Doctor Reyes watched the small woman enter her “cabinet” and eyeing the small bench not far from her with fear. She wasn’t here on her own free will and neither was the doctor, but the woman didn’t know that. It looked almost civil, her still wearing the short summer dress and pair of sandals, if the guard on the door wasn’t wearing a gun.
The cabinet was nothing more than an empty concrete room on third floor of the facility used for choosing and carrying out unexpected chores. It had small window in the opposite of the window and beside the bench the only furniture allowed was her small table.
As if reading her mind, the woman viewed the open window with hope, but the doctor shook her head.
“No, darling, that fall won’t kill you, but the landing can be rather gruesome.” Doctor Reyes nodded to the soldier to go and to close the door. There was nowhere to hide here or way to escape.
Woman’s shoulders slumped and she sat down, eyeing her suspiciously. She had every right to. What she was about to do would make her hate her more than she hated the guards outside. But it had to be done or she’d face far worse faith.
Doctor Reyes refrained from asking the girl’s age or name as she was used to. If it were her private practice, she would have, got to know them, their conditions. But this wasn’t her old job and she wasn’t working here. Here she was saving her own skin from becoming timber for the next bonfire.
If she was deemed old enough to be tossed in the workers pot, she was old enough to be a grownup. Except if you were too young to work or become a playmate for the guards. Then you had no value besides human stock. “For the sake of the little ones” as the camp leader would put it for the publications, when he explained the need to send children to the camps.
After the volcano erupted, the ash had mixed in the clouds and after six months everybody in Europe were hungry. Only undemanding plants survived in the region and most of them couldn’t be used for food. Asia had survived and American continents was busy surviving themselves after jet streams carried the ash and storms over the West Coast.
After uprisings the firms created their privately funded camps for violent survivors. Fighting against the camps meant little. While politicians argued, the walls rose and in less than a year the prisons were emptied quickly and efficiently behind the closed borders of these huge city states of horror. What had seemed as a gesture of good will soon turned in terror, when it was discovered that behind the closed walls they were working indeed on reducing the hunger – by gassing those, who were charged with anything from petty theft to murder.
They said it would last five years the most. There were already signs of clearings in the sky. If only they could survive that long, perhaps they would rethink the camps before it was too late. Surviving that long was a struggle enough for those, who could get to food. To the rest it meant fighting for your own cause. After enough time spent in hunger, even your own children were competition. Childhood was forgotten memory. Now that you had to fight for food neck to neck with grownups, the age meant little.
Doctor Reyes cancelled the sudden pain in her heart with smile and turned her gaze on her tools. They trusted her enough to give her few surgical instruments, few scalpels and hemostat which they counted each night to make sure she hadn’t hidden any. Besides that were only a needle, thread, carafe with water, metal cup and a small bottle of alcohol in dark bottle. Small, yes, but lasted for weeks and helped many.
“Don’t be afraid, darling, I will only examine you.” She promised and asked her to remove her clothes. The little she had anyway.
“You’re from Poland?” the blond tried to converse and the doctor obliged.
One would think so hearing her soft accent.
“No, my home was near Leipzig. Small village with difficult name.”
She should refrain from giving them details. The thought crossed her mind every time one of them asked her a simple question, but it never occurred to her before the answers had already rolled over her lips.
She was four weeks pregnant. Too young to even to be pregnant by the looks of it, but she couldn’t be sure with the way they kept shrinking in hunger. She wasn’t sure the woman was even aware she was pregnant. The signs were there, but she didn’t act as if she knew, which cave her hope she wouldn’t even understand she was pregnant before it was all over.
For the sake of the little ones, she reminded herself, that’s why she did her work and why she had the brown bottle on her table with handful of Mosquito Plant infused in the alcohol. For the sake of the women, who otherwise would end up in the line leading to the crematory. That line was already long, no need to add more.
The woman began fidgeting and she realized she’d stopped at the window again, staring outside the patch of Mosquito Plant growing on the edge of the southern wall.
“You can get dressed now.” Doctor Reyes’s fingers caressed over the metal cup with water and she began reading the prayer in her head asking for forgiveness. “It’s nothing serious, only stomach flu.” She promised, repeating the last few lines of the prayer in her mind while she uncorked the bottle. “I’ll give you something. It will help with that and in few days you should feel like new.”
She brought her the cup and gave it to her while she pushed her chin up and placed four drops under her tongue.
“There,” she gave her a smile and pushed the cup for her to drink and ease the nasty aftertaste, “I know it doesn’t taste that well, but it helps.” She put the cork back on before taking the cup. “You can send the next one in then.” The girl nodded and left and she returned to her table, put back the cup and then the bottle next to it.
She was one of the faces that she will never see again, but whom she hoped will have few more weeks before she was sent in the crematorium. Food was scarce. To become pregnant was irresponsible act with no excuse and thus piranhas were sent straight in the ovens. Nobody had the resources to feed those, who ate for two. You had two faiths – either starved to death or sent to crematorium, whichever came first.
There was no place for new life here now, but they needed the women, when it ended.