Sarah rolled over onto her back, the hardened cot pressing a foreign feeling into her spine. She’d been awake all night, eyes locked blankly on the darkened ceiling overhead, staring and waiting for the light of the sun to restore some sort of familiarity back to her senses. Yet as it rose, it brought with it no comfort, only walls she didn’t recognize and a view that wasn’t her own. She sighed heavily.
It’d been no more than 15 hours since they’d taken her, forced her into the van and driven her to the work camp. She protested, cried out and begged her mother to do something—to do anything—but she didn’t. She couldn’t. It wasn’t her choice. Sarah knew that. If anyone was to blame, it was her own damn fault. She’d been single for two years now, willingly declined any sort of romantic advances to instead focus on her knitting and cat collecting. She knew that was illegal, knew the consequences, knew that those over 16-years-old not in a relationship after 730 days were deemed wasted flesh and confined to a work camp. But she felt invincible, she felt above the law. She knew she was beautiful, that she could get anyone she chose – why would they lock her away for opting to make the boys wait? They needed more women, especially pretty ones. They only ever locked up the single boys; they would never take her, even if she stayed alone for five years.
“M’lady,” said a voice from outside the cabin window, the abruptness of it causing her to jump. “M’lady, please open the door.”
They had been standing outside her cabin all night, moaning and wheezing amongst themselves like a pack of asthmatic zombies. The van driver told her to that word of her arrival had spread throughout the camp like free pot at a Phish concert—that fedoras and tuxedos were ordered in bulk from all of the finest department stores nearby; the commissary had completely sold out of heart-shaped chocolate boxes. When the other prisoners learned that a female would be locked up, all sense of order dissipated, and the forced work stopped entirely.
“I bought you some chocolates,” said a voice from the window slightly above Sarah’s head. She exhaled heavily and rolled over onto her side.
The van driver mournfully explained that this particular camp hadn’t seen a female prisoner in decades—it usually only accepted the worst of the worst, never anyone quite like Sarah. “Neckbeards,” he called them. The last woman to arrive was significantly overweight and suffered from a terrible skin condition in which her face looked exactly like a shaved Chihuahua’s. Regardless, not a single Yu-Gi-Oh card, nor Nintendo DS, nor World of Warcraft account was touched the morning of her arrival. By the end of the day, she was engaged to be wed and immediately released from the program, having entered into a relationship. Sarah wanted none of that; none of the romance, none of the pageantry, none of the intimacy. She just wanted to continue her knitting, to continue raising as many cats as possible, to be allowed to live her life by her own choosing.
“M’lady,” interrupted a voice again, this time squeaking in from the far end of the cabin, “I found the key to the door. I am going to come in and save you.”
Sarah quickly pushed herself up off the bed and onto her feet. “I don’t need saving, thank you,” she stammered.
“M’lady, please. I can be the hero you need,” said the voice. The doorknob jiggled slightly as the single stream of light pouring through keyhole vanished.
“Please leave me alone,” Sarah said, taking a step toward the wall furthest from the door.
“Are you in trouble?” said a voice behind her. She turned and glanced up at its source. The pale, overweight face of a man stared back at her through the window, his pumpkin-colored hair pulled tight in a ponytail, thick framed glasses resting just above his nose. He brought his hand to his mouth and pushed down on an inhaler, then wheezed loudly.
“No, I’m fine. I just want to be left alone,” Sarah said. She glanced above the window in search of blinds, yet a thin line of dust seemed to signal that they had recently been removed. The doorknob behind her resumed jingling.
Sarah turned back around and stared at the door, watching as the golden knob slowly turned left. The stream of light pierced back through the keyhole, then silently crawled across the wood floor like a searchlight as the door slowly opened. She took another step back, so that she was flush against the far wall of the cabin. She just wanted to be home, to be locked in her room with just her desk lamp on, staring down at her lap while working on her knitting.
“M’lady, I want to introduce myself to you,” said a man’s voice from behind the door, his hand now creeping into the room. It was a plump hand, the fingers like little sausages attached to a balloon with a self-diagnosed thyroid condition that somewhat resembled a palm.
“Please, just leave me alone. Please, please,” Sarah pleaded. Just a few hours ago, less than even a day, she had been relaxing comfortably in her room, petting one of her fourteen cats and perfecting the stitching on her latest sweater.
“Do not be afraid of me,” said the man, “I am going to show you some nice internet memes. Do you like doge? I also brought some of my favorite manga.” The hand gave birth to the rest of an arm, followed by a shoulder, torso, neck, and legs. He was round, like a beach ball that got fed up with not having arms and legs, yet seemed to have no grasp on human proportions. His legs were short and stumpy, folds of fat cascading past his knees. His arms pointed outwards like car doors that were rusted open, his hands poking out from the sleeves of his black trench coat. Sarah was sure that if he fell over on a hill, he’d simply cartwheel uncontrollably toward the bottom. A black, pinstriped fedora sat upon his head, clearly too small for his disturbingly overweight frame. A thick, unkempt beard began at his chin and extended down over his neck. Sarah placed her palms against the wood of the wall, as if trying to phase through it to escape.
“Stop, please go away. Please,” she said. Another hand slowly slid into view from behind the door, this one boney and malnourished. A stick-like body followed, a similarly disproportionate fedora placed haphazardly upon his head. If it weren’t for the fact that they were already in a work camp, Sarah would’ve immediately figured this boy to be a holocaust survivor. A large symbol Sarah recognized as something from Star Wars—or perhaps Star Trek—was printed on the front of his shirt.
“Hello, m’lady,” said the skeleton figure. “I wanted to personally welcome you to our free-thought zone. Your graceful beauty is most welcome amongst us sirs. I see you have a cross on your necklace, I just wanted to let you know that I’d be happy to explain science to you. Then we can get rid of that silly thing.”
“Please,” Sarah muttered.
Another hand appeared behind the door, followed by several more. Men of two sizes—either impossibly emaciated or disturbingly obese—slowly slid into the room, waddling toward her like a horde of freshly reanimated corpses. They wheezed in anticipation, their hands outstretched with gifts of roses, chocolates, pictures of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Magic the Gathering booster packs.
Sarah fell to the floor, her hands wrapped her arms around her knees, as stared up as their shadows slowly blocked out the sun from behind the door. She closed her eyes and screamed, just as the perfectly round man knelt down in front of her and began reading aloud from Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion.