by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
Dust. So much swirling in the air that it became mud in the eyes and chewed up cake in the mouth. Their ears built dams of wax and stone. Their noses reduced to only to hold up glasses, unable to pass air in or out from the mucus and wet clay caking its opening.
This was where we sent our poorly behaved, even badly behaved of society. Those who lost their cool or nerve or patience and acted. They were not banished to a cage, safe and warm and well fed. They were sent to the far end of the western United States, on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California. Once the heartland, now simply a vast swirl of dust from the beaches all the way to middle of the eastern country.
To resume their lives and learn from their mistakes, they’d have to find the lines of wire that ran from West to East, leading them home. Or die. There were checkpoints with food and water but they would have to be found. Often times they were lost in the dust storms. Missing a check point meant starvation and none of the safe houses along the way were evenly spaced out. There were no calculations to be made along the way. No planning or rationing, just pulling oneself along the wire to the next symbol of hope.
It might take months, or years. Never less than months to make it back to the livable Eastern United States.
When the prisoners arrived, they would be so fundamentally changed, that the states called each survivor a “remarkable recovery.” Under their breaths, however, officials were more terrified of the blank stares, lean muscle and wild hair.
These men and women crawled their way back to what, at the beginning of their journey’s, they called home. Upon arrival, however, there was nothing comforting or homely about it. For the rest of their lives, their minds would be trapped in the swirls of dust. Their bodies would wander through their former lives like cosmonauts on an unfamiliar planet. Aliens to all those around them and to themselves, living in an alien world.