Shelby walked around inside the abandoned camp. She usually enjoyed school trips, but today was different - the ugly camp they had travelled to on the hot, sweaty coach was a place of depression and she could find nothing to lighten her mood. It saddened her heart to hear the stories of people who had been sent here. Her class mates were scattered about: some ran ahead, others lagged behind. Most were gossiping or pointing out things that interested them. Shelby didn’t feel interested - not that she didn’t care, but she felt hollow inside. Just looking at the stained, dirty floors and desperate words scraped into the walls made her chest tight with sadness.
Some people were taking selfies, tweeting pictures of their smiling, happy faces at entrances to dank, lonely cells. Her class mates stood on crumbling walls and took photos of barred windows, and tall towers where once guards had sat, in this abandoned structure. All the merriment made her feel bad on another level, like her classmates felt the atrocities were amusing or a chance to show off.
Shelby stood alone by a large, once white wall tracing a finger over some of the words and felt a tingle in her finger. They were in a language she didn’t understand, but Shelby was sure they spoke of loss or some looked like pleas for help. A few looked like prayers written out of desperation. It was all too much, and her head ached with the enormity of the grief displayed here and ignored by school children and tourists alike.
She felt a tear in her eye and brushed it away not wanting to be teased by her class mates.
Tiny rooms, blood on the walls. The smell was still there, seeped into the fabric of the place: sweat, fear, hate and death. People had starved to death in these very rooms. The makeshift beds and holes in the floor for toilets made her want to retch. In her mind she could almost taste the putrid, stench that must have permeated the entire room when it had been occupied.
They entered another bleak, grey room. This one had chairs in rows and a large TV attached to the wall, school trips always seemed to end with a video screening - as though this was the only way to get information to stick in their young minds. As they filed in pushing and laughing, her classmates jostled for a front-seat, but Shelby silently headed to the back row. She wanted to be as far from the screen as possible.
Once the children had settled and the excited chatter had died down, the lights were turned out and in the darkness a single large screen shone clearly. Once the film began, the images flashed by flickering brightly in the dark room. It was mostly about the survivors of the terrible camps like this one and conditions in these awful places. Shelby supposed that the constant stream of images with cheery voiceovers was meant to be educational. She winced as some clips showed people starving or being beaten, while others showed baying mobs.
The horrors made her feel sick.
Shelby put her hand up.
“What is it?” Mrs Usher asked, bending low to whisper.
“I feel a little faint.” Shelby didn’t want to use the word sick; her teacher might ask questions if she used a word like sick.
Mrs Usher nodded sympathetically. “It can be overwhelming, but you have exams coming up. It’s not much longer. Would you like a little water and see how you feel?”
Shelby realised she wouldn’t escape that easily, so she nodded and took the bottle her teacher held out.
Shelby sat with her eyes closed for the rest of the screening hoping no one could see her. She tried to ignore the flashing lights dancing against her eyelids. She didn’t want to see the lines of skinny, dying people trying to flee, nor witness the mobs cheering for that evil man. It was enough to hear it and imagine the images in front of her. Besides, who had not seen all these things over the years in documentaries and on the news. Did it need to be seen again on a wide screen with surround sound?
Shelby tried to think of other things - words that her parents used when they saw these camps on TV. They´d whispered stories of small victories, of everyday heroes. She felt her stomach untwist as she imagined herself as one of those heroes: maybe helping someone escape.
Shelby thought back to lessons at school.
‘What was that man’s name again? I should know this. Hitler, that’s it.’
Some called him other things, but you didn’t use those words or someone would report you.
Dictator. Shelby knew that word. She had heard her mother use it.
When the video was over, the children all stood up ready to go. Shelby´s teacher turned on the lights and went to the front.
The children did as they were told.
“First we will answer some questions to be sure you understood the video and that you learnt from it.”
Shelby shuddered and wished she hadn’t closed her eyes, maybe she had missed something important.
An image flashed up on the screen: a man, he looked dirty, maybe homeless or poor?
“What do we do if we see someone who looks like this?”
“Report them,” chorused the children.
Shelby whispered it too.
“What should we do if someone uses a bad word?”
“How do we keep our borders safe?”
“How can you help your country?”
The children looked confused at the last question and the teacher smiled smugly.
“The new improved refugee work camp has just opened and many of you will be tested to see if you have the right stuff to work there. You are our future, you beautiful, legal Americans. There is a place for you in the new camp. You could be in the next video working as guards or deporting illegals. Many of you are taking exams soon and can begin training for border patrol positions or even as Enforcers if you are lucky.”
Some of the children began to get excited while Shelby tried her best not to feel sick.
Their teacher continued.
“Russia and America, the only two countries that have made a wonderful alliance. Outside of our borders chaos reigns. Only in this alliance are we safe.”
The children nodded, this was text book stuff.
“Who loves you and who do you love?”
“Trump” The children shouted gleefully.
“Hitler.” whispered Shelby.
The boy next to her turned to look at her with narrow eyes. Shelby smiled sweetly and lowered her eyes as her mother had taught her to do if a boy looked at her.
The boy grinned and grabbed at her chest with one small hand. He seemed disgusted that her boobs had not begun to grow yet, so he pushed her away from him. Shelby wasn’t upset or even surprised, since this was an every-day occurrence. After all if the President did it, why shouldn’t they? To say they were wrong was to say that he was wrong and no one would ever say that.
Shelby sat still until the boy had no more interest in her.
Her teacher was asking another question.
“If you want to be a Star, you can get onto Trump Networks by doing what?”
A few children put up their hands, excited to answer such an important question.
Mrs Usher pointed at one very eager lad.
“I can work in a camp, do a great deed for our country or be an Enforcer.”
Many children nodded. The Enforcers were always on the TV.
Another child´s hand was up.
“You can catch a family of illegals. My neighbour was on the news when he did that.”
Mrs Usher smiled and agreed.
“So now who wants to go to the new camps and have a try at suppressing a few illegal children? You can question them and maybe even help with a little torture.”
Many of the children in the room leapt out of their seats with excitement, while others had their hands up and were bouncing around waiting to be picked.
Mrs Usher pointed at them one at a time and sent them outside.
In the end, only Shelby and a small boy called Harry were left.
Shelby had not been able to raise her hand, she knew she should because it could mean trouble, but her arm felt like it was made of stone.
Neither child had their hand up.
Mrs Usher sighed heavily.
“Ok you two, I assume you are not happy with your safe and easy lives? Free education? Free health care? Did your parents not teach you that we owe this and much more to President Trump?”
The children sat unresponsive, Shelby looked at her shoes trying not to show the disgust she felt at her teachers mention of his name.
Mrs Usher shook her head and made a note to report the families for not educating their children correctly. She would have to do what she could. Sometimes Fake News spread even in these days of prosperity. There were times when all it took for the children to understand their place in this amazing country was a look at the camps that held illegals and their families.
Wonderful work camps housing the poor and homeless, those not really trying to give up addictive pain medication or those that spoke out against President Trump. This was the best place for those types of people: crazy people, homosexuals, feminists, people who refused to contribute to society and wanted to rip it down.
A look at the camps made the children understand that their lives were blessed and that living inside the American and Russian alliance was the best place they could be, but sometimes it took a little more persuading. Maybe these two needed a little stay in the new camp, to really understand how privileged they were and how easy it was to slip into wrong thinking, into believing your own eyes, instead of the words of their great leader.
Why couldn’t people see the country growing? See the unemployed disappearing along with the refugees. There was less crime, no abortion, prayers in schools and the wall around America was one of the wonders of the modern world, it outshone China´s wall.
’It was the best wall there ever was.’ She smiled as she realised she was quoting the wonderful man himself in her own head. It made her blush a little that his words were inside her.
Looking at the children, she knew she had to try; to give it her all as a teacher, as a citizen and as a good person.
“We will play the video again and this time, really watch and really listen. Try to feel the truth, try to believe.”
The room darkened as Mrs Usher left. Shelby moved to the seat next to Harry and held his hand. They clung to each other as the film began to play and the flashing images flooded their young minds.
“President Donald Trump is your friend, we must keep our borders safe and never listen to Fake news. America is great again and it is all thanks to the greatest president of all time. President Trump. We owe our very lives to him. We as a country are winning! In fact we are winning so much that many people are saying ‘Please stop the winning, we have had enough winning.’
“You can all be famous in the glorious alliance and you can all be a friend to our president. These camps are our future. Our safety demands them. Do not trust anyone who might be illegal. Report them, deport them…President Donald Trump is your friend…”
Christine King is a female horror writer, she has a book of short stories available on line and has been fortunate enough to have some stories and poems included in anthologies and magazines. Her first novel will be published this month. Visit her author page.
She enjoys a good cocktail and loves archery, she also runs a group on Facebook to help female writers get into the horror genre, without having to write sappy vampire love stories.
Christine is a wife, mother and English teacher in a Catalan school. Her influences are Stephen King, Mary Shelley and her young daughter. (Children bring a new level to terror.)