Music Track: Play when it shows up if you want to listen.
~ Late Knight Simmer ~
I haven't seen Camo in days and I miss him. I'm a little worried about him because the conversation I had with Absolon about the shelter totally creeped me out.
"Hey, Verona, I found Mom, and your car. It's at the station, and it doesn't look like Mom did anything to it, except run it low on gas."
"Thank you, Victor."
As I leave the house and head for the police station, I see Camo and Titanium walking up to the gate. My heart does flip flops at the sight of Camo, and I run towards him with a smile on my face. My smile fades quickly, however, when I see that he has what looks to be a multitude of bruises on his face. They don't look fresh, but they look like they hurt. I can't stop the tears from flowing down my face as I collapse into his arms.
"Camo? What happened to your face?"
"I got punished."
"Titanium hugged me, and we got punished."
"Camo, that's ridiculous. No one should be punished for hugging their friend. You can't go back there."
"Believe me, I don't want to, but how do I get away with staying out? The Leader always goes out looking for people if they aren't back by curfew. I don't want to live my life on the run. He'd probably find me and punish me again for trying to leave. I don't know what to do, Verona."
"The Leader? Camo, that sounds really creepy. Do you seriously have to call him that?"
"He insists on 'Mr. Leader, sir,' actually, but I rarely say that. I don't address him as anything. I don't talk to him much unless he talks to me first. Were you going somewhere?"
"Yeah, I'm going to the police station to pick up my car. My mother stole it last week. We can tell my detective brother you were assaulted, since it's obvious from your wounds, and get a restraining order filed so this Leader person can't make you go back there."
"Is your brother just going to think I'm lying because I don't like it there?"
"No, since you and Titanium both have wounds that are very similar, it looks suspicious, you know?"
"Titanium? We can be free from The Compound if we do this. It will work better if you come too, like Verona said, two cases of assault is stronger than just me going in. I know you were scared to come out today, but you must have done it for a reason. Will you come to the police with me?"
Just then, Absolon comes running out to where we are standing because I sent him a text that Titanium was here. Absolon pulls Titanium into his arms and holds him tight. It's then that I hear Titanium start crying.
"Titanium, shh, it's okay. What's the matter?"
"I don't want to say it. I'm too scared. I'm broken, damaged, you don't want me. I don't know why anyone would want me."
I don't know what they did to him, but I am not letting him go back to The Compound. Not after seeing the bruises and cuts on his skin. The Compound already claimed the life of one person I loved, they are not going to take Titanium away from me.
"Titanium? Look at me. You are not broken. You are nothing but fucking perfect to me. Okay?"
Made a wrong turn, once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's all right
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss, no way it's all good, it didn't slow me down
Mistaken, always second guessing
Underestimated, look, I'm still around
Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than fucking perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're fucking perfect to me
You're so mean when you talk
About yourself, you are wrong
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead
So complicated, look how big you'll make it
Filled with so much hatred, such a tired game
It's enough, I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons, see you do the same
The whole world stares while I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool in lying and we tried, tried, tried
But we try too hard, it's a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics cause they're everywhere
They don't like my genes, they don't get my hair
Strange, ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that? Why do I do that? Why do I do that?
Fuckin' Perfect - by Pink
"What do you mean you're damaged? Just cause people have told you that you don't mean anything doesn't mean it's true."
"No, I get told that I'm better than everyone, it's not that. I'm damaged because- because I was- I can't say it, it's too painful. I don't want to remember it! You deserve better than me, I'm just a used piece of garbage."
Used piece of garbage? Oh crap, is that what I think it sounds like?
"Titanium, did you get raped?"
He looks at me briefly, and then looks to the side. He doesn't say anything, but the look in his eyes is telling me that I guessed correctly. I pull him close to my chest and try to keep myself from breaking down as well. For all the rules that place seems to have, it doesn't make sense that they would allow their residents to behave that way. I do know though, once they start suspecting any sense of rebellion, they go to great lengths to beat down the rebellious person, by any means necessary.
The day my family fell apart was just a typical Sunday afternoon. Mom had been staying at The Compound more and more, and she had finally come home, after almost a year. We were doing well without her, at least as well as we could. I knew Dad missed her a lot because he did love her. I hadn't taken it very well because I was mad at Mom for leaving and so I clung to Dad for support. When she walked in the door, she looked tired and like she had aged ten years since I last saw her. I don't even know why she came back. She stood in the hallway like our house was a foreign object to her, and she didn't look like my mom anymore, she just looked like a broken woman who was lost in her own body. I looked at her, unsure of how to even talk to her, even though I missed her desperately. Dad ran over to her and tried to hug her, but she pushed him away.
"Don't touch me, Enigma. I came to tell you that I've had a child for the good of The Compound."
"What are you talking about? You slept with someone else?"
"Yes, it's my duty to breed new residents so they can be raised with good values."
As soon as she opened her mouth and started talking like a robot, my anger surfaced and buried my feelings of missing her. I felt bad, but I was so angry at this woman who looked like my mother, but had taken my mother's mind and hidden it from me.
"Why are you even here, Mom? You clearly don't give a shit about us anymore."
"Absolon! Don't talk to your mother that way."
"It's true, Dad! She left us!"
"She's back now."
"Really? Look at her! She's barely here! She's like a shell of a human being! She doesn't love us anymore!"
"Don't say that, Absolon. She came back, that means she still remembers. We have to help her."
"No, Enigma. I require no assistance. I came because I'm here to recruit the both of you to come live in The Compound with me. It is dangerous in this world outside, you can be safe with me. You can be with me again."
"Fuck that Mom. Look at you! I'm not letting them turn me into what you've become! I'm not going!"
"We have to commit her to a psychiatric ward."
As soon as Dad said those words, Mom became lively, obviously disliking that option. She started arguing with Dad, saying she wasn't crazy, that she had seen the light, and that we didn't have to live in the darkness anymore, if we would just go with her to a better place. Dad tried to calm her down, but she wouldn't listen. She kept saying that The Leader had warned her that we might react negatively.
"The Leader? What the fuck are you rambling on about, Andromeda? Are you insane?"
"The Leader cares about me more than you do."
"What? Is he the one you slept with? Is he running some polygamous thing, where you're one of fifteen wives?"
"No. It was just a random resident. We do not believe in marriage."
"What?! You're married to me! What the fuck do you mean you don't believe in marriage?! Andromeda, what is wrong with you?!"
"You and Absolon need to come with me, it's better this way, I can show you the light. You don't have to live like this anymore."
I felt so bad for Dad, he looked so sad despite him trying to talk sense into Mom. It looked like he didn't really think there was anything that he could do for her.
"Stop it, Andromeda. Absolon and I are going to take you to a place where they can help you."
"No. I don't need any help. You and Absolon are the ones who need help. You are corrupted by this world."
"Andromeda, look at me. Forget about all the who needs help talk for a second. Why did you come back? You've been gone for a year. Absolon and I thought you just ran away because you didn't love us anymore. Do you still love me?"
"Yes, I miss you. That's why I want you to come with me. I was afraid that you both were still living in this corrupt world, I came to save you from the danger."
Dad tried to convince Mom that she was safe here with us, but I couldn't get over how blank and empty her eyes looked.
"Andromeda, Absolon and I are not in danger, but we both want you to come home. Stay with us. This is your home."
Mom shook her head, not convinced that we were fine, and that we loved her.
"No. The Leader said you would do this, he said you would try to make me stay with you instead."
Suddenly Mom bit down hard on something, causing her to start convulsing and foaming at the mouth. She fell and Dad held her in his arms. A few seconds later she was dead. She had bitten down on a cyanide pill. It was the worst thing I've ever seen, my own mother killing herself because she'd been so brainwashed she didn't even know her own family anymore.
After Mom killed herself, Dad started drinking heavily every night, and eventually, our relationship died as well. Everything we had worked so hard to build up in those few years fell apart. The Compound tears people apart, and they'd prefer it that you remain broken and empty. They can control you better that way if you have no fight left in you. They thrive on pain and suffering even though they tell you they're relieving you of it. I'll never forget the look in my mother's eyes when she said her last words, she looked alive as in her heart was beating, but her eyes said that she died long ago, when she joined that horrible place.
I hug Titanium close to me, sad that I thought of that awful memory. Titanium's my only family now since my dad kicked me out of the house, and I don't want to lose him. Verona taps me on the shoulder and tells me of her plan to go to the police. The four of us pile in my car and head to the police station.