Brendon was awoken thanks to a piercing whistle. He sat up and rubbed his eyes when he felt a hand card through his hair. When his hands moved away from his eyes he expected to see William, but it was Spencer.
“You have really funny bed hair when you wake up,” Spencer informed him.
“Thanks,” Brendon laughed, and Spencer smiled. He had a beautiful smile.
They lined up in groups to use the different showers, the old locker rooms. Brendon stepped into the shower and shut his eyes. For the briefest of moments, as he washed himself, he felt like he was back home, and when his eyes opened he looked around in confusion for a few seconds before remembering that he was no longer home. Brendon pulled the flimsy blue curtain open crack to see navy blue clothes, similar to the white sleeping ones, on top of a chair.
Brendon grabbed them and the towel that was placed over the back of the chair and pulled the curtain shut. He toweled off and quickly put on the clothes. They were hideous but comfortable.
When he stepped out, Brendon noticed once again that everyone was dressed exactly the same.
It was probably easier for the mothers to keep them in order this way. He made his way over to the sink area and brushed his teeth with the toothbrush that had been left on the chair by the clothes.
When he walked out of the bathrooms, Brendon walked over to Spencer and William. Mother Sarah guided the men back to the main gymnasium.
The cots had been cleared away and there was now only a chair in the middle of the room.
Mother Sarah took a seat in the chair and motioned for the men to surround her.
“Kneel,” she commanded.
They all dropped to their knees.
“My boys, you do not know the true wonders of the gift you were given,” she began, “I want you all to use your gift wisely. I want you to want to help those who cannot have children of their own.”
“And if we don’t want to?” Mikey spoke up from behind Brendon.
“If you don’t want to my dear boy,” said Mother Sarah in a gravelly voice, “you will be sent to a camp for the uns, the unmen. Those who do not wish to help, or were not affected by the poisonous gas. But these places are not something pretty. They’re downright horrid and disgusting. Garbage dumps and landfills with a few crappy houses on the outskirts. You are monitored at all times. You are put to work doing disgusting jobs.”
Mikey didn’t say anything after that.
Weeks went by and Brendon got used to the everyday routine of living at the re-education center. He still hated it, and wanted to leave, and he surely didn’t want to be fucked by some old fart once a week but he also didn’t want to be sent to the uns camp. Mother Sarah had gotten around to showing them a video of the uns camps and they were every bit as dirty as she had described them.
As weeks passed by Brendon noticed Mikey get more and more restless. He wanted to get out; he wanted to leave without ending up in the uns camps. Everything they did was too much for him.
On one particularly bad day for Mikey, during Forgiveness Circle, Mikey had said that he had been raped when he was 15 by his older brother and his brother’s friends. The group was made to chant that it was all Mikey’s own doing for tempting them.
“Men, we’ve learned what happened to Mikey, but whose fault is it really?” Mother Sarah asked them.
“It’s his fault!” All the men shouted in unison.
Mikey began to sob as the men chanted.
“You’re a whore Mikey!” William shouted.
”How could you let them do that to you Mikey?” Spencer interjected.
“Your fault! Filthy Whore! Your fault! Filthy whore!” the men chanted over and over. Brendon, in the back of his mind, knew that yelling that at Mikey was wrong, but he couldn’t stop himself from chanting along with the other men.
Mikey only sobbed harder and widened his eyes, as if coming to a realization.
“Oh my god,” he sobbed, “it was my fault. It was entirely my fault.” And he threw himself into Mother Sarah’s lap, sobbing. “I’m sorry Mother. I’m sorry brothers, I degraded us.”
The chanting stopped and the men applauded for him.
“Your brothers have forgiven you,” said Mother Sarah, “and I forgive you my son.”
“Thank you Mother,” Mikey said in a quiet voice before crawling back to his place.
But that was one day, and Mikey only got like that once more.
One morning, after the first whistle had been blown and the men had showered, Brendon, William, and Spencer noticed that Mikey was still curled up in his bed mumbling to himself.
They ran over to him and tried to get him up.
“Mikey wake up,” Brendon said.
“Hello, my name is Mikey, how can I be of assistance today?” Mikey said in a trance. His eyes were clouded and his gaze looked far off.
“Mikey, you’re not a fucking sales boy anymore. You’re at Northside in training, now get up.” Spencer told him.
“Mother will be here any minute to take us for breakfast,” William said quietly.
“Fuck, Mikey, snap out of it,” Brendon said. “You’re going to get us all in trouble.”
Spencer shook him but that didn’t work. Brendon shoved Spencer aside and smacked Mikey hard across the face.
Mikey came back to reality and started crying, “Why did you hit me Brendon?”
“Because you’re a delusional idiot, now change.” Brendon told him.
“Did you have to hit him so hard?” asked Spencer.
“Probably not, but it got him back to us,” Brendon replied. He looked back to see William helping Mikey into his clothes “He’s an idiot; they’re going to send him to the uns if he doesn’t keep a grip in our world.”
Spencer looked at him in confusion, “Our world Brendon? You say that as if you don’t care of the time before anymore.”
“That’s just it Spencer, it’s the time before. I can’t do anything to change it back. All I have to do is move forward and try to survive this hellhole,” Brendon spit.
“What would Audrey and Rebecca say if they were to find out that you’d given up on ever seeing them again?” Spencer asked, pushing the wrong button.
“Fuck Audrey, I’m pretty sure she ended up being sent to the uns. There’s no way she would’ve done whatever they told her, and as for Rebecca, I hope for her every night that some rich, baby-hungry wife is good taking care of her,” Brendon’s voice was lower now.
“I’m sorry Brendon, I didn’t mean to bring them up,” Spencer told him.
“It’s okay,” Brendon quietly replied.
When Brendon turned back he saw Mikey fleeing from the gymnasium through the corner door that they’d all been told was locked.
Mother Sarah barged into the room with two Guardians flanking her. She pointed to the door and they took off after Mikey.
Mother Sarah took one look at the men and told them, “Mikey will be back.”
She made them walk out in front of them and locked the door behind her once they were out of the gym.
While they ate, they quietly talked about Mikey.
“You think he got away?” Spencer asked.
“Probably not,” Brendon said, “Mikey runs slow.”
“That’s true, he’s always last when Mother takes us out for the fitness session,” William added. Fitness sessions happened every other day, and every day for some of the heavier men, because they had to be healthy to carry a baby.
Spencer nodded and was about to take a bite of his food when two Guardians pushed through the doors carrying Mikey. They shoved him onto the floor.
Mother Sarah walked in after them, “Now you see the consequences of what happens when you try to escape.”
The three left and locked the door to the cafeteria behind them.
Everyone looked down at the spot where Mikey was crying, he was bruised and red, had more than a few cuts around his body, the blood seeping slowly through his clothes.
Brendon went to help him up and got him to his seat, “Don’t ever do that again, okay Mikey?”
Mikey nodded and Brendon helped feed him.
When breakfast was over Mikey was carried over to a cot laid out for him by the Mothers.
Today was the day when Mother Sarah told them exactly what they were and were not to do at the households they were sent to.
“My boys, you know all of your bodies are now sacred temples. You must take care of them because you will at one point be carrying another life inside of them. You all know how this happens right?” she asked.
“During the ceremony,” the men replied.
“Yes, the ceremony. The ceremony happens once a week and never more, Thursdays to be exact.
The rest of the days you are furniture in these people’s lives. You do not interact with them unless they come to you first. But this ceremony is not for pleasure my sons; it is for the population and nothing more. You cannot be tempted by the way it will make you feel. You must remember that they are only doing their jobs, not falling for you. And you cannot let them want to use you more than the time set aside,” Mother told them.
She also told them what they’re names would be like. Where to be during the prayer time that happened before the ceremony – on ones’ knees, on the left side of the wife, always to her left just infront of her left hand. How to be during the ceremony – hips elevated, in between the Wife’s legs as a sign of permission, grasping her hands. The rest of the time they were to be invisible. They were carriers. Their only other job was to go out and buy the food that would be needed for the day. They were told to always walk in pairs. Most importantly though was to respect the wife. She could get you sent to an uns camp with the snap of her fingers.
Brendon was a little bit afraid of the wives, if he was being honest. They seemed so bitter to him, but then he remembered it was because he would be having her children with her husband. He couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry for them because he could only imagine how hard this was for them.
Pretty soon it would be time for the big ceremony in which they would be pronounced carriers.
The wives would be there to look at them and maybe pick them out.
But a few days before the ceremony where they would receive their blue hats, Mikey tried to escape one more time and got away. During the night he had a knife that he’d stolen from the cafeteria and held it up to a guardian’s throat. He’d taken the guardian’s clothes and tied him up with his own blue ones. Mikey stabbed the guardian a few times, and ran off. He had walked right out of the center dressed as one of them.
After a few days of searching they gave up. Mikey had gotten free; Brendon couldn’t shake the feeling of envy that surged through him when Mother told them that their brother Mikey wasn’t found.
The day finally came when the men were put into their usual blue clothes and black shoes.
They climbed onto a bus and headed out to a big theatre where the carrier ceremony would be held. When Brendon reached the huge room he looked around and noticed women seated all around. These women were the wives.
The men walked down to the man, “Father,” who would give them their special hat to be worn at all times so that no one would see their face. So their faces would not “tempt” anyone, because they were vessels for life now, and they could not tempt anyone into wanting to hurt them in any way.
When Brendon stepped up and received his, he felt a wave of surrender go through his body. By letting the hat be placed on his head, Brendon felt that he had just completely given up hope on ever seeing Rebecca again.
Brendon turned and walked down the steps from the altar. He held his head up high and knew that one day he’d see his baby again. He just had to have hope.
There were at least another fifty Carriers getting their blue hats that day. It was an extremely hot day outside, and inside it felt like an oven. Brendon could feel the sweat pool at the base of his neck and slowly roll down his back. He felt a little bit disgusting after a while.
He watched William walk up to Father and receive his hat. William looked at the hat disdainfully but put it on his head nonetheless. Spencer went up to Father, his face completely red with anger. Spencer hated having to do this more than any of the other men. He placed that blue hat on his head and walked away, not waiting for Father to give him the special blessing.
The ceremony concluded and the carriers were taken to a small room where their stepmothers would congratulate them. Mother Sarah took each of her “Sons” into her arms and hugged them tightly telling each and every one of them how proud she was. She told them to behave, because she would be in touch with whatever wife would pick them and she would know if they were acting the way she had taught them to. She took them to a reception that had been set up behind the theatre and set them free.
The men walked about slowly, talking quietly, if at all, to eachother and never looking directly at the wives. As Brendon walked with William to their food table he felt a hand grab his elbow, but Brendon kept his gaze down and let himself be pulled away.
The hand that held his elbow dragged him a few feet away from the crowd and stopped, the hand dropped from his arm and he felt tension in the air.
The woman coughed and cleared her throat, “Hello,” a woman’s vocie spoke directly at him, it was a sweet voice, “how are you?”
“Fine,” Brendon answered looking at the woman’s shoes, they were red and pretty.
“Good, good,” the voice said. Brendon felt the woman’s eyes weigh him down, looking at him from all angles. He shivered but otherwise kept calm. He suddenly felt her walk away and
Brendon let out the breath of air he didn’t know he’d been holding.
A few more hours went by and Brendon was pulled aside by women four more times. He noted how all of them didn’t know how to continue the conversation after “hello” and “how are you”, but he didn’t mind. William and Spencer were both pulled aside quite a few times as well. As it began to get dark and ominous clouds loomed overhead the women were taken into a big room, where they began to tell the stepmothers which carriers they were interested in and request information about them.
Mother Sarah was delighted to tell Brendon, Spencer and William later that evening, when they’d gone back to the re-education center, that all three of them had been selected by wives to be at their houes if they liked what they read on the papers about them.
Brendon felt a wave of nausea go through his entire body. He was closer and closer to becoming an object in the lives of some couple who hated him. He briefy wondered if he would become the wives’ bitch, but instead he tried to focus on what Mother Sarah was telling them.
“You were all picked up by wives of commanders in high rankings of the army. Wives of men who have helped shape our country into what it is. You should be very proud that you impressed them,” Mother Sarah informed them.
The men looked at Mother Sarah blankly, but Spencer mostly looked at her with disgust.
Mother Sarah told the men that she would accompany them when they went to speak personally to the wife and then be introduced to the husband for approval. She told them how to behave in front of the wife and that she was proud of them.
Mother Sarah walked away and Spencer dove into his cot without changing into his nighttime clothes. William sat on the edge of his bed and Brendon layed down on his and stared straight up at the cieling. He rubbed his eyes and sighed; he couldn’t believe that in a few days' time he could be in a house as some old man’s toy.
It was the day of the meeting with the wife and Brendon was so nervous that he’d almost thrown up the food he had eaten that morning. Mother Sarah and he were picked up by a black car and taken to the commander’s house. They were greeted by two plump, middle-aged women and taken to a room that resembled a living room but when Brendon noticed the bible on a podium he figured out that the room they were waiting in was the family room where they prayed before the ceremony on Thursdays.
He heard the hard footing of feet in heeled shoes at one end of the long hallway that was just outside of the prayer room.
The woman yelled something at one of the maids and walked into the room quietly. Brendon immediately let his gaze fall down onto his lap or anywhere on the floor where he couldn’t look at her.
“Can you give us some time to talk please?” The woman asked Mother Sarah. Brendon instantly remembered the voice being the one that first spoke to him.
Mother Sarah walked out of the room and the woman stared down at Brendon.
“Hello Brendon, my name is Keltie and I am Commander Ross’ wife. Do you understand?”
“Good, well Brendon, I already know everything that there is to know about you, but now it’s time to get to know me,” the woman’s hand grabbed his chin and pulled it up so that he was looking into Keltie’s eyes.
“Listen to me you stupid whore, you are here for one thing and one thing only, to give me and my husband a child, and you better try your hardest,” Keltie began to lecture him, “I don’t want you here. I hate you. You do not talk to me at all. You do not say a word to my husband. In fact, I don’t ever want to see you. The only time I want you in my line of sight are ceremony nights. You do as Clara and Joanne say, understood?”
“If you do something wrong, or piss me off even once, I will have you sent to the uns faster than you can beg for mercy,” Keltie finished in one breath. Her cheeks had turned a dark shade of pink and her hand fell from Brendon’s chin. His head instantly dropped back down and he was looking at his shoes again.
“My husband will be down in a few minutes so get in your spot,” Keltie instructed.
Brendon quickly spotted what was obviously Keltie’s chair and dropped to his knees, head down.
Keltie sat next to him and began tapping her fingers on the arms of the chair, she sighed a few times and gave Brendona few more glares.
After a few minutes Brendon noticed the doorknob slowly begin to turn. The door began to open slowly and cautiously, and then opened wide open. Brendon let his eyes look up quickly and saw the most beautiful man he had ever seen. Into the room walked a tall, very skinny man with dark brown hair that curled around the edges of his face. Brendon couldn’t see his eyes, but he guessed they were brown. He was dressed in a black uniform with ribbons, small metals and plates decorating the chest area of the left side of his jacket. His overall frame was lanky and looked delicate, but Brendon could see the man’s toned form through the clothes.
Brendon let his gaze fall and he wondered briefly when he’d started looking at men in that way, the way he had only looked at women before, the way he had only looked at Audrey.
“Hello my darling,” the man said to Keltie before kissing her deeply. He pulled away and smiled at her, he was staring into Keltie’s eyes when he noticed Brendon kneeling on the carpet and looked down at him silently. Brendon felt the man’s eyes boring into his body, and a wave of heat surged through him.
“Is this him?” the man asked his wife.
“Yes,” Keltie replied monotonously.
“Do you like him?” the man asked Keltie.
“Ryan,” Keltie began in an annoyed tone of voice.
“I know, but do you approve of him?” Ryan, he know kew, asked.
“He’ll do fine,” Keltie said.
“Then it’s settled, he is our first carrier,” Ryan looked down at Brendon once more before turning and walking out the room.
“You’re staying,” Keltie told him as though he hadn’t heard it from Ryan himself, “go get your belongings from the training center and come back here before nghttime falls.”
Brendon nodded and stood up from his place. He walked out the room silently and when he pulled the door shut behind himself, Brendon could have sworn he heard a choked sob be let out from the other side.
William and Spencer had also been picked up by families. Ofross, Ofsaporta, and Ofconrad were their new names, Mother Sarah had explained to them. These were the names that the rest of the staff would call them by, what the Wives would call them, and what everybody else in the community would also call them. They had a set timeline of how long they would live at a household and if they did not get prgnant between that time, they would be transferred to another family. Everytime they moved households, they received new names, Of and the last name of the man of the house.
Brendon had nothing but a paper bag that contained two of the mandatory blue outfits, another pair of black shoes and a dozen pairs of socks. He clutched the bag tightly to himself as he walked up the steps to his new “home.” Mother Sarah had taken him herself and was now watching him from the car with an enormous, and oddly proud smile on her face. Brendon swallowed back the bile that rose through his esophagus.
He knocked on the door three times with the iron handle that was centered in the door. When Brendon was about to grab the handle to knock again, the door opened a crack and an eye peered out to look at him. The eye looked him up and down and opened the door the entire way when, Brendon guessed, it had figured that there was no danger.
A woman, one of the maidens, had opened the door for him. She eyed him a few more seconds and then asked him, “Are you the carrier?”
“Yes,” Brendon replied.
“Ofross? Good. We’ve been expecting you. I’m Joanne; I am in charge of you. You have any issues, you tell me. I give you your food in your room, along with your vitamins. I’ll come and get you at a set time everyday for your shower. You go grocery shopping for the house every day. Your walking partner is Ofwentz. You ask the other carrier if they are Ofwentz. You know how to greet. You tell one of us if your partner is saying or doing things they shouldn’t. You present your passes to the guardians that are waiting at the city’s entrance. There are two ways to walk back, long and short. Depending on how long Clara is going to take making dinner you can pick which way you go. You are to wear your blue clothes every day. You stay in your room at all times, unless you are called down. You have fitness three times a week. Did you understand all of that?” Joanne asked.
“Good, now I’ll take you to your room,” Joanne took him up to the third floor of the house and to the last room of the long hallway.
Joanne opened the door for him. “Here you are,” she said.
Brendon walked in slowly behind her, the room was bigger than the room he had had in the apartment. There was a bed, a dresser, a closet, a nightstand by the side of his bed, and one of those window ledges you could sit on. Everything in the room was cream colored and contrasted horridly with the dark tone of the wood floors. The walls were a dark red color, and they reminded Brendon of blood.
Brendon was about to ask Joanne something but she had left. He set his clothes on the bed and started taking them out slowly. Unfolding and refolding each item. Joanne walked back into the room a few minutes later with a basket full of blue clothes and two black jackets.
“These are from Mrs. Ross, well actually, she sent me out to buy them for you,” Joanne said, “she doesn’t want to be bothered with constantly having to buy you clothes. There are also two sweatshirts in here, a black one and a white one, and one thick winter jacket. Miss Keltie said to get them for you now,” Joanne explained.
“Thank you,” Brendon said quietly.
Joanne mumbled something inaudible back to him and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Brendon hung up the hoodies and jacket on the hangers that were permanently attached to the wooden rod going across the walls. He folded the pants in a way that would show a nice crease down the front whenever he wore them. He folded the shirts neatly and put everything into the drawers of the dresser.
Brendon went and sat down on the window ledges provided for him and grabbed one of the pillows next to him. He let his fingertips roam over the soft satin cloth, and over the embroidered words in the center, ‘Älä anna hirviöitä pitää sinut alas’ it read. Brendon wondered what language it was and what it meant.
Brendon leaned back on the ledge until his back hit the wall. He kicked off his shoes and pulled his knees up into himself. He looked out of the window for a very long time, his mind wander off onto what his life had become.
He vaguely wondered what had happened to Audrey. He felt hollow when he thought about her.
What did always bring a tear to his eye was thinking about his poor baby girl Rebecca, he sincerely hoped that Audrey, or if she’d been taken away from Audrey, that someone was taking good care of her.
Then his thoughts wandered onto himself and what had become of him. It was Tuesday and in two days Brendon would have to go through his first ceremony. He wondered what it would be like, and then he began to think about Commander Ross and his wife, Keltie. There was no question that Keltie would want this to be done as fast as possible, she hated him, but Brendon couldn’t hate her back, he only felt pity for her and what she must feel like. But then Brendon thought about the commander, and how he’d felt when the commander had been staring at him. Thinking about it made Brendon’s entire body flash in heat again, he thought the commander was the most beautiful person he’d ever had the privilege of looking at.
Brendon stared out of the window a few more minutes before noticing a flashy silver car coming down the street and turn onto the family’s driveway. From the front seat came out a man with greasy, long black hair and a chauffer’s uniform that opened the back door for someone else.
It was Commander Ross.
Brendon couldn’t help but stare at him. Commander Ross looked amazing in his uniform, it hugged his chest and let his thin but muscular form show, and the pants hugged his ass in ways Brendon had never even looked at a man before. He looked too long because in the next second, Commander Ross’ eyes met his.
Brendon was captivated. They were not simple brown eyes, like he thought of his own; the commander’s eyes were a dark honey color that flashed when they met his. Brendon stared at him for only a few mere seconds before his nerves got the better of him and he pulled back from the window. He pulled back too fast and ended up falling on his ass off of the ledge.
He stayed on the floor and crawled to the door. Brendon opened the door a crack and heard the squeak of the front door opening.
“God evening Commander,” Brendon heard Clara say, “dinner will be served in a few minutes.”
“Thank you Clara,” he heard the commander reply.
“Ryan, hello” Keltie’s voice rang through the air. Brendon could hear a small kiss being given and wondered who it was that gave it to the other, probably Keltie.
Brendon heard them talk a few more minutes in the front foyer and then Keltie went back to whatever room she had been in before the commander got home.
Brendon didn’t hear any footsteps coming up the stairs or down the hallway, so it scared the life out of him when Commander Ross was across from his door.
Brendon clicked the door shut quietly and hoped the commander didn’t see him by the door, and didn’t hear the door being shut. He ran and plopped himself on his bed. He laid on his back staring at the ceiling, his mind completely blank.
After what felt like hours later, a soft knock came at his bedroom door. Brendon hopped off of the bed and opened it, revealing Joanne and a huge tray of food. She stepped in and set it at his table that was by the window.
“Clara didn’t know what you liked, so she made you an assortment of foods,” Joanne began explaining. “Tomorrow go down first thing in the morning and tell her what you like, she’ll try to make you something that you like, or similar to what you like because we can’t have you trying to have a baby if you’re not being fed right, right?” Joanne laughed and patted Brendon’s stomach.
“I’ll be down first thing tomorrow,” Brendon promised.
“Good, now eat up. I’ll be up in about an hour to pick up the tray,” Joanne walked out of the room and shut the door behind her.
Brendon lifted the covers off of some of the plates that revealed chicken, meat, fish, rice, spaghetti, salad, some fruit, and two pieces of two different pies. It all smelled so good and Brendon ate some of everything until his body felt content, but not overdone.
Brendon got up from his chair at the table and took out a pair of sleeping pants and a shirt from the drawer. He changed into them silently, and crawled into his bed, falling asleep almost instantly.