It was year 2017. Honestly, I can't really remember why things turned so rapidly strange. One minute I'm studying for a killer math test and the next I'm being told with a gun to my head to hand over my wallet and phone.
I remember that day to be cold and wet. The rain was coming down in a drizzle, and it seemed to be a day you'd bury someone.
For me, instead of burying a person, I unintentionally and unknowingly buried my freedom.
In an instant, gone was my freedom of speech, of religion, of even moving. A gun to your head really changes your perspective of life.
If I die here, right here in this very classroom, would anyone notice?
Did I feed my cat this morning, or is she going to claw my dad to pieces?
Did I even clean my browser history?
You know, the important questions.
So there I stood, completely bewildered, wondering why two men in military outfits were rooting through my stuff, when one asked in broken English, "You this girl?"
He pointed to my picture in my license. I nodded, too confused and scared to do anything else.
He turns to the one with the gun and jabbers something. The gun was pulled from my head, but was then nudged into my back.
"You come." The man ordered. "No talk. No fight."
I nodded, then followed him out of the empty classroom. Glancing around the middle and high school, I was shocked to find my friends in a similar condition.
Jonathan, one of my closest friends, had a careful look of boredom. I knew he was scared, though. I saw his fingers twitch. He was tall, extremely thin, graceful and fast. Props to being a soccer player.
My other close friend, Mason, looked furious. When he finished high school he wanted to be a Marine, and being stuck with an enemy and not being able to do anything made him furious. I knew he was strong enough to break free, and maybe seriously hurt the guy, but the soldier seemed to realize that as well, because one gun was pressed to Mason's temple and the other was to a group of scared middle schoolers barely out of fifth grade.
I was led to a group of girls a year younger than me. Lindsey, Amy and Olivia looked pale and scared crapless. I carefully sat down next to Lindsey, shooting her a soft smile.
"Pray if you're scared." I whispered, then gasped as a butt of a gun was cracked against my head, sending lights and colors whirling in front of my eyes.
"No talk!" A guard ordered.
An angry yell protested, and I knew it to be Mason.
"Mason! Stop, I'm alright!" I called.
He met my gaze from across the room, his green eyes lit with something dangerous. His expression clearly stated, 'You never hit girls. He'll pay.' I watched him calmly, replying with a simple, 'Wait.' He slowly nodded, then looked away.
I looked at Jonathan. He was watching me worriedly, but when he noticed I was looking at him, he gave me a small smile. I saw his hand curl into a fist though, and I tried to project a calming aura. We would get nowhere if we didn't know why they were here and what they wanted. It was pointless to fight now.
Fifth through eleventh grade met at this church on Tuesdays. We had a normal school day like any other kid, then on Wednesdays, elementary kids came. The military people, whom I had figured out, were middle eastern. They put us in the large foyer at the front, and sat us either on the floor or on stools. All the military were male, and they all carried guns.
A big man came into the foyer from the sanctuary, carrying a large bag that contained something that clanked. He opened it and pulled out black, floor-length dresses, handing them to our guards. Us girls were herded into the bathroom and handed the dresses.
I frowned at the thick, uncomfortable fabric, but slid it on. I carefully tucked my mother's wedding ring on a chain under my dress, then stepped out of the stall.
"What do we do with our clothing?" Olivia asked.
A large, black trash bag was held open, and the four of us dumped our clothes into it. We were then lead back into the foyer, where we were shocked to see the guys handcuffed to each other. I was pushed to Jonathan and Mason, the other girls pushed to their own group. I stumbled over my dress, tripping. They awkwardly caught me as a couple guards snickered. Mason shot them a cold glare, Jonathan silently asking if I was okay. I nodded, smiling to him in reassurance.
Us three had been close for two years now, ever since my mom died in this very own church parking lot. They had both seen it happen, and had comforted me since then. I still wasn't over it, even though she's been gone for two years. I had moved into my grandmother's (on my dad's side) after things had gotten difficult with me and Dad. Grandmama only lived six minutes from my dad, so that's, logically, where I went.
Jonathan was two months younger than me. He had strawberry-blond hair and blue eyes. He was super sweet, giving up several soccer practices (his favorite thing ever) to help and hang out with me. He taught me how to run fast (my distraction from depression) and got me out of my rut when my mom passed. I owed him more than I cared to think about.
Mason was a month older than me. He had dark brown hair cut super short on the sides and slightly longer on the top, resembling something of a mohawk. He had green eyes that lit up every time he talked about the Marines or his favorite band, Skillet. He was like the older brother I never had, teasing me and being a slightly shy goofball. But you lay one finger on me and he will tear you to shreds.
Jonathan was usually the distraction, Mason the brawl and upbeat one, and I was the thinker.
So I put my brain to work, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. But my thought process was interrupted as I was roughly pushed through the front doors. I bit my lip nervously when I realized Jonathan and Mason weren't behind me. I was led into a dark van, the windows covered in black cloth so no light came through. I was forced into the back seat in the middle, strapped in and a blindfold tied across my eyes. There was a shhink noise, like the sound of a curtain closing.
"Don't move." A rough voice ordered.
I stayed still, my hands on my lap, trying to figure out what was happening. Military were here, but they weren't American. They were Middle East.
My stomach swooped and I felt myself go pale. ISIS? They had somehow snuck into the US, but the idea that they'd found our small community in Southern Pennsylvania was insane. What were the chances?
Would they steal all the girls and shoot the guys?
My mouth felt dry as I felt tears prick my eyes. I gulped them down, trying not to imagine my two best friends gone. There was yelling outside the van, and I forced myself to listen.
"No! You can't! Simmy!" A voice screamed.
I instantly knew. Roman and his younger sister, Simmion. Hopefully he wouldn't do anything stupid.
Arabic, a bang, a scream, then silence.
I wanted to throw up. This was bad. Was Roman gone? That couldn't be, he had five siblings to watch! He couldn't be dead!
I was going to hyperventilate. Forcing myself to take calm, even breaths was torture. I tensed as the van door slammed open. Grunts, a hissed, "Stop struggling." and a slap greeted my ears. The person was wrestled into the seat on my left, handcuffs clinked, and I felt my wrist grabbed. The cuff closed on my wrist, and I wanted to yank it off and punch the person. I barely restrained myself, crying a little under the blindfold. The hand chained to mine brushed my fingers.
I paused as the shhink noise was heard. I clutched the person's hand tightly.
"Who are you?" The voice asked.
I grinned through my panicked tears. "Mason, it's me."
"Thank God." He kissed the side of my head, sighing a little.
I blushed, embarrassed. "What happened to Roman?" I asked.
He was quiet. "They shot him. I'm sorry, Katie."
I gritted my teeth, trying not to sniff.
"I don't know how you're so calm during this whole thing. It amazes me." He said quietly.
"I'm crying." I lifted his hand to my face, right in the tears.
"Please don't cry. It hurts to hear you cry." He wiped them off my face with the back of his hand.
I sniffed, scrubbing my face with my sleeve.
"That dress is not flattering, by the way." He snorted.
I giggled. "It would be flattering on a hippo."
"Nah, it would make the hippo ugly." He laughed a little.
I rested my head on his shoulder, laughing some. "A camel?"
"Too many humps. Would make it bunch up in weird places."
"You're right. It wouldn't look good on anyone."
"Of course I'm right." He snickered.
I banged my head on his shoulder. "Idiot." I mumbled.
"Sure thing." He leaned against the window, the chains clanking.
I leaned to his chest, reassured by the steady thumping of his heart that everything would be okay. The van abruptly started, and I whispered, panicked, "Jonathan's not here."
Mason stiffened, his heart rate increasing. "I don't know where he is."
"I'm scared." I buried my face into his chest as the van started driving.
"I know." He replied. "I'm scared too."