[Editor's Note: Our esteemed punk-rock columnist Exene Cervenka decided she wanted to share a short story with you. It comes in parts, starting this week. Since most everything she does is badass, we figured this would be no different. The following is part one of "I Had a Dream That I Woke Up, But It Was Too Late!"]
She woke up and instantly looked down at the black markings on the band of indestructible technology permanently circling her left wrist. It was still there.
The sun would be up any second and, with it, the lights overhead in the barracks. Then she would stand with the others, everyone lined up at the foot of their beds, facing front, hands down at their sides, and eyes straight ahead. No speaking. No movement. No emotion.
The camp commander would walk quickly down the line, as soldiers behind him noted that everyone was present. The camp commander didn't show much interest in the interns; he'd glance at one or two faces and never say a thing. He just wanted them to know there was an official, international, military authority in charge.
They have been interned in the resettlement camp six months or five or six-and-a-half, depending on who's doing the guessing. The women have learned how to turn into statues. If they move or tilt their heads or shift their weight, the soldiers trailing the commander will turn on the offender. She'd been pulled out of morning lineup once. With two other women–one older, one younger–she was walked across the courtyard to an office building that was heavily guarded. A soldier silently scanned her wristband. He looked at a computer screen. He typed a few words. Then he said, "You can go." All without looking at her.
She was escorted back to the barracks by two Mexican soldiers. Her bed had been made, and her work clothes were laid out. She took off her scratchy nightgown and pulled on her khaki uniform, a one-piece jail outfit, elastic at the waist; one size doesn't fit all. She put her slippers back on, rubber-bottomed canvas made in China. She wondered if they'd issue her new ones since hers were wearing out. Then she headed out the door, where two soldiers stood on either side.
Her breakfast would be hurried now, so she walked as quickly as she could to the mess hall. There was still food being doled out. Prunes, oatmeal, white bread, orange drink, coffee, milk. No butter, no salt, no fresh food. And every day, the exact same thing, served by latent psychotics, full of hate and venom.
But she ate it all, as she did every day. They all did. No talking in the mess hall. Each barracks had a schedule of work to do. There was nothing meaningful, of course. There were no fields to weed or beans to pick, no laundry or dishes or cooking, no fences to paint, or grass to cut. Once a week, soldiers would oversee six interns cleaning the bathroom. They all loved that job because it was something to do.
It surprised her that what she missed from her old life were the things she often didn't regard as that meaningful. Cooking was what she missed the most of all. She would replay in her mind favorite dishes. She would daydream the whole event–walking out to the backyard garden, picking fresh herbs, lettuce, a tomato. Then she would chop it all, again in her mind, and measure it all, with a little olive oil and balsamic, and make the most delicious salad!
The women would trade recipes, so they could each try a new dish every night. The next day, she would ask, "How did that meat loaf and garlic asparagus turn out?" And the other woman would reply, "Oh, it was fantastic! Very tasty! Though I think I overcooked the meat loaf just a little."
Mostly, she and the others were confined to their stifling-hot barracks, where they lay on top of thin polyester blankets crying. Sweating and crying. Wondering where everyone else was. And if they knew where she was. And if they did, why couldn't they get her out? She didn't know why she was there, or where she was, or how long she'd be there, and she was ordered not to ask. No one else knew either.
There were 100 women in her barracks. And it had been whispered there were 80 barracks. That's 8,000 women. They were of all types: young, old, dark, fair, tall, short, heavy, thin, pretty, plain, sick, well. There were constant breakdowns. At night, with the lights out, they would whisper to one another. The barracks was under audio and day and night-vision surveillance. The women talked in a telepathic code.
She wondered why they had all been taken. None of them were criminals or terrorists, she hadn't been accused of any crime. When she asked to make a phone call, they said no. when she said it's my Miranda rights, the soldier told her that she could make a call after she was processed.
She was horrified when two female guards made her strip, watched her take a shower, and then ordered her to bend over and hold onto the sink. They did a body-cavity search, and she submitted because she knew they meant business, and it was bad enough. She put on her uniform and her slippers, was led to her bed, sat down, and knew.
She knew that, yes, it was all true. The bankers and the government and the Bilderberg group and the wars and the corruption and the bailouts and trillions in debt and TSA and 9/11 and FEMA camps and the Illuminati–all of it, it's all true. And she always knew it in her gut.
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk-rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. To contact her, send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org