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Exile

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THE BILL OF EXILE, WRITEN AND ENACTED BY PRESIDENT OLIVER J. MCDOWELL OF BRISETON, IN THE YEAR 2020.

TO PRESERVE AND MAINTAIN THE COMMUNITY, TRADITIONS AND STANDARDS IN OUR GREAT COUNTRY, THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS ARE NOT PERMITTED BY ANY CITIZEN OF BRISETON.

IN THE YEAR THEY TURN 18, EACH CITIZEN WILL UNDERGO EXAMINATION TO ASSESS THEIR FITNESS FOR OUR CIVILISATION. FAILURE TO OBEY OR COMPLY WILL RESULT IN WHOMEVER AT FAULT TO BE EXILED FROM SOCIETY.

BAND A - ANY ACTION OR DESIRE OF THE BELOW INFRINGEMENTS WILL RESULT IN MAXIMUM SECURITY EXILE.

- MURDER

- MANSLAUGHTER

- SEXUAL OFFENCES

- PAEDOPHILLIA

- SEVERE ASULT

BAND B - ANY ACTION OR DESIRE OF THE BELOW INFRINGEMENTS WILL RESULT IN GENERAL EXILE.

- HOMOSEXUAL PERVERSIONS

- DRUG OFFENCES

- PROSTITUTION

- THEFT

- REJECTION OF AUTHORITY

- NO SKILL SET

- GENERAL CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR

- OTHER MISCELLANEOUS OFFENCES

FOR THE GOOD OF BRISETON AND IT’S PEOPLE, I OLIVER J. MCDOWELL HERE BY DECLARE THIS BILL LAW.

It was night and a lone man stood in the middle of a dimly lit, built up street, a grand building behind him and a crowd to his front.

“This isn’t right! This bill isn’t right!” The man spoke through a megaphone to a street of protesters that had gathered themselves around The Government House. “We have to fight this, or we are placing ourselves on the wrong side of history.” He was greeted by cheers and applause. “What message are we giving our children if we do nothing? What future are we building them?”

“Sir! Stand down now.” An officer commanded from behind him.

“With respect I refuse!” He called back. “For Briseton, I say we fight this! For Briseton I say we riot!” The crowd around him cheered as he bent down and picked up a fist sized brick. “Fuck The Exile Bill!” He yelled, turning and launching the brick at the government house and smashing a window. People from all around him copied, throwing what they could. However before he knew it he was surrounded by officers, being forced face first onto the pavement, his hands behind his back.

“Congratulations.” An officer spoke in his ear. “You’ve successfully earned your place as the first exile.”

50 YEARS LATER…

“Rise and shine girls.” A harsh voice sounded. “Come on both of you up now, today is an important day as you are aware!” My eyes unwillingly fluttered open at the sound of my mothers voice filling the room and the electric blinds on our windows starting to rise. “I want both of you washed and dressed within the hour, I’ve laid your outfits out.” I propped myself up on my elbow and rubbed my eyes with my other hand, watching my mother leave the room in a hurry before glancing over at my twin in a bed parallel to my own. She gave me a small eye roll and a smirk as we both silently mocked our mother.

I begrudgingly trudged over to the outfits left for us and held up a plain black sack of a dress that was bound to fall below the knee. “Fucking hell” I shook my head with a chuckle before pulling at the short frilly sleeves still laughing. “Have you seen these Katie?” I questioned turning around.

“Yes.” She sighed. “And I know they’re god awful but we can’t exactly turn up to Examination Day dressed immodestly Em’s.”

“Jesus” I scoffed. “What’s happened to Katie Fitch?”

“Nothing…I’d just rather not spend the rest of my life in exile.” She replied somewhat harshly, joining me out of bed. “We have to comply to some extent.”

“I know.” I said with a gulp. My heart dropping then along with my smile and I hoped Katie hadn’t see the nerves or panic I’m sure had flashed across my face as I remembered the anxiety that had been building within me as this day grew closer.

“Anyway, I’m taking a shower. Snooze you lose.” Katie teased, breaking me from my thoughts. I nodded as she turned to walk into our en-suite.

I looked around our shared bedroom, trying to take it all in, feeling sure I wouldn’t be returning. Our house was modern like most houses in Briseton were now. Most of the original houses and buildings had been replaced in favour of simple architecture that could house modern technology. Nearly everything now was touchscreen, automatic or remote controlled. I envied the days of my grandparents where they still had a hint of individuality and didn’t rely on a motion censor to open a fucking door for them. Briseton had been almost completely rebuilt since The Exile Bill was put into motion to make way for the exile camps. North Point, East Wing, South Bay and West Watch, leaving Centre City in the middle of Briseton for those worthy enough for citizenship to live in.

I sat down on my white, polished block wood bed that matched my sisters exactly, except for the duvet covers. Katie’s baby pink sheets were the only real hint of colour in the room. Everything was black, white or grey scale and my navy sheets tended to blend in with the colour scheme. I rested my hands beside me, gripping the sheets as I was slightly overcome with emotion. I knew what the day had ahead for me and I was scared. No one else knew the truth that was eating me up inside, swirling in my gut and pulling strings to tighten my chest. I couldn’t tell anyone, even though they’d find out my secret once the day was through.

“Oh girls you look lovely. Don’t they look lovely Rob?” My mum gushed as we entered the kitchen an hour later, my red tinged hair hanging just above my shoulders. Katie looked quite content with the compliment but I was so wracked with fear, and uncomfortable in the travesty of the outfit, I couldn’t even fake a smile. “What’s wrong Emily?” Mum had clearly noticed the discomfort on my face. “Don’t you like the dress?”

“The dress is fine Mum..I’m fine.” I spoke weakly, trying to squeeze a small smile onto my face.

“Okay..” My mum spoke slowly, eyeing me somewhat suspiciously before turning away, satisfied with my answer for now. “Right James, Rob, will you clear your breakfast bowls away please, it looks like the bloody Exile Riots in here.” She nagged at my Dad and Brother, whilst me and Katie gathered breakfast for ourselves.

“Excited for your Examination day then girls?” Dad quizzed us grinning. Me and Katie turned to each other with small smiles on our faces, trying to read each others reactions.

“Yeah.” We spoke plainly and in unison, still smiling for Dad.

“I know my Fitch girls are gonna sail on through. You’ll be fully fledged citizens by the end of the day. All done and over before you know it.” He continued, beaming.

I nodded, before floating back into my thoughts. What would Katie do with her life? How would James grow up? How will life flow without me, will they even miss me? My mothers harsh voice sounded round the room, breaking my thoughts once again, as we were ordered to clean up and get ready to leave the house.

Everyone on the street seemed to be piling into their cars at the same time as we stepped out the front door. Cars all parked on driveways of houses identical to each other, no matter what way you looked down the street. My parents politely waved to our neighbours as we all climbed into our family car. We followed behind other neighbours and other cars followed behind us as we all drove out of the estate, heading in the same direction towards The Examination Centre that was located in the very middle of Briseton Centre City.

I wondered about all the other teens sat in cars around me and wether they were feeling the same, whether their thoughts and feelings were swirling in their brains as the convoy of cars took us away from our homes. I fixed my eyes on Katie’s foot tapping carelessly along to the music in the car, I couldn’t even tell you what song was playing. I tried to find a way to distract myself from my own anxiety for the rest of the journey. I tapped the touchscreen in front of me that was built into the back of the drivers seat and clicked on the news. “Thousands Of Teens Head For Examination” I winced at the nausea as I read the first headline before swiping the App away and turning the screen off again in defeat. I could see Katie eyeing me suspiciously as I sighed heavily. I decided to keep my eyes fixed on the window, looking at the passing houses and buildings, trying to regulate my breathing as I did so.

We began to slow as we neared The Exiamination Centre, right next to The Government Building. The congestion nearly brought us to a full stop as cars weaved through the busy city streets at a crawl. I watched out the window at other people go about their daily business, walking from place to place, looking so happy and care free. I desired it more than anything and felt a lump start to choke in my throat, knowing I’d never achieve it. Never get to live a life of freedom. I glanced into the distance and between buildings could spot one of the Exile buses, parked on one of the four main roads that lead from The Centre City to the Exile Camps, ready to take new exiles away. Our car started to move quicker again as the traffic cleared a little and we began to file car by car into The Examination Centre car park. I didn’t even think I’d be able to exit the car and stand, I felt as though my jelly legs would collapse underneath me and I’d succumb to be a puddle of nerves on the concrete floor.

The Examination Centre was a clinical, white, rectangular building and officers awaited us either side of the entrance. “Examinees to the left and family to the right please.” One of them commanded as families began exiting their vehicles.

“Okay girls, off you go.” Our mother spoke giving us a small kiss on our heads. “We’ll all see you on the other side.”

“Bye Mum.” I choked with my best attempt at a smile. My Dad hugged us and I breathed in heavily, holding him tight before we were ushered inside the building. Me and Katie were forced into a single file line in front of a check in desk, manned by a frightening looking woman. She had a stern face that seemed lacking in sympathy and she reminded me somewhat of my own mother.

“Bet I can pick out the exiles.” Katie laughed to me in a whisper.

“Don’t be a dick Katie.” I spat back.

“What?” Katie quizzed back, defensively. “It’s not like they’re good people, theres no point defending them Em’s, honestly you’re too nice sometimes.” She sighed.

My heart dropped at my sisters words and I failed to give her a reply, too upset with the realisation of what she thought of people like me. It seemed to satisfy her as she turned away from me, facing the front of the line again. She was called forward after a couple of minutes and the stern looking woman opened her mouth to speak. “Name?” She spoke without emotion.

“Fitch. Katie Fitch.”

“Date of birth?”

“June 4th 2032”

“Okay, follow that door into the waiting room.” The woman spoke, guiding Katie through a door to her right. “Next.” I gulped, watching the door slide open for Katie before stepping forward. “Oh look, theres two of you.” The woman remarked, her tone full of sarcasm.

“Um yes.” I fumbled with my words. “Well no, we’re twins.”

“Really?!” The arrogant woman continued to mock.

“Emily Fitch. June 4th 2032.” I stated plainly and somewhat harshly, growing tired of the exchange that was taking place. The woman sniggered, seeming happy with herself and her taunting before directing me the same way as Katie.

The door slid open for me and I entered a room full of kids my age, all sat in chairs in neat lines. I scanned the room quickly for Katie before spotting her in the far corner and making my way to sit beside her. The room was as cold and clinical as the rest of the building. White walls, floor and ceiling and minimal plain furniture. “Very welcoming.” I mocked, looking around me. Katie didn’t seem to hear me or perhaps she was just choosing to ignore me, her mind preocupied elsewhere.

“Reckon she’s a goner.” Katie sniggered in my ear, nodding over to a girl sat opposite and to the right of us. “She looks like a right tramp.” I glanced in the direction Katie was looking to see a thin, striking brunette. She had decorated her piercing blue eyes with harsh, black eyeliner to match her all black outfit. Fishnet tights, Vintage Doc Marten boots and a dress that was definitely shorter and more revealing than mine and Katie’s. To be fair to Katie, I had to agree that she probably wouldn’t be making it out of The Examination Building as a citizen. She seemed to exude trouble and mischief yet remain mysterious at the same time. She looked in the direction of me and Katie, locking her eyes with mine, I gave her a small smile, presuming we’d be getting to know each other soon anyway. Her face remained emotionless and she simply looked away again. “Rude.” Katie stated, before looking around the room once more to find someone else to pick on.

After a while another woman appeared at the other door in the room. “Cassie Ainsworth?”

“Yes?” A quiet voice sounded.

“Follow me, the examination process will begin now.” the room watched as the girl left the room behind the woman, beginning to chatter slightly. After about 10 minutes the faint sound of applause could be heard, followed by the appearance of the examiner once more. “James Cook?” A boy with short, scruffy hair stood up, pinging his braces as he did so. He walked towards the door, glancing down at the mysterious girl opposite us as he did so with an overly cheeky grin plastered on his face. He winked at her, earning a smirk from her mouth, the first look of emotion I’d seen from her so far. We all waited nervously as we had done before but the faint sound of applause didn’t occur this time, rather raised voices and what seemed like the sound of a scuffle before the examiner returned again. “Well there’s just no hiding from modern technology kids, I’m afraid we just had our first exile.” She spoke flatly. I started to sweat, my nerves returning with the reminder there was no hiding. My heart was beating double time and my mouth had completely rid itself of any moisture. “Katie Fitch?”

“Here.” Katie spoke proudly, standing up. “See you soon Em’s.” I nodded with a weak smile. She really had no idea, not even an inkling. My heart sank at the news my family would soon receive. I watched Katie go with the examiner and disappear through the door, my thoughts swimming. The waiting was so much harder alone. The inevitable eventually came though and once again the room heard the faint sound of applause. I imagined my families faces in that moment, all smiles, beaming with pride, hugging Katie as she was allowed to go and join them.

“Emily Fitch?” The room swirled around me and I swore I could have vomited on the spot, I was sure I would faint as soon as I stood up. I gulped and clocked a pair of eyes quizzing me. it was the thin, dark haired girl, she was now looking at me more inquisitively then she had before. “Emily Fitch?” I heard again. “Yes, sorry, here.” I mumbled, standing quickly and blinking my eyes away from the girl. I followed the examiner through the door and down a long corridor that grew brighter at the end. We stopped then and the examiner spoke. “Okay, so you’ll take a seat in the chair and I’ll wire you up to the machine, it’s completely painless and will be over in less than a minute. As you are aware failure to comply will result in exile. But if you’re the same as your twin, you’l be fine.” She spoke, a little bit friendlier than before, then she led us into the main auditorium. Families from all over Briseton were sat in the semi-circle of different levelled seats and I began to shake at the shear number of people in front of me. As quickly as I spotted my family I looked away, unable to meet their gaze.

The examiner made her way to a computer system in the middle of a stage-like area and I sat myself down on the seat next to it, it reminded me of a dentist chair which did little to help the situation. I lay my head back on the head rest, spotting a large display screen above us, as small buds wired to the machine were attached to my temples. “A little bit different to the polygraph your parents would have had for their examination day.” The woman spoke with a chuckle. “The machine will basically read you as if you are a book and if anything it finds violates the exile bill then…well we all know what happens then.” I gave a quick nod, trying to hold myself together. The examiner sat down in her chair and flicked a couple of switches, focusing her attention on a small computer screen. From the corner of my eye I could see the buds glowing slightly, a faint blue colour. Then suddenly, in time with a loud buzzer like noise, the lights turned red.

The room around me was silent, the examiner removed the buds from my temples and stepped away from as I looked at the screen. “Homosexual Perversions.” I read the words plastered across it, in capital letters for all to see. I finally let the tears fall from my eyes, a mixture of shame and relief. It was all I could do to lift my head. I looked at my family, knowing it would be the last time. Katie sat, her mouth hanging open, shock and embarrassment evident on her face. My dad and brother both looked as though they had no idea what was going on, of course James had an excuse, he was 11. Then as I felt my wrists being grabbed by officers and forced into handcuffs, I looked to my mother. She was risen out of her seat, her face cold and harsh like stone, just staring at me. She looked as though I had betrayed her and that all that flowed through her veins was pure anger. I gave her a pleading look, begging with my brown eyes for forgiveness, to still love me even with this thing I had no control over. She shook her head in disgust as officers pushed me into a holding room where the scruffy lad was being kept. He seemed to be in the same spirits as in the waiting room, but as I heard the door close behind me, I sank to the floor, my back again a wall, to do nothing but cry.

Chapter Text

“You alright there Red?” The boy questioned with concern after a few minutes. I was sat on the floor, back against the wall, my head hanging low. I managed to give him a small nod before he rose to his feet and made his way over to me. “Cook.” He introduced as he extended both his cuffed hands to me and slid his back down the wall to join me. I took his right hand awkwardly in mine and shook it politely.

“Emily.” I croaked, my husky voice sounding deeper after crying.

“Nice to meet ya.” He grinned, getting himself comfortable. “Circumstances could be better, mind.” I gave a short laugh before he spoke again. “So how have you gone and got yourself exiled? You look like a right goodie two shoes to me.”

I scoffed at the statement. “Yeah? well looks can be deceiving.” I sighed, glancing at him quickly, he had an eyebrow raised in curiosity, urging me to go on. “Okay, so…well I…I like…I like girls.” I shrugged, stuttering nervously.

“Nothing wrong with that Red.” Cook stated firmly. “It’s the system thats wrong.”

“Christ.” I snorted. “Didn’t have you pegged as a politician.”

“Looks can be deceiving.” He laughed with a wink.

“Oh and my name’s Emily.” I corrected.

“I know. but Red suits you better.” He teased nodding at my hair. I rolled my eyes but was somewhat aware there was a small smile on my lips. It seemed Cook was actually quite easy to talk to and had cheered me up for the first time today.

We sat quietly for a moment before the door slid open again. “You can’t take my son away!” We heard a woman screaming from the auditorium. “He’s done nothing wrong!” Me and Cook stood as quickly as we could with cuffed hands to see a pair of guards restraining the woman and another push an inconsolable, curly haired boy inside the holding room with us before the door slid closed again, locking us in. The boy stood frozen to the spot, tears streaming down his face, his eyes fixated on the door, pining after his mother like a lost puppy.

He began to breathe quickly as he sniffed between tears and soon began to hyperventilate as the initial shock of the situation left him. Me and Cook looked at one another with concern as he began to pace the room. “No skill set. I’ve got no skill set. I’m useless. Fucking useless.” He cried breathlessly to himself, grabbing at his hair in distress.

“Mate. calm down.” Cook tried to reassure, placing his cuffed hands on his shoulder. The boy jumped, as though he’d just noticed our presence in the room. “It’s alright! it’s alright buddy, its gonna be okay.” Cook continued cautiously, guiding the boy to sit on the floor. “Whats your name?”

“JJ.” The boy breathed, catching his breath. “Well actually it”s Jonah Jeremiah Jones so technically my name is JJJ or just Jonah but everyone calls me JJ.” The boy rambled quickly.

“Okay, JJ mate.” Cook continued. “Just breathe for a minute yeah?” The boy nodded, taking shaky, deep breaths as tears continued to roll down his cheeks.

Me and Cook sat back down against the wall opposite him. Everything seemed so unjust to me in that moment, as much as I didn’t think Cook was an angel, all I saw in that room were three helpless teens trying to cope with their lives being turned upside down. To make it feel worse, we could barely help the things they’d exiled us for.

“Why..why are you here?” JJ asked Cook in a shaky voice.

“Drug offences mainly mate.” Cook replied. “And rejection of authority too I suppose.” He continued, grinning, seeming somewhat proud.

JJ nodded, taking in Cooks answer. “They told me I’ve got no skill set and that I don’t have anything to offer Briseton, which seems inaccurate to me considering my academic record and with regard to my mathematic aptitude I’m in the top 0.3% of the population, which is an interesting demographic statistic because paradoxically my communication interpersonal and intuitive skills are towards the lower quartiles, which is probably why they exiled me.” JJ ranted, finally finishing with a sigh.

Me and Cook both sat silent for a moment, taken aback by JJ, looking at him with looks of bewilderment. “Well…” I finally spoke. “It’s nice to meet you JJ” I smiled. “I’m Emily.” He smiled back at me nervously.

“She’s gay.” Cook interjected casually, making JJ blush and I shot Cook a quick disapproving look.

We were held in the room all day, joined by other exiles every ten minutes or so, until the day stretched into evening and around 50 of us were packed into the holding room. As predicted the skinny, dark haired girl joined us but kept to herself in the far corner of the room. As did many others, some formed small groups, chatting and comforting one another, all of us nervous and in the dark about what was to come and how our lives were going to be from now on. The anticipation of it all was thick in the air, it created a buzz, I could only only wish it was one of excitement.

The chatter in the room halted a little as we heard heavy footsteps of multiple people approaching the door. A high ranking officer took centre stage as the door slid open. “All of you, on your feet.” He commanded. “Now!” We followed orders, climbing to our feet, the rattle of handcuffs escorting the fear that was notable around the room. The officer then stepped aside revealing a long line of lower ranking officers. They entered the room, one by one escorting us out, an officer for every exile. With their grip firmly on our forearms they led us back through the auditorium and outside where a large black, streamline bus was waiting for us. The head officer stood outside the front of the bus as we were filed in. “Boys to the left, girls to the right. Sit down quickly and no talking.” He commanded.

My officer let go of my arm as we reached the bus and gave me a small push to move inside. I climbed a couple of steps to join the others that had already boarded. I looked to the right, following orders and sat down in the next available seat. Mystery girl, a nickname I had coined for the brunette I’d been seeing all day occupied the seat next to me. She gave me a raise of her eyebrows and a smirk and I returned it with a pathetic small smile. “You lot are headed for West Watch.” The head officer spoke again as the bus reached full capacity. “You have failed to meet requirements that the great country of Bristeon expects and for that you will be punished. Any rights you once had are gone, any personal possessions you once had mean nothing now. You will listen to the staff and guards at West Watch who give their time and livelihood to help keep Briseton safe from the likes of you and you will do as they say. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir.” The bus mumbled.

“I said is that clear?!” He questioned again, urging a better response.

“Yes sir! We all spoke in unison, louder than we had before.”

“Okay then, over to you Kieran.” He said turning to the driver who started the engine as the head officer exited the bus.

There was absolutely nothing pleasant about a silent bus journey. If not boring, it certainly amplified everyones anticipation and upset. We all had questions and queries swirling around our head, bad thoughts and feelings of shame; being left alone with them was torture. The road we drove on was a straight, direct road from Centre City to West Watch, as we drove away from Centre City the houses and buildings became more few and far between until we made it to the official border. A brick wall was built around the entire circumference of the city and a large sign posted, manned gate greeted us. “You are now leaving Briseton Centre City entering exile territory” It read. Kieran brought the bus to a halt as we reached the gate, producing an ID to show the guards in the manned booth beside the gate. I watched from the window as the guard glanced at it before allowing the gate to rise so that we could continue our journey. We drove for a further half an hour along the long stretch of road, nothing but fields and countryside flew by the windows, taking us a world away from the city lives we all knew. The late evening started to fall and the fields and vast land seemed to blend together, looking like great stretches of empty space. Eventually we reached our destination, however I couldn’t help thinking we were better on the bus.

“Here ya are Exiles.” Kieran announced. “Your new home.”

The entire bus peered out of the windows, as two massive metal gates opened inwards to allow us into a bleak looking compound, surrounded by a barbed wire fence and tall flood lights that gave the place an eerie glow. The stretch of road continued for another 100m or so past the gate, where in the distance we could see a large, double doored building, surrounded by semi circle rows of smaller buildings. The first buildings we came across, however were on our immediate left and right. Huge blocks of grey concrete, enforced with their own layers of fencing and wire, finished with a small watch tower on each of them and tiny, sparse, barred windows.

“Maximum Security Exile.” Kieran answered the murmurs and gasps that were floating around the bus. We all stared, some with mouths open at the horrible site. I gulped, feeling sick and unashamedly scared. I didn’t agree with the exile system, but I could make an exception for the people I knew inhabited within those walls. To be considered in need of a similar level of punishment as them however, was heartbreaking.

Thankfully, the bus moved forward quickly and we reached the large building ahead of us. A lush, green lawn surrounded it and a circular pathway surrounded that, sprouting off other pathways that lead to the smaller buildings around it. “West Watch” A large sign read above the entrance to the main building.

A fleet of guards swarmed towards us, walking in disciplined unison and dressed in all black, combat style uniforms. The bus came to a halt and Kieran rose to his feet as the doors opened. “Okay, one by one file out please.” He gestured towards the exit. “I don’t give a rats arse in what order, just fucking behave please.” He wasn’t exactly loveable nor approachable but something about Kieran’s lack of professionalism told me he didn’t have the same mean streak in him most exile staff did. We did as we were told and I filed out of the bus behind Cook and JJ, who had been sat a couple of rows in front, Mystery Girl was following behind me. We were met by the patrol of guards, who once again paired themselves up with us, escorting us into the main building. A stage, at the back of the room greeted us, with a large projected screen above it. To the left was the front of a large canteen style kitchen and to the right, tables, which I presumed exiles would eat at, had been pushed against the wall. It was clear to me, this was a some sort of multipurpose common room. Chairs had been set up in rows with an aisle down the middle, facing a uniformed member of staff, who looked like the definition of authority. Her dark brown hair was slicked back in a tight bun and her all black suit gave her a morbid feel. She stood rigid, her hands behind her back, stern and still, with two other staff members behind her, waiting until we were all inside the hall before she made any movement or motion to speak.

The guards took each of us to a random seat, standing behind us once they had done so. The main officer at the front of the hall then gave a small, commanding nod and the guards released us all from our handcuffs before resigning to the perimeter of the hall. I was completely separate from Cook, JJ and the Mystery Girl now as I looked around the room, feeling somewhat lost in the sea of unfamiliar people, as I itched at my irritated wrists.

“My name is Harriet Wicks.” We heard from the front of the hall. “I am the director of West Watch. Now…Let’s be clear from the offset. Nothing happens in this compound without my say so, and nothing goes on here that I don’t already know about or won’t find out about.” She intimidated. “You’ll be stripped of any personal belongings and clothes and given your uniforms. But firstly you’ll be assigned to your quarters.”

“Fuck this shit!” A tanned boy, with dark hair swept across his face stood up in anger. “All of this is so wrong, I want to go home.” He spat. Two guards from the side of the hall began to move towards him before being halted by the director with a raise of her hand.

“What’s your name boy?”

He paused for a moment to look around the room before answering. “McClair. Freddie McClair.” He grimaced.

“Well Mr McClair…What makes you think you’re fit to return home? You were after all exiled here like everyone else. What were your charges?”

The whole room had fallen silent and were listening intently to the exchange, all slightly on edge. “Drug offences and rejection of authority” He mumbled flatly.

“Clearly.” The Director spoke with a raise of her eyebrow. “You have been exiled because you are simply not fit to be a citizen of Briseton. The sooner you accept that, the sooner life here will be easier for you, if not you’ll quickly find yourself in one of those delightful buildings you saw on your way in here. She gave a patronising, chilling smile that made my stomach turn. “Consider this your first warning McClair, you won’t get a second.”

With that, the boy sat down, a look of defeat fresh on his face as he clenched his jaw.

“Anyway.” The director continued as if Freddie’s protest hadn’t taken place. “Whilst you’re here at West Watch, you will also be given work assignments, they will be decided tomorrow after breakfast. Your work will earn you units, which you are free to spend however you like. Now…Time to assign you to your quarters. Your accommodation here at West Watch works in blocks of streets, named alphabetically and numerically. We have just moved some older exiles out of ‘A’ block and into our elderly quarters, so ‘A’ block is your new home. The blocks are the small buildings that you would have seen on your way in here and you will pair 2 to a room. Pairings are picked at random and work on a traditional segregation of males and females. There will be serious punishment for those of you here with homosexual perversions and act on them whilst in a same sex room pairing. Is that clear to all of you?”

“Yes Ma’am” The hall resounded.

 

“Please stand when I call your name.” The director then announced. “Ahh, our little protester Freddie McClair.” She sniggered. “You’re first on my list.” He stood immediately.

“Paired with James Cook.” The name caught my attention and I watched Cook rise out of his seat from the right side of the room. “A1. Please follow Doug through the room to your left.” I watched as they disappeared behind the door and continued to watch as more and more names were called, brewing agitation within me as I sat there. “Jonah Jeremiah Jones?” My ears pricked up again as JJ stood shakily. “Paired with Thomas Tomone, A9.” And off they went out of sight. I feared slightly for JJ being paired with a complete stranger and wished he could have at least had Cook bunk with him.

“Emily Fitch?” I finally heard my name called after a further few minutes. I stood quickly, not wanting to do anything to upset The Director. “Paired with…Elizabeth Stonem, A18.” The director spoke, reading from her clipboard. I watched as Mystery Girl stood up. My stomach churned a little bit, there was something intimidating about this girl and I feared I’d have a hard time avoiding trouble if I was around her, but at least I could put a name to a face now. I went to exit to the aisle but The Director spoke again. “Stonem?” She questioned Elizabeth. “Any relation to Anthony?”

“Maybe.” Elizabeth shrugged plainly.

“That was a yes or no question.” The Director spat back, looking irritated.

“He’s my brother.”

“Well well. Trouble just runs in your family doesn’t it?”

Elizabeth gave a sarcastic smile.

“Off you go with your partner then.” The Director instructed, happy with her torment. “Doug will let you through the door, to the right this time”

I quickly stepped out into the aisle to follow Elizabeth who walked in front of me towards the door. A fairly tall man with thin strawberry blonde hair and a face far to friendly to be an officer let us through the door. He waved an ID card and the door slid open into a small room where we were greeted by a female medical worker.

“Sit down please.” She spoke to both of us with her back to us. She turned around with a que tip in her hand. “Open please.” She spoke directly to me.

“What?”

“Open your mouth.” I glanced at Elizabeth with confusion and was met with her expressionless face before I begrudgingly opened my mouth. She swirled it around my cheeks before placing it in a test tube and sealing it away.

“You can calm down, it’s for your profile. We have to keep a DNA sample.” The worker explained before giving Elizabeth the same treatment. “Okay, remove your clothes now please girls.” She instructed, gathering two yellow jumpsuits, embroidered with A18 on the left breast. She could clearly see the shock and unwillingness on our faces as she turned back around. “Don’t make me get The Director, do as you’re told.”

We did so uncomfortably and I climbed into the ill-fitting, baggy jumpsuit as quickly as I could before she took our clothes from us.

“Hey, what are you doing with them?” I quizzed, my tone filled with mild anger.

“You won’t be needing these anymore.” She replied, however, I wasn’t too sad not to be seeing the god awful black dress again. We were then handed one pair of black plimsoles and one pair of combat boots, along with a second jumpsuit and a plain white t-shirt, which were given to us in small, tatty cardboard boxes.

“One last thing before you can move on.” The worker spoke. “Your unit watches.” She said, producing two small banded watches with a little digital screen attached. “Arms out please.” She instructed and strapped one to each of us. “These are synced to you and will match up to your profile, so no losing it or swapping.” We nodded, taking in what she was explaining. “Okay, you’re both done. Exit that way please.” She finished, pointing to a door to the left of the room.

As me and Elizabeth made our way to the door, I glanced at myself in the full yellow jumpsuit, clutching my tatty box. My eyes were puffy and dark and stress was evident across my face. The Emily Fitch I was this morning was truly gone forever.