The rumble of the train had lulled just about everyone to sleep. Everyone but me, that is. I could see a few familiar faces from the train station. We were boarded like cattle in to the hollow cars, all wearing that historic pink triangle on our arms to show the world we were gay. My friend Carlos was among the sleeping but I couldn't see Max or anyone else from my home town. I wrapped my arms around my waist to give myself the comfort I knew I would not be feeling for a long time to come.
Back in Des Moines, before the new regime had taken over, life was beautiful and happy. I'd met the love of my life in Max Turner and we both saw a bright future ahead. As the political climate shifted and turned in to something dark and eerie we'd looked at each other nightly, fear sometimes getting the better of us. I recall holding her close to my chest as her tears soaked my shirt. Crying had become an almost nightly occurrence as people we loved and claimed to love us kept telling us everything would be okay. We were overreacting and the people of our community would never suffer the same fate as those from a horrid past. Many acted as if the details of those earlier events would never repeat themselves but I could see it, Max could see it and so could all those who were going to suffer the repercussions.
Anarchy was for storybooks and movies, but to see it unfold on your streets was something quite earth-shattering. Everyone at work knew Max and I were a couple and everyone in our neighborhood knew it too. When the old government was overthrown, it was clear that the rules and the guidelines and even the protection of the past was out the window. We didn't have a president, we had a dictator. With brute force and suave tongue he'd taken the capital by storm and now sat in the most powerful seat in the world. As his first course of action he kept the promises of his campaign trail - including the ones he'd made right here in Iowa - if we were, in fact, still even in Iowa. Chances were we were somewhere father west by now. Even before we were rounded up there were rumors that police and military forces around the country had started rounding up dissidents. Camps, or farms, as the media was calling them were springing up everywhere and despite the vastness of our once great country each state fell in line with the new leader and the new rules.
Hate was prevalent. The neighbors we'd once laughed with, broken bread with and shared happy gestures of friendly neighbors were turning their backs on people as fast as they could sing the praises of the new Supreme Power. Nevil Keres had sprung up overnight and for whatever unknown reason, when he spoke people listened. They'd been mesmerized by his words and speeches about how he was the only one who could make things right again. It was a sight Americans had seen time and again throughout election cycles, but this was not election season. This was a man on a mission to take over the country and make it his own playground of filth. Whether it was fear or true belief in what Keres was preaching, people listened and they followed. Willingly they gave up their freedoms in exchange for protection and before good citizens could do anything about it, the tides had turned and the late 21st century United States was thrust back to early 20th century Europe.
Keres's reach was so wide and powerful that even Canada bowed to him. The country once famous for being laid back and high minded was now following suit. Families were being torn apart, people dragged on to the streets and shot while others like myself were rounded up and taken to farms for reevaluation. Some were calling them Salvation Farms. The folks being taken to these places were going to meet some form of salvation. We were either going to see the errors of our ways or meet our makers. It wasn't just the gay and lesbian communities either. Religious sects of all kinds were rounded up too. In fact, I saw two smoke stacks in the distance as we were being prodded on to the train and heard someone say they were burning bodies in Saylorville, just north of the city.
Stretching my neck I reached my foot out and kicked Carlos awake.
"Hey, how far away from Iowa do you think we are?"
Carlos yawned and the fact he was remaining so calm made anger burn a little in my stomach. I probably wouldn't feel that way but not knowing where Max was started to feel like a weight in the pit of my soul.
"Geez, Zoe, why you gotta be like that? I was trying to sleep. Not sure I'm gonna get another chance for that any time soon."
"That may be true but I can't sit here anymore listening to everyone snoring when we're being lead to our certain deaths. I didn't see which car Max got placed on. I'm scared."
I hadn't said those words out loud to anyone but Max. She was more gentle and soft spoken than me and the truth was I didn't know if I would ever see her again. I could only hope she knew how much I loved her. Carlos being there should have made things easier to handle. He'd been a friend for a long time and I didn't want to see him get hurt either. Focusing on the here and now was easier than thinking about the fact that my own parents had sold me out. Max and I had discussed the situation as things started looking bleak. It was clear the neighbors would sacrifice us but the day the KM showed up to take Max and I away, it was my father standing next to a robust lieutenant pointing his finger and nodding. Carlos was flamboyant and loud, but I was betrayed by the man who raised me to save his own ass.
Carlos grunted and shifted his heavy body closer to mine and draped his arm over my shoulder. Resting my head on his chest I took a little solace in his gesture.
"Sorry, Zo. I didn't mean to sound like I'm not scared too. I'm sure Max is okay. Maybe even in the next car over, ya know? We'll probably get all put in the same place once we get to wherever they're taking us. That's not really a comfort though, is it?"
Shifting my position I did my best to look up at my longtime friend. His goatee was starting to gray and the rainbow colored gauges in his ears was a dead giveaway for the KM to snatch him right up. Carlos told her earlier he knew well enough to not resist but they still took a billy club to his knees. They were bruised and bloody. I reached out and gently ran a finger over them.
"Do they still hurt?"
"Not as much as when it happened. Stings a little. Not as much as their words though. Those damn Keres Militia are rude as fuck. Told me to get on my knees since that is what I prefer doing. Bitches. I'm a pitcher, not a catcher! They didn't even ask!"
I chuckled and smacked his stomach.
"You are something else, you know that?"
The trip continued and even though I couldn't see where we were going I could feel my ears popping as the elevation rose and hear the hollow sounds of what must have been tunnels. As people started to wake up there was nervousness in the air that was more than palpable. As the iron wheels began to screech to a halt my insides danced. Taking Carlos's hand I felt like I disappeared behind him as he rose to his full height. He towered over everyone and stood in front of me to protect me from anything that may be on the other side waiting. The doors slowly opened and a blast of crisp, fresh air blasted us in the face and I watched the skin on Carlos's arm transform in to a sea of bumps.
"Carlos? Are those mountains? Where are we?"