Being a Defect in our government meant I was an outcast. I was put in an isolated corner with other Defects with military personnel watching us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They gave us food, water, and other necessities. They watched us as we did our work, sewing clothes to be exported to neighboring countries. I was a person who cut the fabric. Addison measured, and Justine sewed hems.
It was tedious and boring work. I would always hum a tune I learned when I was little whenever I cut fabric, despite the soldiers being annoyed. The other Defects enjoyed my humming. When we first learned how to sew, our teachers called this an 'art'. I always imagined art to be free and expressive, not cold and the same. That's why I hum.
One day, during our lunch break, I decided to talk to Justine. "Have any chips?" I asked, talking in our code. I took a seat next to her.
"Yes, of course," she replied, passing me her Treasure, a daily bag of chips. I nodded, understood, and took a chip. That day, it was cheesy. I savored it before I went back to eating flavorless oatmeal. We both watched the soldiers on the catwalk above us, eating our lunch in silence.
We went back to work, and I had to pass the news to Addison. He worked next to me, making a measurement for me to cut. "The bluebird has lots of worms," I told him. He didn't react, but I knew he heard me. A solider shouted at us. I tensed. You won't be yelling at us for long... I thought.
I liked my Defect. I never had to sleep; my body healed itself during the day. Justine could remember anything, project memories into other people's minds, and unearth others' memories. Addison was blind, but he could see things with his mind.
I placed extra clothes under my blankets that night. They wouldn't bother if I wasn't breathing. I went to our spot, a blind spot to the soldiers. We were digging a way out. Once we turned fifteen, we were forced to leave, but we didn't know where. Addison was turning fifteen next quarter; he was terrified. I told him I would dig as fast as I could at night. We planned on going to a neighboring country to take refuge. Justine said a soldier's been there before. They didn't know what goes on in our country.
I went under the small shed were soldiers kept supplies. There was a small crawlspace underneath that I could squeeze in. It's more spacious once I got under, and I could sit up. Addison's Treasure was waiting for me. It was a small, dull pocketknife. I used it to break up the ground so I can move it with my hands. It was hard work, but I tried my hardest to move the dirt as fast as I could. It seemed like one of them were here earlier.
It was well in the night when I heard a laugh. I couldn't see the sun where I was, so it wasn't time to wake up. I stopped moving and watched. I could see a pair of feet with the mandated slip on shoes on them. They stopped at the little opening I crawled through. They stooped down, revealing legs with the usual purple shorts.
A face appeared. She had delicate features. Her skin was the same color as milk, as was her hair. Her eyes, large and bright, were the same color as the roses on the cafeteria tables. She had a notebook - no doubt her Treasure - and a needle. She pricked her skin and wrote something in blood.
She crumbled up a piece of paper and threw it towards me. I read it. "What are you doing?" she wrote. I gulped. What was I supposed to say?
She began writing again. "My name is Vivian. I can't talk, but I can communicate telepathically," she wrote in a note she threw towards me. I nodded at Vivian. I had met telepaths before. I gestured for her to crawl under. Vivian did, and she touched my head.
"I'm sorry," Vivian said in my mind with an accent I couldn't locate. "I'm very scared. I don't want to be here. I saw you and decided to follow you. I guess I shouldn't have."
"It's okay," I told her, resuming my digging. "My name's Tara. I'm digging a hole to escape."
"Really?" Vivian sounded like she didn't believe me. "Why?"
Telepaths knew when you were lying. I had to tell the truth. "A friend is turning fifteen next quarter. We're going to escape before then," I explained.
Vivian seemed satisfied with the answer. "May I help?" she asked. I nodded, and we worked until I saw the sun.
I made clothes with Addison until lunch the next day. I had to tell Justine what had happened last night. "The bluebird's been trapped," I told her.
"Really?" She remained calm. "What happened to it?"
"A lone cat sneaked up behind it and caught it." The little tale I was telling was short, but enough for Justine to get the message.
She nodded before clamming up and returning to her food. "Come with me," a solider said, grabbing my shoulder. I couldn't fight with him. "And you too." The solider pointed at Justine. Another was with her. She obeyed, too. Even with our Defects, we couldn't fight against them.
They led us up the catwalk and into a building we weren't allowed in. They lead us through lefts and rights, up stairs and down. We eventually made it to an office. Addison was sitting on a plush sofa in front of a desk. A man in a gas mask was sitting behind the desk.
"Thank you, boys," he said to the soldiers. "You are dismissed." The soldiers saluted him before leaving. He turned his attention to us. "Young man, women, you better listen, because I'm only going to say this once."
Justine straightened up. I slouched back. "I am Director Donaven Cantabella of the Recruitment Department of this country's military," he introduced himself. "Essentially, I am in charge of recruiting new men and women to the military. We want people with power, not people without. You are a Defect. That means you have power."
Director Cantabella gazed at each of us. "We separated you to instill a healthy fear of Defects in the rest of the population. You will be the protectors of tomorrow. This camp was created so you would learn discipline and to cooperate with your fellow Defects. Usually, when you turn fifteen, you graduate and join a Boot Camp, but it appears you three don't want that." He paused. "Why?"
I looked at Justine, then Addison. I cleared my throat. "While we may be Defects, while we may have power, we still have free will. We are our own people. You can not decide what should be decided by us. We do not want to join the military; we want to live our our lives. So let us leave this country. Let us defect from this country," I responded. "Let us decide our own future."
"Let us see that," Director Cantabella told us. He spoke into a small intercom on his desk. "Vivian?"
The same girl I saw the night before walked in. Instead of the purple shorts and t-shirt we wore, she had on a piercing blue dress that complimented her figure. "Director Cantabella, Tara," she nodded at us. "I take it you're Justine, and you're Addison?" She nodded towards my friends. Vivian had the same accent as before.
"Wait. You're a telepath, not a mind reader," I pointed out. "How do you know who they are? I didn't say their names."
Vivian twirled a lock of hair around her finger. "Defects can evolve their powers around the age of fifteen," she explained. "That's part of the reason everyone graduates at that age."
"How old are you?" Justine inquired. She looked to be younger than us.
Vivian smirked. "A lady needs to keep some secrets. Her age is always one of them," she explained. "Now, Director Cantabella, do you need me for anything?"
"Yes, thank you," he said. "You heard Tara's speech through the com, yes?" Vivian nodded. "Then, I need you to tell us if what she said is the truth."
"From what I gathered this morning," Vivian answered, hesitating to choose her words, "Tara and her friends honestly want to decide what their future holds for themselves."
"Then tell me this. What do you plan on doing after you leave the country? What would you do for money?" Director Cantabella questioned.
I looked at him. "We want to travel," I replied. "We haven't thought that far, but I'm sure our seamstress and tailor skills will help people."
"That," Director Cantabella said, leaning forward in his chair, "can all be done if you join the military."
Justine shook her head. "Did you not hear anything Tara said?" she asked. "We do not want to become this country's pawns."
Director Cantabella sat there silently. I figured he and Vivian were talking telepathically. He nodded his head. "Tara, Justine, Addison," he said, looking at each of us, "I'm sorry, but I have to do this." He pressed a button which summoned soldiers to his office. "You are a Defect. There is no place for you in civilian life. Take them to isolation."
The soldiers saluted him before grabbing us. I struggled against them. "You can't do this!" I shouted. "You can't do this to us!" Justine fought but to no avail. Addison accepted his fate.
Vivian looked at the ground, a guilty look on her face. "Help us!" I screamed at her. "You helped us before! Please!"
"I'm sorry," she said telepathically. I kept protesting until I couldn't see the office door.
Why did this happen to us? I don't know how long we've been in here. The lights are always on. I lost track of time. It must've surely been years. Right now, a man with a gas mask is sitting in my cell. He's performing maintenance on his gun.
In a corner was a pile of origami figures I folded. It was from my Treasure, a book of blank paper like Vivian's. I couldn't write anything, so I folded and folded. I refolded until I created swans, fishes, frogs, and other things. I created life, even though it was just simple paper.
"So, you're Tara?" he asks. I just lay on my mattress. I haven't said a word in a long time now, not even to hum. I don't want to hear my voice. "I'm Director Fuller. I took Director Cantabella's place when he died." Director Fuller continues when I didn't react. "Now, I'm going to give you the same offer I gave Justine and Addison. You can join the military and leave this place... Addison went. Justine didn't. Of course, there will be a better life for you if you don't go. We need to free up these cells for prisoners, not rebellious Defects."
Addison... he went. I don't know what to think. "No," I croak, my voice raspy from lack of use.
"I thought as much," Director Fuller says, placing his gun back together. "Then, you will live a better life in the Afterlife. Goodbye, Defect." I feel the cold of the muzzle on my temple. I find it fitting my last words were as defiant as we were.
My only regret is that my origami would be stained with my blood.
A/N: Since the contest is over, I will be creating a longer, more in depth rewrite of this. Expect that soon.
Thank you to everyone who voted. :)