From Witness To History, © 2067 by Simon Potts
As a firsthand witness to the Western Hemisphere’s momentous
changes during the first half of the 21st century, I have tried to record these
events without currying favor among those who prevailed or seeking pity for
those who did not.
Looking back at these events after five decades as a
journalist, I see little difference between the two.
LOS ANGELES QUARANTINE ZONE B
The rhythmic beat of water falling somewhere in the darkness
was Sarah’s last link to reality. The steady sound gave her a focus, something
to distract her from the terror of being alone in total darkness. After her
last meal, The Leader had moved her to this place that could only be part of a
sewer. The dank, fetid smell had convinced her of that.
Handcuffed by her left wrist to a vertical pipe, she could
move only a single step in any direction. On the filthy floor around her were a
mattress, a bottle of water, and a wretched-smelling pot for her excretions.
By tossing pebbles into the darkness and listening, Sarah
had determined she was at the dead end of a long tunnel. In the beginning,
she’d tried calling out—softly at first, then gradually louder. Her voice had
echoed back unanswered.
From what she could tell, a couple of days had passed since
two masked men had captured her as she jogged near her home in Santa Clarita.
Being bound, blindfolded and herded over thirty miles at gunpoint by the pair
she’d mentally named The Leader and Nice One had been terrifying. But this
solitary horror was even worse.
Alone in a black void, her life before the two Panchos had
captured her now seemed like a dream, a time and place that had never really
existed. Desperate to make her past seem real, she tried to recall the contents
of her bedroom… pictures from her last visit with her dad… her collection of
sports trophies… the schoolbooks on her desk…
A distant scuffling brought the terror flooding back.
“Hello?” she called out into the darkness, her voice quivering. “Is somebody
“It’s okay, Sarah. Don’t be afraid,” Nice One answered from
the darkness, still some distance away.
At the sound of Nice One’s voice, Sarah’s fear began to ebb.
She knew it was strange to feel safe around one of the men who’d captured her.
But Nice One’s small gestures of kindness were the only comfort she could cling
to in this nightmare. All the same, she did not want to show her captors how
afraid she really was.
“I haven’t seen you in a while,” she said, trying to sound
composed as the man walked closer, invisible behind the beam of his flashlight.
“Actually, I haven’t seen you at all, I guess.”
“I just found out where you were.”
“Your boss brought me here. Didn’t he tell you?”
“Never mind. I brought you some stuff,” Nice One said,
shining the flashlight onto the mattress. Inside the cone of light, a blanket
and a scuffed plastic penlight appeared. “It gets cold down here and the dark
can drive you crazy sometimes.”
“Thanks,” she answered. “Why does it get so cold? Are we
near the ocean or something?” she asked, hoping to learn where they were
holding her. Judging by the time they’d walked, she was sure they were inside
one of the L.A. quarantine zones, but which one?
“You shouldn’t ask any questions, Sarah. The less you know,
the better it is for everybody,” he said gently. “The penlight’s for
emergencies. Don’t use it unless you have to. We don’t have a lot of
batteries,” he said, then added, “Oh, yeah. Keep the blanket and the penlight
under the mattress, okay? You’re not supposed to have them.”
“Will I get in trouble for having them?” she asked, suddenly
“No, I will.”
“You’re very nice.”
“I’ve got to go,” he said standing up. “One more thing.
Don’t say anything about me being here.”
“Remember, Sarah. You shouldn’t ask questions. I’ll check
back on you when I can,” he said before leaving.
Alone in the darkness again, Sarah turned on the penlight
and moved the beam around the room, studying her surroundings. She then turned
it off to conserve the batteries. To her surprise, she felt a strange euphoria.
Her terror of the dark had vanished.
THE PRODIGAL—Day 1
The men around her looked away as Sarah opened the top of
her khaki jump suit and brought the hungry baby to her breast. During the last
two hours, the others aboard the crowded bus had grown used to the only woman
among them and the sounds and smells of her infant. Despite the July heat,
Sarah threw the baby’s blanket over her shoulder for privacy and let her
two-month-old son nurse. Daniel stopped crying, his brown eyes opening slightly
as he suckled dreamily.
The differences between Sarah Evans and the men on the bus
went deeper than gender. While Sarah was blonde and fair with sage-green eyes,
most of the swarthy faces around her revealed assorted traces of indigenous
ancestry. A bigger difference still remained. Sarah had willingly boarded the
bus destined for Los Angeles Quarantine Zone B. The others aboard were Class H
fugitives detained outside the zones being returned to confinement. Still, Army
regulations required Sarah wear the same khaki overalls issued to the detainees
on the bus.
As Daniel fed, Sarah gazed at the passing landscape through
the bars covering the windows of the one-time LA Metro bus. The view had
changed little since they’d left the Army detainee center in Santa Clarita.
Most of Southern California had always been a never-ending strip mall sprawl,
made even more monotonous by its ceaseless traffic. But now, the only movement
came from the swaying branches of eucalyptus trees growing out of control,
their roots piercing streets and sidewalks. To Sarah, the deserted landscape
had the air of an endless cemetery.
* * *
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