"You were a member of The Compound for many years. Tell us a little bit about how you came to live there."
"It's simple, really. I was born there."
The compound sits on the outskirts of Silicon Shores, surrounded by dead trees, lots of dirt, and a large brick wall. It looks pretty uninteresting from the outside. The walls are grey and made of cheap vinyl siding that desperately needs remodeling. It looks vastly different from the sorts of architecture normally found in this town.
Inside the compound clinic, a small baby boy cries. He is Baby #237, and that's the name posted on his crib. He's not an orphan because his parents live in the compound. A clinic worker comes by to feed him a bottle of milk. She snuggles the baby and then puts him back in the crib, turning her attention to another patient in the clinic. The only entertainment the baby has is the small television in the nursery that is constantly playing a video.
A sheet of paper is taped to the clinic wall. A closer look reveals that it is a sign up sheet. There are several names written on it and it is organized in two columns, male and female. There is a third column for time and day. There are several names crossed off the list, all in pairs. The title on the sign up sheet reads 'Reproduction Schedule.'
The clinic worker exits the nursery and walks into the maternity ward of the clinic. She washes her hands and puts on a surgical mask and gloves. A woman screams on one of the beds inside the ward. She is going into labor. The clinic worker goes to deliver the baby. Once the baby is delivered, it is placed into a crib in the nursery. The clinic worker gives the mother some water.
"Can I see my baby?"
The clinic worker looks down sadly at the mother and shakes her head. "You know the rules."
The mother's expression turns to one of anger, and rolls over on her bed, turning her back to the clinic worker. The clinic worker sighs. She hates doing that to the new mothers, but she's been punished before for letting a mother hold her baby. She never wants to experience that punishment again.
How did you feel when you were growing up?
Bored. Life was monotonous. I'd go to classes, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. Although one day I did have a friend for a brief moment.
The little boy sits in the classroom, staring off into space. He is wearing cheap looking clothes that are faded in color and appear to be worn in some places. A woman stands in front of the room, writing on a marker board. She has written the words 'Do not talk to strangers.' The little boy fidgets and drops his notebook on the floor, causing a disturbance in the room. The teacher spins around quickly.
"#237! Don't disturb the classmates! Just for that, you have to answer the question."
"Um, what was the question again?"
"Who are strangers and why should we not talk to them?"
"Strangers are people outside of this home. We cannot talk to them because they are not safe. They will hurt us and are only out to destroy this home."
"Very good, #237. Now behave for the remainder of the class, please."
The little boy looks over at another child in the classroom. She is looking down at her desk and he can tell she is bored as well. He passes her a note. 'Meet me in the library. - #237' She looks over at him and smiles, nodding her head to acknowledge his request. After the class is over, the little boy heads to the library. He notices the little girl following him, but doesn't talk to her until they are both in the library.
"Hi. Thanks for meeting me. That class is just so boring."
"I agree. I don't know how the teacher can do that every day. She's always teaching the same lesson."
"Do you ever wish you could talk to strangers? I mean, are they really not safe?"
"Hmm.. Sometimes I do. I don't know that they could all be bad, could they?"
A man behind a bookshelf hears the children talking. That's not the problem though, the problem is they are talking about the strangers. He knows he has to report them. The man puts the book he was thinking of reading back on the shelf and walks away from the children to a small side room in the library. He pulls out a walkie talkie and pushes the button.
"Mr. Leader, sir, this is Stamper. I just overheard two children talking about the strangers. I think they are curious about them."
"Thank you Stamper. Can you see their numbers?"
"Yes, the first is #237, and the other is #235."
"That will be all."
"Yes, Mr. Leader, sir."
What happened to you after Stamper reported you?
I was put into Isolation that night. Isolation was a room with a sleeping bag and toilet. They fed me nothing but thin soup once a day for a week. After I got out of Isolation, I was so weak I could barely stand. I used the wall to help me walk for the next few days, trying to regain the muscles in my legs. I nursed myself back to health by attending meal time every day and eating everything on my plate.
What do you think happened to your friend?
I'm not sure. I know she probably got put in Isolation as well, but it's possible she never made it out because I didn't see her in class anymore. I kept to myself after that.
Some theme music plays, and Mrs. Balestrom touches my leg as she gets up off her chair.
"Let's take a break for now. I'll let you recover. Sorry for asking you the hard questions."
"That's all right. I need to talk about this if I'm going to heal from this experience and open other's eyes to the seriousness of cults."
My boyfriend taps me on the shoulder and gives me a hug. He brushes the hair out of my eyes and then looks into them.
"Hey, you're doing great, babe. Are you all right?"
"Yes. This is hard, but I'm ok. Thank you for always being there for me."
"You're welcome, Titanium. You know I love you."
"I love you too, Absolon."