Snakes and Pills

115 - ox

Clanging against the chain-link fence, the people of Rockeville watched them stream by. What had once been a sleepy coastal town now was the scene of hustle and bustle. The town's quaint docks and pier had been built up and developed greatly ever since this port was chosen as one of the primary processing zones for the purge.

On the other side of the fence, those marked for purging shuffled by, with graven faces. They marched to their waiting vessels, massive ships which bellowed out plumes of black exhaust from their smokestacks. The plumes hung over Rockeville like ominous storm clouds, and some of the residents had noticed a sickly ashen layer of dust starting to form on everything the dark clouds passed over. Nobody complained or even dared to remark about it, though.

The townsfolk silently observed the condemned men filing onto their ships. The government did nothing to dissuade the gawkers. Rather, it encouraged the morose peep show, and there was a good reason that every part of the marching route was left exposed and open for observation. It wanted to send a very clear message: This could be you.

Officially, the passengers aboard these vessels were simply being placed in temporary exile due to their inability to "cohesively fit within society," and would be allowed back once they had shown themselves fit for reintegration. Curiously, there were no inward processing zones to match the outward processing zones like the one here in Rockeville, though. The truth was, no one knew where these souls ended up, but the one thing that could be said for certain was that they were never to be seen again.

The population of Rockeville had only been a couple of thousand before the government decided to use it as part of the purge. Its population had now swelled to more than tenfold, but most of the residents spent less than a day here before being processed and shipped out.

Nearly all of these men scheduled for purging were anonymous residents of the big cities back east. Once in a while, a murmur would pass through the onlooking crowd if someone spotted a prisoner who resembled a celebrity. There had been a few actors, singers, and sports stars who had disappeared from the newspapers and TV shows. People in the crowd were certain that they had spotted so-and-so or such-and-such.

For the most part, though, the daily march of men onto boats was nothing more than a sea of unknown faces. One woman in the crowd, however, was on the lookout for a particular face. She still remembered the moment she had last seen his face, vividly, though it had transpired months ago. A nice evening meal, as nice as a meal can be in the current economic situation, anyway. Interrupted suddenly by the police, hauling her husband away, without any further explanation.

Over the following weeks, she used what little she had to try and gather any information she could. She found out he was scheduled for outward processing from Rockeville, and that was all. It was not easy for anyone to obtain travel clearance these days, but with some hard work and a little luck, she found her way here.

She didn't really know why she had come. When she saw him, if she saw him, there was nothing she could do. It was very possible he had passed by before she even arrived in town, or perhaps she was not even able to recognize his face. All of the men's faces seemed transformed.

She doubted he would be on the lookout for hers. None of the purged looked at the crowd, they simply locked their faces forward, and marched on, toward fate.

Still, she came. Every day, she came, and full of hope, she watched.


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