A Novel by Faye Fletcher (Serial installments by chapters)

The Falcon Women’s Facility: Chapters 1 & 2

A Novel by Faye Fletcher

Chapter 1.

 

Massive wheels the size of the earth rolled towards the town, screeching loudly, letting us know it was that time of morning. My parents grabbed my hands, holding them tightly, shaking, but that didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was mine were too.

Everyone in Falcon went into a large circle, wide eyed. Mothers sobbed, holding their teenage daughters tightly in their arms. My parents’ expression was blank. I knew they were scared, but fear seemed to come in bullets, which hit only their quivering muscles, trying to keep tense. “Attention citizens of Falcon.” Said the man holding the horn. The crowd went eerily silent, waiting. Just, waiting. The man who stood before us with a speaker to his lips had a tight frown, curving at the edge of his long beard, and all the color seemingly drained from his ash colored eyes. For a man no older than thirty he had a rough disposition. “I hope you all had a lovely morning.” Even through all of the instant fear he radiated, the man smiled softly, innocently, practically begging for our approval, to tell us he is safe. In that instant, his first impression changed to one of a completely different man. My mind eased, the endless panic finally resting. 

“You took my sister! You monsters!” A young woman began screaming. Her deep voice bellowed in the silent winds. The speaker nodded slowly, comprehending her words to decide his response. His chirpy persona continued, contradicting the statement from the rest of his body. The man turned to face the others. 

“This facility is a government approved base, any fear is based on misguided prejudices… Please keep your concerns to yourself during the choosing.”                                              

The man sighed when a baby started to cry in the crowd. Father picked up my sister Hannah and held her tightly, while Mother took my hand. “Jenevieve.” She whispered in my ear. “Do not be scared. God is looking down on our family. He will protect you. I promise.” I nodded, attempting to believe what she spoke of so fondly. 

“So,” The man began again. “After great consideration, we have decided that the seventeen year old Katherine Smith is the next of the honored girls to be chosen as a member of our great facility.”

“You see? God will protect us.” Mother smiled softly. I tried to be happy, show gratitude to God’s grace upon me, but nothing in the audience read peace. Screams were coming from the opposite side of our circle as white cloaked men grabbed a short, red headed girl. They ignored her cries and curses and shoved her into the back of the truck, locking her in a metal cage.
I sucked in a breath, seeing her blood soaked face . Had they hurt her that badly already? That thought didn’t go far though because soon enough the truck had taken her away and Katherine was out of sight.

My parents didn’t seem to care. “She’s a lucky one,” Father said. “Taken at seventeen. Only has to survive a couple of years. Some aren’t so lucky.” He looked off into the distance, surely thinking about his sister Anne, who Hannah was named after.

Mother shrugged, clearly annoyed by his rare sentimentality. “Joshua, it was her time to go. The lord wouldn’t have taken her if he didn’t have reason. Come on.” She picked up Hannah and left, leaving us to follow behind her tired footsteps.

After a few minutes of relaxing silence, we walked into our blatantly empty home. The door, a drained yellow slab of wood stood proudly as it clanked against the soles of my shoes. Throughout the house there was a depressing entity which seemed to roam freely through every dustbunny stored there. In the center of it all leading to Father’s office stood a rectangular doorway, with a rusty metal handle, turning anyone who touches it’s hand a mint like tint of green. The door opened directly to the kitchen, and then to the office, followed by the stairs. Everything was in its orderly routine, and we participated in it as willing pawns. 

 I went straight to my room. It was all too much. The fact that every month until I’m nineteen I’d be fearing the facility is coming to get me the next time is unbelievable, no matter the Choosers calm assurance. Laying on my side, I folded my legs on my bed and closed my eyes. “It’ll all be okay.” I whispered to myself tiredly, drained by the emotion of a stranger’s life. “Okay…” And sleep takes over.

 

Chapter 2.

 

I woke up the next morning to sounds of bells chiming throughout the town, reverberating against the silent walls. Signaling the start of the day, I got up for my assigned role, working at the dreaded laundry house. Every morning, I wake up and wash and fold unknown payers’ laundry all day. Whenever I complained my mother would roll her eyes and tell me how lucky I am, how this job is so much better than others. I’d always pretend to agree with her, but I don’t see things like my mother, I want more. More than what this stupid generation had given me. I’m frustrated, and I’m bored, and I’m mad that I wasn’t born a hundred years ago. I shouldn’t have to feel lucky to have something I hate. I can’t.

Opening my closet, I see four pairs of the same beige shirt and black leggings, a fundamental outfit for laundry workers, along with my weekly church dress. Depending on job assignments, some people may be gifted the option of a wider variety of closet options, but most people do not see the need for that anymore. There is no point for dressing up when there is nothing to dress up for. 

I walk into the empty kitchen, sighing to myself. The chairs, hollow and lonely, were more props than anything. So lonely, in fact, that it was as if their usage was as props more than anything. When was the last time we had a family breakfast? When mother made eggs and bacon, served with fresh baked bread. When we would laugh and jokingly bicker, pretending like her cooking was awful and not heaven to our mouths, just to see her instant smile upon realization. And like all other days, it would be stupid of me to get my hopes up for anything similar to that now. I head out. 

A morning waker at heart, I had time to kill. I sat on the porch eating a leftover piece of crusty, stale bread from the previous evening’s dinner. Elder’s went about their morning routines, not a care in the world. The elder people grinned down upon one another, casually, “G’mornin!”, falling from their lips, followed by, “A fine day today, ain’t it?” I hear, like always, them continuing to speak about my generation, how we do not appreciate the world, how we are sickly, bratty; I’ve heard it all. Right on cue like always, slouched shouldered teenagers my age walk by, red eyes and messy hair trying to cover their feelings. 

After I vigorously devoured the bread, I began to walk over to my mothers booth, a few blocks away from our home. Feet dragging, I hung my head and did my overall best to fit in with the crowd of adolescents. It’s always better to conform with the crowd than dare to be something other than what everyone’s mind can comprehend. I spotted my mother through the crowd instantly when I arrived, even through the many weavers and sewers who were hard at work. Her beautiful, sky blue dress flowed down her waist, her wavy hair flying with the breeze. For a woman of a lower station, she blended in with the higher class civilians as if she was one of them. I sighed in admiration, watching from afar, away from the crowd, jealous of my mothers beauty. However, I stopped. Mother would never approve of this jealous adoration, this sinful behavior. The lord doesn’t like people who walk with their head held high, for they are too greedy for popularity.

When the communal church bell’s clock struck the hour chime signaling it was five o’clock, I made my way past the beautiful fabric booths, past the glass towers of the nursing and doctorate section, and into the back alleys of the rusty old building called the laundromat. 

I crossed a few hallways, and made my way into room C-4, my assigned pole for the day, told by the complex and poorly made sign at the front desk. The room was cold and damp, and my fellow October Borns were already hard at work folding and hand washing clothes. I grinned, seeing my best friend Samuel also was assigned to the same room. We had been best friends since nursery school, where we first met. When together, we were never afraid to break the normality of societal standards here: girls being confined to relating only to the same sex. No one understood the way Samuel would.

He worked with his head down, slick black hair bobbing up and down with the rest of his movements. His dark brown skin shone against the bright tinted red light; I could have spotted him a mile away. “Hey!” I called, quickly running up to him. Samuel grinned back at me, the mood instantly lighting the dark room. “Jenevieve! Thank heavens you’re here, I was starting to get worried you slept in late again.” He spoke with false sincerity, trying not to laugh. 

I hit him playfully. “Ha, ha, ha. Get back to work, you.”  And I picked up my first item.

We loved speaking to each other in a robotic tone. Pretending to be emotionless people like we used to watch on the screen. Whenever in public, Samuel and I would pretend to be a couple we used to see on television, always getting into mischief together but being rewarded of it in the end. It was fun to imagine a life like that.

After a couple of hours of silent working, Samuel whispered to me, “So, what’re your thoughts on that girl? Katherine, was her name I think?”

 “Don’t know her.” I responded, slightly too loudly. “Hopefully she’s placed in Group M. She’s pretty enough.” All the October born heads spun over to look at me glaring, and I looked down, flinching slightly out of embarrassment. Sam suppressed a smile, and told me not to worry, it wasn’t too out of line for the head leaders to be called. I nodded. 

Another wash of clothing later, we heard the clock strike eight, the third hour into work. Eight o’clock was known as doom time for the October born. We all tried not to twitch out of discomfort and went into our standing positions, a long row of blank expressions. Precisely one minute later, the head leaders walked in.

“Leah Bailey!” The first name was announced in the morning roll call, shouted out by our leader, Tanya Berkeley, as her successors stood behind her, taking notes with intent expressions on their faces. Mrs. Berkeley had to be the meanest, grumpiest old lady to ever walk the face of the earth. She did not speak to the people she dictated so viciously, she barked. She did not scream at someone when angry, she howled. Whoever’s idea it was to put Mrs. Berkeley in charge of an entire unit must have been the most oblivious and ignorant person in Falcon. 

Soon enough, everything was quiet again, Mrs. Berkeley scanning us from afar. She deems doing a stranger’s laundry as the most impactful thing in the universe, meanwhile the building a block down is saving lives. Miraculous that people still make sure that they are the most important, no matter what the reasoning behind it is. No comment was made now that she is in the room; nothing was important enough to mention to a peer that would risk our being in trouble. We all bowed our heads to the piles and piles of work ahead, sighing as the gaze of her ruthless anger glared, raising the smallest of hairs on our necks. 

 

 Twelve O’clock

 

 We were allowed to leave for lunch. Samuel and I walked together for a mile to the eating room at the very end of town. When I first did the walk, it took me an hour to trudge up the hills and back down again. Now, I do it in a mere fifteen minutes, starvation keeping my stiff back upright.

The Eating Room is a large Dining hall without any of the warm and comforting feelings a dining room should supply. There are fourteen large circular wooden tables and at the end of the room there are the September borns handing out brown paper bags to people, holding the usuals; Brown, black, or gray meat, practically with flies swarming in herds above the top. 

Samuel and I grabbed our bags and sat down at the corner table, away from everyone else. Soon enough people would be coming to this table too when all the others cleared up, but at least we got the first few minutes alone. I began to eat when I saw a beautiful girl strutting up to us. “Claire,” I mumbled. “Hey…” She batted her eyes at Samuel. Without thinking, I coughed violently, fake. The two of them looked at me oddly, detecting the insincerity of it. I mentally shrugged it off. “Don’t you have work to do, September?” I shot. 

She looked at me like she’s never seen me before. “Jenevieve? Oh, hi! Actually, I wanted to talk to Samuel, sorry.” My nostrils flared.

Samuel looked uncomfortable. “Hey Claire…” 

“So, I assume you got the strawberries.” He grinned picking one of his three ripe strawberries up. 

“Yep. Thanks, by the way.” I worked to prevent myself from gasping. Strawberries? I hadn’t had one of those in at least a year.

 “You’re welcome! I-”

“Claire!” A large, hairy man stood behind her, making all our stomachs churn. “Get back to work!” He growled. We could see the tense nerves by looking just a second in her eyes, but the excited mood quickly returned, as if she was scared of feeling anything else. 

“Anyways, it appears I’ve got more work to do. See ya around, Sammy!” 

He gave me a look. “Calm down, she’s just a girl.” I became fully aware of how my facials must have appeared. 

“I-I know that!” 

He chuckled, “Here,” and handed me two strawberries. 

I blushed. “There’s only one left for you though…”

“I don’t mind. Eat up, Wallas.” 

I smiled. “Thank you…”

“No problem.”

Eventually our table became so full and noisy, I just ate in silence. I was fine with it that way though, it gave me time for my mind to wander. How do the facility girls feel right now? Are they safe, eating lunch, are they happy? So many awful stories I’ve heard, but ten times more reassurance that nothing is wrong. I didn’t know how to feel. 

Aunt Anne was taken when she was fourteen, and never returned home. Father said there was no letter, no warning of her death, or reason of, for that matter, just that she didn’t return home at the age of nineteen. Nineteen is supposedly the time girls are set off their duty of work in the facility. No one truly knows what goes on in there, just that checks are sent home to the families weekly, for their child or siblings work. Many families are very grateful for this check, but most wish for their children to return home more than anything. The ones who do return on their nineteenth birthday often disappear after a few days back, never sharing their story with anyone. The Rhode Island facility, or the Falcon Women’s Facility, remains a complete mystery. 

Soon enough our break was over, and I found myself walking back to the laundry house. A group of December borns strutted past me gossiping. I should have been born in December. My favorite color is purple, their clothing identification color, and I love the idea of farming, the fresh air, the freedom.  I hate the smell of the laundry room, the heat from the iron, the dryer, it’s tedious. I wish I could learn all the juicy gossip in the farmers’ knowledge as they are allowed to relax in the fields instead of being cramped inside. But as mother always says, “What goes around comes around.” At one point I’ll earn something they don’t have.

My thoughts went back to that girl…Katherine…She was wearing orange, meaning she was born in July, the nurses. Her job must’ve been fun too. At least more fun then where she is now. Samuel nudged me. I sighed as he spoke, “Time to get back to work.”

 

Five o’clock

 

 I walked home, ready to let sleep take over me. First, dinner.  Mother hummed quietly as she gave us food. How could she seem so joyful?  She tries to make it look like more than it is, and I know we are lucky that she has the skill to add things to the meat to help fill us up, but it’s mushy and sticks to our utensil. Before the economy shut down, before the unusual jobs and most importantly, facilities started, Mother would give us things like Brisket and bowls of soup, as just a side. She would smile down at us and we would say our blessings happily, together.  Now we eat in silence, father worrying about how long we have until jobs start shutting down again, and mother whispering silent prayers in hope anyone up above would hear. I look down, the memories too hard to think about, let alone watch in front of my eyes. 

Sweet, eight year old Hannah and I play footsie under the table, and I smile softly whenever I get her to giggle. Hannah doesn’t deserve this, and I’ve made it my mission to entertain her. Instead of praying for the family every night, or praying for myself, I pray specifically for Hannah; In hope this crisis passes her, and she’ll be okay. Even though I know I’ll be fine, it’s still nerve-wracking, and I don’t want her to have to grapple with that, at least not begin to fear the way others do yet.

“How was your day, everyone?” Father asked, trying to add something to the hollow ritual. When no one replied, he asked again, louder, gruffly. “How was your day, everyone?” 

Mother spoke up, “I sold a fabric I had been weaving together for a while now. It was a great day today at work. Did well.” 

He nodded, “That’s good. Work didn’t call me in today, but tomorrow is a new day. Right, Jenevieve?” I didn’t hear him, too busy thinking about the day when I’ll be nineteen and free to leave the state, no matter how accustomed to Rhode Island I may be.

“Jenevieve!” Father yelled, standing up as he banged his fist on the table. “You listen to me, young lady!” 

Immediately, I was shot out of my trance. “Yes, father, sorry, father.” He growled, sitting back down. Hannah let out a whimper next to me, so I squeezed her hand, letting her know I was okay. She squeezed back.

Soon dinner was over, and it was time for bed. Father went to our tiny living room to read the newspaper without saying a word while Mother came up to me and Hannah. “Girls, do your prayers together tonight.” Then she pulled me aside and switched her voice to a whisper. “I’m going back to work. Don’t tell your sister or father, okay? We need just a little more money. Goodnight, my beautiful girl. God is with you.” With that, she silently left the house.

I held Hannah’s hand and took her up to her room. She jumped onto her bed, grabbing her ripped up doll Cocoa. Cocoa was given to her when she was a toddler and has seen everything by Hannah’s side. Now Cocoa’s leg dangles lifelessly from having no stuffing in the cloth and her head looks like it might explode from having so much that should’ve been spread out through the rest of her body. Still, I smiled at how much happiness the doll gave my little sister.  “Now, do your prayers.” I instructed. She nodded, kissing my cheek. “Okay!”

I closed my eyes, imagining I was in a giant courtroom and was the following witness. Thousands of people were in the hall, waiting to stand on the black and white tile steps to face the judge. We all had tight expressions, ready for our voices to be heard. I nodded to the person to my right. 

“Next!” God yelled, and called me up to the witness stand. I walked down the slippery stairs, holding onto the railing tightly, and faced the elder, but gallant man. The sound of my heavy breath reverberated throughout the walls. I sat down, and began speaking. “Hello, God.” I said confidently. “My name is Jenevieve Wallas and I would like to say my prayers.” He nodded, motioning for me to move on kindly. 

“Well, first of all, thank you for letting me fall asleep for one more night, and please let me wake up the next morning. Today I’ll be praying for my little sister Hannah; however, she is a sweet girl, all she wants in life is to play and help the family best she can.

Please let her live as long as she desires, do as much as she wishes to, and most of all, dream beyond comparison.” God nodded to me and I was signaled to go. 

I opened my eyes at the same time Hannah said, “Jenny! Guess what I prayed for!” I smiled at her, kissing her forehead.

“What?” I did my best to match her enthusiastic grin. 

“You!” I opened my mouth to say something but no words came out. “Oh…” I said softly. “Thank you, Hanny.” 

“You’re welcome!”

“I’m flattered…”

“That’s good! What did you pray about?” I smiled gently. “The same thing I pray about every night.” And with that and one last quick kiss goodbye, I left.

There’s always been an old myth that any girl who’s been taken to the facility has the devil inside them, and only the purest won’t be chosen. If they die while in the facility that means the devil can not be taken out of them, and they deserve to be deceased. However, if they make it to nineteen then the angel has entered and destroyed the demon and they are allowed to live.

Hannah won’t ever be chosen, she is so pure and so good, I have to try harder to be like her.  She will never be chosen. I can’t stop smiling as I think of her prayers.  She cares about me that much. She truly loves me.

I shut off the light.

 

 

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