As David reached out his hand, the woman said, “No David. You mustn’t. You must never harm your grandfather.” David knew what a father was but what made someone grand as a father? The elderly man had bright blue eyes and white hair. David had blue eyes as well. But the lines on the old man’s face were deep, as if each year left a mark on the man. The woman was young. She had long red hair and deep green eyes. She didn’t speak the same language as the man did at first, but he sensed some of it in her normal language.
“David, my name is Astrid. And this is your grandfather, Jacob,” the woman said. It was dark outside. The streets were not normal. Instead of being flat, they had round rocks. David looked down at them, questioning why. “These are cobblestones David,” Jacob said. “From a time long before you and I. We are in a country called Sweden. And now we are in their city called Stockholm. And this is one of the oldest parts of the city still standing. We are in Gamla Stan, which means Old Town in our language.”
David looked at Jacob with a puzzled look. He still didn’t comprehend this “grandfather” thing. Jacob pulled out a picture of his father, when he was 14 years old. “This is my son, William. He is your father. That makes me your grandfather.” Jacob understood. This old man was his father’s father.
The earliest memory David had been one of the magic place. It was like a place with constant evolution. One minute it would be snowing and the next it would be bright and sunny and warm. This is where David lived most days. He was comfortable there and it filled him with happiness. The adventures he had in this place were beyond the imagining. This was David’s home. He didn’t like it when he dreamed of the real world. He was in this real world dream now. There were always questions and nothing made sense.
David heard of this man Jacob. When he dreamed of the real world, he would hear his mom and dad talking about him. His mother would tell his father he needed to let it go and they had to concentrate on David. He remembered one time when his mother told him, “David, one day you will need to wake up. You will have to become one with the world and survive.” When David got to the mountain, he dreamed about the real world the whole time. He wasn’t able to be home, in the land where nothing stayed the same. To dream was to survive.
“Astrid,” said Jacob. “David looks very confused. He needs to eat. We need to take him down to the bistro before the roll call begins. He may look normal now, but if anyone sees the number on him, they will know. We didn’t do all of this just to lose him now.”
Astrid reached out her hand to David. David trusted her for some reason. She seemed familiar to him but he couldn’t place it. He touched her fingers as they curled around his. David looked up at her. An empty stare with no emotion. He wanted to tell her how he felt. That she was okay to him. But he couldn’t. Not unless he was home. When he dreamed of this place, he could never talk. Just watch. And listen. And absorb. And react. He felt trapped, like the Beast of Leaftear at home when the creature was defeated in the Battle of Leaftear Ending. The Beast threatened them all. He wanted to take over the city of Leaftear and kill them all. David saved the day when he beat the Beast at a game of Kaleidoscope. The Leaftearians knew they didn’t have the physical strength to beat The Beast so they relied on their greatest hero in a game of wits. Afterwards, the Beast sat in his cage for all time and never made a sound. It ate food, it breathed, and it would even snore at night sometimes, but no words ever came out of his mouth. That was how David felt when he dreamed of the real world.
William woke up to a loud pounding on his door. “MEF #313056, you have ten minutes to get dressed and shower. Breakfast at 0500.” William grabbed the towel and uniform and made his way to the showers. They smelled like ancient mildew but the water coming out of the showers felt like hot on a warm summer day. He got dressed and went to the Convening Room on the sub-levels. The Colonel gave the daily orders to the MEF. William received his: “Disinfectant Recognition”. Inside the packet was a list of instructions for the duty. William felt his stomach turn inside out. He remembered this technique from an old television show he watched on something called YouTube. Some show called Breaking Bad. The body would be placed in a barrel with acid. It removed any trace of identity from the victim. The 12 families called this “extra assurance”. Not that any parent of one of the Specials could ever claim the body or sue the MEF. Most of them didn’t even know about the Mountain.
William didn’t know if he could go through with this. He had to find David in here, or find out if… the thought was too much for William to handle. At times like this, William’s self-instinct took over with a fight or flight mechanism. To escape the impending feeling of a loss too terrible to cope with, William would count to 32. He came this far and he knew if he couldn’t find the location of his son here he never would. One of the guards came into the room and whispered to the Colonel. William couldn’t hear it, but he heard the letters AU at the end of it. The Colonel shouted “That is impossible. What do you mean he is gone? That doesn’t happen. Not here. Find him. NOW!”
“We have a new problem,” claimed the Colonel. “One of the Specials is missing. An autistic boy, 12 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes. #112877AU. He disappeared two days ago. There will be no disposal today. All non-molding staff are to actively search for this boy and find him. The first person to find him will get an extra hour for lunch or dinner. The first daughter of the Markell family is coming to the Mountain later today and we are ruined if word gets out we can’t account for one of them.”
Jax sipped the water very slowly. At 103 years old, she knew she didn’t have much time left. She had to make sure they understood. There wasn’t much time left before the purging videos came out. She carefully placed agents into the Mountain to show the world what was happening there. Even though the people couldn’t see them, the word would spread. Fifty-five percent of the population, either dead or on a timetable for execution. She looked out the window to see what used to be Legislative Hall. Spread out over the entirety of the Green, it was home to the Markell family of Delaware. One of the Twelve. The rulers of the world. She missed her friends, those who fought so gallantly to prevent this. She remembered the dying breath of the unions when President Markell signed the order. By that point, the unions were just minions of the Twelve anyways. She had been kicked out years before it was official. During the Red Clay-Christina riot, she watched as the Markell guards beat her friends into submission. She did not escape unscathed. A bullet tore into her left kneecap with such velocity it would never be the same again.
Delaware became an island unto itself during the Great Icescape Melt of 2042. The Markell family built the polymer walls stopping the waters from taking over. It was too late for Southern Sussex County. The wall stood south of Milford with nothing but a liquid graveyard to the south of it. That was the last time she saw her friend, the blogger. He went down there to find someone, but no one ever saw him after that. But he left very careful instructions for her. About what to do if anything ever happened to William, his grandson. It was Jax who supplied William with the knowledge of what came before. The device was a treasure trove that explained everything. All the information the people in power conveniently laughed at and ignored until it was too late. She missed the resistance. They came so close. It would have stopped everything that came to pass. They let him in thinking he had changed, that he was no longer brainwashed by the Markells. They were wrong. Trusting Earl was the worst mistake Jax ever made…
Editor’s note: I began this story last fall. It became very dark, very quickly. Faster than I could take. As the Every Student Succeeds Act became a reality, I saw this potential future unfolding right in front of me. A system designed to offer so much promise to the unsuspecting, but laced with poison. Right now, regulations coming from ESSA are being discussed by politicians, policy-makers, educators, and corporate education reformers throughout the country. For those who have followed this blog, some of the names in here are very familiar. But the reality is that every single state has those who opposed what is happening to public education. This is a story of the last heroes of Delaware in a potential future. It is meant to be a warning sign of grossly exaggerated proportions. One hundred years ago, someone could have written a similar story of a whole group of European Jews who were summarily executed just for their faith. Many would have laughed and ridiculed such a notion. Not in our time… history is filled with such apathy towards itself. It is merely a cycle of cascading events with a rise and fall, over and over again. It is also filled with those who try to fight the future and prevent the same cycle from repeating itself.