I remember when there was nothing but color. Vibrant blues and pinks painted the sky, soft greens and whites and loud yellows and purples littered the ground. It was a world of wonder and untainted beauty. And it was there, with my brother, in our created world, where colors ran wild and we knew our only threats were those we made up. Threats like some pesky goblins and monsters that would try to destroy the land, but we'd always beat them and come out of those battles victorious. Our tiny backyard was where our imagination blossomed the most. The dead weed infested grass was a land scorched by a dragon's fiery breath. The rusty wooden fence that enclosed the backyard was a drawbridge guarded by a massive troll that we didn't care to fight, that's why we never crossed it, not because dad said we couldn't. In whatever way we could, we made that little backyard anything we wanted it to be.
"Tal! Where are we off to next?" My brother asked, a little scrunch of a kid who would one day grow up to be the size of a mammoth. I'm not sure how he grew to be that size. Maybe his Watcher thought his group needed to be bigger and broader, that must be where most of the food rations actually went to.
"Umm, let's think… Maybe we can visit the Kingdom of Alderon! We can fight the goblins who are trying to take over the castle, her Majesty said she needed help and-" but I didn't finish.
I'm not sure what was going to happen next or where that beautiful imagination was running off to, but I wish it had taken me with it, blissfully rescuing me in ignorance.
"Talitha! Jacob! What are you doing out here, come inside, come, come inside…" our dad said, taking hold of us urgently. We weren't rendered silent because we were rushed inside by his hurried steps, nor because he patted our heads with shaking fingers trying to desperately manage and correct our tangled curls. No, we stayed completely silent and obedient because we understood something was wrong. Severely wrong. Dad never used our full first names; since I could remember, he'd call us Tal and Jake. And I couldn't recall a time he'd ever spoken with such a persistence that caused his voice to tremble, he was always so calm. It frightened me.
This was the first time we came face to face with our Watchers. I remember thinking they seemed so pleasant and welcoming. Now I know that the crease that furrowed between their eyebrows was caused by scowling too much, and that the "something" that seemed to intriguingly burn in their eyes wasn't adoration, but instead disgust. And a lot of it.
The Watchers, though, were never a thing until a few months ago. During the latest election, our country started dealing with a detrimental famine. We didn't have many decent options for candidates, but there was one who spoke with a passion and unrelenting fervor that had set him apart. His name was Dilogos. Since everyone was famished and desperate, and adored his promises, they elected him. The first few weeks of his presidency were fine, but it was as he started to implement his plans to reduce the famine, that we noticed an odd increase in the increasing decline in population numbers as well. It was a small enough number that many didn't think anything of it at first, they just thought it was because of the famine and that his plans weren't working yet. But soon enough the amount started to climb and along with it, our concern. If he's getting rid of a famine, shouldn't that save more lives than what's being taken?
Before protests were even considered, things changed and the numbers began to decline and things seemed to steady. It was during this decline, as hope began to spike, that Dilogos gave his speech, propagating his ideas and his desire to move things along at a faster rate. Since everyone was still in a state of helplessness but achieving a possible sense of hope, no one argued even though his speech was truly orchestrated madness. I remembered dad listening to his speech on the radio, the words ingrained within my memory.
Dilogos discussed that if we wanted the famine to be over, everyone needed to contribute. In his eyes, though, he believed children were a hindrance to parents being able to contribute their best efforts and entire focus and he said if things were going to change, that reality would need to change. He explained that he would implement a system involving a group of high ranking individuals that he personally put together called, "Watchers", to gather the children. He promised that they would be perfectly taken care of, educated, prepared for life, and that their absence was only an incentive. Dilogos didn't waste time. In the coming weeks, he sent a notice to our city and a few nearby stating that parents would be more motivated to pursue an "actual job" if their children weren't in the way to bother or distract them. He also stated that once the famine had been resolved due to the hard work of the adults and the rest of his "plan", then their children would be returned. Now, what was happening around my city and countless others, had finally reached me and my brother's small home, standing with two sets of feet in the kitchen.
"Here they are, my two sweethearts," dad smiled, his words seemed to get stuck though, which was odd. Dad didn't show emotions often, especially this one in particular. But it was evident that sweat broke out on his forehead and his shoulders were slightly slouched, breaking his usually perfect posture. He stood as if a weight was yanking at him. And when his eyes met mine, I saw it clearly: fear.
"They look presentable and healthy," the female Watcher said with an approving nod. She pointed her blue eyes at me, as if searching for a way to read my thoughts. I shook her gaze off and found myself in a stare off with the ground.
"Well, as healthy as they can be," dad said with a forced chuckle, but the pointedness in his words was evident and for a moment I was reminded of the man that raised us, the man who we taught us strength. Looking back, I realized his concern for us was also strength, even if it broke him a bit. It'd take me some time to realize that though.
The male Watcher let out an amused sigh, and I watched his black boots, rimmed with a shine, edging closer to my father's boots which were worn and rimmed with mud.
"Age?" The female asked, choosing not to feign a grin.
"Talitha is ten, and Jacob is seven."
"Alright, and I understand you work in construction," the male Watcher acknowledged.
"Yes, that's true."
"You see, sir, your job is a vital one believe it or not. We will need newer and larger buildings for those to go into work who are in the cities, especially now since the President has progressed in his plans for restoration to our country. We will have plenty of use for those buildings, but without you, we wouldn't have any buildings to use. However, we know that with you moving to the city and your work hours being lengthened, we can't have you distracted by anything. So that's why we will be taking them for a bit, it is to not only benefit your future or even the future of this country, but ultimately and most importantly, your children's future."
"May I ask how that helps resolve this famine? Isn't that the most pressing-"
"We are not taking inquiries at this time," the male Watcher stated, his words laced with a frightening aggression.
As we were moved out of the house, with Jake's hand gripped in mine, I looked back one more time and saw my father with a desperate stare and he shouted after us,
"I love you Talitha! I love you Jacob! I'll see you soon!"
Jacob and I both shouted back, "I love you too!"
"That's enough," the female Watcher scolded, yanking my arm and forcing me to reface forward.
My father's shout that day was the last time I'd hear mine and Jacob's name. Behind us, we left our world of color and vibrancy for one where that was nonexistent and where you no longer knew your name, because now… now, you were an asset.