Did I tell you about my first day at the camp?
You can’t see it when you first get off the train. Anyone who loses their balance is shot. And anyone who causes their chain to slacken has one of their arms hacked off.
A pair of Guards walks up and down each chain-gang. One of them carries a machete: the other a rifle. Bullets weren’t scarce back then, so they could afford to shoot us. And any line that had a dead prisoner chained to it would have to go straight to the hospital.
Remember what I said about not wanting to go there? Even a newcomer, fresh off the offal-and-excrement-encrusted trains, knew that.
It would be the first time you moved your legs in days, maybe weeks. And you could not afford to stumble. Not even for a moment. So you don’t notice the camp when you first get there. But I managed to read the sign posted above the gate: higher than any other structure for miles, at the time.
CITIZENSHIP IS HEAVEN.
Someone had managed to get up there: to risk death in addition of a new word to the top of the sign in their own blood.
Their half-skeletal body hung from the gate where the Guards had shot the vandal months earlier.
Some say the body’s still up there: bones are starting to fall from it. The Camp Commandant has decided against disturbing it: to warn everyone that this Reform Village will produce the finest Citizens. Even if it kills us.
That image sticks with everyone who’s been through those gates since. Right now it technically reads like a propaganda piece.
SURVIVE: CITIZENSHIP IS HEAVEN.
But those of us in brown know exactly what it means.
Above all else: survive.
- NEXT CHAPTER -H