See These Shackles

I put my head in my hands, how did I end up here of all places. The place where I would be the least welcome, the place where everyone hated me for what I was. They didn’t care who I was, or how I came to be there, or even that I was there quite legally. I looked up into the eyes of the officer above me, gasping for breath. He was looking through my papers, trying to find a fault that was not there. He would find it too, anyway to punish me for being different. They wouldn’t send me back though, back to where I came from. If I was sent back there I could go where ever I wished again, as long as I avoided this hellhole. I put my head down again, not looking at him. Finally he stopped reading and whacked me over the back of the head.

“What’s this here?”

I looked at the print he was pointing to, “The expiry date, six days from now.”

“Exactly this will expire while you are here.”

“I was expecting to get it renewed.”

“It takes months for approval to go through here.”

“I had not expected to be here.”

“Well that’s your problem.” He tossed the papers to me, “Enjoy the next six days.”

I got up slowly and gathered the papers, still looking to the ground. I made my way over to a nearby store and attempted to buy a bottle of water. As I put it on the counter the cashier looked at my hand in horror.

“I won’t sell to your kind here.”

“I have perfectly good money madam.”

“I don’t care, get out!”

I quickly moved on as the other customers began to show their support. Why did it have to be here? I am a legitimate traveller, with money and papers. In any other place my papers would be renewed in a couple of days, more than enough time for the police checks and any corrections. Months I’d be stuck here. I found myself gasping for air again and slowed my pace, trying to calm myself. I smiled at a small child who was watching me and waved. Her mother pulled her away quickly and I cursed myself. I cursed this place, how I wanted to be kind, friendly and open, but this place wouldn’t let me. This would be a great test, I could not allow myself to hate them for what they were conditioned to believe, no matter how they treated me.

I reached what looked like the most rundown hotel in the entire city. It had been a long walk with only my thoughts to occupy me, but I knew better than to call for a taxi. I was having trouble breathing all the time now, I tried to calm myself but it made no difference. I rung the bell on the counter and waited, the air was so dry and hot in this city. Finally he came out and I greeted him with a wave.

“I don’t have the proper facilities for your kind.” he said.

“I need only a normal room.”

“And where do you plan to get the money for it?”

“From my account, I am a legitimate traveller with the funds.” He still looked unconvinced, “I will pay for six days in advance.”

Grudgingly he accepted my money and gave me the key to my room, careful through the process to not actually touch my hands. I knew he charged my twice as much as he should’ve, and I knew he had given me the worst room, but it was a room. I went straight into the dingy bathroom and splashed my face and neck with water. Finally my breathing was returning to normal and I had the energy to look around the room.

It was not as bad as I expected, but the bathroom told me why he had given it to me, no bath. With a sigh of frustration I threw myself into the bed and slept. The next day I went to get my papers sorted, I was told it would take three months and that I could go where I wished in that time, as long as I did not work. I tried to go to the sea.

It took months, no one would take me far, I was beaten. Until finally, standing by the road in the middle of a desert someone finally reached out a helping hand. I was near fainting swaying on the side of the road, watching as the cars sped past, ignoring me. I hated them, I had tried and tried not to, but I found myself out there dying with hatred in my heart. Then one car stopped.

“Get in,” she said as she opened the door, “Where are you going?”

Not caring anymore what they did to me, but expecting the worst I got in, “The sea.”

She glanced quickly at me and I flinched, watching as she noticed all the features which set me apart. Then she tried to smile, an uncomfortable smile, but perhaps the first I had seen since I had come. She handed me a bottle of water.

“It’s a bit stale, been sitting in the car for months.” She said, “Tell me about yourself.”

We talked of my travels for the whole drive, she took me all the way there. Finally standing on the beach I was truly happy. She asked me something then.

“You speak as if you are imprisoned here, but you are allowed so much freedom.”

“You just do not see my shackles.”

“Your shackles?”

I smiled at her naivety, “These are my shackles on this planet.”

I showed her the webbing in my hands, my gills and my ears. She flinched back as I knew she would, but her eyes were not filled with the hatred others had shown.

“It is just because you’re from Europa.” she said softly, trying to expel her own prejudice, “Human purity is hardly important.”

“Yet here on earth it is, you were the first, and thus the best.” I was wading deeper into the water.

“But wait, you never told me your… name”

But I had already disappeared beneath the surface, I needed to escape this world. I needed to escape the hatred and fear I could hear in even her voice, though she tried to hide it.

 

Discrimination is a common theme in my stories, from a long time ago till now. This story is one of my favourite, still makes me tear up. I should write more about this character and their travels.

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