I accompanied the overseer as she made her rounds of the facility. She was a rather severe woman, dressed in a military uniform of high rank, her blonde hair gathered into a tight knot at the nape of her neck. I was dressed in a uniform as well, but one more sloppy and tattered, as befitting a lackey. Some yellow dust clung to my baggy pant leg where I had brushed against a wall. I tried to brush it off with my hand as I hurried to keep pace with the overseer.
We came upon a room which some workers were painting. There was newspaper spread out on the floor beneath step ladders spattered with yellow and white paint. Utility lights set up on the floor cast long shadows up the walls. These workers had been abducted and forced to work against their will. They were terrified of the overseer. Their hands shook visibly when she criticized their work. Their faces paled with thoughts of whatever abominable punishments they might face for their failures. Their voices faltered, their eyes flinching involuntarily, betraying an anticipation of blows.
I had been abducted along with the rest of them, and I considered myself to be just as much a victim as they were. I lingered for a moment after the overseer had left the room. I went over to a woman who was working with a brush in the corner. I tried to tell her that I was sorry for all of this. I tried to explain that I was caught up in it all just like they were, that I had no choice in the matter, that I was just trying to make the best I could of the situation.
The woman took a moment to weigh my words, nodding thoughtfully as she stared off. Finally she turned to me, staring pointedly into my eyes as she said, “It don’t matter. I got to thinking about it and I figured it out. When the police come, they’ll know who to arrest.” And she turned back to her work and I knew that she was right. I was dumbstruck with the realization of my own guilt, but I knew things were going to be different. I made no effort to catch up with the overseer. I let her go and I just stood there smiling, whatever the cost.