I. Am. Different. (Part 1) By Terri Simpson

I am different. I am not like everyone else, I am completely different.

Hundreds of years ago, scientists turned to eugenics and altered every human's DNA to create the 'perfect human race'. The outcome of these alterations is that over time, people of the same gender began to develop similar physical characteristics. That has led to every female looking and sounding the same, and every male looking and sounding the same. I mean exactly the same. All the females are tall, blonde, tan skinned and blue eyed. All the males are tall, dark haired and green eyed. The only distinction between each person of the same gender is their personality.

Sometimes, something goes 'wrong' during pregnancy and a baby is born who is different. They may not even be completely different; it may just be their hair, skin or eye colour. But for me, everything is different. I am not like all the other females, I have chocolate brown hair, ivory skin and hazel eyes, I'm also not tall but short and skinny.

When a baby is born who is different, the parents almost always abandon it and it dies within days of being born. I am the exception, my parents are the only people who kept their 'different' child (that I know of). Instead, they kept me hidden for fifteen years. I was safe until three days ago when the government somehow found out about me and came for my parents and I.

We were taken to a government compound in the middle of nowhere and separated. My parents were taken by Commander Jonathan Cressmont, head of the Human Preservation Agency. The HPA are responsible for shielding the human race from those who are different as we are believed to be dangerous. As if I could be a threat.

I was taken by two regular soldiers. I could tell that they were reluctant to follow the commander's orders because their grips on arms were not tight at all, or maybe they were just scared of me which was a lot more likely. I could have easily broken free but I couldn't see the point because I would've been caught in a matter of seconds if I had even tried.

The soldiers took me to a holding cell in the north of the compound. It was a stark space with only a sheet on the floor where I supposed I was meant to sleep, and a toilet in the corner which I was definitely not going to use out in the open like that. The soldiers both stood guard outside my cell, even though they had locked the cage. Neither of them even glanced my way.

About six hours passed before I got any interaction from anyone. The guard shift had rotated twice in that time. It wasn't until a tray of food was brought in for me by a woman, that I was spoken to.

"Hello...your name is Riley, right?" asked the woman, tucking her blonde hair behind her ear.

"Yes, I am. Who are you?" I answered, surprised that a normal girl was talking to me.

"I'm Gwyneth, nice to meet you," she introduced herself while sliding the tray of food under the bars.

"It's nice to mee..." I am cut off by the doors swinging open.

The next thing that happened, I did not expect. Two more soldiers came into the room, dragging a boy between them. His face was so beaten that his facial features were indiscernible, but I assumed he looked like all the other boys. The two soldiers tossed him in the cell beside me and left the room. Gwyneth glanced at the boy with a frightened expression and scuttled out of the room.

There was a bottle of water on the tray with the food. I opened it and took a swig before placing it to the boy's lips. His eyes fluttered open and his lips parted a fraction of an inch. I tipped the smallest amount of water into his mouth so as not to choke him. I then walked over to the sheet on the floor and tore off a corner to use as a makeshift cloth and rinsed some of the blood from his body. As I did this, I noticed that his eyes were grey and his hair was blonde.

He was different too.

It took a further few hours for the boy to come to and it only took him a few seconds to start talking after he had woken up.

"Hey, my name's Everett. What's yours?" He asked croakily.

"Riley, nice to meet you," I greeted him quietly.

"How did you get here? If you don't mind me asking."

He was straight to the point. "I was brought here with my parents and we were separated. They were taken by Jonathan Cressmont. What about you?"

"My parents were killed two years ago in a car crash, I was thirteen, and I've been on my own ever since." He told me solemnly.

"And what have you been doing these past two years?" I ask, curious.

"I heard about this movement of people who are different in the south, I was on my way there when I was caught and brought here." I didn't even know how to answer that so I just stayed silent.

That's the last thing we said to one another for two days.