Critical Thinkers (1st part)
As I laid on my bed in complete silence, I thought about the boy who I locked eyes with at the food court. His eyes were dreamy. There was something captivating about his mysterious eyes. He stared hard at me, contemplating whether secretly waving at me or walking away. Almost simultaneously, we looked away. I looked away for his safety and for my own wellbeing as well. I couldn’t forget his face. It wasn’t just because of his handsome exterior, there was a despondency behind his eyes. An overwhelming sorrow hid behind his almost concealed smile. Maybe he stood out to me so much because over the years I’ve been molded into a pure representation of sorrow as well.
There’s no such thing as “living” in my town, actually in my whole country. We’re alive yet dead inside. We live a life of no choices, options or freedom. Everything we do and who we talk to in the course of our manipulated lives is predetermined since the day of our birth. I spent hours questioning the meaning of life, asking myself, “How is this living?” The government gave us three laws, 1) Respect the government and presidential family, 2) Love the government and 3) Smile at all times.
As I lay on my bed, I feel my body shiver as the cold wind creeps through the crack on my window. My bedroom walls are filled with posters of our all mighty leader, President Trudent. Only in my mind can I call him President Evil. If anyone dares to speak in public of their distaste for him, they would be risking a painful execution. My thoughts about hatred and sorrow were interrupted by my little twin sisters screams.
“Serenity! Scarlett kicked me!”
“No, I didn’t! She’s being a little baby Serenity.”
Here we go again. Once again, they are fighting. I would have thought twins would be close and united. Scarlett and Evalyn were nowhere near united. My family is pretty wealthy, I guess all the money and toys turned my once adorable baby sisters into spoiled eight-year old’s. The money and toys never got to me. How could it while others are dying of poverty and agony? How could I even dare flaunt my money around?
“Serenity! Scarlett’s still hitting me! Get down here.”
I jumped in the elevator and in a matter of seconds appeared in the living room.
“What now? Scarlett stop hitting your sister. Hug each other and behave. Why are you guys arguing anyway?”
Little rebellious Scarlett jumped on the couch and exclaimed, “I want to be like president Trudent! Evalyn said President Trudent is stupid so I hit her.”
I was shocked and exasperated by Scarlett’s statement.
“Look at me now little girl. Actually, both of you look at me. Scarlett don’t you dare want to be like President Trudent. Evalyn don’t you dare utter those words outside of this home. I probably sound very confusing right now. Guys trust me, this government is nothing to trust. It is an oppressive mess… Just sit still and watch TV You guys are still too young to understand…”
They stood still, I guess my aggressive tone shocked them because surprisingly they sat down and began watching cartoons. Scarlett and Evalyn were never exposed to the evil of our government. They are being brainwashed by the educational system. I, on the other hand, was able to witness poverty and the evil behind our government before they were born. I was adopted by Scarlett and Evalyn’s parents when I was 6 years old. I still remember how my mother’s tears fell on my face. I was born to a maid who worked hard to keep me alive. Since I was born in the lower class, the government refused to educate me. Mother always said, “They try to keep us ignorant so that we can blindly follow them. I will educate you myself. I’ll keep you from becoming just another puppet under the control of injustice.” My mother told me the real story behind the government. The story that gets ignored and censored out of every history lesson taught to the youth of my country.
I remember the day my ears were opened to the story of how this country became the repugnant Roseland. I was a joyful 5-year-old. My mother came home, and I was watching the news with my uncle. President Trudent was giving his regular 5:00 speech.
“Fellow Roselanders, it is time to give our daily salute to me, your all mighty leader and to our beautiful, humble country. Our country which shines so bright! We must all be proud of our government, the best one on earth! Remember, smile at all times.” He gave the camera his typical bright smile. Such a beautiful smile on a pitiful and worthless man. After his moment of fake smiling, he said, “All rise.” My uncle and I stood up and we put our hands over our hearts while listening to the national anthem.
My mother just stood there and said, “Serenity, what are you doing? Put your hand down, he doesn’t deserve your respect…”
My uncle looked at my mother and in a concerned tone spoke to her.
“Catherine, it is the law to salute to President Trudent’s speech. I would suggest you keep your child safe by showing her how to be a proper Roselander. Do you want to risk execution one day? Do you? Just do what you are told, even if it is faked. Just smile…”
With no hesitation, my mother replied to him.
“My daughter deserves a life where she can think for herself. Come Serenity, let’s go to your room.”
Being a young child, I didn’t understand my mother’s frustration with my uncle or government.
“Mommy why is it bad to praise Roseland and President Trudent. Why do you hate them so much?”
We entered my tiny, fallen apart room and she sat me on my bed and held me in her arms.
“You’re so young, so innocent. You’re so full of hope. I wish you could remain this way forever, but I need to open your eyes to the truth. It may destroy your innocence or fracture it, but I rather do it myself than let life slap you hard in your face one day…”
I remained quiet. I tried imagining life being a huge entity in the shape of a hand, getting ready to slap me in the face. I tried to envision how the truth would feel after the slap. Would it be scary? Would it destroy me?
“Sweetie 500 years ago in the year of 2556 our country had a different name. It was an extremely different place. One of our ancestors was a famous book author who during the years 2556 through the year 2575 documented how Roseland became what it is today in a journal. This journal has been passed down from generations in our family, in the year 2590 our ancestors secretly began circulating her journal throughout the lower-class citizens. Under a different name of course, if the government found out the origin of the book our whole family would have been annihilated.”
My mother quickly ran into her room and came back with an old-looking book. It was a copy of Marjane Cruz’s, my ancestors, journal.
“Really mommy? Wow! 500 years is a lot.”
My mother giggled and said, “Yes my child, 500 years is an extremely long time. Back in the year 2556, Roseland was a great powerful nation. It was the land of freedom, well that’s what the old government used to say. People were free to talk about anything and could talk to whomever they wanted to about anything. Back then people had the right to have an opinion.”
“People talked even about the president mommy?”
“Yes sweetie, even about the president. There was even something called, Public schools. Public schools were where hundreds and thousands of children were educated.”
“Wait! What? Wow, so kids studied together? That’s so different! The government makes kids study at home. My friend Laura has a neighbor whose rich. She said her neighbor studies in her house. Every rich kid does.”
My mother laughed at how excited I got and said, “Yes, kids could make any friends in school. Poor or rich, you were allowed to get an education. A teacher taught the students.”
“A robot teacher mommy? Laura’s neighbor has a robot teacher.”
“No sweetie they were human beings like us. People made of bones and flesh. People with emotions just like us sweetie.”
I remember being fascinated by the way my mother described this utopia that once existed in my dystopia.
“Mommy, if that year the government was so great, then why did things change?”
“Bullying, my dear. The bullying started it all.”
That was my first encounter with that word. I wondered what mysterious thing bullying could’ve been. The word didn’t sound scary, nor malicious.
“Bullying was the beginning of what caused Roseland to change. Bullying was the root of destruction. It’s intoxicating how us humans ourselves let bullying turn a utopia into a society where happiness has to be faked. Bullying is when you put down others because of the way they look, act or feel. Serenity imagine being constantly ridiculed because you’re poor.”
“That’s mean mommy, that would make me feel sad.”
“Exactly Sweetie. Kids, teens and even adults did this to each other. Bullying caused people to deal with depression. Depression makes a person never want to smile. It’s a sadness so deep that life becomes painful.”
“Mommy, depression would be against the law then. The law is 1) Respect the government, 2)Love the government and 3)Smile at all times. President Trudent must never get depressed because he always smiles.”
“Yes sweetie, depression, well showing your depressed would be against the law…” Anyways, President Trudent’s ancestor was what started this dystopia… Before he became the beloved president of Roseland he was a loving single father to a little girl named Rose. She was born with a mark that took up half of her face. She suffered from depression due to the constant bullying in her school. His love and protection weren’t enough to keep her away from the bullies all around her. Nor was it enough to help her overcome her depression. Rose ended her life at the age of 15.”
My heart sank. I wondered how much pain a person had to feel in order to ever take their own life. Hearing the story of a young girl committing suicide didn’t destroy my innocence but it sure did in a way sadden my young heart.
“What happened after she died mommy?”
“Well, her father a couple of years later became president. He was known for his slogan, “I’ll help make us shine like a newly grown rose.” During his presidency bullying and suicide were so common that every week it was on the news. At this point, I think president Trudent’s ancestor was losing his mind. It seemed as if all he wanted to do was end bullying. He closed public schools. He became powerful and drove fear into the American people. People tried stopping him but president Trudent’s ancestor had a military and army weapons under his control. For centuries president Trudent’s family has been in control. Till this day they are and will always be our bullies… The man was right in a way, the only way to stop bullying is to become the bully of the bullies themselves…”
After the day my mother told me the story behind the government I viewed life in a confusing way. I loved it because I had my mother and uncle. I also hated it because the rich had it all, all smiles were forced, and our laws were based off fear.
After Scarlett and Evalyn stopped fighting I sat outside on my front steps. A group of teens ran passed me, they were wearing masks. Purple masks I’ve never seen before. I suddenly heard a voice say, “turn around.” It was the boy I locked eyes with at the food court. He handed me a note and a purple mask, then quickly ran away. He was smart, as long as he and I don’t vocally communicate the chip implanted in our bodies wouldn’t detect it. That’s how the government can tell when people outside of each other’s social classes are communicating, which is against the law. Once you are adopted, they switch the chips in your body to match the social class you were adopted into.
The letter read,
Remember me? It’s Haven. I know I look different now. I lost all the baby fat and cut my hair. Rebecca, Lilly, Joseph and I have been looking for you ever since your mother died… I hope you haven’t forgotten about us. After your mother’s death, many of us swore revenge on the government. It’s either now or never Serenity. We started a group called the Masked Rebels. We’re going to bring justice to your mother. It’s about time Roseland changes and for the better. We meet every Tuesday under the abandoned market. I’ll be around your house Tuesday at five.
I was shocked, Haven, my old childhood friend! I felt the 5-year-old in me awaken. Tears poured out of my eyes. They were warm, they were warm like the feeling in my heart. Although seeing Haven again brought back beautiful memories it also brought back the memories of my mother’s death. My mother was killed by a cop for disobeying the law. My mother’s biggest downfall was her big heart. My neighbors were being executed in front of their home after their 3-year-old daughter repeated the words, “I hate president Trudent,” in front of a cop. The cop questioned the parents where the child learned the “evil” phrase. They asked for forgiveness and said the child will never say it again. The cop with no remorse shot the father and mother. The baby was next, my mother ran and tried to stop the cop. She and the baby were shot…
My uncle wanted a better life for me and knew he wasn’t going to be able to provide for me. With pain in his heart, I was put up for sent to a government facility where the poor could place any minors for adoption. Adoption was a gateway out of poverty. Only the rich had the power and right to adopt. That day I slept with the note haven gave to me in my hand. I waited for Tuesday to come with an emotion-filled anticipation.
Tuesday came, and I woke up with a nervous feeling. “Serenity you’ve been acting strange, are you ok?” My adoptive mother was concerned, constantly checking up on me, bringing me cookies. I’ve grown to love her. She’s my best friend in a way. It hurt hiding the note from her and keeping a secret so big, but I knew if I told her she wouldn’t let me join the Masked Rebels.
Five O’clock finally arrived and I sat on my front steps waiting for Haven. He arrived at 5:01, he handed me a note. It said,
I knew you would come, put on your mask.
I had a pen and notebook to communicate with him. I wrote,
It’s about time we start a revolution.
I grabbed his hand out of nervousness and excitement then in silence Haven and I walked. At the meeting there was pure silence, everything we wanted to say was through writing. We were about 30 teens all from different social classes. Haven wrote on a smart board, 1) Gain followers, 2) Have faith, not fear and 3) Smile but out of joy. We all silently looked at each other and smiled, some cried but out of hope. That was the beginning of the Masked Rebels…
To be Continued…
The Journey Awaits