“Hello, Malakai, how are you today?” Lukas asked nicely. It was a stupid question, Lukas knew full well, given the circumstances Malakai was in. But Malakai smiled pleasantly.
“Could be worse, Lukas. Could be you,” Malakai said. It was their morning routine. Every morning Lukas tried to show politeness to Malakai by asking how he was doing. Every morning Malakai showed his contempt for his jailer with his pleasantly delivered dispersion. He’d been beaten to an inch of his life by other guards. But when Lukas asked Malakai what he’d meant, he was forced to agree. Malakai had explained that it was because the worst of what they made Malakai do hurt his body, but what the guards did hurt their souls.
Lukas didn’t hate Malakai or any of the others like him. He didn’t even agree with the fact they were locked up, at least not in this camp. There were other camps with people he knew couldn’t be trusted, who should be kept apart from normal people. But no one at this camp could hurt anyone. Malakai’s power was to grow grass for God’s sake!
Lukas didn’t like guarding these people. They were innocent, and if Hex didn’t want them it should send them somewhere that did. But there were members of his government who were prejudiced, paranoid, and powerful. They’d been spewing their hatred for years through the public education system as Lukas grew up and the only reason he hadn’t succumb to it like so many of his fellow guards was that his parents had raised him right.
Except then he got drafted and sent here, and he knew that if he even voiced opposition to what his superiors were doing at the hell hole that they would brand him a traitor and he’d be joining a lot of the inmates going up in smoke in the sky. He’d seen it. So what was he supposed to do, besides follow his orders and keep his head down?
Today was his two-hundred and thirty-sixth day as a guard in the Blitz Kerker. He realized it was probably his last when the mess hall blew up. Blew up was wrong, imploded more like. He fought the instinct to immediately run away and held his place, moving his gun up and out in front of him, trying to figure out what was going on.
Unfortunately, the mess hall was too far away for him to see any details clearly and Lukas was loath to try and close enough for a better view. He looked around frantically for his fellow guards, but he only saw a couple of bodies sprawled out on the edge of the guard towers. Then a pitter patter of gunfire came from the same direction as the mess hall and an anguished scream resounded.
“I told you it would be worse to be you,” Malakai said quietly from next to him. He jumped at the noise, bringing his gun to bear. But the man just looked at him quizzically. Lukas lowered his weapon. He could see the body of another guard a few dozen feet from them, no blood or anything else to indicate what had killed him. Lukas gulped, heart beating rapidly in his chest.
“What did you do?” he asked. “What has happened?” He could see people coming his way. Prisoners with the guards’ guns in their hands. Colors spread out on the ground from one of them, rainbows swirling in stark contrast to the drab grey uniforms they were forced to wear.
“We did nothing. We cannot hurt anyone with our powers. This? This was a reckoning,” Malakai said resolutely. Lukas believed him without hesitation. He threw his weapon down in front of him and kneeled before Malakai.
“Please. Have I ever hurt you? Have I not tried to be kind? Please! I didn’t even want to be here. I didn’t want this place! They will kill me, I am sure of it. Please do not hurt me, please do not let them kill me. I beg you,” Lukas said frantically.
“I won’t hurt you,” Malakai said. “Because you did not hurt me. But when they took away Jericho and Yoshi to be burned, did you stop them?” Lukas’ eyes widened at the memory. It’d given him nightmares for weeks, and he knew what it meant. He hung his head in defeat. Malakai leaned next to him and whispered in his ear. “It could be worse. You can still run.”
Lukas looked at the fences, normally electrified. But maybe it would have shut down? Seeing the faces of those marching towards him, he decided to take the chance, and whatever resolve he’d had earlier fled him just as quickly as his legs could carry him.