Hushed whispers and tugging hands startled me awake. My fuzzy mind, still groggy from sleep, struggled to make sense of my surroundings as I was roughly dragged down smooth stone stairs towards a cold steel cell. I felt something wet on my leg and looked down. My heart froze at the trickle of red I saw there. Oh, Gods! Blood!
Shock cleared my mind and brought clarity. I was no longer being dragged into the bowels of the basement. Instead, I was racing towards the safety of sterility, thoughts spinning towards panic.
‘How long have I been bleeding? How long since I woke? How long do I have? Is it already too late?’ Darting into the cell, I collapsed in terror as the door closed and sealed behind me. The familiar sounds of decontamination filled the room and I breathed a sigh of relief. Safe. I was safe. I’d made it in time.
Standing on legs still shaky from adrenaline, I made my way over to the basin in the corner and proceeded to wipe away the blood. Finding no injuries, I came to the obvious conclusion. I had finally crossed the threshold into womanhood. I inserted a cup the way I’d been shown, tossing my soiled clothing into the waste disposal unit, before laying on the hard hospice bed each cell contained.
I sighed. This promised to be a boring week, but at least I’d have plenty of time to rest. More importantly, I was alive and unharmed. I closed my eyes, hoping for a little more sleep, but it was not to be. I tossed and turned on the bed, body unsuccessfully seeking comfort, mind restlessly reciting Mother’s stories.
It was the one issue which brought discord to my parents’ marriage. Father felt that filling our heads with might-have-beens and what-once-was was a foolish waste of time. Better to learn to survive and thrive in the present, he said, than to dwell on the follies of the past.
Mother disagreed. She said the past should never be allowed to die from our consciousness, that history should be learned from, not forgotten, that only by knowing where we have been can we figure out where we should go next.
I wasn’t sure if Mother’s stories were true accounts or merely myths designed to make life more bearable, but I liked them nonetheless. I liked the idea that there was once a time when a scraped knee brought comforting hugs, when a man would bandage an injury and continue on with his day, when becoming a woman was cause for celebration. I liked the idea of blood as a symbol of life, rather than a harbinger of death. I liked the idea of a world without Harvesters.
Eventually, as I drifted back into the world of dreams, my last waking thought was that on this Mother was right. For it was her stories of the world Before that gave me the will to live in the now.