by Zakirah Woods
I stared at the women laying in the casket, body wrapped in a thick black blanket and tied together with ropes. Her real name was unknown to some but I knew. I knew her story. I knew that she wasn’t the cold-hearted killer everyone thought she was. She was born back when the world was free. The tattoo of the “After World,” as they called it, was visible on her cheek. She was born into a world where each country had their own leader, back before the Purified “cleansed” the earth of people such as her. The people who didn’t take well to being painfully branded and forced into the mines or worse, the jails, for nothing.
Her name is…was Zakirah and she worked for the state as a buffer between the Purified and the assigned ghettos around the city, Pure. Although the name sounds nice, more than 75% of the crimes committed are murders, compared to the ghettos whose crime rate is less than 1%. My job: to research and analyze those who committed such violent crimes and my newest subject was Zakirah. She, unlike most of the criminals, was guilty until proven innocent. Her standing as an After World made her a “danger” to everyone and like myself she was branded and kept close to the Purified so they could keep an eye on her. And her age meant that she was too old for proper Purified schooling and her mind was too mature to be brain washed like the rest. At the age of 25 Zakirah had her first encounter with the law, a routine identification check.
She was sentenced to a year in the jails and twelve years in the mines. An unfair sentence for a citizen of Pure, but a light warning for those living in the ghettos and the After Worlds. While in the mine, she and her group were caught in an earthquake causing the whole cave to collapse. The guards on were busy making their life a living hell to notice.
Seventeen men and women were trapped along with three guards. Eight days later they were rescued. Only five survived: three workers and the two guards. The bodies of the other workers were half eaten or riddled with bullet holes. Upon questioning, it was revealed that guards opened fire after they were “attacked” by the workers who were led by Zakirah after she killed a guard over water. While attempting to arrest her she killed another guard and wounded four and vanished. She was found in 2034 dead, shot in the office of the Purified. My investigation started only hours ago but the case is already closed. The courts ruled her guilty, but to me she was innocent. She was my friend, she was the love of my life, she was…dead because of me.
I’ve been cheating on my wife for years, not even spending enough time at home to even change clothes let alone open mail. Hours ago after getting a call from the higher ups to work on a new case was the first time I opened my mail. Over 14 years’ worth of letters other than bills were tucked in the bottom drawer of my desk at home. Those same letters were clutched in my hands now. Some were yellow, others were only small strips of paper, and one had drops of blood on it. If I would have just read the letters instead of putting it off for another day, then maybe, just maybe, she would still be here.
She was only 39. Before all this crap happened with the Purified and before the world went to shit, she wanted to be a baker. She wanted to have no less than three kids. She wanted to live in a whole open space and stare at the stars at night…she wanted to live.
Screw the government! Ever since that whole thing back in 2013 they were butt hurt…and that’s the nice way of putting it. But today it just takes the cake! I was walking down the street and made the mistake of passing in front of a cop. I know it was stupid, but I had to go pick up a few things and they demanded to see my ID. I gave it to them but they threw it on the ground! CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? Then they told me to pick it up! You already know that it went downhill from there.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I was just sentenced for disobeying the police and have to go to court in a few days. Hopefully you’ll get this before that just in case something goes wrong. Say hi to your wife for me!
My first letter to you in a while. I know, I’m sorry, but they’ve been working us like slaves in these damn mines and I’m not even sure if I’ll get to send this. If not, I’ll keep it and send it all at once. Sound good? So how’s Kelly? Last I heard you guys were thinking about having a baby…you better name it after the most awesome person in the world, ME! Hope to see you and Kelly soon!
My god I think I’m going to die. The cave is…well you know. And this stupid guard won’t stop waving his gun around. We have little food and enough water to last about three days…if we’re lucky. But I’m sure that dehydration and starvation isn’t the thing that’s going to kill us. At least in one of the mine carts were some lanterns, pencils, and old maps of the mining shaft.
I assume that everyone is writing their wills or saying bye to the ones they’ll miss when they die or some other shit crap like that. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get the hell out of here…I’m not as young as I used to be, but I’m not dying like this!
I didn’t mean to, I swear! He tried to kill us and I had to choice! He was going to kill us all and the other two were going to let him, so I pushed him and he fell over and hit his head. I didn’t mean it! And you know that they would have killed me if I didn’t run away! So I’m on the lamb…I’ll try not to get into any more trouble.
Finally I think they gave up…I’m so tired…so very tired. Enough of that, guess what! I meant a guy in the town I’ve been lingering in and he is awesome! We’re thinking about settling down now that I’m no longer public enemy number one.
I, Zakirah Woods, confess to the murder of two guards, resisting arrest, and escaping fedra- TO HELL WITH THIS, IT’S A TRAP! Gun to my head, he’s reading this, once he sees what I’m writing I’m a goner! Freaking Purified undercover bastard! Life didn’t turn out how I thought it would…god I should have a kid or something. Or at least try to marry someone who was not trying to kill me. I guess you can never really be prepared for the future, just for what you think is going to happen. Tell Kelly that
Her burial was short and broke my heart. They tossed her in a hole in the ground. I can still hear the sickening sound it made when she hit the bottom. The casket was just for show and deep down inside I knew that. Dirt shoveled back into the earth from which it came, workers that were too old to be any use in the mines grunted at the weight of their loads. Little by little she was covered and sadly I was happy she was dead. She no longer had to deal with the world of the living, the world where you are labeled and treated worse than dogs. I would be the only one who would miss her, I her only friend who survived the purification and the only one who knew how much she hated most people who she came into contact with.
Back when we were in college she completely hated her classes. They were filled with people. Too loud, too cramped, too much at once, she hated every single second of it but she loved it. She loved the feeling she got when she solved a hard math problem or the smell of the old books in the library, or even the coldness of her dorm room in the morning. Her laugh, her smile, her crabby personality, I loved them all. My wife was her neighbor, a bible thumper who didn’t believe in sex before marriage and didn’t even curse, Jules. They met the first week and have been friends throughout all four years, right before the world turned to shit. Jules, like most other hardcore Catholics, was deemed pure while others like myself and Zakirah were herded up like cattle. Computers were hacked and all our information was out in the open. Medical records, social networks, even your search history were known. One by one, people joined the Purified in order to save themselves or family, but in return they did terrible things.
First the homosexuals and everyone who stood with them, next the convicts, the unfaithful, the drunks and drug users, the bastard children, everyone was gathered up. It was horrible, ten or more people were shoved into jail cells made for two, the sounds of children crying, the prayers of others who knew that this was the end, and the screams of those who were drug out of the cells and never seen again. These memories still haunt most today. A child’s scream or a simple touch to a tattooed cheek can bring back things that I soon hope to forget.
“You have to leave, sir.” In my musing, I failed to notice that the hole was filled. A few worms were wiggling their way back into the ground. One last look at where my love was buried. I turned and left. I had no more tears to cry, though the sadness was still there. A heavy feeling in my chest, it curled and throbbed, a dark cloud more fatal than the illegal cigarettes that some still smoke in dark alleys and behind deserted buildings. The sky, dark and heavy, roared to life, flashes of white streaked across a black canvas. Another thing I missed about the After World…the weather channel. Water made the grass in the cemetery soft and slick. White numbered crosses that served as tombstones were stained darker by the water. The few trees that littered the gated acre of land swayed violently was the wind started to pick up. Through the rain, I saw the front gate and with it a small group of angry people who thought the worst of Zakirah. Zakirah would have hated these people. They were just going with the flow of things and were too stupid to get their heads out of there asses to really see what was going on. Most of them were citizens of Pure who thought Zakirah shouldn’t even be allowed to be buried. She should have been left alive and burned at the stake or beaten to death by the families of the guards she killed. These are the citizens of Pure, heartless people who have done more wrong than half the people in the cemetery…these are the people I work for. They want everyone else to be punished, but they think themselves above the law just because of what a few balding old men think. These people are the ones that should be locked up in jails and forced to work in mines for the rest of their lives. Among the people in the crowd I saw a few who I knew worked with Zakirah. She was a jerk and had so much pride it almost hurt, but she was great at making friends and keeping them. She grew on them like mold on old cheese, a pain to be around but a joy to hear talking. Some of the things she said were ridiculous and sometimes hurtful, but she never lied. Once again, I felt myself slipping into my memories of a better yesterday but I had to stop. I love her but she is dead. I have to remember this…dead.
The rain still hasn’t let up, not that it would have made a difference. People still milled around the streets. I never hated a ground of people so much in my life. They walked around without a care in the world. They wore clothing free of rips and tears, and even though they had the tattoos of the After World, they were happy. It was sickening. Did they forget the freedom they had? Or did they not like having the opinion of doing whatever the hell they wanted? These people were insane. They were weak minded, brain washed into thinking what the Purified wanted them to think. They lived their lives, not questioning what happened behind closed doors. I never got how they were okay with this…dystopia.
“Sir, may I ask where you are going?” There in front of me was a guard. Heavy duty armor, black mask, and a big gun. They reminded me of the riot police.
“I asked you a question.” I have never been afraid of them. They were just dogs for the Purified to command, but at this point I felt a shock of fear run through me. Would they throw me in a prison if I didn’t answer? Would they beat me if I told them to go to hell?
“Nowhere…I guess.” Although his mask covered his face I could tell he did not like the answer I gave him. “Just out for a walk before I head home.” Which wasn’t a complete lie.
“Is that so? And where are you coming from?” I was once again stuck between telling the truth or a lie.
“He was just coming from work.” Both the cop and I turned toward the voice and I have never once been so happy to see another man in my life.
“James, Sir. Jeff and I work for the same department.”
“The Department of Criminology and Psychology, found in the Purified Offices of Pure Justice and Crime Center.” The cop seemed to grow bored of James which wasn’t hard to do seeing as James himself was a very bland person. He was born after all of this happened, only a teen but smarter than half the people we work for. He never right out questioned the Purified, but he would listen to my tails of the After World when we filled out paperwork or during lunch. A small crease would form between his brows, a word never leaving his mouth, but I could see the cogs in his mind turning slowly, perhaps trying to figure out how such free and happy people let themselves be controlled. His Purified schooling taught him that the After World was a terrible place full of death and sin, that what happened was God’s will.
“Well, see that he gets home. Curfew in an hour.” I thought about replying, but James pulled me along behind him, making a quick escape from the cop with a wave and a forced smile. Past old buildings and stores closing for curfew we walked. He never let go of my arm. If anything, his grip tightened the closer we got to the office. He knew I would never go back home to my wife and we would never make it back to his place before curfew. Slowly, the building started to take shape, just like the cop it never looked intimidating but now it towered over me.