It's a long drive to Hell and I've got a song stuck in my head. I don't know the lyrics but the melody is clear. The keys of a piano churn out notes in patterns of fours, fives and sixes, transitioning every few bars. It sounds cluttered but intriguing, and I feel like someone should be singing. Like I know this song but I just can't recall where I've heard it before. A distant memory, lost on some dusty shelf in the back of my mind——just out of reach.
I glance outside the tinted, dirty window adjacent to me in the escort's car. Everything outside looks grey. It shouldn't. It's a bright, cloudless June day——but that's not how it looks. Maybe it's the window. Maybe it's my mind. Maybe the world just lost its colour. I don't know. I don't care. It's grey outside and grey in here and everything's just fucking grey.
It's getting hard to stay calm. In truth, I'm pissed. I'm just keeping up my blase facade for the escort's sake. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at hiding what I'm really feeling. Usually I just look sort of distant and disinterested. At least, that's what I've been told. I don't like betraying my true feelings. It's not because I want to seem "manly" or "stone-cold" or something like that (I find those reasons for hiding emotions to be rather stupid), I just find that anger gets you into trouble. Fear gets you into trouble. Hell, even happiness can get you into trouble. And sorrow, well, that just makes you feel like shit.
The car lurches. I shake my head, clearing it. Why have we stopped? From what I can tell, we're still on the highway, nowhere near the forest. I can't even see the border from here. Just flatland.
The escort turns his head over to me, straining his neck against his seat-belt. "Son, you alright back there?"
I blink. That's a weird question. "Uh, yeah. Why?"
"You don't have anything on you that you wouldn't want someone to find, do you?" His voice is calm and masked in what I assume is meant to be "pleasantness", but only sounds like "falseness" to me.
"No, I don't," I say. But what I want to say is; "well, there's that large stash of weed I've been hiding in my suitcase, and a little crystal meth in my backpack, ten hits of ecstasy, five of LSD, and some heroin——oh and the gun I've got trained on you in my pocket." I don't say that, though. I don't think this guy would appreciate the sarcasm. It is a stupid question, though. What could I possibly be holding that they wouldn't have already found when they searched me before I got in the car?
"Alright then," the escort says in his horrible, fake-pleasant voice. "This shouldn't take long. We're being checked by the Officials."
The Officials? This far away from the border? I'm not sure what to think of that. The Officials are meant to check cars carrying kids going to the Camps. That's exactly where I happen to be going, but they don't usually come up this far into the flatland. They usually stick close to the border by the forest. It's weird, but not alarming. Maybe they've just decided to have two check points now. Maybe some kid managed to get something past and they had to up security.
I can see the cars now from my window, two silver SUVs lie in wait just up ahead on either side of the road. A man wearing a dark grey uniform and heavy, black belt canters on over to us, squinting against the sun. He looks like the kind of guy you want to avoid talking to at all costs. That guy who seems normal at first but is actually incredibly annoying and full-of-himself and you'd just really love to punch him in the jaw. I hate fighting, and I'm horrible at it too, but I think I could take this guy.
The escort rolls down his window. "What can I do for you, sir?" he asks, looking up at the Official with his pleasant-mask still glued to his face.
"Takin' the kid down to the Camps, I see," the Official says in a tone that seems to mean 'I know everything'. "You gotten in some trouble, boy?" He doesn't even glance at the escort. He's staring right at me the whole time.
I hate being called "boy", or "son", or "kid". It drives me insane and people just keep doing it. A way of denoting me, I suppose. I'm the kid and they're the adults, therefor I am to listen to them because they know everything. Horribly untrue, but it seems to be what's accepted among quite a lot of people. I'm not saying young people aren't stupid, I'm just saying that adults can be stupid too. Stupidity is a human trait. We all have it.
"I wouldn't call it "trouble"," I say, "I just happen to have different opinions on certain things as opposed to my parents."
The Official narrows his eyes. "What's with the hair, boy?"
He's referring to my bangs, which I've died bright red. I did it just a few days ago, while my parents were out. I was bored and feeling defiant so I bought some dye and tried something new. When they got back, they were pretty pissed. Very pissed. Well, my father was. My mother didn't say anything. I don't see what the big deal is, though. My natural hair colour is a rather boring shade of dark brown and I just got tired of it. What's wrong with trying something different? Everything, apparently.
I don't answer his question. Instead I ask, "Why do you put up with such a boring uniform? Why not tie-dye it? I'd go with black and blue. It would look good on that shade of grey."
The Official rolls his eyes. "I think we can start the search now," he says and turns to the other grey-suits still waiting by the SUVs. He calls them over and they begin a search on the trunk and back of the car. They seem to trust the escort not to have anything illegal on him, so they don't search the front. Figures. I bet he's got a stash of weed in the glove compartment. Or some 'special brownies' from home. People like him are never as straight as they seem.
One of them is going through my pockets and I'm struggling not to jump out of the way. I hate being touched by these people. And they're always touching you. A hand on your shoulder for "comfort", patting you down for anything illegal, grabbing you to stop you from walking away without meeting their eyes. It's unnerving.
When the Officials are finally satisfied that we're clean, they let us go with a smile and some sweet words of well-wishing that I'd like to strangle. They don't really wish me well. They wish me to be broken and stomped on and crushed to a pulp so that I'll come back an obedient little follower of the True Faith. So I won't be any trouble anymore. I'll be easier to handle.
I can't let that happen. I won't let it happen.
I stare outside the window again, waiting for the car to start so the scenery will move and I can watch it change. Watch as trees start to appear and as the skies are blocked, as shadows gather to swallow me up. As we drive into the mouth of the abyss. But right now, the sun's still blazing, the clouds nowhere to be found, the birds fluttering around in a clean sky. It'll give way, though. Nothing ever stays bright for long. It's all grey. And that song's still stuck in my head.