The pistol was pressed against the back Alex Freedman’s head and he wondered how this had happened. He was kneeling with his hands on the back of his neck, fingers interlaced, legs crossed right over left. He could hear the ticking of the watch on the wrist of the arm that held the gun. It read 3:10pm.
Before him was a long trench. It seemed to stretch on forever, but all he couldn’t turn his head to see its expanse. In the trench there were bodies, all in varying stages of decay. The smell was pungent and nauseating. Death filled the air. Alex had put it out of his mind.
Flies swarmed around the bodies. A seemingly infinite number of them. All floating over and around like black clouds hovering, descending and then hovering gain. Beneath the flies there were the maggots, crawling on and in the corpses. There were so many flies at times they obscured the bodies completely. As they ebbed and flowed and the bodies were revealed, obscured and revealed again.
His eyes searched for a constant and settled on the face of a young woman. She would have been quite pretty, but for the maggots wiggling in her eye sockets and the flies swarming her face. He stared at her, his gaze fixed just above where her eyes once were. He didn’t bother to consider what circumstances brought her to this place. It could have been any number of things.
The pistol was only inches above his hands. In between moments of reflective panic, he fantasized about grabbing it and staging a kind of Hollywood escape. He thought about this several times while he awaited the inevitable. His mind was like a trampoline, thoughts bounced from historical inquiry to heroic fantasy. Mostly though, he wondered how he got here. The stress of it all caused his mind to break from reality periodically. It was a kind of ‘coming up for air’ in the hopeless attempt to keep from breaking down.
He broke down anyway, and now he was crying. The man behind him was speaking, but not to him. Across the ditch there was a camera crew filming the spectacle. They had tightened in on Alex, tears running down his face, and the gun pressing against his head. Every now and then, when the man spoke, he pressed the pistol harder and Alex lurched forward. It was his only defense against the barrel digging into his skin.
The man behind him was Eric Stretsel. Alex knew him. He was a cop in Alex’s home town and until this morning, he hadn’t seemed like that bad of a guy. He was the type of cop you’d wave to if he drove by or if you passed him on a road detail. Alex hadn’t ever really talked to him, he didn’t know him well, but, he was a familiar face around town who always seemed friendly.
For Alex it was only a couple hours ago that it had started. But according to the bodies in the trench, he figured it had really started a while ago. Staring at the once pretty face of an earlier victim, he had a sense that, for him, everything before now had been leading to this moment. Like it was some inescapable destination that no amount of reliving could alter or change. Destiny, he thought.
This moment, and all the moments before it, were bigger than him. He was a nobody, from nowhere. A novice writer from a tiny central Massachusetts town. Today had been his first taste of success. Today of all days. The dawning of his career, his budding dream. Today he had received his first acceptance letter.
The piece, which really hadn’t garnered any mainstream attention, seemed to catch on with the left leaning audience. Could that have been what singled him out? A barely acknowledged story condemning government policy? Maybe. He was a nobody in the wrong place at the wrong time, writing about the wrong things.
The inescapability of it all came back to him. What had happened to the world to even allowed him to be in such a situation? Images flashed in his mind. Thoughts of growing violence and intolerance. Thoughts of state nationalism and patriotism. But, most of all, the selfish narcissism. The cold apathy towards other human beings. The disconnect. A prevailing ignorance and the mind boggling arrogance that protected it like an impenetrable shell.
Ignorance. Ignorance and apathy. His mind had sought shelter in the how and why of this befuddling conundrum and now almost an epiphany. It made him smile despite the circumstances. Such a novel epiphany that he could never share and no one would ever hear. Wasn’t that the paradox of the thing? Ignorance and apathy ensured that no one would listen, even if he could tell.
No one would listen. That was the truth. No one had listened. No one believed that this day would come. No one considered that this was the inevitable outcome to the equation. There was no way to change this moment. The epiphany that struck him now was not new, it had been there all along, waiting for the catalyst.
Presently, Alex remembered the speeches on T.V.. The polarization of the public. He remembered the rigidity that took hold of everyone and how fixated they were. He remembered how certain groups were set against other groups and how certain groups curried favor and accentuated the ideals of those in power.
Long before the speeches, there was a rift. The speeches just widened it. They empowered some people with the idea that they were right beyond question. They provoked them into thinking that they were superior in their unquestionable rightness. They stoked a smoldering fire that had been burning for centuries.
Following the speeches there were laws and government mandates and smear campaigns and propaganda, but all of that was just the breeze blowing on the rekindled flame. The Erics of the world had their permission and darkness began to unfold.
The ground was cold, wet. It soaked his jeans and disrupted his train of thought. He was aware of the moment again. Like an itch that summons you from the cusp of sleep, pre-sleep dreams ripped away re-exposing the bitter reality. The change of focus, a random personal discomfort, seemed odd and out of place.
The watch ticked on. It was 3:13 pm.
He felt the barrel of the pistol press into the back of his head harder now.
“Any last words?” Eric’s voice said, almost yelling. There was a queer excitement in the man’s voice. A hopefulness. I sort of pride that he took from his work being transmitted through the acoustics.
Alex said nothing.
Eric Stretsel thought himself a good cop. He had started off as a part-timer working in two different towns, but had since been offered a promotion to full time in one of them. It was an easy job. Speed traps, DUIs, the occasional disturbance or domestic call. Mostly just a lot of down time driving around town or going to court.
He liked the feeling of authority he had walking down the street or driving around in his squad car. Eric’s life had not always been a pleasant one. When he was a child he was bullied and picked on and it only subsided after he hit a growth spurt in middle school. His husky frame added six inches and fifty pounds and by high school he as one of the bigger kids. From there, the tables turned and Eric found that intimidation and threats were his best defense. Looking back on it, this was his first real taste of authority and power.
In his senior year that he discovered what he wanted to do. By then he had made a name for himself and loved the pseudo respect he got by making people afraid of him. Going into law enforcement seemed like a perfect fit and he never looked back.
Six months into his full time gig, things really started to get interesting. The past years election had seen his candidate win and he really liked this guy. As a lifelong republican he took the law and order slogan to heart, when it suited him, and now a lot of the rhetoric that was being thrown around really spoke to him.
It was around this point that grant money became available and it was Eric who lobbied his chief to go after it. He was tasked with writing up the request. The grant wasn’t particularly difficult to get. It was being targeted at the smaller departments in rural towns where the new administration’s base primarily lived.
The grant money was to bolster ‘special programs’ within the departments. These programs promised ‘special’ training seminars, ‘special’ equipment, and even ‘special’ privileges. Eric didn’t know what the last part was about, but decided it didn’t sound too bad. Besides, just the training and equipment would be great on his resume. Hell, if he ever decided to run for chief, which was an elected position in his town, the ability to say he got the equipment would really shine.
A package came in the mail, with a turn around time he thought impossible for tightwad politicians. He opened it and smiled. Funding approved. His paid training was to start at the beginning of the next month, only three weeks away. Over the moon, Eric went about the rest of the month jovial and handed out extra speeding tickets. He made his quota by the end of the week, when usually he was pushing it till the end of the month. No more of that from here on out, he thought. ‘Special’ training demanded ‘special’ dedication.
A week before his departure he received his itinerary in the mail along with his plane tickets and the identification he would need to access the facility. “No ID, no admittance,” the paperwork stated several times, twice in bold print. Eric got the feeling this was some pretty top secret shit.
Training began on the first of March. It was a beautiful sunny day in Virginia. The temperatures were forecast to reach the low 60’s which was a welcome change to the upper 30’s he was used to.
The first day was an exam and two interviews. The process was simply referred to as the Test and that made Eric nervous. Nothing he read had mentioned anything about testing and he wasn’t optimistic. Being a small town cop in backwater USA hadn’t been kind to his physical condition and all he could imagine were physical fitness tests.
He waited in a waiting room with the other recruits until his name was called along with others. They were all escorted into another room with computer stations lining the walls. Screens displayed a multiple choice exam specifically designed for this screening. It consisted of questions about patriotism, terrorists, ‘illegal aliens’, and ‘thugs.’ It all seemed like common knowledge to Eric, who, if asked, would of adamantly denied being a racist.
After the exam he was showed to another waiting room. His nerves spiked again imagining pushups and situps, but instead they were taken, one at a time, for their interviews.
The first interview was with a psychologist, which made him uncomfortable because he didn’t believe in all the psycho-babble bullshit, but again he was surprised when the questions were more related to how he would handle himself in different situations, most of which pertained to the same categories he covered in the multiple choice exam.
The second interview was more like a job interview. Three men, in military uniforms he didn’t recognize, asked him a series of questions about his politics and life history. They said they were from a newly formed intelligence agency, but neglected to name it. Eric didn’t ask.
After the second interview there was a bus waiting to take everyone back to the hotel. Normally after a test Eric felt filled with self doubt, but not this time. There was no doubt in his mind that he had aced it. When he got back to his room, he found that his self confidence was not misplaced. A package was waiting. In it, a congratulatory letter welcoming him to the program and a new uniform he was to wear throughout the training.
4am came quick after only a couple hours of sleep. He got cleaned up and put the uniform on. He admired himself in the mirror for a couple of minutes, then finished getting his things in order. He needed to get down to the lobby, the bus that left at 5am sharp, with or without him.
The training facility was at a different location than the test. It looked like an old factory, which seemed strange at first. The whole thing was surrounded by two fences; an exterior chain link fence that was set up with privacy slats; and about fifteen feet behind it, an interior chain link fence, with no slats. The tops of both were strung with razor wire. The entrance gates were manned by four guards holding m16 rifles.
He was impressed and a little concerned by the security of the place. He thought that this must be really unique training. There was a moments swell of pride and that he was especially honored to have been admitted to the program.
Eric was right about one thing, It was unique training and great pains had been taken to ensure that those recruited for it were particularly geared towards it. There was no mistake in choosing Eric. He wasn’t special or particularly gifted. He was the product of sifting. The new intelligence agency, the one without a name, had gone to great lengths to define the exact characteristics their new recruits would embody. They made sure that the training was specially honed to accentuate precisely the behavior they demanded. As it turned out, cops, especially small town cops, always fit the bill.
It was no surprise then that Eric met a number of people just like him. The training session was focused on law enforcement from the New England area. He was assigned to a team of twenty other people from central Massachusetts, some of whom he recognized. They all hit it off, the way people do when they come together in shared purpose, but still it all felt organic, almost like divine providence.
They received training on new methods for dealing with suspects, ‘Identification and Approach’, the training was called. It came as no surprise to Eric that the training focused on minority groups. It attributed criminal behavior to a hatred and jealousy for white people. He had always believed as much and was glad he didn’t have to cater to the ‘politically correct’ crowd here. He half suspected his beliefs were part of the reason he was chosen, but rejected the notion in favor of the more self gratifying idea that he was a true patriot and dedicated to ‘justice.’
Eric was also given training in how to get around a lot of the red tape involved in arresting or detaining people. There was a lot of legal study which he wasn’t thrilled about, but the classes really just boiled down to the things he needed to say, and specific actions he needed to take, to ensure his own actions were never called into question. This was easy enough because he had long been skirting the line and this was just an advanced course in what he had already knew.
Finally, as the training wound down, he learned about the ‘special’ privileges he would be entitled to afterwards. First, he would now answer directly to the field officer assigned to his region. Technically he would still be subordinate to the chief of his town, but the orders of the field officer superseded those of the chief and even the local courts, as it were. His position made him a member of the newly formed intelligence agency. As such, his primary task was to keep track of, disrupt, and detain ‘undesirables’.
The officers at the training explained that there were numerous laws and restrictions imposed on existing agencies in regards to the surveillance and detention of American citizens, however, through the incorporation of the local law enforcement agencies, they were able to tighten up the holes those restrictions created. Eric thought it made sense to recruit people on the ground familiar with the lay of the land, anyway. He, like the rest of the recruits, knew the people of his community, who to watch out for, who might be assets, and who were definite threats.
At the graduation ceremony in April he was awarded a certificate of completion, an armband he was to wear with his police uniform, a new badge, and a wrist watch. He was also given special clearance and assigned to a local ‘fraternity’ consisting of the people he had trained with. They were ordered to meet once a week to debrief each other about their areas, and share intelligence regarding ‘enemy’ movements.
For most of Eric’s life he had thought he was destined for something bigger. Law enforcement had made him feel like he was apart of something, but this, this new responsibility, really made him think that he had finally found what it was he was meant to do.
Alex Freedman life was boring, both by his own assessment, as well as pretty much everyone else. He had a part time job, no social life and he fancied himself a writer. A writer he was, in the sense that he wrote things. A writer he wasn’t, in the sense that no one ever read what he wrote. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that his greatest successes still lay in front of him. Nevertheless, he continued to toil at his desk creating one story after another after another and piling up one rejection slip after another after another.
Rejection was a part of it, Alex knew. He didn’t really write for success or money. God knew he didn’t do it for money. No, Alex wrote to escape. To escape from his boring life and the world that encompassed it. It was somewhat ironic then that his writing was mostly about the world. His stories explored confronting and destroying it. Not so much the world itself, but the things he saw as supporting all the misery and injustice in it.
It was this kind of writing that he hoped to make his name with. Much of it was science fiction, with some of it loosely based on his day to day life, but all of it was focused on the problems he saw with the world. Alex was what some might consider a radical. His views were not mainstream, and the more he explored them, the less tolerant he became of anything resembling mainstream.
This intolerance did not help at his job. The more ‘radicalized’ he became the more confrontational he felt. Although he tried to keep it too himself, he couldn’t hide the disdain in his demeanor.
Already having no friends in the small, conservative, town, he found himself growing even more distant from people. Instead, he just began retreating more and more into his writing and the worlds he created. Often times this served as a good venting mechanism, although his characters didn’t fare too well in the midsts of the hurricane that was his frustration.
It was one such article that finally caught the attention of a leftist magazine, The Comrade Quarterly. The Quarterly was a small rag, but it catered to the real fringe of the leftist movement, so its size fit its audience. Alex had been submitting stories to them regularly and a decent portion of his rejection slips had the old CQ letter head at the top of them. The acceptance letter he received in mid June put a smile on his face. He hadn’t really smiled in a long time.
If he was being honest, he’d have told you how discouraged he was getting by all the rejections. He was already a depressed person and the continuous failing that was his writing, was really starting to wear on him.
An acceptance letter from CQ seemed to right his ship. Not only did it seem to validate his writing, but it also validated his view of himself as a real radical leftist. It was, by all accounts, a major breakthrough for him, both for his career and his confidence in himself.
The piece they accepted was a short story about the rise of fascism in a small town. It was a very thinly veiled critique about the government and the role the police played as the new brown shirts. The story had a happy ending in which the protagonist inspired the town to recognize the threat and unify in solidarity against injustice.
The happy ending, Alex had thought, was the biggest piece of fiction of the whole story. In fact, a close reading suggested that the happy ending was really just the beginning of a greater struggle, one in which Alex’s hero would quite probably be crushed. But, he realized that happy endings were more inspirational, so, he forced himself to keep the real ending as something to look for rather than narrate.
Living in a small conservative town with no friends, Alex found that he had to celebrate his success alone. He couldn’t help but feel eyes on him when he went to the local package store to buy some celebratory beer. He didn’t think it was his imagination that the cashier was rude, after she had been overly pleasant to the man before him. None of it mattered though, he was a published writer now.
As he got into his truck, a beat up Ford Ranger, the church bells rang out 1pm. He headed home, only a couple minutes up the street, thinking it was going to be a very good day.
Eric had been back in town for a couple of months. It was mid June and he had gotten new marching orders from his field officer. His one month review saw him awarded a golden star for excellence, but this new assignment had really amped up his motivation. Up until now, his responsibilities consisted of detaining, detention, and transfer. Now he had been promoted to deliveries as well. The job title was ‘Closer.’
Since his return he had detained fifteen people for ‘processing,’ as it was being termed. Eric didn’t know what that entailed, but he didn’t care either. All he knew was that he was doing good work and that is what he told everyone. This new position would clue him in on the behind the scenes and today was his first opportunity to give it a test drive.
It never struck him as unusual that he didn’t have to appear in court. He was told that the reports he filed would be testimony enough. The new agency didn’t want to bog down their agents with lost hours in courtrooms for obvious deviants and dissidents. Eric fully supported the policy. He never liked going to court, it pissed him off that he had to answer questions about his arrests. Him being reviewed by some sniveling civilians who didn’t have a clue what he did. Him being questioned about his motives and actions when these people never once set foot in the field, it was an insult to his honor and integrity. He despised the process, beyond the field work, because it was his ass out here on the line and how dare anyone question his judgment.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Eric hated the courts. They were a circus, in his opinion, and a waste of time. He knew what was going on on his streets and he was the best authority to respond to it. The courts were just there for the criminals to weasel their way out of guilt on a technicality. This new system was almost perfect, he thought. His reports sealed the deal and he stayed out on the streets taking down the bad guys. He appreciated a system that valued his word as expert testimony and his instincts as highly tuned resources vital for sniffing out traitors and criminals.
The new marching orders Eric received were about a suspect driving a Ford Ranger. He knew the vehicle instantly and wasn’t at all surprised. The suspect, a scrawny guy no one liked, always waved when he drove by. Eric, of course, smiled and waved back, but then, that’s what he was supposed to do to keep up the image. He was like a hunter stalking his prey. Keep them off guard, act like one big happy family, until it was time to drop the hammer.
The orders were light on explanation as to why the suspect was being detained, but Eric didn’t need one. With his new authority he could detain anyone without explanation and if they resisted, he was well within his rights to subdue them by any means he felt necessary. Two weeks ago he shot someone who ‘resisted.’ It was the first time Eric had discharged his gun on duty and he felt the suspect deserved it.
Eric didn’t anticipate too much trouble with this new assignment. In this instance, he would probably play up the old community cop routine and ask them to come down to the station for questioning. It didn’t really matter what the questioning was about, as soon as they were in the back of the squad car, they were his property. Still, if there was trouble, he doubted anyone in town would care if he had to use his gun again. This particular person had rubbed people the wrong way, no one would miss them.
On his way over to the suspects house, Eric spotted the Ranger. This would go even easier if he caught him while driving, there were a hundred excuses he could use to pull someone over. Broken tail light, failure to use a blinker, speeding, driving erratically, expired registration, expired inspection sticker, hell, he had once pulled someone over for low tire pressure. Once they were stopped, the sky was the limit. He could insist on anything and if they refused, boom! They were resisting and he owned their ass.
This was probably the part of the job that Eric liked the most. He was untouchable. This was his little kingdom, and as long as he didn’t piss off the people that mattered, he could railroad and harass anyone he wanted to, no questions asked.
Eric flipped the lights on the chirped the siren when he saw the Ranger.
Alex saw the cop car in his rear view and put his blinker on to pulled over. He was sure that Eric was just going to fly by him on a call, but instead he pull up behind him. He started to dig out his wallet from his back pocket, trying to think what it was that he had done. He always got nervous at times like these, his throat clench and he started to shake.
Eric waked to the driver’s window.
“License and registration.” Eric said.
Alex handed the documents through the window.
“You know why I pulled you over?” Eric asked.
“No, sir.” Alex said, honestly confused.
Eric liked the word ‘sir,’ it was things like that, that made him smile inside, but it didn’t matter this time. Alex’s time was up, and no amount of ass kissing on his part was going to save him now.
“Well, for starters you were speeding and it looks like you have an expired registration sticker on your plate. Also, you tire pressure looks low, that’s a hazard, did you know that?”
“No, sir, I didn’t.” Alex said, trying to be as calm and respectful as he could be.
“Well, with those tires and that plate sticker, I can’t let you drive this thing on the road.” Eric said.
Starting to panic now, Alex started to babel.
“But, but, my house is just a minute up the street. I have an air compressor in my garage. I don’t know what happened to the sticker on the plate, but you can see the registration is up-to-date.” Alex said.
“Are you arguing with me?” Eric said, his voice taking a darker tone.
“No, sir, I’m just trying to explain-” Alex started.
“I didn’t ask you for an explanation. I told you that you were being detained for driving to endangerment in a hazardous vehicle. Now, you are resisting.” Eric said.
“What? No, sir, I’m not resisting, I just live right there.” Alex said pointing to his house. He felt himself become frantic as the situation spiraled out of control.
“Alright!” Eric yelled as his had went to his gun. “I need you to put your hands on your head, interlace your fingers and step out of the car. Now!”
Alex did his best to comply with the orders, but he was stressed and confused. He hadn’t done anything and just figuring out how to open the door with his hands on his head seemed impossible. Meanwhile, Eric continued to bark orders and threaten him. Finally, he removed one of his hands to pull the door handle and Eric exploded. He drew his gun and pointed it at Alex’s head.
“Who told you to take your hands off your head? Who told you would could do that? Who?” Eric screamed.
Then Eric wiped open the door, grabbed Alex and threw him out of the vehicle. He landed on the pavement head first. He could feel the road burn and blood on the side of his face. Before he knew it he was been rolled over and Eric dropped all of his two hundred and thirty pounds on his chest, knee first. He felt the air crushed out of him and he couldn’t breath. Eric was still screaming, “stop resisting,” but Alex couldn’t speak to tell him he wasn’t.
At some point Alex blacked out and when he awoke he was in the back of Eric’s squad car. He murmured a bit and thought he heard someone yell at him to “shut up,” but the voice was distant. At the time he didn’t recognize Eric’s voice, but as he slowly regained his senses he realized Eric was the only one there.
Before he came out of it completely, he thought he’d been out for a moment or two. Then, as his vision cleared and he looked out the window, he realized he didn’t know where they were. Alex remembered being arrested and a drive to the station should have only taken a minute or two. Now it was clear that they weren’t going to the station and it had been a lot longer than just a couple of minutes.
“How long was I.-” Alex started to ask.
“Shut up! If I have to tell you again, so help me I will make sure you don’t wake up next time.” Eric yelled back at him, glaring in his rear view.
Alex still hadn’t had all of his faculties back yet. His face and chest hurt and it reminded him of the arrest. He stopped talking and looked out the window. He was familiar with the area and generally familiar with the geography so he just looked for any landmarks or signs that might tell him how long he’d been unconscious.
It wasn’t until he saw the town sign for Charlemont that he realized he had been out for the better part of an hour. He wondered what the hell they were doing up there, but, he didn’t dare ask. My lawyer is going to have a field day with this, he thought, but, he was beginning to worry that he’d never see a lawyer.
He spent the next twenty minutes in the back of the police car wondering what had happened, why he was in this situation. He knew that he had rubbed a lot of the locals the wrong way, but he never imagined there could be some conspiracy aimed at him, after all, he was a nobody. The most he ever worried about was someone egging his house, or worse, slashing his tires. This was a whole lot of time and effort just to intimidate someone, and why drive all the way up here?
None of the situation made sense and things got more confusing when they turned down an old gravel farm road. It was marked by a sign that read:
Water Treatment Plant: Federal Property — KEEP OUT — All unauthorized personnel will be shot on sight.
Neither the sign, the warning, or the fact that Alex was being taken here, added up.
Up head there was a large building and Alex could make out two other cop cars, a couple of other vehicles with government plates and, odder still, two olive green Humvees with machine guns on their roofs. To Alex’s further surprise, the Humvees and guns were both manned, as if they were standing sentry.
The building looked more like a sky resort than a water treatment plant. It was a log structure, like a giant log cabin, with a large wrap around porch. Two men in army fatigues were headed down the porch stairs on their way to meet Eric. Eric looked at his watch, it was 2:47pm.
“You stay here and keep your fuckin mouth shut.” Eric said, looking at Alex in his rear view again.
Like I have any other choice, Alex thought, but again said nothing.
Eric got out of the car to meet the two men in fatigues. They were now walking across the gravel drive. They shook hands, then Eric pointed at the car. They shook hands again and Eric started for the building while the other two advanced on Alex.
Now Alex was beginning to shake. None of this was right. The two men approaching the car were large, soldier looking types and neither of them looked any more pleasant than Eric had been. His mind raced with what might be happening, but still, nothing made sense. There had to be some kind of mistake. This was America, cops didn’t just pick someone up off the street and whisk them away to some far away place. What was he arrested for? Was he even under arrest? Why hadn’t he been able to talk to a lawyer? And why the hell was he in Charlemont?
As the men approached the car, one of them pulled his sidearm from its holster. He took a position by the drivers door, while the other opened the driver’s back door.
“Get out.” Barked the man who opened the door.
Alex began to scoot himself across the back seat, but not fast enough for the man’s liking.
“Get out now, asshole.” The soldier barked again, then leaned into the back of the car and grabbed Alex by the front of his shirt and pulled him out and dumped him on the ground. Alex stared up at the two of them for a moment and then felt a boot kick him in his ribs.
“Up. Lets go,” the man yelled.
Alex got to his feet as quickly as he could, the pain in his side being overridden by a surge of adrenalin. He had given up demanding or even pleading. Everything in front of him looked exactly as it should now. The tumblers of the lock clicked into place and with a sort of crystal clear realization, Alex knew what was happening.
He wasn’t entirely sure how he knew. Maybe it was the faint smell in the air. A smell that reminded him of death. Maybe it was the complete detachment of everyone involved. Maybe it was his mind connecting all the dots to familiar history. Whatever the final puzzle piece, it revealed the picture, and Alex could see it all now.
When he had arrived, he had assumed he was being detained. As he struggled to get to his feet, lifting himself off the damp gravel, he knew that wasn’t it. With the sudden realization, he knew this was the end for him. His life flashed before his eyes. Not memories or scenes of happier times. Nothing so cliché as that. No, the important things. People he knew, those who helped him and who he helped. Things he had learned and people he had taught.
In the small town where he lived, he was a nobody with no friends or social contacts. But he had, had friends and he had known people. In his final moments, as the two soldiers marched him towards the building to be processed, disposed of, his mind was on those people.
Reflecting on it all, the anomaly of his life compared to the carbon copy lives of those around him, he realized he wouldn’t have changed anything. If this was where it all lead to, then this was it. If he had any regrets at all, it would be that he didn’t put up more of a fight. That he didn’t do more to stop it. Not what was happening to him now, but what had lead up to what was surely happening all across the country.
A single gunshot rang out at 3:15pm. The camera crew, men in fatigues, packed up their equipment and Eric Stretsel holstered his gun. He adjusted his blue uniform and headed back to his squad car to begin the long drive home.