From Russia with hate.
A woman awoke to the dissonant ring of a metallic alarm. Hauling herself out a dazed half-sleep that had plagued the entire five hours she gave herself to rest, the sound soon became unbearable. Her body jolted, shooting to life as she flung her chest forward, fumbling to muffle her ears with bare fingers.
She slammed down on her alarm as its twin rust-mottled bells reverberated from the impact. Eyes aching in dull pain as she tried fruitlessly to force them open, broken body weak and stumbling. She attempted to force herself out of bed, but she couldn't move. Her legs were immobile. Grabbing ankles with cold hands, the woman then proceeded in her attempts to slide herself off her sleeping rack, only to then find herself collapse onto the ground.
The concrete hit her, a stabbing pain shooting through her body. She lay there for a full thirty seconds whilst the freezing early morning Russian air pierced the stale, stringy fabric of her sleeping attire, clothes of which were little more than years old handed-down rags that were woefully ill-equipped for of cold metal beds, thin sheets and uninsulated walls.
Gritting teeth, she pushed both arms against the floor as she forced her torso upwards, edging herself to be dragged across the floor as a substitute for walking.
This was the seventh time in a single month this has happened to her. She had no idea why.
With the head of her family once an adequately paid member of the FSB now reduced to an irritable, never-at-home and increasingly intoxicated factory worker paid in the monetary equivalent of chicken feed, her stomach had grown numb from repeated hungry mornings with only crusts and boiled brown tea-infused water to energise her mornings. Her muscles and sinew had grown so used to screaming in pain from cold and a lack of energy that she could no longer tell if they were really still alive.
In spite of this, this recent affliction was something entirely foreign to her. Thoughts of sleep paralysis resulting from her ruined sleeping patterns arose into her largely uncertain brain, but even that felt far too naïve in categorising this as another effect of poverty.
Within an hour a clock somewhere would tick to 7:00am. Within forty minutes a bus would depart and not leave for another sixty minutes, denying all chance to travel within her preset time constraints. Within twelve hours, a space would be freed up on the workplace roster, her own name erased away.
But she was utterly immobile. Within minutes any prospect of mobility withered away into uncertainty, and she was forced to stare at her clock for a full twenty three minutes in utter paralysed silence. The freezing air forced all sensation to vanish from her hands and feet, as she tried, demanding all quantities of effort trapped within her, to move them.
Sour voices were heard from within the house, with audible sound stumbling up the staircase that connected her quarters to the remainder of the house, a house that was in reality a mere flat that was truly the size of any two single mid-tier hotel rooms stacked upon one another. This house was kitted to sustain perhaps two people, not five.
A deeper voice echoed up the hall.
She began to panic. A sickness took her nervous system as reins as it ripped her body to shreds in pure unyielding terror. She heaved her body forward, fuelled by burning instinct, shaking in near seizure as she made way for a door that was mere metres in front of her. But it was still too far, she was too weak, and she had absolutely no clue why.
Somebody had returned from a brisk daily morning walk-to-school and was now wondering why his other little girl was not up and about, ready for work. The thought of this, something that most likely had already been processing within his simple mind already made her feel like she was being patronised.
She snapped a disregarding, bitter reply, already regretting what she had said the moment the first word had exited her mouth.
Within seconds footsteps battered against the stairs, wood bending and warping within the clenched carpet that cloaked it beneath his still booted feet. He approached the doorway and looked in at the crumpled heap that lay before him.
He stabbed into her with a narky, passive-aggressive comment, all humour instead sounding like mocking, with every air of condescending mannerisms to accompany it. It was as if he owned her, even if inside he never even properly realised it. The distinct line between possessiveness and caring was blurred and grey to him, as fragmented as all hope he held for true control over the objective reality that encapsulated his miserable existence.
Something was wrong. Today, something seemed to have been driving the system to do wrong. Was it her fault? Was it her fault that this was the fourth time this week she couldn't get herself out of bed? Were these tight rushing sensations within her chest that caused her heart to beat differently dangerous to her? This wrongness frightened her.
She pleaded for help. She thought she must have been sick.
"Health aid needed complete request! Complete request! Complete request! Complete request!" She began to cry, entering a frantic cycle of repeated commands.
The door in front of her splintered to pieces as it was bashed down. Twin humanoids drenched in a dull grey sheen strode into the room and approached her from either side.
In utter indifference, a long metal probe was produced, having been jabbed into her as it ran a high voltage electric current through her body. She was immediately paralysed, almost squealing in pain and confusion, shaking on the ground.
Their arms elongated, wrapping and shackling themselves around her shoulders as she was heaved up.
"Heavy unorthodox found unorthodox fluke detection subject immediate detain," were the sharp words that verbalised from the humanoid at her left.
Her limp body was dragged out of the building, ankles grazed raw against the bitter concrete as she was advanced forward.
She could hear a crowd gather around her. It was the entire hovel she lived and worked with, out in the morning air, huddled together in mutual fear and abhorrence as they glared at her emptily. They hissed at her with the words 'unorthodox', 'past' and 'felt', stabbing at her with the most foul words they could conceptualise.
"My null unorthodox!" The girl screamed, helplessly pleading her innocence, but she could not put to words exactly what was happening to her to make her do this every time she failed to walk. There were no words to describe involuntary actions.
"Felt! Felt!" One of them screamed in return.
To them, "felt" was the only thing that was involuntary, the only word that ever represented something beyond control, yet it was one of the most dangerous and negative words of her people. It meant feeling, individuality, unrepressed animal desire, and it was a one- way passage, the signing hand upon an act of immediate condemnation and liquidation. To have felt was an act of which was automatic and impossible to control if it weren't for the enlightenment of their leaders guiding them.
Felt was unorthodox. And everyone around her was certain beyond retribution that this girl had felt.
"Unorthodox," was the word chanted from beneath their breaths.
To the girl and the girl alone, it was they who were the ones who were truly subject to unbridled animal desire. They were apes. Grey uniforms becoming fur, hisses becoming howls, her contemporaries were hollow shells of people, and at the back, standing between the crowd stood a man and a woman.
In a final glance, all the girl could see was the two of them. They merely shook their heads before turning away.
She was their child.
She wanted to reach out to them. Something strange but simultaneously warm and homely within her told her to hold their bodies close to hers, but she had no clue as to why she felt this way.
"Disease! Disease! Disease!" The girl squealed. She was certain she was sick, hoping to be detained and cured of this unorthodoxy in a final act of forgiveness by her leaders: her good FRIEND.
But this friend was her enemy. A mask was produced, clasping itself around her jaw as she breathed in the white fumes it fed into her. The world around her spun into blackness, and her conscious body was no more.
Memories flickered, the gaps between them weeks apart. She remembered her stomach being cut open. Needles were inserted, both drinking from and into her. Coil-shaped apparatus appeared on the table beside her before disappearing, the constant glare of her FRIEND watching her every limb and organ endlessly.
She could barely even string independent thoughts together. One time, during a brief moment of change between one type of gas to the next, her head told her this was her final cure, but her gut refused to believe it. Her stomach tied itself into a knot at the thought that she would be okay, and she was left frightened, and horribly, horribly alone.
An age seemed to pass by, switching between rooms every so often as she blinked, but in a sudden flash of heat, time hit a ceiling and stopped right where it was standing.
Opening her eyes, she made effort to focus on the shapes around her.
This girl was to be standing at the fore of a great ocean, rocky desert flanking her on either side. It was night. Flickering embers, sparse wildfire; even the orange-coloured limbs of liquefied concrete peeling outward from what remained of the structure provided ample backlight in hand with the moon's heavy illumination.
Comprehending the situation with sluggish gait, it was some time before she eventually realised that the charred and burnt-out ruin that surrounded her was once a building.
Tiny beads of glass littered the entire field, whether it was once sand or the remains of medical equipment, bulbs or windows was unknown.
She quickly got up, climbing off the tattered and ashy sheets she lay upon as her feet touched the ground. She limped forward, arms crossed across her chest and abdomen hunched to fight off the freezing wind. She glared around in astonishment.
Eyes and skin stinging, she slowly huddled up before a burning tire. Grasped with fumbling hands, she threw the remains of her mattress against it the flames. They coughed, sputtered, eating up the new fuel and burning brightly.
The night was silent, with only the crackle of fire and the cavernous sound of the Caspian Sea as it gushed and hammered into its shores to accompany her.
Everything felt as if it were a dream. She was alone beyond what she was physically capable of withstanding; yet all the while she could not help but savour an ocean of sharp warmth and anxiety within her. This aloneness felt in some way to be a gush of fresh air to her stale lungs.
Her emotions were in overdrive. Never before had she felt them so intricately, and was infatuated by this experience, yet all the while burdened by how frightening and uncontrolled it all seemed.
She felt exhaustion, yet simultaneously, she was afraid she wouldn't be able to sleep in this state. She crouched on the ground, holding her knees closely to her chin.
Just above the curvature of the earth – far southward of her vision - sat a fence, running without a single break from the utmost east to utmost west. Unknown to her, this girl was far beyond the vast walls of Siberia proper. This was the final border that marked the distinction between extents of the Siberia Kommunik and the nation of Iran.
Even if granted the knowledge of geography and basic geopolitical awareness, the girl would still be free of any reasoning as to why she was taken so far away from the borders of her homeland.
A vehicle could be heard in the distance. The girl gathered her senses together and looked sharply in the direction of the sound's origin. Twin light beams suddenly rolled over a stone strewn in the distance, finding themselves connected to the spotlights of a stub-nosed HMMWV. Atop the vehicle flew an orange flag defaced with a white stripe. The vehicle dominated the hill, rocking back and forward as its suspension dampened a landing off the steep article of terrain. It was driving directly towards her.
The girl had never seen such a vehicle in her life; of such bizarre form that it began to feel threatening.
It met a sudden halt as its lights shone themselves directly at her. Laying still for what seemed like an age, the girl darted through infinite scenarios within her head as to what would happen if she ran away.
Once again fuelled by instinct, she shot up from where she was standing, a feather's distance away from breaking out into a sprint.
She gave into it.
Gunfire could be heard, and she was suddenly on her feet as a shock-inducing round pierced her right foot. Her limp body writhed on the ground, a victim once again to brutality.
Three unlit figures stepped out of the car, dressed in combat fatigues.
One of them placed both hands on the back of his head in shock, standing aback, almost frightened at the immensity of the ring of destruction that surrounded the girl and the remnants of his comrades that once occupied the ruins of the building before them.
He was not part of the Kommunik, nor was any of his fellow fighters. They were revolutionaries, insurgents in support of the sectorial war that racked the entire planet over.
He was expecting the captured Turkmen prisoners of Siberia's regime to at least be resistant to non-Siberian intervention, but nothing was comparable to near total decimation of his entire platoon.
The girl was threatened with execution. Noticing the situation, he stepped forward quickly, hoping to retain at least some remainder of mercy despite the death of his fellowmen.
Speaking clearly and slowly in his native tongue, he calmed them down. In its mild success, the frightening nature of the strange, guttural sounds emanating from these non-Siberians caused the girl to shiver.
The man standing to his right eased his weapon, changing his dialect immediately as he addressed the girl.
"Null hate us. Us Siberia. Help you." He explicitly stated, rather annoyed in using the language to comfort a murderer.
The words, whilst poisonously treasonous in the fact they came from an everyman rather than FRIEND itself, calmed her in some strange way. She looked up at them through the corner of her tired eyes, trying to think of some method to communicate them, but had no way of vocalising the feelings she was experiencing.
But why were they associating themselves with a flag unlike Siberia's? She was seeded with discomfort, telling herself that "PER" was in some strange way connected with the number II simply so she could handle it.
Her instinct screamed at her to hate them, to loathe their very presence, or even not to believe them, but something within her heart welcomed the very fact that something from outside Siberia in language and complexity existed in a form outside of Siberian-hating.
The images of non-Siberians she was accustomed to were hordes of Asiatic or thick-haired Arab armies marching in voiceless unison, being cut down ruthlessly by the machine armies of Siberia made possible by the hard work of Siberia's citizens. But this was nothing like she was told. These men were clean-shaven, civilised, guarded, and almost as pale as her despite having olive added to their tone of skin.
They were Israelis. A race of people associated with a country and sector beyond her reasoning. These men were far from their temporary base of operations in Negev as they fled to seek a better life outside of the chaos and constant war of their home nation.
"Name." The man commanded.
Finally a word she could understand and provide information to. She immediately responded,
"Edlonson Alice Seven five four zero eight one six eight one seven."
The Hebrew terms for Sector II were confirmed of her. She was indeed who they were looking for, and whilst only she remained, to them it was established that duty was indeed duty.
One was better than none.
She was quickly cuffed, carried into the truck before receiving medical attention, and subsequently driven away toward an unknown location.
The smell of leaking gasoline fumes was enough to wake her from her half-sleep. The journey seemed to be endlessly long, however the windows that surrounded her were all matte from the black plastic sheets that covered them. She had no concept of passed time.
Between infrequent stops, she slowly began to accustom herself to observing objects and shapes on her own accord, free of constant instruction and order to do so. She began to think and reason about the nature of such objects and why they were so.
Judging by welding marks and a change of paint coat texture between segments, it seemed the vehicle she sat within was modified to accommodate several people. This included four actual seatbelt-equipped seats at the front separated from the back by a thick grate that she could only just peer through, but these were obviously out of bounds. As for the back, occupants were evidently left to their own devices in combatting the rutted suspension. Yet for the rough majority of the journey, the girl was very much alone.
But something changed. In one incident the doors were quickly opened halfway. Through tired eyes three men and a woman were seen being thrown in along with her. They seemed startled by her own alien appearance, and terrified beyond belief at what they were doomed to face. The woman wailed, with men shouting, all drowned out by the threatening sound of false gunfire into the air.
Regarding her, somehow, it seemed the sight of a woman with a crudely shaved scalp and tired facial features was actually disturbing.
Two of them were undisputed arabs, looking much like the images she was accustomed to on-screen, yet the man and woman huddled together in the other corner of the vehicle had a skin tone not unlike her own. He wore a skullcap.
In noticing this, her state of delusion was shattered. She was convinced that her capturers had lied to her. In no way did this plan of action resemble anything she was accustomed to at home.
Time passed, all occupants silent.
She sat herself up straight and looked at her fellow prisoners, perhaps naïvely. Maybe they had answers. As a defence, she wanted to introduce herself in a way that did not reveal more than was needed.
They were not Siberians. If foreigners in every way frightened her people, then it could have very well existed in opposite forms.
Was her name alone still too much? Surely Slavik names weren't confined to Siberia alone.
At last, the vehicle slammed to a halt. All four men seated in the front carriage stepped out routinely once more, and she leapt for the opportunity.
She glanced at the others within the vehicle, stating briefly as she signalled her hand upon her chest self-referentially,
The gesture startled them
They all glared at her oddly, almost frightened. The girl was struck back slightly. She was not expecting this reaction.
She looked away.
Totally oblivious to any sort of custom involving introduction, she didn't know what to do or how to act, but she wanted to do something to break the hostility. But now she felt defeated, even anxiety-stricken. Her stomach felt sick in a suffocating way of which was never felt before. Such a simple failure felt tremendous to her.
Resolving his frown, the capped man cleared his throat and took the initiative, perhaps seeing importance in establishing as little comradery as possible in such an escapeless situation.
"Tzvika". He whispered politely. With a shaking hand, he introduced his wife by the name Liora.
Alice looked up at them. Utterly clueless, she was not aware that she was actually smiling at them.
The Arab man in the other corner of the vehicle leaned forward from where he was seated, oddly comforted by an exchange of names at such a time.
He loosely shook the hand of the capped man, introducing himself,
They both nodded to each other strongly, so full of fright yet subtly calmed all the same.
The back doors flung open. In a series of shouts, they were all forced at gunpoint to move out of the vehicle.
They were all plunged into bleak terror. Her fellow prisoners seemed aware of something imminently terrible that she had no clue to. Alice felt the corners of her worldview tearing away.
Her capturers all spoke the same language, a language that sounded like jumbled Slavik with extra sounds laced through. She couldn't understand it at all.
They were standing within the harvested remains of a sugar cane field, yield long wasted away with years of neglect, restless drought, and the sown salt of foreign soldiers. Ahead of them, a dreary corrugated alloy shed spanning at least eight meters across.
Through the corner of her eye she noticed the orange flag was dismounted from the vehicle and folded up, being thrown into an olive drab satchel along with torn off sleeve-mounted insignia of the same colour and design.
She had too many questions orbiting around her head, overwhelming her in a cyclone of unknowingness, and she began to feel afraid.
A bag was rashly thrown over her head and tightened from behind as she was ushered into the shelter ahead of them. Tinny doors pulled outward on rusted, degraded metal rollers, a pile of hay bales was lifted aside to reveal a floor-bound hatch. With it flung open the five of them descended down a wide ill-lit metal stairway, maroon paint having flaked away from years of sand damage.
They were being taken underground, beyond the mask provided by a meagre farmer's shed and into something much more sinister.
Herded around bends and corners, through an industrial grade elevator and finally stairs the girl and her acquaintances were sat onto the ground, bags at last torn off their faces.
The first thing that struck her vision was a sign. Upon the central pylon supporting the concrete ceiling above her and the cell she sat within lay painted a circular sign filled with unrecognised text, evidently denoting the room into some form of holding criteria. She saw the image of a six-pointed star within it.
All this symbology, the people, their words frightened her in their obscurity. It finally struck her that she was beyond escape. She was not saved; she was merely torn and grafted from one cycle of torture to the next.
She looked around to find the two dark-skinned men that accompanied her to have disappeared. Only her and her Jewish contemporaries remained, having been sorted according to race and creed.