Home > Savage Drift (Monument 14 #3)(3)

Savage Drift (Monument 14 #3)(3)
Author: Emmy Laybourne

I remember when Mario and I first passed through the gates. I wondered what the gates were protecting us from. Stupid.

At the screening and sorting, we had placidly submitted to the mandatory blood typing. We had told our story. Mario could have gone to a different camp—he’s AB. But he wouldn’t leave me.

A tall guard with bright blue eyes and not much hair signed off on us.

He looked at Mario’s paperwork.

“You’re in the wrong place, old-timer,” he told Mario.

“This girl here is my responsibility. We prefer to stay together.”

The guard looked us over, nodding his head in a way I did not like.

“You ‘prefer,’ do you?” he said, pronouncing the words slowly. “Little girl found herself a ‘sugar daddy’?”

“Come on now, there’s no need to be crass,” Mario grouched in his way. “She’s fifteen years old. She’s a child.”

The smile slipped off the guard’s face.

“Not in here,” he said. “In here she’s a threat. I’m going to give you one last chance—you need to go. You think you’re being high and mighty, protecting the girl. But this camp ain’t no place for an old man like you. You should go.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I’ll stay with my friend.”

I didn’t like this. A six-foot-tall bully looking down on frail, elderly Mario like he meant to flatten him, and Mario looking back with undisguised contempt.

I got antsy, started making fists and releasing them. Maybe I shifted from foot to foot.

The guard took hold of my jaw and forced me to look up into his face.

“How long were you out there?” he asked.

“She was out for just a short while,” Mario said.

“I DIDN’T ASK YOU, OLD MAN!” the guard shouted.

He tightened his grip on my jaw, gave my head a shake.

“My name’s Ezekiel Venger, and I’m one of the head guards here. Now, how long?”

“I don’t remember,” I said.

He let me go.

“I know you’re trouble, Miss Fifteen. I can tell which ones are dangerous. That’s why they put me in charge. You better watch yourself. I’m not gonna give you an inch of wiggle room. Not one sorry inch.”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

I know when to call someone sir.

You call someone sir if you respect him. If he’s older than you. If he’s in a position of authority. Or if he’s got a nightstick and a chip on his shoulder.

*   *   *

Mario is my only friend.

He thinks I am a good person. He’s wrong, but I don’t argue with him. He tells me he believes in me.

We share a two-person suite with four others. I am not the only one Mario is protecting. He volunteered to sponsor four kids, and this is why they allowed him to be with us up on the second floor of Excellence. All the other suites on the second floor are just women and children.

It’s only men on the first floor and it’s rough down there.

*   *   *

I share a bed with Lori. She’s fourteen. She has brown hair and white skin and huge brown eyes that look so sad sometimes I want to punch her in the face.

*   *   *

She’s told me her story. She’s from Denver and she and her folks were hiding out in their apartment but they ran out of food. By the time they made it to the airport the evacuations had begun. They were among the last of the people there so when the rioting began—with people clawing and trampling one another as the sky over Colorado Springs lit up—her mother was killed. Then her father fell between the Jetway and the door of the plane as he shoved her in.

I didn’t want to hear her story. I wanted it to fall away from my ears, like beads of water on wax paper, but the words stuck in. Water, water, water. Lori is all water.

Lori lies against me at night and weeps and gets the pillow wet.

I know, I know I should comfort her. It wouldn’t take much. What? A pat on the back. A hug.

But there is no compassion left in me.

Like I said, that Josie is dead.

What do I give to her? I give her the warmth of my sleeping body. That’s all she can have. Escaping heat.

*   *   *

I should tell you about the other three. Yes, I should name them. Tell you about them and tell you what they look like and their sweet, scared smiles and how Heather looks like Batiste, her oval face very sincere and serious. Half Asian. How one of the boys is always getting words wrong. Nemolade for lemonade. Callerpitter for caterpillar. Bob wire for barbed wire. Cute, innocent, annoying, traumatized. Sweet, demanding, lost, and present. There is nothing I can do for them and I want nothing to do with them.

Every day I wish Mario had not taken them in. The orphan Os.

They were fending for themselves and getting roughed up. I know it was the right thing to do.

There should never have been kids in here in the first place.

As I understand it, the national government brought us here, but the state of Missouri is running the camp. The locals don’t want us released, but don’t care to pay for us to be properly cared for, either. And the national government has been slow to provide for us.

The result: not enough guards, not enough food, not enough space, not enough medical care. And they won’t let us out.

There were petitions circulating, when we first arrived. People trying to get the stable O’s separated from the criminal ones. But the guards made life hard for the signature gatherers.

Now we’re all just waiting it out.

Every week a rumor drifts through the camp that we’re to be released.

The hope is dangerous. Makes you care.

*   *   *

I have to watch out for the men. Some of them are handsy.

I’m not so worried about what they could do to me—I’m worried about what I could do to them.

You do not want to get in trouble.

There was a scuffle a few days ago near the fence. Some reporters got the idea to talk to us about life inside the compound. Were shouting questions to us.

I begged Mario to stay away. But he insisted. He gets all red in the face when he talks about the conditions here. He wants justice and he wants his rights and all I want is to get out of here.

I went over with him, to the gates, because I knew there’d be trouble and there was.

There were maybe twenty inmates standing there, shouting to the dozen or so reporters who were yelling things like

   
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