Red Rain by Rachel Newhouse
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Christian
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This week's chapter:
Title: Red Rain
Author: Rachel Newhouse
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Christian
It had been almost six months since anyone had died because they refused to go to school.
Today, Mr. Dass was determined to break that record.
“Mr. Dass, need I use force?”
“You will need to use a lot more than force if you expect me to move!”
I cringed. Commander Ambrose shook his head.
“Mr. Dass, I ask nothing unusual. Your children have been attending our school since—”
“Since you made them!” the red-faced father bellowed. He held his daughter Mira close to him. His son Stanyard stood safely behind him, fiddling with a backpack.
“A fair point.” The commander shifted and cast his gaze around the street. All along the row of solid concrete homes, families stood in their doorways and watched. The bus, painted red with the harsh black words ASSIMILATION SERVICES on the side, idled in the road. The handful of kids inside pressed their faces against the windows; two armed guards leaned against the door. The driver tapped a small electric pistol on the wheel impatiently. No one else moved.
I fingered the pouch strapped around my waist. After the Dasses’, our house across the street was the next—and last—stop.
I felt hands slide over my shoulders. I glanced up into my father’s sober face. He rubbed my shoulders gently as he watched Mr. Dass.
Commander Ambrose spoke again. “You realize, Mr. Dass, that you are a civil criminal and in violation of United policy.”
“By choice,” Mr. Dass spat back.
“In the interest of preparing the younger generation to rejoin the United as productive members of society, your children must attend our school to be—”
“Indoctrinated against everything we’ve ever taught them!”
That’s a decent way of summing it up.
My dad stopped rubbing, but he kept his hands on my shoulders. His eyes were closed.
Commander Ambrose tipped his head to the side. “Exactly.” He looked down at Mira, who gazed up at him with wide dark eyes. Mr. Dass gripped his daughter’s arms, as though daring the commander to rip her from his grasp.
The commander did. In one swift movement, he grabbed Mira’s shoulders and yanked her from her father. Mira screamed, but the commander didn’t hurt her. He shoved her down the steps and swung at Mr. Dass as the infuriated man dived. Mr. Dass stumbled but quickly regained his footing.
“You beast!” he snarled. He backed up, shielding his remaining child. “Just try and take my son.”
“Are you enjoying this? Is this some sort of game to you?” the commander threatened.
Some days I wonder. My father pinched my shoulders.
There was silence, except for Mr. Dass’s ragged breathing. The commander glared, but Mr. Dass didn’t move. Finally, the commander drew his gun from his side.
I instinctively pinched my eyes shut. Daddy muttered under his breath, “Lord, not today.”
There was scuffling. I opened my eyes to see Stanyard squeeze out from behind his father and scamper down the steps, head lowered. Wordlessly, he grabbed Mira’s arm and hauled her onto the bus.
The commander watched them go, then turned back to Mr. Dass. The father’s face was no longer red, but white.
“Your children are learning,” Commander Ambrose said coolly, sliding his gun back in its holster. “They are smarter than your generation.” And with that, he turned and marched across the street—towards us.
My father twisted me around to face him. Holding my shoulders, he bent low and spoke in quick whispers. “Remember why we always homeschooled. Believe nothing they say without comparing it to the Bible. Save all questions for home—tell me everything. Remember me, Philadelphia. Remember your mother. Remember God.”
I nodded rapidly, staring into his brown eyes. He kissed my forehead and let me go; I ran down the steps and fled for the bus. The commander moved aside, one foot on the bottom step, to let me pass. He looked up at my father.
“Well, Dr. Smyrna, coming around, are we? You used to be the troublesome one.”
My father straightened and said nothing. He watched me find a seat in the back of the bus. I waved through the window until we were out of sight.
The bus turned the corner and rumbled through another lane of houses, exactly the same as the street before. The houses were two-story concrete boxes with only three windows on the front. All of them were identical on both sides of the blacktop road. There were no trees, no grass, no mailboxes. Nothing personal about the yards whatsoever.
The only difference was the front doors, which were alternating colors going up the row—red, blue, orange, purple, green—to help separate the houses at a glance. Each house also had a number burned into the
concrete step and plated on the door. My house number was 79.
There used to be exactly 110 houses in the Street 17 Containment Camp when it was first built five years ago. Five years ago, Street 17 camp was full, as were Street 80 and Street 83 camps.
Now my camp was down to 64 houses, and not all of them were occupied. The unused streets had been demolished and the concrete wall moved up, fencing the remaining houses in more closely.
It must have cost a fortune to rebuild the wall every other year, but I guess it was worth it to remind us that they were slowly crushing us out.
The bus stalled in front of the energized metal gates. A sensor in the wall scanned the license plate and blinked approvingly. The gates rolled back into the wall; the bus chugged through and waited until the gates shut themselves again. Then, for about ten minutes, the bus drove through the Outside.
I was glad we still lived in the camp across town. I enjoyed, however short, my ride through the Outside every day; I could look out the window freely and watch the world and its people. The trees, the grass, the signs—colorful display windows and strolling crowds. Unlike the camp, the Outside changed, shifted, bore new colors and new faces. The brief glimpse on the bus ride over was a relief, an entertainment—a reminder of what used to be.
I glanced across the aisle. Stanyard and Mira shared a seat there. Stanyard was leaning with his forehead against the seat in front of him, eyes glazed. Mira twisted her hands together.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
Stanyard nodded wordlessly. Mira looked up at me. “He didn’t hurt me,” she assured.
Cami twisted around in the seat in front of me and looked back. “I’m surprised your father didn’t offer any objections, Phil.”
“How could he, after that?” her brother Aid quipped from beside her. “The commander hasn’t pulled his gun in almost a month.”
“We talked about it, last night,” I mused. “He said it wasn’t worth the blood right now.”
“Smart man,” Stanyard muttered. He sat up and gazed out the window. Mira stared straight ahead.
We went to the same public school all the regular kids attended. I suppose they were hoping that we’d see our peers—with their learner’s permits and after- school jobs and shiny devices with unrestricted internet access—and want to join them.
It certainly seemed to be working. Our bus used to be a lot more crowded.
Although we attended the rest of our classes with the regular kids, our morning homeroom was a special “remedial” class headed by a teacher who, in his opinion, wasn’t getting paid nearly enough to supervise the indoctrination of some religious brats. It was his job each morning to lecture us about the freedoms we could have if we would just get with the program and sign over our right to religious expression.
He treated it as such a trivial thing, like we were giving up our right to choose what color of socks we wore. If we would simply succumb to a little conformity in the name of peace and equality, we could rejoin society with all the rights owed to us as full United citizens.
I never watched his face during his tirades; if I looked at something else, filled my mind with anything else, it made his voice sound smaller. I often looked at the projections on the wall, toyed with the cursor on my laptop, or prayed.
I never, ever looked out the windows. I never, ever looked at the Outside—the freedom I would gain if I followed my teacher’s words.
The rest of the school day wasn’t much better. Math was my favorite subject, although not because I was particularly good at it; they just seemed to waste less time trying to squeeze propaganda into trigonometry than they did with other subjects.
History was the worst. It was nothing like the stories my grandpa used to tell me; all of the glorious and inglorious escapades of humanity had been stripped and sanitized and manipulated. Every era now existed exclusively to demonstrate the need for the United.
According to our textbook, the United was humanity’s greatest achievement. It was the solution to every war, every injustice, every inequality. The glories of the United were raved to us as our teachers reveled in the progress of the one-mind, one-body megacountry the world was slowly forming. Segments all over the globe were dropping their boundaries and cultural differences and assimilating into a homogenized body that was its own god.
And of course, it was stressed that religion was a major hindrance to progress in the United. A hindrance that must be assimilated or removed.
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