consommé, and of course, the onion and cabbage stew. I threw extra scraps of meat into it when I could; no one noticed. It was the least I could do. The only thing I liked about working in the kitchens was my nearly unlimited budget. I never had to worry about food cost or financial limitations on my menus. I looked up and noticed Sam was looking at me strangely. I realized I was humming to myself. He shook his head and went back to work.
After lunch, the crew began to clean up, when a robotic, droning voice came over the intercom. “ALL HERETICS REPORT TO COURTYARD B-91A. REPEAT, ALL HERETICS REPORT TO COURTYARD B-91A.” That was never a good thing. That courtyard was the execution square.
That is where Sarah died.
When the kitchen crew and I arrived at the courtyard, it was already filled with somber-looking people. Always a horrible experience, no one ever got used to it. The Enclave had an “alignment specialist” named Dr. Wolfgang Dietrich. He was in charge of new torture and execution methods for all of the camps. Rumor had it he was the great-grandson of a Nazi interrogator. When it came to pain, the doctor's imagination and ingenuity knew no bounds. I have witnessed over 200 executions and have barely ever seen it done the same way twice. The only common denominator was the remorseless executioner and the savagery behind the killing. It seemed that the longer the torture lasted, the better.
A large square box, maybe eight feet long, four feet wide, and three feet high stood ominously in the middle of the killing platform, covered with a large bloodstained sheet. What lay beneath it was a mystery. The executioner came out, wearing his black leather hood and apron. He stood next to the box and crossed his arms. Two people were led out to the platform, and my heart sank when I saw them. It was Armand and Theresa Cosgrove. They lived in the pod next to mine. They were a quiet couple, with three small children. Both their hands were bound.
The executioner tore the sheet from the box. It was a clear glass tank, filled with a large swarming black mass. The hooded man reached in and pulled out an eight-inch leech and held it up to the crowd. Everyone in attendance gasped, and Mrs. Cosgrove began to shake violently. Mr. Cosgrove was forced up the small set of stairs leading up to the box and lowered in. He writhed and moaned as the leeches latched on. He tried to climb out and was pushed back in. His wife was then lowered in on the other side, and a metal ring was put on their heads so they could not move. The ring forced them to face each other. Armand tried to say something to Theresa, but a leech crawled in his mouth. He gagged as the parasite tunneled its way down his throat. The man with the loudspeaker was walking through the crowd, awkwardly reading from the Book of Judex.
After twenty minutes, the Cosgrove’s were both pale, and their eyes were rolled back in their heads. It appeared as though the leeches were sucking them dry. Every few minutes one of them would twitch, but death was not coming quickly.
Two Enclave soldiers pulled the couple from the tank. No skin from the neck down was visible; they were both covered with engorged leeches. The executioner strung them up, for all to see. Immediately after that, the Cosgrove’s three children were led to the platform. I think the oldest was six, but I was not sure. The three were all crying, trying not to look at the bodies of their parents.
“No tears,” the executioner said. They continued sobbing. “No tears!” he yelled and then nodded to the soldiers.
All three children were shot, point-blank, in the back of the head.
The crowd gasped again, and then it was silent. The robotic intercom voice told us to return to our work zones. I looked at Sam and saw tears streaming down his cheeks. He quickly wiped them away and started back to the kitchens. I followed with my head down, still processing the carnage I had just witnessed.
Stopping this madness was imperative.
The rest of the day crept by, and I was unable to focus on work. My thoughts kept wandering to the looks on the faces of those children. Why did this particular execution bother me so much? Was all this finally getting to me? The human mind can only handle so much trauma, after all, and I was going to snap, it would not be surprising. Whatever was happening, I had to pull myself together.
I had an army to build.