Monday, February 14, 2011

Chapter 12

We continued to run. Finally, we stopped at a gas station, panting. “I’ll go change out of this loose uniform,” said Adhit, as he walked into a bathroom at the gas station. “Well, now what?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” asked Megan.
“I mean, the EIS is probably looking for us. Sure, we delayed them by knocking out the guys who saw us, but they’ll recover and tell the heads. And then, we’ll be screwed!”
“We could just run away from them again,” said Gabi.
“And what good would that do?” I snapped. “They’ll catch us! We don’t even know where the crap we are; let alone how to get anywhere!”
“Anita’s right,” said Howard. “We don’t know where we are. We don’t know where to go. We’re lost, dammit!”
“Well… we could take the bus… right?” asked Gabi.
“That’s how me and Adi were caught,” I said.
“Maybe if we’re really careful…?”
“Still. That’d never work.”
“If only someone had a driver’s license!” said Adhit, who had just come out of the bathroom. “Where should I keep this uniform?”
Burn it,” said Gabi. We stared at her in surprise. “Hey, that’s my line!” said a glaring Jennifer.
“Sorry,” said Gabi. “I just hate those stupid guards! I guess you could just trash it or something, but that could be a hint for the EIS.”
“So, burning is a good idea,” said Adhit. “The only problem is how can we light this on fire?”
“We’ll deal with that later,” said Megan. “We have to figure out how to get out of here!”
“Hmmm… maybe the gas station has a map,” suggested Gabi.
“But then we’d need someone with a driver’s license,” said Adhit.
“Must we do this legally?” asked Jennifer.
“I’d rather avoid as much trouble with the law as humanly possible,” Adhit replied.
“Killjoy,” muttered Jennifer.
“Um, I happen to have a driver’s license…” said Howard, slowly.
“That’s great! Everything’s solved!” grinned Gabi.
“But we don’t have a car!” said Howard.
“I could obtain a car using certain… methods,” said Jennifer.
“Do these methods involve the original owner mysteriously disappearing?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Jennifer, “do you have a problem with that?”
“Like Adi said, I’d rather not get into trouble with the law,” I replied.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to,” remarked Howard. “How else can we get a car? Do any of you have any money?”
“Uh… I’ve got fifteen centisythers,” said Adhit.
“I’ve got twelve sythers, a button, and a mouse sticker,” said Megan.
“I’ve got… nuthin’,” said Gabi.
“Oh, come ON! You’ve the CMN of the Goddess of Prosperity! You have to have money!” said Adhit.
“I can’t make money out of thin air (though that would be nice)! My money that I earn myself causes the possessor of the money to be able to make money more easily! That’s all!” said Gabi. “Can’t Megan make a car or something?”
“Actually, I forgot how a car is made, so—” Megan was cut off by the vroom of a car engine. “Jennifer! Where did you get that car? And I thought you didn’t have a driver’s license!” said Megan.
“I don’t have one. And, well, I used those methods to obtain a car,” said Jennifer. She showed a severed head that was still bleeding at the bottom. “EW! Jennifer, I told you, we want to avoid as much trouble as possible!” said Adhit.
“Maybe you people do, but I don’t! Screw laws! And if you’re not using this car because it was ‘stolen,’ then fine! I’ll go off by myself and I’ll have fun breaking laws! Good riddance!” Jennifer yelled, and she drove off.
“That was weird,” said Gabi.
“It’s a good thing she did go. She was only complying with us because she could get out of the prison,” said Howard. “So, now how are we going to get to wherever the heck we’re going to go?”
“I’ll get a map,” said Megan. She went to the gas station building to retrieve a map while we lingered around the building, waiting for her. “I guess we’ll just have to walk,” I sighed.
“Ugh, why can’t we just take a taxi or something?” asked Adhit.
“If someone catches us?” asked Howard.
“Fine. You have a point,” said Adhit. After he said that, Megan returned with the map. “So, where to?” she asked.
“Hmmm, maybe... Eiatras?  I know some people, er, well, yeah, people who live there and might be willing to take us in,” I suggested.
Eiatras? You have to be kidding,” said Gabi. “I couldn’t live in that backwards place!”
“It is pretty far away, though, and the EIS hasn’t actually done anything in that city…” said Howard.
“Let’s go then!” said Adhit.
“What’s the best route?” asked Megan, blue marker appearing in her hand. She spread the map out on the concrete floor. We crowded around the map, kneeling or sitting on the concrete. “The most direct way would be preferred, but we ought to avoid Ycessrp. That’s the place where the disappearances of us Special Ones first appeared,” I said.
“So, we’ll go all the way to Meaihan [may-eye-han] and stop for the day, and then we’ll continue to Eiatras. That okay with everybody?” said Howard.
“Sounds like a plan to me,” I said.
“I’m totally fine with it!” said Gabi.
“Yep. That works,” said Megan.
“I’m fine with it if everyone else is fine with it,” said Adhit, shrugging.
Grrowl! “What was that?!” shrieked Megan.
“I think we ought to buy some food first,” said Gabi, laughing. “That growl came from Howie’s stomach!”
After packing food into our newly bought backpacks (which we had also found inside the gas station store), we started to Meaihan. I’d never walked so far — none of us had — so we ended up resting halfway between the city of the prison and Meaihan. “Why can’t we just take the bus for a little bit of the way?” whined Gabi. “I’m tired. And I’m hungry.”
“No, we can’t!” said Howard. “They might catch us!”
“Where are we, anyway?” asked Adhit. Megan looked at her map. “We’re at Anorklow [aa-nor-clou]. We’re only a quarter of the way to Eiatras! And it’s already two o’clock!” she said.
“We’re screwed,” I said. Everyone muttered their agreement. “Now, what do we do?” asked Howard.
“How about hitchhiking?” suggested Gabi. “The EIS can’t just barge into a private vehicle! Now, they can’t barge into a bus either, technically, but… why would they break into a private car?”
“Could we all fit into a car?” asked Howard.
“Probably not, but we could all definitely fit into a van!” said Megan, pointing excitedly to a white minivan that was approaching us. She stuck her thumb up and waved it frantically. The van screeched to a halt. The front right door opened to reveal a short and slim brunette with shoulder-length hair. “What are a couple of kids like you doing out here all alone?” asked the woman.
“Um, we got lost on…” Adhit hesitated.
“Our school field trip!” I finished. “We were supposed to go on the bus, but we missed it.”
“We were late to school! What a horrible day to be late!” exclaimed Howard. “We’re supposed to go to Eiatras for a history field trip. It would have been so much fun!”  
“Could you please, possibly take us to Eiatras, maybe, if you can, ma’am?” asked Gabi. “I hope we’re not too much of a bother!”
“That’s fine with me!” grinned the woman. “I’m Maria, by the way. You don’t have to keep calling me ‘ma’am.’ So, where in Eiatras do you want me to drop you?”
“Right by Ye Old Bookstore, please,” said Megan.
            “That’s fine by me,” said Maria. “Climb aboard.”

Chapter 11

Over the next few days, we fell into a typical prison routine. We talked to each other, I counted the cracks on the ceiling (there were zero, though, so that wasn’t a good time-killing method. The EIS are very good at maintaining the prison’s walls and ceilings.), I hungered for food, I drank the foul water we were given, and I finally was able to sleep on the prison floor. Anyplace would be better than this.
A prison would have to have a way out, and this prison could not be an exception. I was sick of staying in my dank cell all day, plus I was literally getting sick. I suspected that this sickness must have had something to do with the water we had to drink. “Hey, Howard,” I said softly to Howard, who had sprawled on the prison floor, “do you know of any other exits for this prison.”
“I only know of the main exit through the elevator.” He looked at me, suspiciously. “Why?”
“Eh, it’s nothing. I was just curious.”
Howard looked sadly at me. “The only reason you’d be curious about something like that is because you want to escape, right? Well, it just can’t be done. Believe me, I’ve tried so many times.”
I sighed. “We have to get out of here somehow.”
“There’s always a way!” exclaimed Megan loudly enough to be heard over the groans and moans of the dying prisoners and the chatter of the other prisoners. That caught the attention of the guard patrolling the area. “Yeah, you’re right,” I said, trying to cover for her. “There’s always a way to try and die to get away from this place…” The guard grunted and nodded and kept on patrolling. “Sorry,” whispered Megan. “I got excited.” 
“It’s all right,” I whispered back.
“I really don’t see why we’re even talking about a means of escape,” grumbled Howard. “What part of There is no way out don’t you people understand!”
“A way out? That would be nice,” whispered Adhit.
“I’m sure we can think of something!” grinned Gabi.
“If we can get the crap out of this place, I’ll be glad,” said Jennifer. “At least I’d have more things to kill…and I could get my chainsaw. I miss my chainsaw. I bet it’s not even bloodstained anymore.” We looked at her. “I just like my chainsaw! Now go on with your blabbering,” growled Jennifer.
“You people just don’t listen, do you? There. Is. No. Way. Out,” whispered Howard, loudly.
“Don’t be so depressing, Howie-boy!” said Gabi. “There’s always a way, as Megan said. Now, we just have to think of something!”
“Apparently, I’m useless now,” sighed Howard. “I’ll just go lie down somewhere so that I’m out of your way.”
“No, Howie! We need your experience of the prison to help us!” said Megan. “None of us knows the prison as well as you do!”
“Well, I’ll stick around then. It’s not like I can go anywhere,” said Howard. “And don’t call me ‘Howie.’ Or ‘Howie-boy,’ for that matter.” He glared at Gabi and Megan.
“Awww,” said Gabi.
“So, how do we do this?” I asked.
“Someone would have to distract him somehow,” said Howard, pointing at the guard.
“Does he… like… shiny things?” asked Gabi.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Howard. “He’s a grown man… he wouldn’t care about—“
“Heeeere, guardy, guardy, guardy, guardy!” said Gabi, waving one of her silver meal dishes. The guard took one look at the shiny silver plate and ran over to her cell. “Do you want the shiny pwate? Do you? Oh, yes you do, YES YOU DO!” crooned Gabi. The guard nodded excitedly. How high was the I.Q.s of the prison guards? “Buuut… I can’t give it for free…” The guard’s face fell, and he pouted. “Maybe… I could give it to you for those keys you’ve got!” Gabi said, grinning. The guard growled, “I’m not stupid!” Really? I wouldn’t have been able to guess. “I know you just want the keys because they’re shinier!” I resisted the urge to laugh. Gabi hesitated. “Um… well, I, uh, need some kind of price… um…”
“You need to answer a question!” said Adi. “What’s two plus two?”
“That’s easy!” roared the guard. “It’s twenty-two!”
“Hmmm…WRONG. Try again.”
“Uh… two-y two?”
“Two hundred twenty two!”
“Is this a trick question? It is a trick question! But you can’t fool me! You think you’re so smart, don’t you, with your numbers and callouscuss… calcous… oo-us…”
“Yeah, that. So the answer is… a window!”
“Uh… then it’s…”
“Quick!” whispered Adi, as the guard told his next incorrect answer. “Someone grab the keys while he’s failing to correctly answer my question!” I grabbed the keys from the guard’s belt and handed them to Howard. “It’s done, Adi, now give him the plate,” I whispered. The guard gave another incorrect answer. Adi shook his head, “No, Mr. Guard. Here, let me help you.” Adhit took the guard’s hand and put all but the index and middle finger down. “That’s two and…” He did the same to the other hand. “That’s two. So how many fingers are up?” Howard tried the different keys, and, about five keys later, he unlocked our cell door. “Uh… one, five, one hundred, twenty-two!” said the guard triumphantly. “Now can I have the shiny plate?”
“No, that’s wrong!” Adhit sighed. “Do you know how to count, Mr. Guard?”
“Uh… y-yeah… of course I do! What am I, stupid?”
Howard and I scrambled out of our cage. The tenth key I tried unlocked Megan’s and Jennifer’s cell, and those two ran out, too. “I’ll knock that stupid guard out!” growled Jennifer, and she did just that before anyone could stop her. Megan took the keys and unlocked Adhit’s and Gabi’s cell with the first key she tried. As we ran into the elevator, I asked, “So what’s the plan?”
“Uh…” said Adhit.
“We just… wing it?” asked Gabi.
“We wing it? You’re insane!” I said.
“Yeah, what if the other guards see us?” asked Howard.
“I’ll knock them out. Or make my zombie slaves do it. Whichever,” said Jennifer.
“Somebody should dress as a guard,” said Megan suddenly, as she stopped. “Maybe I’ll do it…?”
“NO!” said Adhit. “Uh, I mean, why strain yourself? I’ll do it!”
“Oh, right. I’d have to lie, and… I can’t do that…” Megan stared between her shoes. “It’s okay, Megan! Maybe you could create something… with your powers…” said Gabi.
“Make me a chainsaw!” suggested Jennifer. This may not have been as much a suggestion as it was a command.
“Uh, okay… what are chainsaws made of again? Oh, right!” said Megan. And in a few seconds, a chainsaw appeared.
Because Megan has the Chosen Mortal Name of the Goddess of Intelligence and Construction, she can create anything as long as she knows what it’s made of. She can then make those “ingredients” appear and make them form whatever she wants them to form.
Megan handed the chainsaw to Jennifer, who then turned it on to check if it worked. Adhit finished donning the guard’s clothes, which were rather loose on him. “Turn off that chainsaw and hide it,” said Adhit to Jennifer. “You guys are going to have to pretend to be prisoners and I’m going to be your ‘escort.’”
“I really don’t think this will work…” cautioned Howard.
“Oh, relax! What could go wrong?” asked Adhit.
He shouldn’t have said that.
Right after we reached the bottom floor, a guard came over to us asked Adhit what he was doing. “Uh, I’m just escorting these prisoners,” said Adhit.
“To where?” asked the guard, looking at him suspiciously.
“To the… other prison… in Eiatras,” said Adhit.
                “There is no other prison, and even if there was, why would it be in Eiatras? SEIZE THEM!” screeched the guard. Other guards came from nowhere (or, more likely, around the first floor) and attempted to seize us. I kicked a guard in the face before he could touch me. Megan jumped out of another guard’s grasp. Jennifer hacked some heads off with her chainsaw, resulting in a bloody mess on the concrete. I quickly dodged another guard and clobbered him until he fell over. And then, we fled. We ran and ran, and never dared look back.

Chapter 10

I had a hard time sleeping on the concrete of the prison floor. Even when I was sleeping under the tree, the grass had made the ground softer for me to sleep on. And my usual insomnia did not help much at all, either. Howard had fallen asleep right away, being used to cell life. He was hugging Sid tightly as he snored. In the neighboring cell, Adhit and Gabi were also sleeping soundly.
It had been quite a week. On Saturday, I had gone on a quest to help a dragon, a phoenix, a few ghosts, a witch, and some elf-children rescue the goddess Scadoosh; Sunday morning, I had arrived at my parents’ place, only to be turned out into the streets; On Monday, I had gone back to school as my non-evil self; from Wednesday onward, Blessed and Cursed Ones started vanishing; and today, Friday, I had discovered that my principal was a part of the EIS and had fled my school to avoid being captured by the EIS, only to get captured by the organization anyway while on the bus, trying to get to Eiatras. Plus, I had met Adhit, Gabi and Howard along the way.
I’d only spent one day in the cell, and I was already sick of prison life. The EIS had forgotten dinner, and lunch was terrible. There was hardly anything to do—what could anyone do in a prison?—and I was tired of talking to people, plus no one I would have wanted to talk to was awake. Was there a way out of this crappy place?
I watched a guard march up and down the aisles of our floor. Guarding a place seemed like a really boring job, and I would have felt sorry for the guy if he hadn’t chosen to join the prejudiced EIS in the first place.
“What the hell are you still doing up?” asked Jennifer, startling me.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I said. “How’d you even know I was awake in the first place?”
“I can see, you know,” said Jennifer. “I’m not blind, and I’m not stupid. You’re obviously not sleeping. It’s hard to sleep sitting up, if not impossible.”
“Oh… so what are you doing up?”
“Same reason. I just couldn’t sleep. Boy, do I hate that principal!”
“And the same to you, little abomination.” Jennifer and I gasped. “YOU? What are you doing here?” exclaimed Jennifer.
“Oh, but you forget! You do remember that I work here, right? I work for the EIS. I was one of the main people who brought it back from its grave. Ring any bells?” asked Mr. Esakon.
“About that…how did you revive the EIS? And why?” I asked. “Why do you hate us so much?”
“Well, since you all are behind bars, I suppose I can reveal some of my past.” Mr. Esakon cleared his throat. “When I was a lad, I went to school, much like you do… or did, anyway. I’m shocked we actually bother teaching you abominations—”
“Abominations, shmabominations. Don’t you have, oh I don’t know, a vocabulary that’s not that of a sixth grader?” interrupted Jennifer.
This had really ticked Mr. Esakon off. He apparently didn’t like being interrupted when giving his hate-filled diatribes. “As I was saying,” he continued, “I went to school, like any normal kid, everyday. I never knew any of the Blessed and Cursed Ones there very well, as they all just did their own thing.
“Then, one day, as I was just minding my own business, I saw a Cursed One stealing from the prize chest! That was absolutely horrible, so I told my teacher all about what had happened. She said that I was very brave for telling her, which made my little fourth-grade heart leap with joy.
“But then, the Cursed One found out, and made my life hell. He called me names, shoved me against walls, and bullied me to no end. I was told by everyone else that that was just how Cursed Ones acted, so I should stay away from them. The Cursed One ended up moving away later.
“So, even then, I had no real problem with you abominations. I became friends with a Blessed One named Karl. He had a name close to the CMN of the god of health. We were very good friends, and we were inseparable.
“But something happened. Something changed at the start of the seventh grade year. Karl started ignoring me, going away from me, avoiding me. I had no idea what was going on, so I kept after him, hoping he’d notice me again and that we could be friends, like in elementary school. Finally, I confronted him, demanding to know why he was ignoring me. And do you know what he said? ‘I can’t be seen with a lowly Regular like you. I’m a Blessed One, therefore, I must stay with Blessed Ones as noble as me. You, a Regular, are weak and can succumb to evil.’ He always talked in that affected tone of voice, as if… as if he was better than me. And that day, I realized that even the Blessed Ones weren’t any good. They were just haughty and boastful. And they treated us Regulars as though we were a separate species. An inferior species of animal. We weren’t even human in their eyes.
“But they are wrong, oh so wrong. Indeed, we Regulars are the only true humans, with our flaws and our strengths. The Blessed are too morally strong, so it causes them to be braggarts, and the Cursed Ones are too morally weak, so they fall into evil easily. We Regulars have the right balance of perfectness and impurities. Therefore, we are the only true humans. Therefore, I agree with the lack of the vote for the Cursed—they’d vote for evil presidents, anyway—but I think this ban should be extended to the Blessed, as well.
“I learned about the EIS just after Karl became my ex-friend—what impeccable timing!—and I realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought like this. I officially became a member of the EIS when I was eighteen, and I attended every meeting, making suggestions and trying to be as involved as possible. Later, I ran for various positions, most recently co-president. So now I am co-president of the EIS for the Rirsocet County division, and I thought of the kidnapping of the fifty or so Special Ones around Rirsocet County. It sure did bring considerable media attention to us, and now, we’re kidnapping more and more of the Special Ones, so that, sooner or later, we can be rid of you all!”
Jennifer and I looked at him for a few moments, and then I asked, “That’s… great, Mr. Esakon, but why are you telling us all this? Just because you can justify your actions doesn’t mean that your actions of discrimination and hate are any more okay with us.”
“Hah. Do I care what you ‘Special Ones,’” he made the “quote” signs with his fingers as he said “Special Ones,” “think? I think not. Why should I care about what you abominations think? You all are obviously going to think my brilliant plan is bad because you think you’re so dang special. But none of your ‘specialness’ is going to save you from your destiny. You all will be ash in a matter of weeks!” And he cackled just like the evil people do in movies.
“Oh yeah?” yelled Jennifer. “Well, you’ll become a bloody carcass in a matter of minutes!” With that, Jennifer lunged at him with knives that I was surprised she still had. I’d have thought that the guards took the weapons away from her when they took her here…
“Will I really?” asked Mr. Esakon, without the slightest bit of worry on his face. “Do go on. I’d love to have video footage that I can use to convince the fickle public that you Cursed Ones are dangerous and need to be killed immediately.” He pulled out a tiny video camera from his pocket. “I’m waiting,” he said. Jennifer glared at him and put her knives away. “That’s a good little abomination,” Mr. Esakon said, patronizingly. He patted her on the head as she growled. “I love it when you get frustrated and yet cannot do anything about it. You all are powerless, you know. Not even your powers can help you.” Jennifer clenched her teeth and growled, “Get him!” The dead prisoners’ bodies rose in traditional zombie stances and walked toward Mr. Esakon. Oh, that was right: as one Cursed with Jenisifydincneiwa’s CMN, Jennifer could control zombies. That was probably the coolest power out of all the powers that we Special Ones had. Mr. Esakon took one look at the zombies, screamed like a little girl, and ran out of the room, yelling, “You wretched abominations!”
“That. Was. Epic,” I told Jennifer. Jennifer shrugged. “It was nothing. Go away, my servants!” she commanded the zombies, who then returned to their original positions and lay back down as if nothing had happened. “Now, will you shut up? I’ve had enough distractions for one night. I need to get back to killing these butterflies while they’re sleeping. Ugh, I wish I still had my chainsaw…”
“They took your chainsaw away?”
“Duh. If they had let me have my chainsaw, I would have hacked their heads off or cut the bars of this stupid prison. What would I still be doing here, smart one?” Her words were dripping with sarcasm.
“But then… how did you have your knives and stuff?”
“I made them from the metal plates that they give the food in.”
“You know how to make weapons?”
Jennifer sighed and rolled her eyes. “No, duh. No salesclerk in their right mind would sell knives and stuff to me, a Cursed One. That’s just asking for trouble, according to them, ‘cuz they are prejudiced bastards. So, my parents taught me how to make weapons out of metal. I’ve been doing it since I was five.”
“Since you were five?” I knew Jennifer had been raised in an evil household, but I hadn’t expected her to have been handling weapons at that tender of an age.

“Yup. Why are you so surprised? I was always a bit more violent than normal.” That was an understatement. Jennifer had been hacking off heads with chainsaws before most of us had been rattling off our multiplication tables. “So, are you done blabbing? As I said, I have butterflies to kill.
I wish there were more things to kill other than butterflies.” She looked at Megan. “I would kill her, but she’s my main form of entertainment. This prison would be friggin’ boring otherwise. It’s certainly entertaining to freak her out with my slaughtering of butterflies and my swinging the knives around in the air.” She proceeded to slice butterflies, slamming the knife into their bodies. “I swear, they must plant these things in here or something.”

Chapter 9

I had this chapter and chapters 10, 11, and 12 done already in November, but I never posted them. So, here's Chapter 9! AND I WILL FINISH...SOMEDAY. BUT I SHALL FINISH!
We weren’t gagged, but we did have our hands tied behind our backs. The rope hurt like crazy. “Hey, Adi,” I asked. “What do you think they’re going to do to us?”
“I have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s bound to be bad,” responded Adi.
“I hope it won’t be too horrible!” said a voice. Adhit and I turned to see a slightly chubby girl with curly brown hair. “Sorry! I just love being involved in conversations, so I talk even when I’m not being talked to… My name is Gabi, by the way,” said the girl.
“You’re so lucky,” said Adhit. “People would take the money you pay happily because it’s blessed, but my money causes people to be greedy, so it’s hard for me to buy stuff.”
“At least people don’t take too much advantage of you,” Gabi pointed out. “Since my name is close to the CMN of Gabbeiriliara, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, people try to mooch as much money as they can off of me.”
“And I forgot to mention… my name’s Adhit, but you can call me Adi,” said Adhit. “And she’s Anita.” He pointed at me.
“Hi,” I said. “Sorry that you have to stuck with us Cursed Ones.”
“Nah, it’s fine! I don’t care, really, as long as I have someone to talk to. If I don’t, I go crazy!” said Gabi. “I wonder who else here is Cursed?” She didn’t get an answer. I looked around and saw that people were either lost in their own world or asleep. “So, how’d you guys get caught?”
We told Gabi our stories. “Aw, that has to suck! And you guys were close to escaping!” she said, sympathetically. “I wasn’t even trying to escape. I didn’t know even about the EIS—I just don’t keep up with current events. I don’t watch the news; it’s boring! I should have, though. So I was volunteering at Eitgerha Park to help little kids make crafts. I love little kids! They’re so cute.  And I love arts and crafts. It lets me be creative! And the little kids are so creative! Well, when they’re not trying to eat the glue, anyway…
“And so, when I was helping them, these people came in—they looked like regular people, too—and they looked at me and asked, ‘What is your name?’ I presumed that they were just curious, so I said, ‘Gabi.’ And then, before I knew it, they were dragging me away into this truck! So I asked them why they were kidnapping me, and they told me all about the EIS and their ideals.”
“If they can even be called ideals,” I snorted. “I hate all this name discrimination. But, wow, I feel lucky! I, at least, knew about the EIS and knew what they were going to do, so I had an advantage…”
“But your own principal was a part of the EIS! So that undermines any advantage you might have had,” Gabi pointed out. Just then, the truck jerked to a halt. “I wonder what awaits us here…” muttered Adi, reflecting all of our thoughts.
Of course the building the EIS would put us in would be drab. What kind of prison would it be if it wasn’t? It was completely gray with no windows but many stories. I tried to wriggle out of my “escort’s” grip, but he was far too strong. “You’re not going anywhere,” he growled, as his grip tightened on my shoulder.
When the guard opened the glass door, I nearly gagged. The stench was awful! It smelled like manure. I supposed that they didn’t have plumbing here. The dim lighting allowed me to see the prison, but the sight of the sorry place wasn’t much better than the smell. At least the aisle was clean. On the sides of the aisle where we walked, there were cells holding some rather emaciated looking people. I wondered if the EIS even bothered to feed their prisoners. It probably didn’t get much money, so it must have decided that food for the prisoners was unnecessary. Some of the cells had carcasses, too, with rotting flesh that didn’t make the stink much better.
We turned a couple of corners, seeing more of the abomination freak show. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to becoming skeleton-skinny; I was already rather slim, underweight, to be precise. Then we stopped at an elevator, the only hint of modern technology in the place. One of the guards pushed the up button. Ding! The elevator opened its doors to reveal a spotless interior.
I felt the ground push up as the elevator traveled to its destination. I looked at the panel of buttons. “11” was lit up. I gulped. At least there weren’t any windows up there to reveal exactly how high up we were. I despise heights with a vengeance. I failed PE once because we had to rock climb. I couldn’t even get one foot off the ground. The PE teacher, a large and gruff woman named Mrs. Fwirsole, had taken no pity on me (she never took pity on anyone) and gave me an F because I “didn’t participate.” Thankfully, that was in eighth grade, so it didn’t count for my final transcript.
Ding! We reached the eleventh story, and it was no better than the first floor. We kept walking until we reached a cell. Our guards then unlocked it and shoved us inside. The ground felt a bit sticky. Ew. I looked at the ground to see what I had rested my hand on. “You might want to get out of the bloody area. Just a suggestion.” I turned toward the source of the voice to see a black-haired boy wearing a slightly worn blue T-shirt and some jeans. “Did someone die here or something?” I asked.
“Yeah, my old cellmate wasn’t cooperating with the EIS, so they killed him. And that’s how the blood came,” he replied. “And, by the way, most people would introduce themselves by this time.”
“Oh. Well, I’m Anita,” I said. “And who are you?”
“I’m Howard,” he replied. “Hmm, Anita, eh? So, you were named after Anilokalmosia?”
“Yes, that is true,” I said.
“You’re dressed rather modestly for someone who’s got a name close to the CMN of the goddess of seduction.” I glared at him. “What? It’s true!”
“Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it has to be mentioned,” I said. “I could easily point out that for someone Cursed with the Chosen Mortal Name of Houaaremwint, the God of Jealousy, you sure don’t have much for someone to be jealous of.”
“Touché. And—hey! Watch where you sit! You nearly sat on Sid!”
“Sid?” I looked underneath where I was sitting and saw a stuffed squirrel. “You still have a stuffed animal with you? How’d you even get it in here?”
“I snuck it in. And, yeah, I even still sleep with him—not it—at night. What’s it to ya?”
“…The second to last sentence that you just said sounded… wrong…”
“Yeah, thanks, I, uh, just realized that…” He turned red. “Anyway, welcome to this dump.”
“Uh, thanks?”
“You’re welcome. I figured that the EIS guard-person didn’t ‘welcome’ you here properly, and you deserve some sort of welcome.”
“You’ve got a point. Huh. Where are Adi and Gabi?”
“Who and who?”
“Yo, Neetu, we’re over here!” I looked at the neighboring cell and saw Adhit and Gabi. “I thought I told you that I don’t go by nicknames,” I told Adhit.
“It’s easier to say ‘Neetu’ than ‘Anita,’” said Adi.
“So, Howard,” I said, turning back to my cellmate, “That’s Adi, as you may have gathered. His full first name is Adhit. And the girl is Gabi.”
“Ah, I see. Hi, people,” he said. “Oh, and by the way, Anita,” he turned back to me, “don’t sit over at that back left hand corner. That’s, um… well, you’d see if you looked there… ” I looked at the corner, but was darkened due to the lack of working lights above it. I walked near the corner, but I noticed that the stench worsened as I went closer to it and then I noticed a pile of brown… stuff. Now I knew where the “bathroom” was.
A guard dressed in actual military clothes (as opposed to the regular clothes of our “escort” guards) strolled through the aisle and stopped by every cage. “Yum. Lunch is served,” said Howard. “Don’t get your hopes up. It’s prison food under a tight budget.” The guard unlocked our cell door and slipped in a tray with two dishes that contained grayish goop that looked like oatmeal. “Enjoy your meals, abominations!” he jeered, as he continued walking through the aisle.
Howard looked at the meal with indifference. “As much as I hate prison food, they did remember to give us something to eat this time. They don’t always, as you can probably tell from the emaciated prisoners,” he remarked.
“Yeah, I could gather that,” I said. I took a bowl of the food—if it could be called food—and ate a spoonful. It tasted too bitter for my taste, so I ate the food quickly so that I wouldn’t have to taste it. At the end, I thought I felt the food come up my esophagus. “Wow, you’re fast,” remarked Howard.
“Eh, I just wanted to get the food over with, so I ate quickly, trying to taste it as little as possible,” I replied.
“Anita, is that you?” That voice sounded familiar. I looked at the cell next to mine and saw Megan. I grinned. “Who else would I be?”
“I’m so glad to see you!” Her smile quickly turned into a frown, though. “But I was hoping that that mean principal Mr. Esakon wouldn’t be able to send you here! How was my clone like?”
“I actually escaped from Mr. Esakon… only to be caught on the bus, later,” I said. “And your clone definitely was not like you. The first thing she did was insult Mr. Sifuhn.”
“Oh, how terrible! Was Mr. Sifuhn mad?”
“No, just really confused. As was the rest of the class.”
“Will you two shut up! I’m trying to burn these stupid butterflies that a guard let in,” said Jennifer, who was apparently Megan’s cellmate.
“You can’t burn butterflies! They only bring joy into our lives!” said Megan.
“WHICH IS WHY THEY MUST DIE! I HATE ANYTHING THAT BRINGS JOY!” And Jennifer turned toward the monarch butterflies that she was trying to burn, but they weren’t there. “Now look what you did!” she screeched. “You let them get away! I hate you [unprintable word]ing do-gooders!”
Megan pouted. “I don’t like my cellmate very much. Can you introduce me to your cellmate?” she asked.
“Sure. Howard, wanna introduce yourself?”
“Uh, okay,” said Howard. “Hi, I’m Howard. And you are?”
“I’m Megan,” said Megan. “And—ooh, is that a stuffed squirrel?”
“Um, yes. Please do not insult me because of him.”
“Why would I insult you? That squirrel is sooo cute! And do you still sleep with him at night?” I snickered. “What? I was just asking him a question,” said Megan, genuinely confused.
“Just… just forget it.” I chuckled. “Go on.”
“Um, yes… I, uh, hug Sid while sleeping.”
“Oh, is Sid the name of the squirrel? How cute!”
“Um… thanks?” Howard reddened.
“So… how did you end up here?” asked Megan.
“Some EIS members invaded my house,” said Howard.
“Ooh, that’s like how I got caught,” remarked Adhit. “And your parents didn’t try to stop them, did they? That’s what happened with me.”
“Actually, my parents did try to stop them. I’m fortunate to have parents like them. They genuinely care for me, even though I ruin their reputation. It’s nice to have parents who don’t give a crap about what other people think and instead do what they feel is right. Never have I ever felt that I was a punishment to my parents. Never!” Howard sighed. “I really miss them.”
“Aww, Howie, don’t worry! We’ll get out of here somehow so that you can see your parents again!” said Megan. Howard smiled. “Thank you, Megan,” he said. “That’s reassuring. But this place has really tight security. Anyway, the EIS people forcibly pulled me away from my parents, and, before I knew it, I was put in the truck and then I ended up here.” He hugged Sid, looking almost vulnerable. “Hey, Howie-boy,” said Jennifer. “How old are you, anyway?”
“Eighteen. What’s it to you?” said Howard.
Boy, you sure look like a five-year-old with that stupid stuffed squirrel. You’we thooo cuute!” Jennifer said, mockingly.
“I think you’re really funny,” said Howard. “Especially the way you think I actually care about your opinions.”
“Jennifer, don’t be mean!” said Megan.
“Come on, you know I can’t be anything but mean, cotton brain,” snorted Jennifer. “Telling me to not be mean is like telling… well, you, to not be nice. It’s not possible, you know, ya moron!”
“That is true,” admitted Megan. “I just wish we had a choice on these sorts of things… being ‘Blessed,’ I think, is just being Cursed in a way more acceptable to your parents. I hate being ‘Blessed.’”
That caught Adi’s and Gabi’s attention. “But why?” asked Adhit. “How is being Blessed anything like being Cursed? How is all the attention you get, all the praises you’re showered with, how is all that like being ostracized by society, being mocked and teased, or being neglected by your parents?!”
“I’m not saying it is!” complained Megan. “Being Cursed is horrible, and I know I’m in a slightly more favorable situation by being Blessed…”
“‘Slightly’? That’s an understatement if I ever heard one,” muttered Adi.
“Please, just hear me out,” said Megan, patiently. “I think being Blessed robs me of opportunities to be the very best and pious that I can be…”
“Oh, please. Being Blessed forces you to be the very best and pious you can be!” exclaimed Jennifer.
“Please, just let me go on,” said Megan, calmly. “To be the best you can be, you have to be faced with adversity. You need temptation to go over to the dark side, you need to know what the evil side has to offer you, and then, while knowing all that you can gain by being evil, refuse to join that side because you are strong enough to overcome that temptation! That’s what makes someone really good; that’s what makes someone pious! I’ve just been living life without any adversity. I’m naïve! I don’t know about the temptation of the evil side. So how am I better than a Regular who manages to stay good through all the tempting of evil? I’m not better, and I can never be better. I can’t be the very best I can be. Some Blessing I got!” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Aw, but I’m being selfish… it’s not that bad! But I still can’t help but wish that I could be the most pious… I just want to be the best I can be. But I can’t!” Megan sighed.
So, even the Extremely Blessed weren’t happy with the gods’ method of punishing and blessing, and they were supposed to enjoy the gods’ reward. That only went to prove that the gods’ system was flawed.