Among Others: 18th Chapter

Can’t tell if it’s the Turkey and chocolate pudding pie coma or the pure enjoyment of spending time with my In-Laws (true statement, LOVE my in-laws!), but I’ve fallen WAY behind in my NaNoWriMo writing/typing. But today, after work, I slaved through another 2k words.

Guess what that means? Sure does! Among Others Chapter 18 is below.

I have to add here: What Dr. Collins and her new roommates are going through is actually taking a toll on me. It’s strange but I feel so much for Dr. Collins that every so often I have to stop and collect my thoughts before I continue letting my Muse tell me what she’ll have to contend with next.

Among Others: Chapter 18…

Reporters spoke of nothing Collins and her group did last night. She could not understand.

Perhaps nobody knows yet. But they screamed so loud.

Thinking these words set a shivering snake up her spine. Their screams still echoed between her ears. The popping from the young girl’s neck reverberated through her entire skeleton like a dentist drill. Each time she thought of that pop, it stole what little breath she had.
Serves me right. Breath for breath.
Almost as hard to get out of her head was how soaked in blood the fat man and young man with the broken face were when they entered the kids’ room. The look on their face as they leapt at the children’s corpses petrified her. She wondered what else they had done before she met them or what they were capable of doing without her instructions.
For a weeks she convinced all four of her tenants to eat what she made available to them. None of which included human flesh. Of course, they were irritable and unsatisfied. She felt the same hunger. However, she never once acted on that urge. Not even last night when it presented itself on red carpet.

Meals appeared so much less unnatural after that night. Raw pork, poultry, fish, and beef prepackaged in nearly bloodless cuts somehow seemed more civilized than before. The fat man and the young man with the broken face ravaged their meals, hardly using their silverware as Collins demanded. Something snapped inside them. They were becoming the animals the world saw them as.
Collins and the old man wearing overalls ate with civility. Forks and knives, at the table. But they moved slower, like they were questioning each bite. They were questioning each bite. The woman with knotted red hair could not to eat what was placed in front of her. She stared at a wall as if her mind was little more than a shattered snowglobe. She refused to respond to anyone. The fat man did not ask, but just took her breakfast and lunch shortly after Collins set the woman’s plate. He no longer hesitated at dinner time.

The next day, local news organizations finally flashed ticker tapes and alerts about the gruesome scene. Each talkinghead spoke of having no words to describe the footage that was too graphic to display right before they broke into tirades of hatred during overlays of clips of the dead family and their blood spattered bedrooms.
Collins thought about how different the house looked in broad daylight. Its elegance burst forth even behind plastic sheets protecting evidence and painted with brown splotches of dried blood. In the master bedroom, the speaking pundit pointing out two primary pools of blood, one on the bed, the father’s, the mother’s was some feet away near the bedroom door. The plastic protective sheets were pulled aside exposing more dried blood pools.
Having never entered the master bedroom, Collins startled at the explosion of blood spatter. Whatever the fat man and young man with the broken face did in that room was between them and the poor collateral damage souls resting peacefully elsewhere. However, the small pools of blood scattered short distances from each of the two main pools suggested they tore limbs off. Collins’ bottom lip quivered.
The children’s room, if it were possible, looked cleaner, less morbid than that night. One massive brown stain in the center of the room where the fat man and young man with the broken face feasted on the freshly killed boy and girl. The parents, as the pundit confirmed, struggled. He assumed, incorrectly, that the boy had tried to protect his little sister from the demons that had already killed their parents.
Collins looked away as the camera panned the children’s room. She already knew what happened, those images, those feelings, would haunt her until the end. Pulling her attention away from the television, the fat man’s belly jiggled as he laughed a whispering laugh. The young man with the broken face licked his lips, otherwise sitting perfectly still.
The old man wearing overalls had hung his head, his meal pushed away. He was praying into blue spider-veined hands. She hoped he understood why they had to do what they did. Not praying or feeling a need to since she never had before, Collins questioned if she was somehow less of a person for not following the old man’s actions.
The woman with knotted red hair locked herself in the bathroom. If she were a Normal, her wailing would be audible. As it was, Collins only heard an occasional nose blowing. All her better senses demanded she console her troops, explanations of justified actions, ends justifying means, pep talks, and other goodwill banter as others throughout history in her position had done.
Somehow it felt wrong. Somehow she felt it necessary to not say those things. Behind the obvious brutality, she thought shreds of humanity might be maintained if they each understood and dealt with the reality of their actions. Hiding behind positive illusions just felt less human.

“My fellow Countrymen,” voice broke in through the pundit banter. It was the President.
“Our way of peaceful living has come under attack.”
Collins banged on the small kitchen table until the woman with knotted red hair came out of the bathroom and her other guests turned away from whatever else they were doing to look at her. Then she told them all to pay attention to the television.
“Yesterday a group of Wretches attacked and brutally murdered an innocent family of four. That family of four, a mother, a father, a young boy and his baby sister, were beaten, then barbarically eaten by creatures who, are by no means among other civilized peoples such as you or I.
“These Wretches seek to destroy our way of life. They prey on the pockets, and, as we witnessed today, they prey on the flesh of honest, hard working citizens. Wretches sneak around our cities, pretending to be one of us by wearing heavy makeup concealing their true identity. They bide their time while living among others who seek only to continue their daily lives, going to work, shopping, and spending time with their friends and loved one. Wretches hate the thought that freedom thrives in our great state.
“The people who did this believe that we owe them everything. That rather than work for a living, speak our language, and be productive citizens of this great state. They prefer to ask you hard working Countrymen to pay for their wants and needs. They leech off of your paycheck so they can sit at home. That is, before they turn violent.
“Idle hands are the hands of the devil. Yesterday proves that point. A group of idle hands illegally broke into a home to fulfill their sick and twisted needs of human flesh and leeching off the lives of innocent people. That is why your government has implemented a series of programs to protect upstanding citizens from these vial parasites.
“First, all funding for social welfare benefits must go through a screening process. A means test of the strictest nature. Each individual person who receives social welfare benefits from this government or applies for said benefits will first have to be evaluated to be certain they are not Wretches. All Wretches will lose or be denied any benefit as they have not earned those benefits. Let me be clear. This will not affect Normal families who receive similar benefits.
“Second, Wretches will be obligated to identify themselves as such by registering with local authorities. Their names and addresses will be kept by those authorities so that the government may monitor their movements. They will also be required to check in weekly to those same local law enforcement agencies.
“Third. As forward thinking, freedom loving citizens of a global community, we understand the rights and responsibilities that go along with the honor of being such a free society. Therefore, when Wretches check in during their weekly appointments, they will be given a ration of human flesh. Now, I understand how difficult this sounds but as peoples of such high moral authority as those who live in free, democratic states, we have an obligation to others, no matter how barbaric they may appear.
“This ration of human flesh will only be provided by those who designate their bodies, upon death, to this cause. Citizens who receive driver’s licenses will have an option to donate upon death. Citizens who receive state paid state issued IDs will be opted in for partial donation.
“Fourth. It has come to the attention of your government that, many Wretches choose to hide their identity from the rest of the world. Starting today, hiding your identity as a Wretch, harboring an undocumented Wretch, or attempting to employ an undocumented Wretch will be subject to penalties of the law. It is not fair to those willing to abide by the fair rules of any great and free state to be held back by those who choose not to participate and instead believe themselves to be above those same laws.
“Fifty, and finally. Because many Wretches have chosen to mask their identity behind skin toners, makeups, masks, and other means of concealment, your government will be setting up checkpoints. These checkpoints will be relatively noninvasive. If a person traveling through a checkpoint is deemed suspicious, officials at those checkpoints are authorized to check that individual’s ID card and heart rate. Checkpoint guards will have authority to detain any person who has broken the law. These checkpoints will be strategically placed around high traffic areas of every major city and town throughout the state.
“Protection of its law abiding citizens is a government’s one and true obligation to its citizens. Your government will not fail at this responsibility. A search is underway for those who committed these evil acts. Your government will bring those responsible to justice.
“Thank you. And God bless this great state.”
Fear chocked Collins. This was exactly what she tried to accomplish, but it came at a heavy price. She wanted to force Wretches to collectivize, something they were apparently incapable of our unwilling to do. Not understanding the gravity of their situation, or because they could not focus long enough to realize their position, she hoped that the government’s use of checkpoints will provide constant reminders of the Wretches they are. Everyone in the small studio apartment turned to Collins with the same fear in their eyes that she was trying to swallow.
“Please say something,” their eyes seemed to say.
“Now we wait for night fall,” was all she said.
The old man slammed his fist onto the table, “No. We will not kill again. I did not sign up for this. I killed a child.”
“Don’t worry,” she realized she had to explain. “We’re not going to kill anyone again.”
The fat man and young man with the broken face deflated.
“Then what are you suggesting now,” he asked.
“We will make ourselves available to others like us.”
“What?” chimed in the woman with knotted red hair.
“The actions by the government will anger others like us to finally stand up for themselves. They will be looking for ways to be heard. We will walk through alleyways and other dark places where people like us seek shelter. There we’ll tell them how to do what we did. We will tell them they need to do the same but attack city officials and law enforcement. Before long, the government will be forced to listen to us. They will be forced to recognize us as equal people.”
“Wait,” interjected the old man wearing overalls. “Your plan all along was to force others into fighting to be free?”
“They were not acting on their own.”
“Yes, but that makes you no better than them acting against you.”
“The government put us in this position. There is no middle ground here. There is no moral high ground when one side has erased the other. They erased us. We do not exist. We are dogs. No. Dogs have more rights than we do.”
Collins paused briefly, “You are either with us. Or you are against us.”
The old man wearing overalls clearly wanted to continue their argument. Something in Collins’ eyes held him back. Looking at the woman with knotted red hair, Collins saw the same sheepish look she had all day. Her face still wet with tears. The fat man and young man with the broken face sat at the edge of the small sofa wide eyed like they were watching their favorite sports team about to win the game.

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