Of all those that had been singled out for exile, not one looked back. Confusion and a feeling of shame kept their eyes turned down towards the ground. They might not know what it was that they had done to bring this fate upon themselves, but it must have been something so bad that it could not be forgiven.
The doors of the Hall were held open by guards and the exiled filed out. The street had lost all familiarity now that it could no longer be looked at as being a part of their home. Some gave a shocked gasp at the shout, at the shot that rang out quickly afterwards, but others seemed so caught up in their own misery that the outburst failed to register in their minds.
“East or west?” One of the guards indicated that they should now split up into two groups. Which they were to join depended on which side of the town they had lived.
“Speak up when your former abode is reached,” he continued. “You will have five minutes in which to gather what you will. Do not try to escape or arm yourselves; you will be under observation for the entire time.”
Amberly walked numbly over to join the group that would be heading west. Friends, neighbors, people with whom she would once have shared many words with now seemed like strangers. Each of them was so caught up in their own distress that they were almost oblivious to their companions.
Could she run, Amberly wondered? Perhaps she should make a break for it, find somewhere to hide out and wait for a chance to rejoin Joel?
It would be pointless, she realised for there was nowhere that she could hide from this man; this stranger who had somehow managed to acquire so much power had been given more than enough time to get to know every inch of the town. He would be well aware of any potential hiding places. The only chance that she had of ever seeing Joel again was to comply with the orders and hope that somehow an opportunity to escape would present itself.
When they reached the house that had been her home, along with her parents, Amberly hesitated. One of the guards would accompany her through the door, watch over her as she went from room to room, collecting the few things that she would take with her. It felt wrong to let him intrude, inspect their home, like she was inviting him in to invade their privacy.
“You are wasting your time,” the guard said, and this fact spurred her into action. She walked quickly into her house, her room, hating the idea of this man taking in all the details of what had been her private space.
The first thing Amberly needed was some kind of bag. She grabbed the largest that she could find, hastily scrabbled up a blanket, some clothes, ever conscious that the guard’s eyes were taking in her every move.
“Two minutes,” he said.
Amberly made a dash for the kitchen where she hastily put what food she thought that her parents could spare. It wasn’t much, but it would keep her going for a few days, and surely after that, whatever misunderstanding had occurred would be sorted out and they would all be able to return.
“Okay, your time is up.” The guard opened the door.
“Wait… please… just one more minute.” Giving him no time to reply, Amberly raced back to her room where she picked up a notepad and a handful of pens, together with the picture of Joel that she kept beside her bed.
There was more, so very much more, that she wanted to take but she knew that she had already pushed her luck. Amberly watched the guard who did not even try to hide the fact that his hand was now resting on his gun.
“Sorry,” she muttered, fighting back the tears of frustration as she walked outside to join the others.
Once everyone had been given time to collect what belongings they wished to take, they were all marched back towards the Town Hall. Only once the two groups had rejoined were they herded towards the gates. The heavy bolts were pulled back, the gates swung open and the newly exiled stumbled outside.
Left alone now, for the guards had stayed inside, the people slumped down to the ground. Now outside of Mortown’s walls the shock and the reality set in. Some curled up, attempting to hold their emotions inside themselves while others sobbed uncontrollably.
Amberly stared at the gates that now stood separating her from Joel. It wasn’t until the following morning that she turned her attention to the landscape that was now to be her home.
It was harsh, barren; as unforgiving in appearance as that man that had ordered their exile had been in his behaviour. The only sign that life had ever existed were the tracks left by the delivery vehicles that stretched off towards the horizon.
She looked around at her companions. Most seemed to be still sleeping, worn out by their despair. Amberly had been unable to sleep at all, and the sleepless night had left her with eyes that burned and felt full of grit. She rubbed at them then removed the note pad and a pen from her bag. She began to write:
Can this really be just the first day of our enforced separation? Already I miss you so much!
What happened? I’ve tried to make sense of it but I simply cannot understand. One minute we were sitting there, hand in hand, and the next I was forced to leave you.
Who are these people that have taken over our town and have turned it in to some kind of armed fortress? What right did they have to banish us and how dare they? Who gave them the right to decide that we cannot live our lives together? I have thought and thought, trying to find an answer, but have found not a single one.
I never did anything wrong. No WE never did anything wrong! We have both been dutiful and obedient citizens of Mortown. Why did they have to tear us apart?
Nothing makes sense to me. I’m just glad that I thought to bring paper and pens, or I would have no possible way of communicating with you. Will you even get to read my words? I can only hope so.
We have yet to move away from the town gate but there is nothing to see from here. Nothing! We have been taken from our homes and tossed out into a wild land like we are no more than garbage. There is no shelter and no food apart from the little that we have thought to bring with us.
The others are starting to stir so I must finish writing now.
I’m just waiting for the day when I can see you again.
Missing you so much,
She folded the letter into a small square, wrote Joel’s name on the outside of it, then pushed it through a narrow gap at the bottom of one of the gates.
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