The Fireman was different. He seemed to think, not just blindly act. That wasn't to say that he was perfect. No. He still doubted things. He still rushed through life. He still wore the tinted glasses that society convinced him that he needed, but they were coming off slowly, oh so slowly, every day. Despite it all, she considered him a friend.
In a different world, Clarisse would have been seen as a visionary. She might have been a motivational speaker, a teacher, a nature photographer, or maybe even an author. In this world, however, she was just strange. No one there liked to see anything that didn't fit in. No one in Clarisse's world liked someone who was different.
Clarisse's entire family was seen as odd to society, but none more so than her uncle. Jacob Martin McClellan was the brother of Clarisse's father. He had been arrested more than once for crimes of disturbance of public thought, being a pedestrian and driving slowly, which made him unable to rent his own house or be approved for credit to buy one. Despite her father's objections, Clarisse's mother absolutely insisted that Jacob come and live with them. Jacob had few other choices but to agree. That had been fifteen years ago. Growing up and even to that very day, Clarisse's Uncle Jacob was her absolute favorite person in the entire world.
Clarisse had no friends her age anymore. In school all of the kids would talk about the "family" or act out repetitive jokes from White Clown. Occasionally they would bring up cars or mechanical beasts, but would only talk about who owned them or what they saw one do. They never discussed how they worked or even their purpose. Their talk was cheap and thoughts were small.
There once had been a girl who would truly talk with Clarisse. Her name was Myra. They stopped and looked at things. They would go on walks together to look at the clouds. Myra no longer talked to Clarisse. It was nothing personal against Clarisse, though; Myra no longer talked to anyone. It is awfully hard for dead people to talk, after all.
Kids killing kids. No one even seemed to care. They barely even noticed. What a happy world to live in.
It had been a year since the death of Clarisse's only friend when she met Montag. She had stopped attending school months before that, so Montag was the first person outside of her family that she had really talked to since the murder. Almost every day, she would go outside to talk to him either before or after his work. On that particular day, she would never get the chance to, nor would she ever again.
Clarisse ambled along outside. It was a chilly day so she wore a white jacket over her pastel dress. She made her way to what was almost a field and sat down in the grass, looking up at the sky. A fighter plane shot across the sky so fast she almost missed it, leaving a fog trail behind it.
Sometimes she wondered what life would be like elsewhere. Somewhere where there wasn't war. Somewhere where she could look at the sky and just see white clouds on a blue background, where the only planes that flew by were to take people to a beautiful destination. In the world that she lived in, she doubted that there still was such a place, but the government kept the public so unaware of the rest of the world that she couldn't really know. She had heard a rumor that the rest of the world was slowly starving to death and that was why they were always in wars. The other countries were envious of them. Those were, however, just rumors.
The seventeen-year-old laid back. No one was residing outside which made it the perfect place for her to think. She knew that if she stated outside in one spot for too long, she would gain unwanted attention. Despite her knowledge of the danger she still decided to stay there.
She hadn't slept well the night before. Bomb planes had been flying overhead almost constantly. They were especially noticeable at night when the red flashing lights on their wings looked like the eyes of some threatening beast coming to deliver judgement on the country she lived in. A sleep deprived seventeen-year-old laying comfortably in the grass calmly thinking can only lead to one thing. A passed out asleep seventeen-year-old.
"Sir," an operative said. "The target is out."
"Did you have to use the sedative?"
"No Sir!" The operative's voice rose. "She just fell asleep, completely naturally."
"What of the rest of her family?"
"We have the father in custody and eyes on the house."
"Wonderful. I want them all here by the end of the day."
Clarisse woke up in a place with lights too bright and a bed too hard. It wasn't her bedroom and it certainly wasn't where she fell asleep.
She opened her eyes to dull gray walls. Looking to the side, she saw a woman sitting in a chair a few feet away from the small bed she was laying in. The
woman noticed Clarisse's movement.
"I hope that you had a decent rest," the woman said.
"I suppose I did," Clarisse's voice sounded raspy to her own ears.
"Don't you want to know where you are?"
"It could be a secret government facility," Clarisse said. "My uncle once talked of them. I suppose that it could also be a hospital, but I don't feel too bad, so
I think that the first option is most likely,"
"You are correct, Miss McClellan. This is the Carton Valley facility in Light Vale. We are currently up north," the woman said.
"How long have I been here?"
"We've kept you sedated for the last three days while you and the others were being transported here," The lady said calmly as if she were just stating the
"What others?" Clarisse's fear that had been building from the time she woke up finally began to show through.
"All in good time," the lady said. "My name is Agent Albrecht. I am working your case. If you cooperate and do what I say, we can be friends. You'll want friends in here."
"Ok," Clarisse was certain that the type of friend that Agent Albrecht was talking about was not the same type that she usually tried to make.
"Good," Agent Albrecht continued. "This is a containment facility for dangerous individuals. The main purpose of this place is to find a place where these
individuals will be useful to our society. If we cannot find a use or if the subject refuses,"
She didn't say the rest of the sentence, but she didn't need to. Clarisse understood the point. Cooperate or die.
"Do you know why you were chosen to be brought in?" Albrecht asked.
"I could possibly guess correctly," Clarisse said as an answer.
"You think. You listen. You categorize things. We can't have everyday people thinking for themselves. It would cause far too much conflict. You are here
because you do these things, but you haven't caused enough of a public stir to be executed yet. We might just have a use for you."
Clarisse swallowed. He throat suddenly felt very dry. "How will you be able to tell?" She asked.
"We will be testing you," Albrecht said. "Evaluating your skills if you will."
"And what position could I possibly be in?"
"The military," the agent answered. "Somewhere planted in politics, maybe even an agent. Keep in mind that these are only possibilities. You might not even make it past the first test."
Clarisse knew then that she had to escape. She didn't want to be a slave to the government any more than she already used to be. The only question was how. The government had her on record. If she went missing, she would be a wanted criminal. She'd never be able to return to her country, not that she wanted to.
"I think that you are well enough for your first test, don't you Miss McClellan?" Agent Albrecht asked leaving no room for argument as she began walking to door.
"Yes ma'am," Clarisse said.
"Good. The clothes that you are to wear are over on that table," the agent gestured to a small table on the opposite side of the room as the chair. "If you pass this test and are moved to a room, your clothes will be in a dresser. Get dressed and meat me in the hall in no more than two minutes."
With that, Agent Albrecht stepped out of the room, leaving Clarisse as alone as she would be in the facility.
Clarisse got dressed in the black and red outfit that was left for her. It was tight fitting and allowed easy movement, but felt horribly uncomfortable to Clarisse. When she was fully dressed, Clarisse made her way to the door.
She paused part of the way there. Surely, they wouldn't have just left her alone unmonitored in there for two minutes. Realizing that she still had a minute
left before she was expected outside, Clarisse decided to investigate. She found two small cameras and three microphone recording devices in the forty-five seconds she spent looking.
She exited the room just before her two minutes were up.
"Wonderful timing," Albrecht said as soon as she saw Clarisse. "Do you have any questions before we go on?"
"Just one so far," Clarisse said. "Do you have ways of knowing what's going on in all of the rooms, or have I simply done something to deserve special treatment?"
"Come with me," Albrecht said.
Clarisse's legs seemed to move without the rest of her bodies permission. Her hands shook. The hallways passed in a blur as she followed the agent to a room.
"I didn't mean to offend," Clarisse started as she was instructed to sit down at a desk. She stopped talking as the agent raised her hand to silence her.
"You need to know something," Albrecht said. "Your entire family was brought here around the same time that you were. You were the last to wake."
"Where are they?" Clarisse asked.
"Your mother and father are still being held. They were unable to pass the first test. Your Uncle Jacob on the other hand,"
"Both you and he passed the test," Albrecht finally said after a pause. "It really is surprising how unobservant people are to their own surroundings."
"What will happen now?"
"Your parents will get to choose one of three options. They know too much about here, so returning to society is not a choice. They can go to jail for the rest of their lives. They would be treated decently there. Time with the "family" and acceptable amounts of food."
"But they wouldn't ever get out?"
"No," Albrecht responded. "The second option is by far the most gruesome. Execution."
Clarisse's heart stuttered and she choked on her own breath.
"It would be fast and painless, for they didn't commit a crime worthy of torture," Albrecht tried to calm her. "They simply know too much."
"And the third?" Clarisse dared to ask.
"They could move in with a family member who is higher up in the government," the agent answered. "I'm sure that you clearly know what the best option is for them."
Clarisse shakily nodded. So that was how they played their game. Take what you can't replace and give you the illusion of choice. They knew what she would choose from the moment they took her parents. There was only one thing that she still wasn't sure about.
"What about my uncle?"
"He is in the same position that you are right now. If one of you fails, it will be the other one's responsibility to save the failure and your parents."
"And if we both succeed?"
"That won't happen."
The days seemed to speed up and slow down. It was hard to keep track of how long she had been in the facility because she wasn't able to see the sky. If
Clarisse had to guess based off of her own body, she'd say that it had been around two months.
She had seen her uncle only twice in that entire time. It was obvious that the government didn't want them to talk.
She had been treated decently while she was there, but the testing was rigorous. She would be tested on everything from her mental abilities to her physical
ones. Often, she wouldn't even be aware that she was doing a test until it was over. She was never told what they were expecting her to do, only that she was still being considered.
The first time that Clarisse's uncle was able to talk with her was in the cafeteria.
"Clare," he sat down next to her.
"Uncle Jacob!" She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine Clare, but you need to get out of here," he said getting straight to the point, not knowing how long they'd have to talk.
"There's an attack from another country soon. I've been listening to the rumors. As soon as you find a way out, you take it and get away from here."
"What about mom and dad?"
Jacob bit his bottom lip as he shook his head. "Don't stay here for them Clarisse. No matter what we do, we won't get to see them again."
"I don't have time to explain. The guards are coming back over," Jacob said. "Listen to me Clarisse, when the time comes, get away from here. You'll know
when it's time. Remember Clare, I love you very much."
With that, Uncle Jacob stood up and walked away, leaving Clarisse by herself.
By Clarisse's estimation, it had been a month since she talked to her uncle when the time came. She was sitting in her small room on her hard bed when her ears rang after the sound of an explosion.
Clarisse jumped out of bed and tried her door. For the first time since she arrived, it was unlocked without an agent coming to fetch her. She opened and poked her head out. Various other people in her hall were doing the same thing.
Clarisse ran out into the hallway and towards where she thought the explosion come from. If the electronic door locks were down, it was safe to assume that the rest of the security system was to. The seventeen-year-old took the back hallways that she had been memorizing from the moment she woke up.
She knew she was in the right place when she saw light. It was not the unnatural glow of the lightbulbs in the facility. No. This was real light. Bright, warm, white, welcoming light. She ran to it.
She paused just before she exited the facility. Her uncle's words about her parents had echoed around in her head. Did he mean that, well, that they were dead? It seemed that way. Uncle Jacob wouldn't have said that otherwise.
Uncle Jacob! Clarisse suddenly realized that her uncle might still be in there. She turned around to look for him but two things stopped her.
The first was two guards holding guns running down the hallway towards her. The second was a shout from the direction of the light.
"Hey kid, come with me if ya' want out!" a person beyond the hole in the wall shouted.
Clarisse didn't have to be told twice. She ran through the hole to the hope of freedom beyond.
Once she was outside, Clarisse saw the person who had called her out. He was a young man, just a bit taller than her. He held a gun in one arm and was wearing some sort of a protective suit.
"Thank you," Clarisse said as he helped her climb over the rubble from the wall.
"It's no problem." He replied. "Say, your name wouldn't happen to be Clarisse by any chance, would it?"
"Yes actually, it is," Clarisse said shocked "How did you,"
Suddenly Clarisse's words turned to a scream. Her side lit up in pain as she was shot from behind from one of the facility guards.
"Hold on!" the young man yelled. He fired two shots in the guards' direction, but Clarisse was already losing consciousness.
The last thing that she felt before her senses went dark was someone picking her up bridal style. Maybe she would see Myra again, she thought as everything went black.
The next time Clarisse awoke, it was in a cozy light blue room with a large window. She tried to sit up, but ended up grunting in pain and falling back against the fluffy pillow. She closed her eyes again and simply laid there with her eyes shut until she heard a knock on the door.
"Come in," Clarisse's voice was quiet.
A kind looking older woman came in.
"Hullo sweetheart," She said walking over to Clarisse's bed. "We were worried about you. Didn't think you were going to make it for a little while. You've been
asleep for about a week, but then being shot at close range in the side will do that. How are you feeling?"
"A bit sore," Clarisse said. "Where am I?"
"You're in England, dear," the lady said. "In the liberation hospital. This is a place of healing for anyone who was injured in the war."
"My uncle, Jacob McClellan, did he make it?"
The nurse paused in her checking of the monitors. She looked at Clarisse.
"I'm sorry, dear," she said with a sigh. "We couldn't find him."
Clarisse choked back a sob.
"He was the one who helped us get inside, you know," the nurse put a hand on Clarisse's arm. "Said that he'd help us as long as we saved his niece. He cared
an awful lot for you."
Clarisse just nodded in response. She was alone now. More alone than when she realized she wouldn't see Guy again, more alone than when Myra died, and even more alone than when she learned of her parent's deaths. Her uncle was gone.
"You try to get some rest," the nurse said. "The doctor will be in in a bit to check on you."
Four Years Later
"Miss McClellan," A reporter began.
"It's actually Mrs. Davidson now," Clarisse corrected him. "Fred and I were wed last year."
"I'm sorry," the reporter corrected himself. "Mrs. Davidson, what was it like living over there."
"Terrible," Clarisse answered. "But you'll have to read my book to find out more."
"What was it like falling in love with the man who rescued you?" another reporter asked.
"What was the food like in the facility?"
"Do you miss anyone from your home country?"
The questions rolled in.
"You can read about all of that in my book," Clarisse assured them. "It comes out tomorrow!"
Clarisse walked backstage after the press conference was over with a smile on her face. Fred was waiting for her with a hug and a kiss. As they walked out of the building, Clarisse looked up. The sky was bright and blue.
Since she was rescued, Clarisse had made new friends, found a family, and a purpose. Clarisse might have lost things, but in the end, she gained so much more than she ever could have hoped for.