If… you’re… happy! And, you know it! Clap… your hands! If… you’re happy! And, you know it! Clap… your hands...!
It was nine a.m. Aeva was sure of it. Every morning, like clockwork, the same melancholic little song played loudly overhead. It blared through the intercom in Aeva’s shabby, little room. And each morning, Aeva, more dead than alive, would get out of bed and curse listlessly at that miserable song. The singer, gender unknown, sluggishly croaked out the words and notes as trumpets played softly, pitifully in the background.
But, this morning was different. Aeva had a breakdown; and, it was her most colorful one in months. She stood in bed and pulled her drab, grey blankets up with her. Then she jumped up and down and yelled uncontrollably.
“I’m happy! And, I know it! Did you bastards hear me? I said, ‘I’m fucking happy, damn it!’”
“Shut up and get down, F2!” an orderly yelled through the closed door.
“Why?” Aeva yelled back. “I’m happy, and I want all of you got-damn pricks to know it!”
“Last warning… After this I will come in there and personally drag you down by the hair,” he retorted impatiently.
Aeva stopped jumping up and down and carefully stepped off the side of the bed. She slowly walked over to the door and pressed her pallid face against the dusty, grey surface.
“If you don’t like it,” she began, “then cut off the—got—damn—music!”
Aeva sat in bed, silently cringing as the last few notes of the song dissipated. She had been locked on the F2 floor in a holding cell for more than three years now. Her spirit was frail but in tact, and her heart was riddled with disappointment. But her mind, although filled with shadows and voices, was still sharply alert.
Today, she would have to put on her best face. She would have to get her nerves together for the sake of her dismal future; and, she would have to dress nicely if she even remotely expected someone to think of giving her a chance at life again.
She inched toward the sink and filled a tin pail with cold, murky water. Then she slowly pulled up her shirt, sliding it over her short, tawny hair. She soaked the washcloth and squeezed the water over one shoulder—she had been washing in cold water for so long that she had become numb to the frigid sensation. The water ran down her wan back in rivulets and streamed across her waistline where numbers, bold and black, read: 7701583.
After bathing, orderlies escorted Aeva out of the holding cell. She thought of how magnificent they looked in their crisp, white uniforms decked with crimson and black trim and their heads topped with blood-red berets. They must really feel important she thought as she was escorted out of the F2 ward and into another portion of the building.
The room was filled with women… women like her. Some of them were convicted of far worse crimes; but most of them had minor transgressions—mere pencil marks on their white sheets of honor. Aeva’s transgressions were permanent—
Aeva stood in line with the first five prisoners. They were taken to a smaller room where they all stood upon a platform in front of a thick wall of glass. On the other side there were men, employers, sometimes families—Aeva would be going to one of them… if she could somehow appear cooperative.
The inmates stepped forward altogether, did a slow turn, and stepped back into place. Then, the emcee broadcasted protocol.
“Up first for conditional release: the women from the F2 isolation ward. These women have been detained for their unspeakable crimes against men and have all been found guilty and therefore too incompetent to govern their own lives. They have also been deemed incapable of living amongst the civilized masses for fear that their chaotic ideals will spread. Furthermore, their rights and privileges as human beings have been stripped. The bidding begins as of now.”
[t b c...]