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You awake gently to the tweets and chirps of wild birds outside your window, as the early morning sun seeps in through the blinds of the bedroom. A flock of nightingales, blackbirds and woodlarks serenade one another, each with the most heavenly voices - your new alarm clock since joining the Bloods. You look over to the watch on your bedside table. 5.30am. Sunday service will be starting soon. You get out of bed, get ready and set off into the morning afterglow.
The streets are unusually quiet, you must be running late. Mustn’t upset Father, if he spots that any of His children miss service then God forsake them! You quicken your pace and turn the corner, where the sound of a siren nears. In the middle of the street a veiled figure, a woman, cloaked in black, screams as she is pinned down to the ground by two Blood soldiers.
Option A: This is none of your concern. You’re late enough as it is. [[Carry on walking]]
Option B: What is going on here? [[Stop in your tracks]]
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You shrug off the incident and continue your walk up the long stretch of road, the sight of the bell tower looms ever closer into view. At this rate you’ll only be slightly late – with a bit of luck Father won’t even notice.
“Jasmine! Jasmine is that you?”
Turning around you see Jane, a local choirgirl, chasing after you, her eyes are wide and her cheeks flushed crimson. She catches up to you and attempts to speak. “Did you see that? H-H-How they handled that woman?” She is frantic as she looks to you and then back to the patrol van now driving into the distance.
Option C: “Jane, are you okay? You don’t look so good.” [[Are you OK]]
Option: D: “Sounds an awful lot like traitor talk to me.” [[Traitor talk]]
You watch as a patrol van screeches to a halt on the curb beside the scene and a group of uniformed men rush out and drag the woman to her feet, she cries but her words are glitched and suddenly a loud ringing begins in your ears. The woman is dragged into the back of the van kicking and screaming.
Metres away, you notice a young boy silently crying out for the woman. He stands partially hidden behind a tree. As far as you can tell, the Blood soldiers haven’t seen him there yet.
Option E: He’s a traitor and the Bloods need to take care of his kind. [[Traitor]]
Option F: [[Wait for the coast to clear]]
“I can’t trust you, Jasmine. I can’t trust anyone at this point – not even myself.”
“What do you mean? ‘Course, you can trust me. We’ve been friends since we were kids. What’s going on?”
Jane contemplates your words for a minute. She takes your hand and yanks you away from the street and into a back alley.
“You’ve known me for a long time, haven’t you Jasmine. You remember me when I was plagued by anxiety – before the Bloods, before any of this – I know that you felt it too. Those worries about racism and climate change and animal cruelty. We used to care about those things. But then the Bloods took us in and promised us a better world, a place where children laugh and the grass is greener-”
Words suddenly fail her. She falls to her knees and begins to scream in pain.
“They’re in my head,” she shouts, pointing to a loose piece of skin behind her ear. “Please, take it out. You have to make this stop!”
Option G: [[Investigate the skin]]
Option H: [[Find help]]
You link Jane’s arm in yours. A look of sudden alarm creeps onto her face as your words dawn on her. “A traitor? Me? You can’t be serious! I’ve been nothing but a loyal Blood since I can remember!”
Let’s see what Father has to say about that, you think.
You arrive outside the church, walk under the archway and open the wooden doors into the morning procession. Jane wriggles her arm under your tight grip as you march her through the nave and towards the altar.
A congregation of Bloods sit praying fervently in the stalls. Father stands at the pulpit and watches you marching towards him.
“What time do you call this?!” he shouts, the bass of his voice bringing the praying assembly to a sharp silence.
Option I: “Jane has exposed herself as [[an enemy of the Bloods]]”
Option: J: “We must pray for Jane, Father. She speaks of awful sins.” [[Pray for Jane]]
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You search your pockets, find your army knife and hold it towards her skin. You take a deep breath before making a clean incision to reveal a microchip no bigger than the tip of your finger. Jane cries out in pain as you gently remove the chip and place it in your palm. You watch as the device fades from a bright green to black.
“What is this thing?”
“An implant,” she replies, without a flicker of doubt. “I’ve suspected it for a while. My thoughts- somehow I knew they didn’t belong to me. This entire time it was the Bloods. They put these things in you and turn you into mindless zombies.”
You stare at the lifeless implant, dumbfounded, until you notice the blood running from behind Jane’s ear.
“We need to get you to hospital,” you say.
“Hospital, you’ve got to be kidding!” she remarks. “Me and you are getting far, far away from here. But first -“, she takes the army knife from the floor, “We need to get this thing out of you.”
Her body begins to jerk and convulse. You place her on her side and look around for help amidst the barren backstreet. You fumble in the pockets of your jeans to find a phone, or anything that would attract the help of Blood soldiers but find nothing. You’re about to run and call for help when she becomes completely still.
“Jane?” you shout.
You collapse beside her limp body. How could this be? Tears stream your face. Had you killed her? That thing behind her ear. Would that have saved her?
Before you can think anymore, Jane’s eyes flutter open and she sits up straight in a robotic motion.
“Jasmine, what are you doing here?” she asks with an amused curiosity.
“Oh my goodness, I thought you were-“
Jane is oblivious to your panic. She looks to her watch and gasps. “Come on Jasmine, if we don’t hurry, we’ll be late for service!”
You begin to shout and wave towards the two Bloods, “Hey! Over there!” They look from you as you point towards the child. They rush over and apprehend the boy, before marching him into the back of their cruiser.
Meanwhile, the patrol van that the woman was thrown in, rushes away. The sirens sound and you cover your ears with your hands. Your head begins to pound. An excruciating pain engulfs you.
A senior Blood soldier approaches you.
“Are you okay, Mam?”
Option K: “I-I-I’m fine. I just need to get to service.” [[Im fine]]
Option L: “My head – everything’s so fuzzy. I can’t think straight.” [[Head fuzzed]]
The van with the woman in the back speeds away and you watch as the Blood patrol vehicles clear the road. You step cautiously towards the young boy. He looks at you with big brown eyes, a lost expression hangs heavily over his face.
“Are you okay?” you ask.
The boy tries to speak but his words crackle in your ears, like the static of a radio. He seems to be warning you about something. You turn and notice the stray Cadet approaching you from across the street.
Option M: [[RUN!]]
Option N: Maybe you can persuade him. [[Talk to the Blood]]
“An enemy?” repeats Father, inching closer towards you.
“Yes, I caught her expressing sympathy for those without white blood,” you tell him matter-of-factly, the young choirgirl still frozen under your hold.
“Jane – you, an unbeliever? Right under my very nose! You do know this is a violation of everything we’ve ever known. And what a disgrace too, I could almost have seen the possibility of eternal love for you, child. Well, no more! Your day of Judgement has arrived.”
A flock of Blood soldiers rise from the church pews and join Father’s side, some pull out guns, whilst others begin to livestream the event.
You feel a large tug, as Jane pulls her arm and escapes from your grip. You watch helplessly as she darts across the stretched entrance and out the doors.
“AFTER HER!” Father yells.
“You doubt your faith in the Bloods, child? After I took you into this house and called you my own?”
“N-N-No Father, this is a misunderstanding. I would never-” Jane whimpers.
“Silence! You two,” he bellows, looking towards the two Blood cadets close by. “Take her arms. An exorcism is now in session.” The cadets restrain her in an instant. Father stands before her quivering body, with one hand he touches her forehead and in the other he holds the bible.
“I want you to cast your mind back to the day you laid hands on the Holy Book and pledged your allegiance to the Bloods. What did you swear? Tell us your undying oath!”
Through tear-filled eyes, she repeats, over and over, “I have white blood in my veins and that is the blood I worship, I have white blood in my veins and that is the blood I worship, I have white blood in my veins and that is the blood I worship.”
While she begs for forgiveness, Father leans closer to you and whispers, “Good work, Jasmine. Good work, indeed.”
You begin a staggered walk towards the Church when you feel a hand on your shoulder. You turn to the senior Blood who salutes you.
“You know Jasmine, we could really do with more people like you in the force. Inspirational leaders who truly believe in the power of white blood. I’ll walk to service with you and explain to Father why you’re late. Thanks for your help. And after service we can discuss your promotion.”
You feel your legs buckle and fall hard to the ground.
Your mind is flooded with thoughts of polluted skies, abattoirs and refugee camps, a fear resonating from a strange place within. Images drift into and out of consciousness, of riots, bombings and bullets. A myriad of your old angst starts creeping up on you until you can’t tell the difference between reality and illusion.
You hear the Blood shout, “She’s malfunctioning!” Everything goes dark.
When you next wake up, you are in a white, clinical room, your arms and legs shackled to a hospital bed. There is a tag on your wrist, upon closer inspection it reads “Specimen 8A910 Code Red – Must be disposed of immediately.”
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You grab the boy’s hand and sprint as fast as you can. You hear the Cadet yelling for backup as he pursues you. The young boy can’t keep pace, so you pick him up in your arms, but you overestimate your strength, put him down. There is no other choice but to hide.
You both turn onto a side path, dive into a mountain of bins and try to stay still there. You hold your breath. You hear the Blood cadet run past you. The running footsteps recede. You look at the young boy. He’s trembling. He has hold of your arm. “Now what?” you wonder.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Thank goodness, a Cadet. We’ve been looking all over for you!” you reply. “You see, I was just-“
“Stop there,” he says. He pulls a gun from his waist. “Get on your knees!”
You bend to the floor. The boy copies you.
The Cadet grabs the boy and handcuffs him. “As for you,” he says, turning towards you, “I expected more from a Blood. There’s a place for snakes like you.”