X is for X Camp

Freddie had given up thinking about X Camp months ago. He was told it was better than Y Camp where a fire had broken out in one of the concrete blocks and wiped out half of the inmates, but that was as far as it went.

Every morning at 6 a.m. Freddie was woken up by the sirens and ushered to the mess room where he sat for hours on a hard wooden bench and watched the parade as President Jeb Jackson surveyed his military forces below him. Freddie had no idea how recent the footage was or whether any of the elements of government even existed anymore. All he felt was the burning from the hot soup and its thinness as he looked into its depths in vain for any substance.

Life in the camps was a bit like that. There was no point to the overlong days. Freddie felt he had less purpose than battery hens whose role was to lay eggs until the expiration of their sad lives. In the camps even the people who held them appeared to have little purpose. When there was such a thing as society, prisons served a role in keeping the bad guys away from the responsible members of society. Today the bad guys seemed to be the only ones that thrived and they didn't thrive for very long. The responsible people were all in camps.

In X Camp, Freddie had the occasional vivid dream but he usually dreamed in monochrome. Now and again, there would be an exception - his parents waving goodbye at the end of a dirt track with the skies laced with the heavy purple of the storm, the red of Diana's mouth as they kissed and the day she painted her nails every shade of the rainbow.

The only person Freddie encountered in the week who had a sense of purpose was Commander Krall, the senior official at the camp, who would preach to the masses every Friday. Freddie would be ushered into a large hall and made to stand with the other men. The women were segregated in another compound behind the stage. Krall would deliver a long oratory about how a new world order was underway and they represented the brave future of the republic. Freddie would look at the bedraggled men then as they stared at their feet, at the pale windows and in any direction other than Krall's. It was a hollow charade. The commander was either going through the motions or out of his mind.

When the winter came large swathes of snow settled between the holding blocks and on the skirts of the smoke stacks. The cold was more pronounced than in the past and men shivered and passed away before him. Many were removed to the hospital block. Nobody ever returned.

They moved him to a ground floor cell whose occupant had departed to the hospital. For the first time he was able to see the female residents walking around in a vast parade ground below him.

Freddie had lost his interest in details but one woman caught his attention. There was something familiar about the way she moved, an impulsiveness about her that bordered on anger and could not be tamed even in this place. He noticed her swarthy features under her mane of black hair caught by the wind. Suddenly color flooded into his cell. He thought of the ripples of sunlight through stained glass, the currents that moved warm under the skin.

He looked again. It was Diana. There could be no mistake, although she had lost much of her sturdiness. When he looked again she had a ball in her hand. She threw it in an arc and another figure caught it, a small girl who ran toward her. Freddie felt breathless now. He hadn't seen Melissa since the terrible day in the forest but there could be no doubt that it was the child. His mouth moved at the corners in an unfamiliar way. His coughing morphed into a laugh. He raised himself up to the bars and gave out a shrill shout: "Diana."

For a few seconds the woman held the ball and looked up into the sky full of snow flurries. He fancied she saw a look of recognition as she stared at the sky. Then she threw the ball to the child again in a long curving arc.


  1. With a name like X Camp, it can't be much fun. Good cliffhanger!

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