Warning Signs

“Why couldn’t I save them?” I said in a tired voice.  “What could I have done differently?”  Beating myself up for things I couldn’t control, out loud again.  No one was around to hear me, so what did it matter.  Should I have trusted my gut earlier or was there nothing I could have done at all..NO, there is always something different you can do, I know this now.     

Sitting in the cool damp garage on my family’s abandoned farm I pondered, again, as to how all of this happened, how did I go from a middle aged, family man with a good job and great friends to nearly nothing in such a short period of time?  I guess it wasn’t that short, but it seemed like it was, considering all that has happened since “the day”.   

Looking back to the warning signs that I used to call them, and attempting to pinpoint an exact time that it all started is nearly impossible, but a few indicators stood out in my mind.  I think I first started getting “paranoid” as my friends would have said, when we all started turning on eachother.  There were other earlier “signs” that I noticed, but that was me looking at the world from nihilistic colored glasses, I never hoped any of it would come true.

I adjusted my old folding camping chair, staring out of the garage towards the field on the side of the dilapidated farmhouse listening like I did during this time of day.   I would usually hear the birds in the spring, cicadas during the summer, geese in the autumn with silence and wind during the winter, that was the loneliest season.  Occasionally I would hear other noises besides birds, insects and loneliness, such as vehicles, shouting and gunfire, those noises are what has me listening so intently. 

Getting back into thought and replaying the events that caused this, what I consider, the beginning, hanging out with my wife and friends.  That was the last normal day I think I’ll ever have again..

My wife and I had a great group of friends at that time, something we always wanted for ourselves but was never able to while moving around when I was in the Army.  Making long term, local friends, was very hard for both of us.   After serving 10 years, multiple combat deployments and an honorable discharge we decided to settle down in our hometown and focus on our kids, friends and family.   

We hung out with our friends almost weekly with drinks, laughs and stories.  We were a mix of ideologies, religions, politics, and sexualities.   We all had very different backgrounds and experiences of where we came from and how we were raised, but that’s why we all liked each other, we could “argue” about nearly anything and never let it get personal…nearly.  

Our core friends group fluctuated in size with newcomers and a few that didn’t make the cut, but there were usually about 5-6 of us at each gathering, usually at our house as it was pretty central to everyone, also we had the kids..

Just like usual, we all sat in our normal seats around our patio table with the glass top.   Smoking, listening to music and talking about current events was the norm.   We learned a while back not to get too deep into conversions about politics or religion and we tried our best to respect each other’s point of views or we’d deflect the conversation to something more pleasant, but that wasn’t possible that day.

We didn’t usually watch T.V. when we hung out unless it was a funny video we wanted to share with the group, but that day there was a “Breaking News” report and we were all curious about it so I turned it up.  With tensions already high in the country with mounting political discourse, we assumed it would be more of the same as the term “Breaking News” lost its credibility a few years prior as the media seemed to use it for just about everything. 

“Limiting Freedoms For The Greater Good” was the headline on the screen below the young reporter staring back at us.   He was speaking of the ridiculous legislation that’s been in the process of being passed going on 2 years up to that point.  “The SAFETY ACT is now in effect after the unprecedented and unchecked law was passed, outraging many and splitting the country in two”  said the solemn faced reporter.  A few of us were elated by the news and the rest of us looked on in disbelief.  

To me and many others, the SAFETY ACT was meant only to limit what we as citizens can do, track us more effectively and in a very real sense, take away our individual freedoms.  Not all of us thought this way though, many were more willing to part with their freedoms if that meant saving more people economically, physically and medically.  There’s pros and cons to each way of thinking, but only one leaves you helpless in the end. 

As the reporter spoke, those of us who opposed this law (or should I say package of laws) started arguing with the others.  I pleaded with them to understand what this would mean for their everyday life and how detrimental it would be to their freedoms, but they said I was being dramatic and that this is the best outcome for everybody in the country. 

After debating the particulars as long as we could, our friends started leaving to head home.  We hardly ever ended the night on a sour note and it was awkward while my wife and I silently cleaned up what was left, so we could relax and process what was happening. 

Once in bed, I decided to look up what the new “law” actually states online and to my horror, discovered that it’s broad strokes of interpretation could mean just about anything to anyone.  This wasn’t a law as much as it was a declaration of control over everyone with phrases like “For the common good” and “general welfare” being used to justify each and every measure they wanted to take.

Still not believing what I’m reading I looked up news coverage on the topic, but they didn’t seem to have any better information than I did.   It almost seemed like every station had the same message, some even using the exact same verbiage like a script was given to them.       

With my military background, and being a casual “prepper”, my wife knew all too well how worried I was.  We talked about realistically what might happen vs the worse case scenarios and decided we’d play it by ear.  Hope for the best & plan for the worst.  I laid in bed, mind spinning and decided to process the rest in the morning. 

The days and weeks following are when things started to unravel..for everyone.  Protests regarding the new “law of the land” erupted across the country and under the new law, if whatever you did was deemed “against the general welfare and safety of the public” you were handled accordingly, what that actually meant was unknown.  The news reports seemed to omit answering the questions we all had.  Fear was now ruling over the population.  

As weeks went on they enforced new guidelines’ and rules by law enforcement officers who now resembled my old Army unit more than the traffic cops.  If you go to the DMV or any necessary official building, guards would be there, checking your ID and “Social History”, just a brief once-over to ensure you were not speaking out against the powers that be.  They didn’t have the manpower to check everyone’s accounts in depth, but the algorithms and AI served that purpose, constantly scouring the internet in search of “prohibited terms” that “goes against community standards” that might “Jeopardize the well-being of the greater good”.  If found in violation, you would be visited and interrogated, followed by god knows what.  

We now had to get our information from word of mouth since most people knew that mainstream and social media was mainly propaganda and also monitored heavily by the state.   The people who didn’t see that, or pretended not to see it, are the ones I blame for our current state of affairs.  We could have stopped it if we’d had just worked together, but I guess that’s the problem with ideologies. 

Once the bombings of federal buildings, political assassination and other chaos started becoming a regular occurrence, my wife and I decided it was time, time to take the kids and disappear for a while.  There hadn’t been much time to see our friends since this all started and we wanted to tell them goodbye before we left for what might be indefinitely.  Two of our best friends, whom we’ve known for years, left two weeks prior to visit family down south, but we lost contact with them after their cell phones went dead.  They should have been home a week ago.  I still haven’t seen or heard from them to this day. 

We decided to gather our remaining friends to plan one last get together.  Since we lost contact with our other friends, we are left with four others who haven’t left the area just yet, they however, are more sympathetic to the new system and seem to have bought into their rhetoric completely.  This still wasn’t enough to make us see them any less than friends, but we sure wished they could understand what was happening. 

After a day of packing up to leave, we sat down at the table with the glass top and waited for our friends.  When they arrived the mood was not the same, we were all apprehensive, and after a few minutes of talking about current events the apprehension turned to malice, at least it seemed to on their part.  After we told them our plan to leave and circumvent the powers that be, they became withdrawn and made an excuse as to why they needed to leave.   My wife and I looked at each other knowing they were cutting ties with us and we probably won’t see them again.  Our hearts hurt because of it. 

We decided after our friends left to finish getting our things together and leave in the morning for my Aunt and Uncle’s house in the Tennessee mountains where things didn’t seem as bad.  The kids were packed and we did our best to answer the questions they had without instilling too much fear in them as we were already scared enough as it is.  

“We should have left right then and there!” I said to myself angrily as I stood up to stretch..  “We should have drove through the night…”.  Would that have even helped though?   Would that have just delayed the inevitable? 

Replaying this next part of the timeline haunts my dreams at night and my lonely mind in the day, especially during winter.  There’s no getting around it, I lost everything that day and there’s no way to forget it.  A mixture of hate and despair come over me as I replay it in my mind for the thousandth time. 

(Thud Thud Thud!)  I wake up to hear someone banging on the front door loudly.  My wife wakes with me, she had the same bewildered look I had on my face. 5:45am reads the digital clock on my nightstand.  “Who’s here so early?” I said.   While dressing, I grab my pistol as I’ve made it a habit lately to have it on me given the lawlessness and corruption going on locally and nationally. 

As I walked through the hallway littered with packed bags, I think of all the memories we’ve made here, everything from celebrations to just hanging out on the couch and watching T.V. together.  It was the definition of a “home”, warm, cozy, full of love, which is why I was so angry we had to uproot and make another home someplace else.  

When I get to the front door, I peek through the small glass window in the center of the door to see who was there.   Dread overcomes my soul when I see who’s standing there.   Not one, not two, but nearly fifteen armed, and what look like soldiers/police standing on my front lawn.   Before I opened the door I turned to yell for my wife, but she was already standing beside me and could see for herself the severity of the situation.  Knowing I was outnumbered I placed my pistol in my boot underneath my pant leg. 

“What are you going to do?” my wife said.  Looking back at her, I took a second before answering to study her beautiful blue eyes.  The sun was peeking through the small window in the door and the orange morning light traveled across her worried face.  I snapped a mental picture to memorize her face as the future was uncertain.  That was the best decision I ever made besides making her my wife. 

(Thud Thud Thud!)  “OPEN THE DOOR!  By order of the SAFETY ACT you MUST open the door NOW or we WILL come in by force” said the voice standing outside of my door.   “I’m coming out!” I yelled, so as to not trigger them firing on me when I opened it, as they all looked on edge themselves. 

Walking out onto my porch, looking at all of them staring at me I said calmly “What is this all about?  The one in charge that knocked replied “An anonymous report on the SAFETY ACT Tip Hotline reported that you and your family are  planning on traveling outside of your restricted area to defy SAFETY ACT guidelines.  Do you mind if we come inside and have a look?”  I stared at him in anger, angry at who I assumed tipped them off, and angry that I can’t even ask to see a warrant, as the SAFETY ACT supersedes any warrants that would have normally been required. 

“Do I have a choice?” I said back to him.  Looking offended he replied “No, you don’t.” and nodded to his officers to enter my home.   I didn’t bother resisting as this would only give them an excuse to use violent force.  I was a young soldier once, and I remember the feeling of having the power, the training and wanting to use my new dangerous skills in the real world, so I know the danger of giving them an excuse. 

As they pushed past me my wife was already making her way up the stairs to get the kids.  Before I was able to follow her inside two officers took me by each arm so I wasn’t able to move.  My mind was spinning with ways I could get out of this, but I wasn’t able to think of anything.  I was truly hopeless in that moment and I still am today because of it.  I kept pleading with the officers holding me, asking what was happening and begging them to listen to me, but they only looked forward and didn’t say a word.

After two minutes they start coming outside, first the officers who searched my house, followed by my crying wife in handcuffs and my frightened children escorted by a woman officer that wasn’t dressed in body armor toward a white van.   “What you are doing with my family!”  I screamed directly at the officer in charge. “You and your wife are being charged in violation of the SAFETY ACT.  Your packed bags and digital messages confirmed the tip from the hotline.” he said without remorse.  

Watching my wife being escorted to a truck, she sees our kids being put into another vehicle.   Shaking off the officer escorting her she sprints towards our kids while yelling for them.  Another officer sees her doing this, grabs her and throws her to the ground so hard it nearly knocks her out.  After seeing this my blood boils and I start to fight the two officers escorting me, with tears running down my enraged face I use every muscle in my body to try and make it to her, to do anything I could to save my family.  The officer in charge wastes no time in using his taser on the small of my back.  

The last moment I ever had with my family was watching them be shoved into separate vehicles while they screamed.  “Help us Dad!” my kids said followed by sobbing from my terrified wife.  I fell unconscious after that.   Nothing will break a good man faster than seeing his family helpless and scared.   

I started regaining consciousness, but I was now in the back of a moving van, my hands were zip tied together.   I had one guard with me in the back and one driver in the front.  I could hear the chatter on their radio saying “SAFE 2, this is SAFE 1, Proceed to reassignment center with the minors OVER”,  “SAFE4, take the woman to extermination center BRAVO319”, SAFE 3, get rid of the man, OVER”.   

Thinking of any imaginable way to get out of this situation,  I realized they did not find my pistol in my boot after they knocked me out, I guess with all the commotion and me being unconscious they didn’t think to check.  I only had one 17 round magazine, so they needed to count.   A murderous feeling and disregard for these men’s lives took me over for their participation in detaining my family unjustly. 

Knowing my van would depart from the convoy route soon to “get rid of me”.  I waited until we pulled off the main road.  Knowing my home town I knew we were on a back road about 1 mile away from the main strip.  There wasn’t much traffic back here and it might be my only chance.  I crossed my leg over my other leg to get better access to the pistol. The guard in the back didn’t seem to care, he was only about 24 and was looking out of the window.  I knew I only had about 10 seconds to kill him and the driver before one of them could radio for help. 

I waited for the driver to slow down at the stop sign so we wouldn’t crash.  Fueled by anger and fear and without hesitation, I drew my gun, shot the driver through the window in the base of his skull and turned immediately to the scared guard who connected eyes with me before I pulled the trigger.  I fired 3 more times to make sure he was dead.  After taking a breath and realizing what had just happened I knew I had to keep moving.  Grabbing a knife off of his vest I cut off the zip ties and grabbed his radio as well as the drivers radio and extra batteries.  I take one of their vests, rifle and spare magazines as well.   

For the next few hours I made my way through the backroads on foot, hiding from any vehicle I heard coming until I found a blue car idling, no one was in it, so I took it.  As I drove, I tried thinking of what to do, what can I do?  I could hear more talk over the guards radio, they found the van with the guards bodies and they knew I was on the run.  They also knew I had taken the radios and weapons.  

I don’t know if they said it specifically for me to hear, but they announced “All Stations, Detainee 01984 is at large, armed and dangerous, shoot on sight, notify all Law Enforcement and public site guards that he will be looking for his family.” BREAK   “He will not be able to locate them without access to the database, commence drone search of the area and report back. OVER.”  That was two years ago..

Now here, on this abandoned farm, I’m helpless, thinking of ways to get my family back.   By this time the kids would have been introduced to mandatory “re-education” classes for “displaced children” of the state.  My wife, I can only assume, was killed shortly following our capture.  There’s no way to know, no place I can inquire about it without being killed.  I miss them more than I can’t bear it.  If it wasn’t for the possibility of maybe one day seeing my kids again I would have already taken my life.  

From what I hear from rogue radio stations, the country as a whole has been turned into a complete police state, if you don’t do exactly as they say, when they say it,  they make you disappear.  There is no justice, only chaos and control.

Listening like usual, I feel the temperature drop, it’s now late fall, a colder breeze brings in a draft and I shudder when I hear the wind picking up, followed by silence.  

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