I have just received this journal for my birthday, and I am not sure how to preface it. Dear Diary? That sounds childish.
Hello will get old quickly.
What about Dear Kitty? I learned about a girl a few years ago, Anne Frank, who prefaced her journal like that.
And so I shall try it.
Today is my fourteenth birthday. My mama gave me this journal. It’s grey on the cover, with my initials: MG. Mara Grace.
I live in the United States, but you probably know that, don’t you?
Anyway, our president is Ronald Stump, who lives up to his name; he is a portly fellow, a handlebar mustache he obviously waxes.
My family does not like Ronald Stump.
They say he will be the end of us.
But of course this thinking is not encouraged. Ronald Stump has a personal guard who patrols the streets. They call themselves the Patriots.
As if being a “patriot” is loyalty to a man who smears jar of wax upon jar of wax onto his face every day.
Today I saw my friend Emma and her family being dragged out of their homes.
Emma’s father is a leader of the movement to prove everyone is equal, and Ronald Stump does not like that, no. He believes that the rich white men should be on top. Not females, not Latinos, not African Americans, not the poor or the the kind. No, it must only be those with money. Those with power, those with fair skin.
We stopped involving ourselves with the Fairness Act a while ago, out of fear of retribution. Now we see that we were cowardly to back down, it was also the right choice.
Emma will no doubt leave her nice home, her home with its fine drapes, her comfortable bed, her life entombed upon the walls, for a dark prison of sadness and hopelessness, a place of rats and lice, or stiff mattresses and very little food.
It made me wonder, what will happen if we are taken as political prisoners, just as Emma and her family were?
The camps started to appear last year, first popping up in New Mexico, then Dakota, then Maine.
These camps are known and feared by everyone. This is what Ronald Stump uses as a motivator.
Speak up, He says. Speak up against those who wish to corrupt our fine nation.
Speak up, He says. Speak up against those who will threaten our pure futures.
Speak up, He says. Speak up against those who will ruin our happiness. We will punish them. You know how.
I do know how. There is not a single person in the nation who does not know how.
They will be forced into a train car. They will be forced to endure lice and sickness and hunger on the way to the prison.
They will be forced to shower in a liquid so scalding hot it feels like acid. They will then have their head shaved, and numbers tattooed on to their skin. The letters U.S., so they will always be known, even if they manage to escape.
Oh, but the difficulty to escape. Guards armed with weapons that take less than a second to load and fire.
Over the wall-
You think you are free-
You didn’t have to do much to be put on the list for these camps. Openly LGBTQ+? Check. Person of color? Check. Left Winger or Liberal? Check.
I wish no one had to endure this. Will the other countries notice what is happening in ours? Will they fight a third World War to free the prisoners?
I am sorry I have not been writing. We have been preparing.
Preparing for what, you might ask?
Preparing for hiding.
On November thirtieth, we were ripped into a frenzy after Mr Petersen, a close friend of my fathers, knocked on our door.
Rap rap rap rap.
My father opened the door and ushered him inside.
“I have no good news,” Mr Petersen began.
He turned to me. “You are on the list, Mara.”
“Me? On the list?” I said, shock crawling through my body.
“Yes, Mara, and the reason?” Mr Petersen said.
I clenched my eyes shut. Mama and Papa did not know this. Only my schoolmates did. And now Mr Petersen. And soon, my mother and father.
“Mara?” Papa said gently.
“The cause space on the list said LGBTQ.” Mr Petersen said.
My mother gasped, her hand flying up to her dainty little mouth.
“Mara,” My father said. “Is this true?”
“Yes,” I said.
My mother gasped again, and I swear she was going to faint.
“Ahem,” Mr Petersen said. “Anyway, I have been told they will be coming for her in five days time.”
“Thank you, Fred.” My father said, and dug around in his pockets. He finally pulled out a lump of bills and paid Mr Petersen.
And since then, we have been throwing our life into cardboard. Into the back of the family car to go somewhere else, anywhere but here.
It is my fault we are leaving. Mama and Papa will not say so, but I see them sneaking looks at me, hear the whispers they exchange in the dead of the night when they think I cannot hear them.
I should leave, shouldn’t I? I should just go, so I will not be bothering my family.
I will think on this tonight.
It is decided.
Tomorrow, in the early hours, I will collect a change of clothes, a water bottle, cash, you, of course, and any other necessities and set out on my way. Maybe towards Canada. Or Mexico. Or New York, where I can catch a ship to Europe.
It will be hard to get to Europe from my home in Fairfield. But I will have to try.
I know where Papa hides the coffee can with two thousand dollars in it. I will go with that.
I am going to enjoy my last day with my parents.
Things have gotten unfathomably worse.
I left the house two days ago, but I have seen more and more railcars as I cross California. Fingers stick out of the gaps in the dirty wood. Wails overpowered the thudding of the wheels against the track.
I do not go by Mara Grace anymore. No, now that the Patriots are looking for me, I have become Olivia Stanford.
I walk, but I also hitchhike. Today I will buy a plane ticket to New York.
-Mara (should I start putting Olivia here?)
December 7th (later)
At the airport, it is so busy. I am writing this from my seat on the plane.
When I first arrived, it was hard to buy a ticket with a falsified name. I had no identification for Olivia Stanford. My only identification was for Mara Grace, but I left that at home.
After navigating through ticket sales, I had to go through security.
Then I had a scare at boarding.
Two Patriots lined the ramp onto the airplane.
I gathered myself and walked towards them.
“Name?” One of them asked.
“Olivia Stanford.” I said.
“Have you ever come in contact with Maria Lopez, Charles Rodriguez…” The list went on and on, and frankly, I zoned out until they said, “Mara Grace.”
“No.” I said perhaps a little too quickly.
“Are you sure?”
“Have a nice day.” One of them smiled at me. I wondered if he’d have smiled if he knew who I really was. If he’d have smiled or beat me repeatedly.
-Mara/Olivia (does that work?)
Today I landed in New York, and, oh, my.
The lights are so bright, brighter than I’ve seen in a while.
They also have a wall in Times Square, the Patriots do.
Virtual flyers with the names of those who have run from the prisons. I saw myself.
I am at the base of the Empire State Building right now, sitting on a hard curb. The bustle is so loud.
I see two Patriots.
And they see me.
And they're walking over here
I am here.
I am at the place of grunge and stink.
I am lucky to be able to write still.
After the two Patriots arrested me in New York, I was brought here, to a prison camp in cold, cold Maine. It is called Alpine, as if a nice name can erase terror and violence.
Every day, at precisely two o’clock, the crematorium starts up.
Every day, at precisely one o’clock, the gas chambers open and Patriots force prisoners inside.
I do not know how much longer it will be before it is my turn for the gas chambers, then the crematorium.
Until then, I will do what they say, eat meager amounts of food, and write in you, of course.
They have posted today's death list.
And I am on it.
I mean, how long did I think it was going to be? I wasn’t going to comfortably live the rest of my life
Five years later
A girl walks the ruins of a camp in Maine. She knows, this is a camp where many people died. Five years ago, people were sent here for unfair reasons.
She knows, the British luckily caught on at the end of that December. They started a war with the United States.
Then most of Europe joined the war, and only Russia allied themselves with the U.S.
They fought a bloody war for years, until Ronald Stump was assassinated while trying to flee to Russia.
After that, the U.S. surrendered, and all the Patriots were taken into custody. Camps like these were officially shut down.
Now, as the girl walks the ruins, she finds a small object.
She unearths it and sees it is a small gray notebook with the initials MG embossed on the cover.
Curiosity creeps through the girls eyes as she picks up the dusty journal.
She flips through a few pages then hugs it tightly to her chest. She runs, careful not to trip on any loose rock, back to where her mother is waiting.
Her mother takes the book and studies it. Then she hands it back to her daughter. We’ll look at it more when we get home.
And together they drive towards home.