CHAPTER ONE: BENHAM HILL
Put down the crayons. Sit down on the hard cold floor. Cross your legs, Fold your arms. Listen.
It’s as if I don’t know my old self anymore. The one that would feel herself falling and welcome the feeling, embracing the liberty, detached from existence. Creativity feels like a lifetime ago, somewhere far forgotten, not a part of our lives anymore. There is a small part of me that desperately wants to scream, releasing all the chains capturing my body, begin to run out of this classroom and never look back. I look around and see children dressed in identical checkered pinafores, consumed and controlled by the society we have found ourselves in. I’m dancing, letting any worries and reflections disappear from my mind for the moment. It’s not the same as it used to be. I feel myself start to fall but I can’t go back to normality, I hit the ground.
I run, I skip, I play. I feel free. I don’t feel uneasy. There is no weight on my shoulders, forcing me to follow in line with every one else. There are lights bouncing off the ceiling, a reflection of myself. Mom kisses me on the cheek and tucks me into my sheets, in the midst of my chaotic bedroom, clothes and books scattered amongst the soft carpet. I am 12 years old and excited. I look around and see a world full of opportunity, I can’t sleep.
How did we get to this point? We are responsible, but we ignore it. What else can we do? Martha passes me in the lunchroom, where we spend one hour of everyday eating, drinking, our only time together. I reach for her hand, and look up to see the same emotionless face that was once filled with colour and joy. The radiant atmosphere has been replaced by dark colours; red for resentment. I can see in the warden’s faces. In the small patterns in the curtains.
I look back to the bland meal in front of me, changeless, like my life now. I remember the times where I was excited about my education, learning wasn’t a burden. Back in the classroom next door, I overhear Mrs Clermont discussing my behaviour with my supervisor. “Unfocused. Insuppressible. Uncontrollable.” None of the other kids here have a supervisor. I was assigned Doris when Mrs Clermont found a small drawing book in my desk, filled with scribbles and sketches. She took it from me, and ripped it up in front of our confinement, all of the pages falling onto the floor. I could feel every person’s eyes on me as I got down on my bruised knees and with a faltering hand, gathering the pages that were no longer recognisable to me. Mrs Clermont was an older lady, dressed in a long black gown; hair pinned back, an embodiment of Benham Hill. She had starting working here at the beginning of the revolution, and I was yet to see any emotion in her customary routine. I wonder if that’s the way she expresses herself, or if she ever too, feels the urge to escape.
My finger is dancing along the snowy, distilled window that hangs above my head. I am standing on my tippy toes, barely touching it. Since I have been held here, time seems to have been stolen from me. In saying this, I’m starting to forget what it would feel like to be outside again. I write, My name is Addison; I am 18 years old. over and over. Here at Benham Hill we are referred to as numbers. I am scanned in during the morning and checked into the learning area, with my new supervisor. The area is a vast space, occupied with over two hundred students. When I’m sitting on the tiles there I feel small, even though I am only five feet tall.
I’m unsure about how long Mrs Clermont has been preparing us for tomorrow, but it seems like months. “The big day.” The day where our worth in this place; and what is beginning to feel like the world, is tested. This is the only day we are given permission to sit beside desks, in single file, accompanied by six pieces of paper and a pencil. Before I know it I have began to lose control again, all I see is the skeleton of a fleeting light as I fall into a state I can’t return from. I am descending, falling, weakening. I’m spiralling but I can’t stop myself like I usually am able to, this time I hit the ground.
CHAPTER TWO: TEST DAY