Chapter 3 – The Camp
On the Eastern side of the continent formerly known as North America, Serilda Corazon stood at the trough, collecting the day’s water for the other thirteen people that shared her hut. Leafless trees on the perimeter of the camp cast their ominous shadows upon the brown dirt of the courtyard. She thought it had been weeks since the sun had won its daily battle against the bleak gray that blanketed the sky. The birds seemed to have ceased their melodies, she couldn’t blame them for it either, there was not much cause for song. As the strongest among her fellow inmates by far, she would collect the stagnant water several times a day. Her strange lineage afforded her a resilience the other inmates did not share. The water was to be used for drinking, washing, and laundering clothes. She, as everyone else imprisoned at Camp Skadi wore a light-grey shirt and trousers of the same color. Serilda was a tall woman in her mid-twenties. She had shoulder-length blonde hair with shades of brown. Her eyes were a strange mixture of yellow and green.
She turned with her bucket filled to meet the gaze of Major Damian Senery.
He looked at her up and down, making no effort to conceal his desires, “Is it not about time one of your friends did that for a change?”
Serilda had to look up to meet the man’s eyes, for he was over seven-foot tall. He had pale blonde hair, skin of a strange yellow complexion, and eyes that were the color of a daffodil past its peak.
He wore a dark grey uniform. On his arm was a yellow, rectangular emblem embroidered into the fabric. It had a white circle in the middle. Within the circle was a black glyph that made her stomach turn. “I really don’t mind, Major. It gives me something to do.”
“You mean your bunkmates are lazy and are taking advantage of your weak nature?” He kicked the bucket from her hand.
He looked down at her, she saw the contempt in his eyes, “You wasteful bitch! Do you know how much it costs us to provide you Zoons with water?”
She looked up at him again in defiance, “No Major, but since it falls from the sky, it can’t be too much.” Serilda regretted her momentary bravery immediately as she saw his yellow eyes flash with rage. He struck Serilda with his clenched fist in her face, sending her flying to the floor, her shoulder screamed with pain as she hit the stony ground. He looked down as his face contorted, “Do you think because you’re a half-breed bitch that you are different to the other Zoons? Do you think you are better than them because your father was Flaxen?”
Serilda’s hands were shaking as she attempted to stand, then, from across the central courtyard – another man’s voice could be heard, “Major, what’s going on here?”
Serilda knew the voice instantly, it usually grated through her like a dull knife, but for the first time, she was happy to hear it. It was the Colonel, head of Camp Skadi. She saw Damien’s look of anger as he heard it and she knew he must retain all of his discipline and composure to keep up appearances to his superior.
She was well aware Damien had seen the Colonel become weak over the months and that he despised him for it, and she knew exactly why. He was no longer displaying the true Flaxen traits of supremacy. He had failed to show proper discipline to the sub-humans that infested the Earth. He was even showing signs of kindness to the Zoons. She knew he had surmised that the old man was losing his mind, it was the only explanation.
The Major stood at attention as the man approached him. Damian looked directly into the Colonel’s eyes. He had to raise his head slightly, for the Colonel was taller than even he.
The eyes that met his were as yellow and vacuous as his own. The Colonel’s hat covered his hair, the same yellow locks as Damien’s own protruded from its sides. “Colonel Flint, this Zoon has shown severe disrespect and insolence.”
“Well, Major, perhaps if you hadn’t kicked the poor girl’s bucket – she would have been more polite.”
Damien’s face betrayed his disgust, “But Colonel, she was directly defiant to me, we can’t allow…”
“We can’t brutalize the Zoons for every offense, real or imagined,” said the colonel as he looked down at his subordinate. “Or we’d have no useful labor force left. The mines will be re-opening soon. We need them fit for work. Don’t you agree?”
Damien bowed his head, a required display of subordination in the Flaxen military.
“Quite right, Colonel. I’ll bear that in mind in the future.”
The Colonel raised his right arm to chin level and made a fist, “For Flaxus!”
Damien returned the gesture, “For Flaxus!”
He looked down at his subordinate for another moment, “Dismissed Major.” Damien repeated the gesture before walking away.
Colonel Jaakobah Flint turned his gaze to the half-breed on the floor. He extended his hand to assist her. Serilda pretended not to notice his gesture and raised herself with both arms, her shoulder hurt but she at least now knew it was no serious injury.
“My apologies, Serilda. I expect better of my men.”
She hated it when this vile creature used her first name. It was given to her by her mother. A woman of such kindness and love she cried for her memory each night. To hear it sullied by this towering monster before her caused such fury within her she needed every fiber of her strength no to spit in his face.
She raised her head to meet his eyes, “No problem, Colonel. it was just a misunderstanding.” She forced a smile and turned to walk away leaving her bucket behind.
Jaakobah grabbed her by the wrist as she turned. He caressed her arm as he looked her in the eye once more, “I’ll be seeing you tonight, of course. At the usual time?”
She forced a smile again, “Of Course, Colonel Flint.”
He released her and she walked slowly back to her hut. Several hours later she returned to the trough. She filled two buckets and hurried back to hut seven – a name she considered inadequate to describe the suffering within its thin, metal walls.
The inhabitants of the camp were free to roam within its perimeter in daylight hours, now that the mines were temporarily closed. But when the sun set, heads were counted and they were all locked within their huts – designed to accommodate six or seven – but were routinely filled with twice that number or more.
As she entered the building, she gave one bucket to the prisoners at the front of the small, suffocating hut. They were the most infirm and riddled with disease. It was only natural that the prisoners segregated them in such a way. It was not borne of callousness, but self-preservation. All the other occupants had was their health. Not even Serilda objected to this, although she had inherited her mother’s compassion and value for all life, she was also the product of her father and from him, she had been passed pragmatism and a strong desire to survive. She no longer noticed the stench that permeated the air like an invisible fog. When she first arrived, all those years ago, it would keep her awake at night. She imagined that if it had a color, it would be a deep brown-green that infested all it touched. Harder to ignore, were the cries and moaning. They filled the air with a viscosity equal to the smell and equally perennial.
She made her way to the small, filthy bunk she shared with her best friend. Megan was purely human – she had no Flaxen blood in her veins. Serilda envied her for this. She had never been persecuted by her fellow prisoners for her heritage, but she had persecuted herself enough for them all. Serilda lifted the head of her weak friend, “Drink, you’re dehydrated you have to drink.”
Megan looked up at her savior and drank. When she had finished the small cup Serilda filled another. “More, just this last cup, then I have a surprise for you.”
Megan appeared confused, but she complied with her friend’s request and drank. Water spilled down her chin as her head shook from the effort.
Megan looked into the yellow-green eyes before her, “A surprise? Is it my birthday already? it’s still winter.”
Unsure if her friend was joking or delusional from fever, Serilda took a cloth from her pocket and unwrapped its content.
“Look, Megan, it’s dried meat. Beef, I think. I got it from the Colonel last night. There’s enough here for both of us.”
The half-Flaxen broke off a piece of the brown meat and put it to Megan’s mouth. Her friend refused to eat. Her voice was soft and weak but it had a musical quality that Serilda had always loved, “I need to know, are we still safe? Will the red circles still not glow? Are they safe?” She gestured at the sickly prisoners at the other end of the hut.
Serilda couldn’t contain her tears. Not only for the compassion displayed by her friend but for the need for her to have to say such a thing in the first place. Serilda thought about the place called Hell that Megan often talked about. She wondered if its misery could compete with Camp Skadi. She wiped her eyes with the cloth that had wrapped their food. She had, for a moment, tuned out the crying and groaning of the people that endured eternal suffering around her.
“Yes, Megan, I promise. As long as I’m here the circles won’t glow. I have him under control. Now eat. Please, will you eat?”
Megan smiled as her deep brown eyes shone brighter than before. Her soft, sweet voice filled the small hut like a harp, “You were sent by God, Serilda, you truly were.”
She ate as the eyes of the people around her radiated envy, the mere sight of the food sufficient to stop the endless groans that bounced off the sheet-metal walls.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in