The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. It had been almost three years since she’d been outside and the man who’d claimed her had spent a great deal of time washing away her memories of life beyond the small steel-framed house. After the first year everything before the room and him was becoming a blur. Whenever she would dwell or utter her desire for her former life, he would make her pay with his fists or his foot against her gut. Memories meant pain; Rebecca was tired of being in pain. So, she fought hard to forget everything and everyone. Still, the glimpses from the window as he laid on top of her, kept the hopes and dreams that she’d crafted in her head alive.
The sound of the squeaking mattress slowed to a halt. The grinding of the springs against her back ended too and she was numb and raw all at the same time. Rebecca continued to look toward the window that held her past just beyond the dusty dingy glass. The window was her last hope of escape back into a world of darkness and hunger, and death. That was her fairytale, her solace and her rescue from the man who thought he had the right to do with her as he willed.
Sweat dripped from his forehead as he slowly pushed himself up. He was confused by her tears; he hadn’t been her first and he wouldn’t be her last. The time of choice had long passed; he thought she’d learned that already, and all that mattered was her fulfilling her purpose. He slowly pulled himself from her, he was limp and wet with her blood and juices. If he hovered over her long enough, he knew she would open her eyes.
“We must start over,” he whispered still out of breath.
She closed her eyes and waited motionless until he left the room.
Rebecca would never surrender her soul no matter how many times the old man would force himself on her. It would not make her forget the time when she did have a choice. Each morning played out like the one before and she cursed her body for still being able to bear children. She’d witnessed her mother bearing children well into her fifties and she didn’t want that for herself. The fact that she was nineteen and still had not gotten pregnant did not save her from enduring nights of men and boys using her as their dumping ground. They would insist that what they did to her was not about pleasure but about preservation. Still, she could not forget their smiles and laughter each time they came inside her.
Rebecca pulled her body from the rickety bed. Before stepping away she glanced back to see the evidence of a night of hell. Blood and semen mixed to mock the death of her innocence taken over and over again. She had lost everything and everyone she had ever loved, and any loyalty she had for humanity had died with her virginity.
As Rebecca hobbled toward the bathroom, she glanced at the silver urn on the bookshelf next to her bed. It contained the ashes of her mother who’d died in childbirth six months ago; she couldn’t help but envy her. At nineteen she had already forgotten how to cry, and she had stopped wondering where her siblings were, many of them she had not seen since her mother had given birth to them. The ones who she did know, three brothers and a sister all younger than her had been taken from their home three years ago when the new regime took control.
Three Years ago...
Things had happened fast and once the war began everyone knew it would be the last world war. The world was already in shambles, too weak to sustain an armed conflict of any magnitude. There was nothing left except a few thousand witnesses still struggling for power and dominance. They were the shame of all mankind and no matter what side you were on, there would be no winner. The arrogant superpowers had been too stubborn to back down even though it meant the total annihilation of humanity. Those that survived had been left as witnesses to the evil and hopelessness of what man had become. Now the hope of the future was left in the hands of a few who secretly agreed that they had gotten the raw end of the deal. Survival was not a blessing; it was a curse.
The country had placed their faith in a liar. Everyone knew that his only motivation was power yet, the citizens of the world had turned their backs on the truth, and on sanity. It had become too hard to be noble and to live lives of integrity. Hatred and violence had become one and the innocent were no longer innocent. No matter what they believed, or how they lived, death and destruction was coming; it was no longer on the horizon, or around the corner, it was here, and no one could deny the smell of rancid, gunpowder on their breath.
They had become close allies with denial for decades but even that fact was one that they had turned their backs on. Now with nowhere to turn and nowhere to run and with no more excuses to ease their reality, the ticking of the clock was loud in their ears. First it was the plague that literally sucked the breath from their bodies; the old falling, then the young. The governments of the world shut their countries down, but it was too late. Men and women seemed to go mad as they were forced against their wills to stay inside, care for their children fulltime with rationed water and food which was barely enough to go around.
Rebecca’s mother was pregnant; again. Her blood boiled as she watched her waddle from room to room pretending that she was not sick, that the government had already made plans to take her unborn child. This baby was a boy, a brother that Rebecca would never know. Secretly, Rebecca had named her unborn brother Andrew; a name that would only live in her mind as the powers that be would designate him as nothing more than a number.
The front door, the only door was bolted and locked from the outside when Edsel was gone and so Rebecca was free to walk around the house, but the old man’s room was the only one with a window, the only view to the outside world. It was dark outside; always. No matter what time of day, no sun lit the sky and the landscape always looked dull and ashy gray. Despite what took place in that room, she preferred it over any other room in the small, dilapidated house that was more a shack than anything else. Whenever he was gone, Rebecca would stand on her toes peering out of the window into the gray haze hoping to see some signs of life but there was nothing but the fading outline of the horizon.
Edsel, that was the old man’s name. Rebecca refused to speak or even think his name, her last semblance of defiance. It was Tuesday and he had gone out to find food and drink for the others who would arrive just after the evening hour. Tuesday was visitors’ day at the house and Edsel would invite four or five men, some nearly his age and some younger than she was.
“We have to start over. This is your duty to give back, to do your part.”
His words always seemed like an apology before he began escorting the men into the room. He’d begun inviting younger boys now out of frustration that she had not gotten pregnant. Nothing worked. No matter who succeeded in getting her pregnant, Edsel would get the credit and the tangible acknowledgement from the government of a job well done. She’d been Edsel’s since she was sixteen and he’d tried his hardest, but she was childless still. The old man, aided by a handful of tiny white pills never thought the problem could be him and so one by one he would usher the men in to reduce her to nothing more than a science project.
Rebecca made her way to the kitchen; she was hungry, and she could still smell the aroma of canned meat and powdered eggs. Edsel had eaten and left the dirty dishes in the sink for her to clean. One by one she scraped the remnants of his breakfast into the trash. Her duties were clear, the house, especially the kitchen had to be spotless upon his return. So, after eating the remnants of the meat still left in the can, Rebecca cleaned the kitchen in anticipation of the evening’s guests.
Edsel returned just after Rebecca had put away the cleaning supplies. Without a word he walked each room checking each corner and lightly running his fingers across the furniture. She didn’t need him to tell her that she had done a good job; she learned to read his face, the slight uptick of a brow and a low hum from his throat told her what she needed to know.
“The bags are in the kitchen, set up the trays and then go get ready. Our guests will be arriving soon.”
She nodded and headed out of the room.
“Oh, and there will be seven tonight. I’m in the mood for lavender, so...”
Rebecca nodded while he eyed her running his fingers through his thinning hair. He needed to get ready as well and Edsel was anxious for the evening to begin. It was becoming harder to find men willing to take part in his Tuesday evenings. Many had found other ways to make extra money as the regime had begun recruiting for jobs that offered more security and prestige. Still, tonight would be a good night and Edsel hoped that it would bring him positive news in the next few weeks.
Rebecca grabbed the large plastic bottle and squeezed a dollop of the thick cream into her palm. The smell of lavender nearly choked her at first before the hot steam diluted it enough for her to breathe clearly again.
“There will be seven tonight.”
She closed her eyes as her hands rubbed the gel across her skin, “go get ready,” his voice echoed in her ears. How absurd, get ready for what? This wasn’t a date or a party...or prom. Seven men would come to the house and one by one they would walk the narrow hallway to the last room. Edsel would lead them and usher them inside. She was getting ready to be forced on her back or her stomach and taken against her will. There would be no conversation, and no break in between the seven men.
She heard the doorbell ring, it was her signal to turn off the water, dry off and get dressed; to get ready. How could she ever be ready for what was coming.
“There will be seven tonight.”
The first was a boy about her age maybe younger. The pimples on his face looked irritated and the thick glasses were too large for his small pale face. Rebecca could hear chuckles from the hallway as the door opened.
“Good luck, son,” a rough looking man patted the boy on the shoulder and playfully pushed him through the bedroom door. “Oh, and happy birthday,” he said as the door closed.
The last, number seven was a familiar face, the man who had accompanied the boy ended the parade. He was a jolly man, with dry calloused hands and a lot to say. Rebecca wondered if he had only come to talk but she soon realized that he had come for the same thing the other six had come for. He was arrogant and rough treating her as if she owed him something. Rebecca had nothing to give, her body was currency and birthing babies only put her further in debt. She didn’t want to be a mother like her mother who had done her part for the new world order. There was no reward in doing her part and all it had earned her was a place on the bookshelf next to a rickety bed that sang her to sleep each night.
It was too late, too late to start again, to rebuild and to repopulate. The government knew it even before the war had destroyed everything placing a period on humanity’s fate. The new regime knew it too, yet they continued the lie, the same lie that had got them there in the first place. This plan of systemic procreation was a last ditched effort that could only do one thing; fail. Rebecca would not birth a child into this doomed world, a world that would die before her sacrifice would matter. Death would be her gift to the children that she would never have. If only her own mother had been strong enough to give her that same gift.
Four more Tuesdays had passed, and it was Wednesday morning. Rebecca could tell that it had rained the night before because she could smell the odor of damp soot that had followed the men into the house from outside. Edsel had fallen asleep next to her which was rare but this morning there he was snoring with his mouth open; his yellow rotten teeth taunting her and his breath humming a tune of its own creation. Rebecca felt sick. Her stomach was empty, but she needed to vomit; she thought about aiming it all at the old man, instead she ran toward the bathroom and emptied herself of the foul clear liquid. Now she was hungry.
Before she could pull herself from the floor, the door flung open; it was Edsel. Rebecca wanted to laugh at the site of the rail-thin man with his oversized limp penis dangling in front of him like a divining rod.
“Here!” He shouted shoving the white plastic stick in her face, “I’ll be back in a few minutes for the results.”
Rebecca jumped at the sound of the door slamming behind her. She looked at the stick and her hand began to shake. Her future depended on a few drops of pee on a little plastic stick. The thought of bringing a life into this existence without knowing who the father was sickened Rebecca but she couldn’t erase the two red lines screaming in her face announcing that before her next birthday, she would be like all the rest of the women who’d been captured and forced to do their part, to earn their keep on a planet that was choking to death.
“You must do your part!”
There was something growing inside her beside the child. She no longer felt shame because there was no one left to judge her; no one to frown on the fact that she hated the child. Her belly was beginning to show signs that things were progressing as they should, the doctor had confirmed her status as well. She watched his eyes grow soft as his fingers probed her. He recognized her and she him. He had been one of the original Tuesday night visitors. Both she and the doctor pretended not to remember. He wondered as he put away his tools if perhaps the child was his.
The months passed slowly, and Rebecca had spent the days gazing out of the window. For hours she strained to see some sign of hope but there was none. Her stomach grew and so did her hatred for the old man. Edsel had left her alone only requiring that she keep the house clean.
Now Rebecca found herself strapped to the bed surrounded by the doctor and two elderly women gloved, masked and ready to deliver the stranger inside her. Her pains had started early that morning, but Rebecca remained silent about her distress. The doctor and his staff had arrived at the house anyway drawn there by their meticulous record keeping. Except for what was going on below her waist and on the other side of her raised knees, Rebecca was invisible. No one acknowledged her discomfort or her fear. She wanted to ask the elderly women why they would participate in such an act against her, and she wanted to ask how many children they had birthed to the regime to be given such a position, but she knew better.
After what seemed like forever, Rebecca heard the cries that sounded more like pleas for mercy; maybe it was just her imagination. No one had heard her cries, and no one had shown her mercy. Quickly the baby was wrapped and whisked away, Rebecca saw just enough to know that it was a boy.
“Michael James! His name is Michael James!”
The doctor and the nurses exchanged glances and without a word left the room with the baby. She had promised herself that she wouldn’t care about the child but his screams as he entered the world were her screams and he deserved a name even though he would never be called by it, he would never know her, he would never know that she didn’t want to conceive him and didn’t want to push him into a world that would consume his present and his future.
“Michael, his name is Michael James!” No one heard her; no one cared.
Five years passed, five more pregnancies all stillborn births. Edsel ramped up his efforts by inviting men to the house on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When she was alone, she stood on her toes straining to look through the window out onto the gray haze outside. There was nothing there but despair, nothing moved except the visitors in the distance; all men with one purpose and that was to spill their seed inside her for a free meal and a few extra dollars to put in their pockets.
This would be her sixth child, her sixth birth; Rebecca prayed that this baby would be born dead like the others before. Edsel had threatened her as if she had the power to change the outcome. She had become a liability and the government had begun to frown whenever he would inform them of her conception.
He felt nervous and began pacing outside the room waiting anxiously for the cries of a new child. He couldn’t afford another failure; he’d been threatened too and so he paced, back and forth until he heard the baby crying.
Rebecca had never been this tired after the other births. Like always the doctor and his nurses ignored her as she laid on the bed. She wanted to be left alone, to release the baby from her body and be left alone. She focused her eyes on the window as the baby, a girl, was taken from the room.
Rebecca saw a woman step toward her from the far corner of the room; she thought she was alone. She knew the woman, but it couldn’t be, she was dead her ashes were sitting in the silver urn on the bookshelf next to the bed.
Tears began to stream down Rebecca’s face; she hadn’t forgotten how to cry after all. The woman took her hand in hers. They were warm and soft, and memories of a childhood long forgotten flooded her mind.
The woman nodded and smiled; she was crying too. She hadn’t aged at all. Rebecca had so many questions, but she held her tongue. Rebecca closed her eyes just as her mother bent down and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“I’ve come to take you home.”
16 Years later...
Perkins made his way toward the front door of the small steel-framed house. His recent promotion meant he’d be relegated to making house calls to citizens who had not responded to the mandated check-ins. Edsel Jenkins had been an active supporter of the procreation front but recently seemed to have fallen through the cracks; efforts to contact the aging man had failed. The regime was still trying to find its footing even after nearly twenty years. The campaign to repopulate had created other problems that the new government hadn’t been fully prepared to handle. Growth and change and the needs of a dying planet kept it stretched beyond capacity.
According to the file in his hand the owner of the house would be at least seventy which would account for his contributions to the cause falling over the last several years. It had been nearly three years since he’d reported for the census, which was the reason for Perkins’ unannounced visit.
It took several tries of ringing the doorbell and knocking before Perkins heard soft shuffling steps behind the door. He took one step backward and waited. After a moment the door slung open, and a teenaged girl stood staring at him. It wasn’t what Perkins expected very seldom would women open the door unless they were in a paid position with the regime that required them access to a door. It was deemed a security risk to allow women access to the outside world, but here she was boldly standing in the doorway looking at him with questions and defiance in her eyes; she looked eerily familiar.
“Can I help you?”
“MJ, uh agent Michael James Perkins,” nervously he pulled his badge from his breast pocket and held it up. “I’m looking for Edsel, Edsel Jenkins.”
This was his first stop in his new position, and he was nervous. He hoped his nerves didn’t show, he wondered why he even cared, she was just a woman, a young girl nothing more.
“He’s out for the day.”
“We’ve been trying to reach him for several months, but he hasn’t responded. So...”
“You’re pretty young to have such an impressive job like this,” she interrupted, “a badge, a suit...”
“...I just got promoted; my first day.”
“Well, I’ll tell Edsel, uh Mr. Jenkins that you came by.”
Before he could respond, she slammed the door and slid the lock into place. The young woman leaned her thin frame against the door and exhaled. That was close, too close. Edsel was gone, in fact he’d been gone for weeks, and she had been left in the house to fend for herself.
The old man had raised her since birth, and until three weeks ago, the outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. She had spent most of her free time looking onto the dingy gray landscape and imagining what it was like to venture beyond the house, but she had been forbidden to leave. Edsel had told her that it was dangerous especially for her. Besides, the stories of doom, he kept the doors locked and the window sealed shut. Even now with him gone, she was afraid to leave afraid to open the door.
She wanted so desperately to open the door again and run after the visitor, but Edsel’s stories held her in place safely locked inside. She remembered the old man’s last words, just before he entered his room and interrupted her solitude, and she remembered the look in his eyes, the belt in his hands and his pants hanging loosely around his hips.
“We have to start over. This is your duty to give back, to do your part.”
About the Creator
I adore words and I love what happens when we grab them, sleep with them, holler and scream and laugh at them! I love what happens when we throw them in the air and watch them fall magically from our minds onto paper!