We buried the last of us today. It was inevitable. They were too far gone and even if they weren't, as some have said, "sucked dry by the vampires" they're medical needs were impossible to meet with the equipment that remained undamaged.
We all took turns caring for them, even if it was for just a minute. They needed to be remembered though some had left us so long ago that not all of us could remember them. Not even I and Roland remembered all of their surnames though we remembered most of their nicknames. Some of them looked a little like when we were little; their condition compromising their ability to grow like the rest of us had. We all tried to have a good attitude, like when were helping each other in the ward but it broke the hearts of some of us. When I saw it was too much I sent them all away, told them they'd done their share, that it was time that I took my share of it. It was a story to make them feel better. I didn't like telling a story but it was all some of us could handle. Even Roland who really wanted to help wound up to heart sore. I sent him away too. I'm the one that swore on the Bible, not him.
It hurts that they didn't know we were there with them. It hurts that we weren't there for them before. Too many things about our entire lives hurt. But Johnson and Roland both keep reminding me that there were good things too and that if we are careful there will be even better things in the future. Johnson told me to think of it like a circle closing so that a new one could open ... for all of us. The us that stays here and the us that goes on to God. And I have to believe that's where they are now. Johnson calls them the Innocents because he can't stand to call them anything else. That's what he usually calls all of us, except I don't feel Innocent anymore. I look at my hands and see blood.
We buried them in Potter's Field. Only Johnson won't let us call it that anymore. Our soldiers and the Staff made a new sign for the cemetery; it says Children's Field. He also refused to allow the Outsiders or the Director's people to be buried there. The Janitor showed him another place where other people had been buried a long time ago and Roland and Johnson worked it out so that we were buried in Children's Field and the others went to that other place after being cremated in a big pile behind the Administrative wing. The smell was terrible. Only Roland and I witnessed it, some of me wishes I hadn't. Roland said that cremation was best for those we didn't know well enough; we didn't know what they had in their bodies and didn't know most of their names. They were all raked up together with the other ashes of things used to burn them put into one grave that got a marker that had the date and "Battle For Pickering". Peterson, Ms. Carol, and Roland wrote up a more detailed report and put it with the other files in the big archive room but no one else has bothered to read it. We lived it.
The one thing that we all agreed on was that Tracey wasn't going to be put with the others in that far away grave. She got her own hole and her own marker and we put a wreath on hers the same way we did as each of us has been laid in Children's Field.
Why does life have to be the way it is? When we were prisoners the Outside seemed free. And now that we are free the Outside seems like the prison.
The last of us to die was Victor. Mr. Waverly said that it was likely because he'd stayed a real person for the longest of them all. Calling him a real person and the others not is wrong but, like the others, it is the only way I can think of it. To think of them being awake and aware while they were treated like cattle for so many years is more than I can bare. Mr. Waverly said to go ahead and think of them that way if I need to because they wouldn't mind. I think that is how Mr. Waverly has to think of them too. I know Johnson agrees with him; same for Roland. Maybe I am being contrary because I don't want to ... or maybe I'm afraid of finding out it doesn't hurt like it should. I don't know. I'm so confused.
Lobotomized. Of all the horrors of Lockdown that is something I never conceived of. Not the controversial surgical procedure of the early 20th century that Nurse Cassie's books describes that was designed to alleviate some mental illness. No, this was literally an ice pick like tool being driven behind the eye socket, scrambling the brain material sufficiently to create a mannequin like person that was so incapacitated that they made no trouble for their captors. I have dreams of the sheer terror they must have experienced seeing that instrument coming at them, the pain ... and then the nothingness of no identity or intellect. On top of that the nerves to their vocal cords were destroyed so that even their voice was stolen from them.
Mr. Waverly explained that the Director thought she was being humane - a treatment that ended a torturous existence for a Defective while retaining the benefit of leaving them useful to the rest of the human race. To her it was no different than someone that donated themselves for harvest. Those in lockdown received better and more frequent medical care than we on the Children's Ward ever had. No expense was spared to keep them well cared for and alive. What an oxymoron of an existence.
In fact, if I am to believe it and I somehow must because I cannot detect a lie by any of the Staff when they tell it, the Director - the woman that would always hold that title in our minds - cared more for those in Lockdown than she did any of the others in Pickering, including Staff ... and her own mother. She visited them. Tended to them herself. Spoke to them kindly. They fulfilled her ideal. They made no sound, no protest, simply fulfilled their role, their fate.
It was when the new Director arrived that it changed. It was her attachment to those in Lockdown that got our Director entombed with them. The Lockdown area became his experiment, and the stick he threatened everyone else with. It was there first that the blood drawing calendar was changed. In fact those in Lockdown were constantly being siphoned, their lives drained from them by a never ending series of drops. It was after two of us in Lockdown died that he turned to his livelier victims and it would have been the same result for us had they too soon played their hand and antagonized the Outsiders into attacking.
We found it was Mr. Russell that leaked the information to an associate on the outside. Both men are now dead so I'll leave the consequences in God's more than capable hands. I don't wish to think of it anymore right now as there are far too many other things that need my time.
"Are you out here again?!"
Georgie turned to see Johnson stomping towards her.
"I'm not digging up bones. I just came this way after checking to see if the squirrels had found our boxes of nuts. We're going to need them for protein before the winter is over with."
Johnson stopped and nearly slid in the damp clay of the cemetery. "Oh. So ... er ... did they?"
"They found them. Tried to break in but haven't made it through the container yet. But I need the boys to come bring them in so we can add them to the storage."
"Saw you padlocked the food area."
Georgie nodded becoming irritated despite her fatigue. "I think people have just been going and getting stuff when they get hungry. They don't like that we're rationing things. They see all the food listed on the inventory at the group meetings and think we are stupid for saying we have to save what we can."
"Stop the group meetings. Teach 'em a lesson."
"Roland wants things to be a democracy."
"Roland is an idealist. And some of the Staff are having a hard time coming to terms with the intelligence you kids have."
"I know. They spent so many years trying not to see it that now that they can they think it's a mirage or illusion. The padlock was the mildest consequence that I could think of but it still made some angry. The rest of us understand. Most of you soldiers understand ... except Archer who I think has an eating disorder as I am catching him eating weird things like ..." Georgie shuddered. "Like rats."
Johnson grinned. "That's not weird. I've eaten rats myself when I did a tour in the Mekong Delta."
"Ugh. Rats are ... that's nasty. We are not going to eat rats. Period. Not if I have to go to the railway station and look for something else myself."
Johnson got a considering look on his face but Georgie stomped her foot. "No. It is too dangerous for any of us. People are sick out there."
"No. It has only been a week."
Johnson didn't argue but Georgie had a bad feeling. "Please Johnson. There is still too much to do here. We have to rebuild and make safety. The bad cold temperature will be here next month. Then the snow piles up so that not even the trains can get through."
"Forget the waterworks Kiddo, not gonna work. You've been turning them on and off way too easy lately to get people to do what you want them to do."
"Do too Brat, whether you know it or not. Do what you gotta to string the others along but don't even try it with me 'cause it won't work."
Georgie scrunched up her face and said, "I don't ... do I? I ... I ..."
Johnson shook his head on a grin and took the satchel of what turned out to be nuts from her hand and said, "Don't worry about it. Just don't do it to me. And hustle your bustle brat. Roland wants to call another one of them infernal meetings so everyone can let everyone else know what they're up to and find out stuff."
"Why don't you like the meetings? I thought you said communication is important."
"It is so don't go throwing my words back at me. But arguing and complaining is not communicating ... it's nothing but a bunch of noise."
"Why don't you tell everyone that. They'll listen to you better than they listen to us."
"Because I refuse to take on the mantel of that responsibility. I am a soldier, not a friggin' politician. Let Roland play king."
"He doesn't want to be king. He doesn't want anyone to be king. He wants us all to work together like we always have."
"The problem girlie is that the Staff are not you and as adults they've got certain ideas about how things should run and how much freedom they should have."
"We aren't taking freedom from them. They've got more of it now than they ever had. They can come and go as they please, dress how they wish, lots of stuff. All we ask is that they be free responsibly because everyone has to be free, not just some of them."
"So tell them that."
"Roland and I have tried. Mr. Waverly gets it. Ms. Carol gets it. The Janitor gets it. Some of the others do too. It's only a few that don't. They don't understand that you can be free and still have to pay consequences when your freedom messes with someone else's freedom."
Johnson laughed. "Oh Kid, you just described most of the problems of the world since time began. Sounds like what you need are some basic rules and when you present them you need to have concrete reasons for the rules. I notice that most of the children still operate by the rules they always have."
"Sure. It makes things easier. But most of those rules are simple. We take turns, help each other, don't borrow without asking, keep our room clean, take care of our clothes, and do our chores. It isn't hard, I don't know why the adults are making it so hard."
"Mostly 'cause they're still figuring out what freedom really means. You kids, for all that you spent a lifetime as prisoners, understand freedom and the responsibility that comes with it a great deal better and in simpler terms than most everyone else."
"Hopefully with time and understanding they'll learn."
"And if not, there's always them consequences you keep talking about."