The Power of People

The Power of People
Maryam Alatmane

Tap, tap, tap. The sound of feet striking the concrete drags the girl out of her slumber. She jumps to her feet. The glass door slides open with a hiss and a masked guard steps forward.
 
“The judges are waiting for you.” His monotone voice indicates that he is a bot; no respectable person in their right mind would work down here. Although the desperate ones sometimes do. The facilities are deep underground – a cold, damp warren of corridors with the stench of mould hanging in the air.
 
The bot leads her forward. She ignores those slumped against the glass and looks away when she meets someone’s gaze. Their eyes are filled with empty hope, like there’s no point in fighting anymore.
 
Her resolve will not be weakened so easily.
 
A thought flits through her mind. Why do they bother with the formalities? I will be judged guilty. In their eyes. She fiddles with the plastic bracelet with a number printed on it-5170; like cattle, packed underground. Property of the government, it screams out, you can never escape.  
 
She trips and feels a sharp burst of pain, and then nothing. She’s suffered worse. The bot makes a high-pitched, grating noise-presumably a laugh-and drags her to her feet. She notices, for the first time, the staircase-winding around and around.
 
“They don’t want to be kept waiting.”
 
Walking tentatively up, she runs her hand along the rough, brick wall. Calm, composed. Almost as if it were anywhere else but here.
 
Sunlight blinds her. With a clang, the metal door swings shut. She opens her eyes and steps into another world.
 
The fragrance of flowers in bloom fills the air and a tall fountain pours clear water. Birdsong echoes from all around, as if it were some sort of paradise. Compared to the places she’s seen, it is. On the surface, it’s beautiful. But look closely – the flowers are not flowers at all, the water is slowly turning a murky shade of brown and there are no birds to be seen, just fake sound coming from concealed speakers. Nothing is left untainted. Not anymore.
 
The courtroom is almost empty; silence is stretched taut over the room. She stands to attention. The verdict has already been decided, they say. Of course it has, she thinks.
 
A loud, tired voice echoes through the empty space: “Number 5170, you are perceived-” the judge stops-for what reason? Suspense? “Guilty. You have committed numerous offences that have proved your disloyalty to the government. Take her to be tattooed.”
 
Pushing her forward roughly, the bot propels the girl into a corridor. And straight into a young boy. His bright blue eyes widen as she crashes into him, but she only has time to register the star shaped scar on the back of his neck before she is pulled away.
 
The girl leans back on the black leather chair, eyes screwed shut as the mechanical needle digs into her skin. You need to stay strong. You need to stay strong. You need to stay strong. She repeats the mantra in her head, sitting up straight and opening her eyes. Dark, blazing with unpent fury and determined to succeed.
 
Motionless, she stands near the window, looking out over the barren landscape. Maybe it was a beautiful place, once upon a time. Tiredness overcomes her; the smell of something sickly sweet attacking her, choking her. She slumps to the ground, taking one last look at the bold v forever imprinted on her hand. V for villain.
 
 

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