The room was 16 by 23 with floors covered in shiny parquet wood. Its walls were painted robin's egg blue. Ten chairs faced a long cherry wood desk. Behind the desk was a large leather chair that stood ominously. A large presidential seal hung directly behind it.
There were no windows, so no sunlight seeped in. Artificial fluorescent lighting hung from its seven-foot ceiling.
One by one, men and women began to make their way into the room. Their faces solemn; seven men and three women. They quickly took their assigned chairs and waited for the meeting to begin. No one spoke. No one. They stared blankly ahead.
Five minutes passed and a thin, African American man entered the room. A white man carrying folders followed him.
The ten men and women stood up as soon as the African American man entered the room. When he sat, they all sat.
The white man, Bill, placed folders in front of each of the ten men and women. They stared forward at the African American man.
"Welcome. This is the latest list. Last week, we apprehended ten of the fifteen subjects. So, you will be familiar with five of today's names. They have eluded capture but we will double up our measures. I do not need to remind you that this is a matter of national security."
As if on cue, the ten men and women opened up their folders. Bill began to read from the list.
"Marie Ogylvie, 25, from the Bronx, New York. She is a teacher working with the Department of Education. She has become very verbal in her union.
David Faust, 33, from Newark, New Jersey. He is a worker at D.J. Leather factory. He is a permanent fixture of Occupy Newark.
Sean Hayes, 34, from White Plains, New York. Works for Parks and Recreation. Member of the Hell's Angels.
Nahum Abaza, 16, from the Bronx, New York. He is a student at the Leadership Academy. Up until two months ago he went by the name of David Crespo."
And he went on. One by one, he read the names of the eleven names on the list. The ten men and women followed along silently. They took notes on the margins of the paper.
After reading every name, Bill stopped and put down the folder. He turned to the African American man and waited. Then he said, "Mr. President, how will you like to proceed?"
The President thought for a moment. "We have been very successful with our program. We will not deviate from the process. Let's continue to follow protocol except for the elusive five. I want extra agents on them. And, I want to be informed of the progress, especially the student."
With this, the President got out of his chair and headed out the door. Bill turned to the men and women. "So, there you have it. Special focus on the five. I don't need to remind you to use your most trusted agents. The President doesn't like to see the same names twice."
He picked up his folder and walked out of the Death Panel Room.
Doris woke up late this morning and quickly ran into David's room. Still at 16, he needed her help getting up in the morning. She knocked on the door loudly but David didn't stir.
"David… David… wake up. It's late… David? My alarm didn't go off… we're both late! DAVID!"
She heard the rustling of the bed sheets and finally David moaned. "Awwright, awwright… stop calling me David."
Doris couldn't understand the changes that David was going through. She brought him up catholic, had him baptized and confirmed. They even went to church during holy days. Out of nowhere, it seemed, he had developed this fascination.
"Your name is David. That's your name." She wanted to scream and get him to understand. But she didn't want a screaming match. "Just get out of bed."
She threw her hands up in the air in defeat. She needed to shower.
He heard the bathroom door close and decided it was safe to get out of bed. He really resented his mother for not understanding. What was the point, after all, in believing in something you didn't understand? He had been obedient and submissive about the decisions made for him. But at the end of the day, he didn't see how they made any sense.
He grabbed the pants bundled up in the corner of his room and stepped into them. He then put on his sneakers. He smelled himself and kept the shirt he slept in. He was late but most importantly he wanted to leave before his mom left the shower. On his way out, he grabbed his skateboard and his backpack. He felt inside for a tube of toothpaste and squirted some in his mouth.
By the time he got to school, the dean was closing the side door, which was kept open for the tardies. He rushed and squeezed himself through. The dean shook his head in amusement. "Barely made it, what is it twice this week?"
David glanced up at the imposing man whom he estimated to be between six feet four and seven feet ten and smiled. "But I made it!"
Upstairs, David went through the routine: slide your ID, sign your name on the Late Log, and proceed to class. When he entered Mr. Kelleher's Social Studies classroom all eyes were on him. He pulled out a rubber band and grabbed his dreads. Easily he manipulated the thick, shoulder length locks and controlled them with the hair band. He had grown quite fond of them. He did all the backcombing himself and were still the subject of many an entertaining conversation.
Mr. Kelleher watched him impatiently. "Good afternoon Mr. Crespo. Nice of you to join us."
"My name is Nahum."
"Sure it is. When you bring in your new birth certificate be sure to show it to me."
David settled into his desk and quickly caught up with the lesson. Mr. Kelleher continued with his lecture.
The day went by slowly. Although he was a good student, David didn't care much for school. It was just what he had to do on his way to the skateboard park. That's when his day really began. During lunch, he met up with a couple of his skateboarder friends and they decided to skip eighth period. They wanted to beat the crowd.
They went down the back staircase. Security never patrolled this area and no one would know they cut. When they opened the back door of the building, the air was fresh and crisp, a beautiful fall day. All three threw their boards on the concrete and rode as fast as they could away from the school.
Just as they imagined, the park was empty. Well, some of the locals were already there but they would have a chance to really hit the pavement and practice their stunts. They were excited and quickly began to ride.
One of the boys, Kevin broke away from the trio. "I'm gonna hit the twelve set. Who's in?" David and the other boy, Matthew wanted to take advantage of the space. "Nah, we're gonna hit the half-pipe…"
And so they skated, practicing their ollies and tre-flips. Within the hour, though, the park filled with skaters. The boys grabbed their boards and gathered on a bench near the entrance of the park. They watched as the crowd grew thicker and everyone competed for room to practice.
"Maybe tomorrow we should cut seventh period."
"Yeah, we should just cut school…"
David smiled and jumped off the bench. "I'm out." Matthew and Kevin both said "Later" at the same time and returned their attention to the crowd.
David wove in and out of the crowd to make it to the exit. Outside, he dropped his skateboard and quickly jumped on it pedaling his way down the street. He rode past the school toward the pizza shop.
He ordered a slice with extra cheese and a grape soda and sat outside to eat. There was a steady stream of high school kids walking to the bus stop. Between bites, he waved at the ones he knew.
He finished his food and crossed the street heading home. He turned the corner at Crotona and Southern Boulevard and rode down the long block. In the middle of the block was a moving company with a large parking lot. He made a detour and went in, riding his skateboard on the array of wooden planks. After a few minutes, he was bored and decided to go straight home.
Doris would not be home for hours and he could spend the time reading the Koran. There were so many things he wanted to understand. So many questions he wanted answered. He preferred to read when she wasn't around so he didn't have to answer any of her nagging questions.
He neared the vacant lot by his building and saw two men standing by a black, Chevy Tahoe. He saw both men begin to walk up toward him and he hesitated. He stopped, picked up his board and turned around.
Behind him, both men began to follow him, quickly catching up to him. They grabbed David by the shoulder and one of the men asked, "Are you Nahum Abaza?" The other man, grabbed David's left arm and handcuffed it. Without waiting for a response, David found himself bound by these men and led into the Tahoe.
It was a successful day. With the apprehension of Nahum Abaza, every subject was in captivity. Months and months of surveillance had paid off.
As per the President's orders, the eleven men and women were brought in front of the tribunal. Each was accused of a slew of terrorist's acts ranging from conspiracy against the United States government, to religious propaganda to possession of violent, extremist materials.
The head of the tribunal peered over his round rimmed glasses at the men and women standing before him. "At this time, you will each be given time to explain your actions. Let's begin with… Marie Ogylvie." He rested his paper and looked at the two women standing in front of him. One was a petite, auburn haired woman; the other was a taller blonde woman. The petite woman began to speak.
"I do not understand any of this. Why am I here? I'm a teacher, that is all. I work with kids and have two of my own… you have me all wrong. You are accusing me of things… this makes no sense. We don't even have lawyers… this is absurd, for God's sake!"
"This is your opportunity to explain your actions. You are hereby charged with conspiracy and unlawful assembly. Speak to those charges."
"Unlawful assembly? When? Where? I cannot defend myself. I don't know what you are talking about!"
The head of the tribunal searched his papers. "On May 24, 2011, you took part in a protest at Gracie Mansion."
Marie Ogylvie couldn't believe what she heard. "That was a Union March. We are working without a contract and went to show our support, show that we need the mayor and the union to come together and bargain. How is that a terrorist act? I need a lawyer!"
"We are way past lawyers. You are unlawful combatants. Let's hear from… Sean Hayes."
Marie was infuriated. "But, I'm not done. You haven't heard me out!"
"Ma'am, please be quiet or you will be removed from the proceedings! Sean Hayes, step forward. You are charged with unlawful assembly and anarchy."
Sean was a heavily tattooed man with a shaven head. He stood about five feet ten. "What do you want me to say? It's not like you're listening. Anarchy? Seriously? I ride a Harley, that's why I'm here! I work for Parks, man. I mow the lawn at the golf course!"
"You are a member of the Hell's Angels! We have irrefutable evidence of your internet presence in underground cells."
"I ride a motorcycle and mow lawns… I go on Facebook!"
And this continued. One by one, each of the alleged terrorists spoke and defended the charges to no avail. Their convictions secured.
The head of the tribunal looked tired. He looked to the right and then to his left at the other members. "You are all here today having been convicted of the numerous acts of terrorism outlined in these proceedings. You have all denied these charges but we have overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As unlawful combatants, you are not eligible for prisoner of war protection under the Geneva Convention. Our responsibility today is to impose a sentence that is fair but that reflects the seriousness of your crimes. This sentence promotes respect for the President of the United States and his Zero Tolerance stance on terrorism whether foreign or domestic. You are all hereby sentenced for an indefinite period of time to one of our detention facilities at an undisclosed location."
The eleven men and women stood expressionless but their eyes filled with disbelief. The two women burst into tears; one whispered, "I didn't do anything…" Several agents approached them and in unison, put their left hand on their left shoulders. They led the eleven men and women out of the room.
When they reached outside, there was a caravan of Chevy Tahoes waiting at the curb. Their fates were sealed. Each of the men and women were quickly ushered into the tinted glassed SUVs. Their journey toward a black site had just begun.