During the Second Civil War, a new U.S. political party called the Family Protection Movement established The Divide, which separates Normal people from those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
Seventeen-year old Serenity Blackwater lives in the normal Midwestern town of Mapleville, but she is not normal. She hacks into an illegal gay chat room and meets Dawn, a lesbian who lives in a gay community less than a mile away. Serenity discovers normal people can bribe their way inside the walls and decides to go, both to meet Dawn and check out what may be her future home.
Dawn is even more beautiful than Serenity hoped, and the two soon become a couple. But Serenity only has a few months before she must take the Normal Verification Test, and then she’ll be separated from her family forever. So she joins the Human Equality Organization, an underground group working to end The Divide. Dawn thinks the rebellion is too dangerous, and since Dawn’s ex-girlfriend Malaki is also a member, Serenity doesn’t tell Dawn about her involvement.
Serenity reveals to the HEO that her parents are leading a campaign to organize attacks on all Gay Communities. With her help, the HEO creates Project Jericho, in which all Gay Communities walls will implode at once. But after too many delays, and when Dawn discovers Serenity has been spending more time with Malaki than her, Serenity knows she has to start the revolution herself. She heads to D.C. to contact a group of senators secretly against The Divide ... or straight into a trap set by the Family Protection Movement.
I spit blood and sway, determined not to collapse.
The man in the three-piece suit punches me again. Thick clumps of dark, matted hair cover my face as I fall to one knee and force myself back up.
“Tell me about the confidential information you delivered,” he says calmly.
“I never looked at it,” I whisper. Screams have long ago torn my voice from my throat.
The man’s pale face shows no emotion as he uppercuts my jaw.
I can’t see him anymore; instead, a swirling universe sparkling with distant galaxies and suns fills my vision. Somewhere out there is surely another world where I won’t be punished for who I am. But then the illusion fades and I’m back in the gray room. Instruments of torture hang upon the wall, and even though the light is dim, I see bloodstains all over the floor.
“You are a liar,” the man says matter-of-factly.
It takes all my willpower not to beat the man with his own weapons. I’ve been standing here for almost an hour, unbound. But if I even attempt to defend myself, I’ll be executed immediately.
The man clasps his hands in front of him. "This is a godly nation. You were raised in the church. Don't you recall how the Lord is going to separate the righteous from the wicked in the end? The goats on his left; the sheep on his right. Why have you have deliberately chosen to walk the path of the goats?”
I say nothing, knowing it won’t matter either way.
He raises an eyebrow. “Answer the question. Why have you strayed from your rightful path? What Bible verse could you possibly recite to prove that flaunting authority is beneficial?”
I sneer. "‘Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.’”
The man’s face reddens. “You’ve brought this upon yourself.” He reaches for the Peacemaker.
My breath catches in my throat. I have nothing to tell the government, but they don’t believe me. I’ve been taught in school that minors have special protection under the law, and can’t be imprisoned or tortured the way adults are.
But apparently, those rules don’t apply to seventeen-year-olds who sneak off to join the Gay Community.
I cross my arms over my ragged, filth-encrusted shirt as the man steps closer, holding a small black rod. I’ve lasted the whole session today without crying out in pain, even though I’ve been lashed with a leather strap and punched repeatedly. But the Peacemaker is the worst.
Tears fill my eyes. I back into the shadows and desperately wish for some way to delay what is about to happen.
The man lunges and presses the rod to my temple. My teeth clench; my skull sparks with electricity. It feels like I drift to the floor in a fog until I actually hit the ground and the back of my head slams onto concrete. He releases the charge only to jolt the other side.
I sprawl on the floor helplessly, and know I’ll be questioned again soon to see if my answers have changed. I’ve already been interrogated under multiple conditions using various techniques, but my answers haven’t made the government happy. The Peacemaker is their latest tactic.
After multiples shocks, I feel myself drifting. I try to force my brain synapses to function -- to secure my short-term memories, even as they fade -- but the Peacemaker causes me such confusion. I think the man hopes I’ll forget why I’m there, but not the long-term memories I’ve retained, so I’ll tell him what he wants. Fortunately for me, no matter how much technology or the study of medicine and pain advances, humans still can’t master the inner workings of their own brains, so I know that in the morning I’ll have my memories back, though the torture sessions themselves always remain blank.
What’s going on?
“Where is the Human Equality Organization headquarters?” a pale man asks, swimming in and out of my blurred vision.
“I don’t know ... Dad?”
There’s pain in my head, followed by more questions, as I lie on the floor paralyzed. I have no idea what’s happening to me, but finally I am carried away to a scratchy cot in a cell.
There are no windows, and the room is dark. I don’t know what just happened, or why I feel so weak. I curl up and sob, feeling like a little kid.
Why am I here? When will someone take me home?
I’m so thirsty.
I sob myself to sleep.
When I awake, I remember.
I step carefully across the cell. I know it’s morning now because a small cup of water and bowl of oatmeal have been set inside my door. I sit on the floor and try to savor the meal, in case I don’t get anything else for the rest of the day. After using the freezing metal toilet, I lie on my rancid cot, waiting for the torture.
Maybe I’ve been headed towards this moment since the day in third grade I realized I was a lesbian and decided not to confess and be sent to therapy. Or maybe it was my freshman year that changed things, when I began hacking into forbidden LGBT chat rooms. I’d tried to act the way I should my whole life, but it never made a difference.
Actually, it wasn’t until I met Dawn that I stopped caring about being the perfect citizen. Now I can’t help but wonder if there’s anything I should have done differently.
I roll to my side, surprised that the man hasn’t come to get me yet, and desperately replay my memories. Maybe today the Peacemaker will overcome me, and I will be left with nothing.