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I can remember a time where I was able to breathe fresh air. It was an October day. The kind that chills you from the inside whenever you inhale. This time of year used to be my favorite. I remember being a child and peering out the window watching long, willowy legs stride over colorful leaves across neighborhood yards on Halloween. Lanky children with glowing skin like porcelain and coal black eyes without lids rolling like large marbles in their skulls. I would always look out my window wishing I could venture past the guards and the barbed wire fence and join them on the other side. I was desperate for playmates and my brothers and sisters lay sick and still most of the time in our concrete apartment building.
Sometimes they stole glimpses at me. Curious little bodies sidled up to the enclosure and pointed with their slender fingers. I would press my face up against the glass and they would shrink back at the sight of my pale, fleshy pink face. My mother would pull me from the panes and shake me, screaming. At that age, I called them “The Whisperers” because I couldn’t understand the low, snake-like cadence of their voices. Their language was melted together in a way that humans struggled even to mimic.
One day in October, for once when I looked out my window, there were people like us crowded around the exit gate. They were being herded into large industrial transportation capsules. Each of them had their wrists tied together with metal wire. Even with the knowledge that something terrible would inevitably happen to us, this did not stop my head from swimming and my heart from quickening.
Before I could imagine what my fate could be, I saw my mother standing beside me. Her face was completely gaunt and her lips quivered the way that they did when my father was killed. She grasped at the collar of her plain grey uniform dress, her chest heaving with sobs. I went to her and held her until I heard the capsules rumbling away. I could only hope they had come to take the sick or dead away. I could feel her body sinking in surrender because neither one of us felt a drive to escape or plead with them anymore. We were coming to realize that resisting would be useless.
We had already been relocated so many times. Each place so much worse than the last. The concrete box we resided in had little space and few windows.We lived without doors or any type of privacy. The buildings were built skyward with hallways and staircases so narrow that you felt like someone was sucking the air out of everything around you the further you transcended. Most of it was littered with those close to death or deformed by abuse. The stark white men would barge in and force needles into our arms, pumping antibiotics. They seemed to be at every corner of our lives, controlling every moment we experienced. With all the torture that we had received from them, I had always wondered what they were doing keeping us alive.
Before I could feel hopeful, they came back for us. They came and dragged us down the staircase by our hair, long, matted and grimy from neglect. We stumbled and flailed for something solid to hang on to. I reached to clutch my mother's hand but there were too many bodies moving at once. I lost my footing and crashed onto my knees. I crawled to the ground outside and I could smell the earth. One of them was screeching at me in their language and my ears burned. When I couldn’t get up fast enough one of them ceased my leg from behind me and dragged me, like I weighed nothing, over to the trailers.
Still I hugged the earth. I could smell the soil underneath me, damp and cold against my cheek. I wanted to be away from metal and concrete and sweat and the stench of death. Away from the stuffy, industrial box that I’d hardly left since I had been born. A foot jammed into my side. Like a coward, I rose to my feet and left with them.
The trailer was cold and metal with small windows and every now and then there would be faces staring up at us. I wasn’t sure if they could see inside but I sat there and wondered if they knew exactly what would become of us. I couldn’t find my mother anywhere but I could guess that she was forced onto a different trailer. We were crammed in beside each other. I saw mothers and children who lived just above us whispering to each other. Mothers tried to comfort but as we screeched to a stop at a warehouse, the grief deepened on their faces and tears tore through the dirt that had dried on their cheeks. The structure stretched far out over the land and at that moment, I knew that they had done this many times before.
As I lay here, I am confined to a space that is not enough to move or spread my arms. There are people on either side of me and the boy on my right sobs all through the night. I try not to show him that I am just as scared, because I am older and I know I should show more bravery. I know that the things that handle us only laugh at our fear. I listen to the screams with a helplessness that cannot be described. My human instinct to help them is thwarted by the cold bars on either side of me. They don’t want us to have the power to use our most basic human weapons so they wrench out our teeth and nails as soon as we arrive.
Our captors are devoid of any hair on their heads and bodies. They stand longer and taller than us. They are faster, stronger, and more alert. They drag people away daily. I’m not sure where they take them to. Some of the women here are pregnant and sometimes they give birth in the dark of their cells. Their babies are dragged away from them. You can hear the mothers screaming and begging in a language that goes unheard.
In the cold of my cell, I can hear their footsteps. I wonder if today is my day to be taken from this place. The thought is not completely unwelcome. When they loom over me, I can see only the luminescence of their bodies in the dark and I know it’s time. I close my eyes as I hear the cage door unlock and squeak open. I struggle at first but soon succumb to their vice grip as two of them hold me still on either side. They pull me down the long hall that separates us from the truth of why we are here.
When I open my eyes, it is finally clear to me. Dead eyes stare back at me as the horror sets in within my gut. Uniform slits decorate the throats of human bodies dangling from iron hooks. I wrestle the grip that holds me down but it only strains me as I scream in desperation. Machines groan over my shrieks as I watch several hissing creatures hack pieces from the flesh and align them on a conveyor belt to be sent away.