Mirrors #1: Adam Hosk

A little black dress, painted in red. My sister, caught in a car crash, paralyzed from the waist down. A white dress uniform, stripped of rank insignia and all honors. My sister, wheelchair-bound on her graduation day. A grey jumpsuit, ELSA HOSK, VEHICULAR HOMICIDE + DUI. My sister, after pleading guilty, thrown into jail for the accident that crippled her.

An empty casket, no remains to be found. With his daughter in jail, my father, drunk behind the wheel, drove his car off the edge of the skyway. A family picture, with only three people. My sister, released early on parole, seated between me and our mother. An open door, the day our mother ran away. She left me and my sister alone in a four-bedroom home.

I pondered over these as I washed my face the morning after the first test. The memories came rushing back to me when they locked me in that steel chamber and flooded it with the same purple smoke that rose out of the house on that night a few weeks ago. A call came in during the graveyard shift at work: a father attacked his sleeping family before setting the house on fire and shooting himself in the head.

I had to drop out of college in Stockholm to support my sister after our mother left. I signed up for government service and got trained as a paramedic. The pay and hours weren't great but we needed the money. I comforted myself with the fact that I was helping people. I saved the lives of the two kids on that night. Sadly, the mother didn't make it. The day after, I was handed transfer papers by a government suit to something called the RE/AVER program under the Bureau of Public Safety. He said I’d still be saving lives, and when I asked, he told me the pay was much better. My sister recently landed a job, and I was sure she’d appreciate the extra money even though she insisted she could support herself now. I signed the papers.

I yelled and pounded on the door when the gas started filling the room. It didn't open for several hours. I started seeing things, horrible things. I was never phased or sickened while on the job before. I imagined walking along the street towards a burning wreck, my father burning inside it. I saw my mother raped and left to die by colonists with blank faces. My sister, her limbs mangled, harness choking her, a metal rod buried in her lower back.

Forty-one got off the bus at Camp Saulong on the first day. Forty-two were called away by women in white uniforms and shut inside steel tanks. One extra had joined our training platoon, a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant by the name of O’Sullivan. Though we were split evenly as civilians and military, the reading of his unit drew several impressed whistles. Twenty-two ate dinner and slept in a bunk on the first night.

On the second day, I found a little hillside looking away from the camp and played my piccolo while staring at the clouds. I did as I was told and ate no food the entire day. I felt extraordinarily warm since the lady injected me over the heart with a strange vial of golden liquid. It had set off alarm bells as had everything else up to that point, but I said nothing. The military personnel, the purple smoke, this base tucked away in a corner of Hawaii…I knew little to nothing about what was going on. I just knew I would be getting better pay. I fell asleep for a while on that hillside, cool under the shade of a tree and warm on the inside.

Training platoon 3024 was called back to the barracks at dusk, and twenty-two civilians and soldiers went into the coffins.

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