I woke up and the sun was shining bright through my windows. It was too bright to be early morning, and my clock verified that observation. It was nearly three o'clock in the afternoon, and I was just waking up. I tried to stand, but only could sense my head pounding. I saw colored spots of blue and red floating in front of my droopy eyes, and they suddenly turned to yellow lines darting in front of me. I didn't understand what I was seeing, but I continued to see them though I squinted my eyes shut hard. I tried to stand up, and promptly fell right over. The last thing I remembered was hitting my head. Then, nothing.

Like a movie, I could see myself be lifted by familiar, though unwelcome faces. Jeff and Chris picked me up easily from the ground where I was left and they put me on my feet.

"Can you stand?" Jeff asked somewhat gently. I couldn't speak or even move my head. It felt like a bag of bricks had been strung around my neck, and someone was swinging them back and forth. I managed to shake my head no, but they decided to see if I could stand anyway. Letting me go I felt myself collapsing again, only this time their stronger hands caught me.

"Okay, let's put her back on the bed," Chris said to Jeff. I could feel them lifting me what felt like miles off the ground before setting me gently back onto my bed. My head continued to pound, and the sporadic spots kept flashing in front of me, plaguing my vision. My consciousness waxed and waned as they set me back onto the comfortable blankets. I could hear them muttering low to each other, frowning and watching me intently. They were joined by a woman who seemed to agree with their murmuring. As my eyes rolled back in pain, I fell asleep again.

I woke up in a different bed. My head felt somewhat better, though standing and sitting up was somewhat of a problem. There were four other beds in my room that were not there when I had gone to sleep.

"What is going on here?" I muttered to myself. A young man across the room standing by a new bed surprisingly answered me.

"Well, everyone is coming down with concussions and migraines. It's very strange, and they're thinking about doing something about it. We don't know what is going to happen at this point, really," he told me calmly, as if what they were going to do about it was no big deal. We had all seen them deal with the sick and needy before. It was never pretty or painless. A girl in a bed diagonal to mine began to writhe in bed. She seemed to be convulsing and it was evident she had a burning fever. I panicked. When things got this bad they usually sent the pods to take care of it. I, like most of the Reformers, hated the pods as much as we hated their directors. I got up from my bed, despite my blurred vision, and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. The woman who was talking with Jeff and Chris earlier watched me and gave me a weak smile. I couldn't tell if it was reassurance to me for seeing me up or for understanding what the pods were about to do to the poor girl convulsing in the next room.

Through the closed bathroom door I could hear the screams. The girl shrieked horribly, and I could hear the buzzing of the pods in the other room. I clenched my fists and fought back my own tears and screams from the extreme empathy I felt. That poor girl. She could not help that she was one who got sick. Why should she be punished so harshly for it? And why in this way?

I could not stop the angry tears from flowing like a river from my eyes. I bit my lip so hard it cut nearly all the way through, and blood gushed from it. I stifled my screams, for I knew that if I was not determined to be getting better, I would share the same fate as the screaming girl.

I collapsed in the bathroom from exhaustion and pain. Only in this sleep, I dreamed. I dreamed of the pods coming into my room. I saw them hover over the feverish girl, and I watched them release the circular drills. The drills laid in a blanket pattern over the girl and just began in on her. I saw her being drilled and I heard her screams again and again. I saw myself begin to shake in my dream and I awoke suddenly. The woman was shaking me as she tried to make me stand.

"You must rise, or the pods..." Her voice trailed off as she checked behind her. "Come with me. Quickly, downstairs."

I frowned, very confused at her strange actions, but I followed her. She was the caretaker of this home, and I felt I had no choice but to trust her.

"What is going on here?" I repeated my question from earlier, only this time received no adequate answer.

"I don't believe in them. They don't exist," She stood on the table in the middle of the room, holding onto the ceiling lamp. "I don't believe they exist."

"How can you say that? I mean, you're the caretaker of this home, how can you go against what is so firmly stated, it just doesn't..." I trailed off in confusion.

"I don't believe in them," she repeated. Smoothly and quickly large insects began to crawl out of the upper left-hand corner of the ceiling. I gasped and reached for the woman, who was staring at the corner, still on top of the table.

"I can't believe you're doing this," I whispered.

"Do you believe?"


"Do you?"

"No. I don't. Actually, I don't believe in them. They do not exist and they cannot control us or our lives. Any of us. I don't believe." I gained confidence in her strong face and watched the corner of the ceiling. The insects continued to crawl out, increasing in number now. They began to tear away at that wall, and worked on all the furniture there. We jumped down and ran back up the stairs, knowing what was soon to happen.

Outside the grass, trees, and bushes had all been devoured. All that was left was dirt from the insects consuming the green. Everything was beginning to die and be destroyed, a direct result from the insubordination to the directors. It was only a matter of hours now that the entire world would be decimated.

Together we locked the sick in my room, and blocked the door down the hall that led to the directors' chamber for this area. Keeping the directors from getting out meant fewer pods could escape and only the insects would be the problem. We were able to send for the Underground, though, before the insects destroyed the communications lines. An ancient fighter from a rural village halfway across the country arrived within minutes, and began to destroy the insects and help the sick get out of the home. The directors tried several ways to get out as well, mostly through sending pods to get to the Reformers. Lorale, the fighter, destroyed the pods, and burst into the directors' chamber easily.

The fight that ensued was again seen only as if it was a movie to us. We could see, though we were not physically present that Lorale was fighting with the directors of our area. As one was destroyed a different director came to take its place from another area, only adding to Lorale's determination to destroy them all. And she did mostly just that. However, being still mortal like any of the Reformers, she became overwhelmed and tired after fighting for nearly an hour straight. Through determination and some help from Chris, Jeff, and some of the other Reformers still in the home, Lorale was able to defeat all of the directors.

We had been running for nearly an hour and a half, trying to convince people to run too, away from the insect destruction and to where we might be able to survive for at least a little while. Everyone we found in other homes thought we were insane and tried to get us into their homes, away from infecting the streets and preparing to call in pods for us. Several pods chased us for a while, but we were able to destroy them. As we reached the mouth of the Rosharon River we knew that Lorale had been successful in destroying all of the pods and directors. There were no more insects devouring everything in sight, and all pods had vanished. People were walking and talking strangely, looking at each other in silent confusion, unsure what to do without the controlling directors in their homes.

"What do you think is going to happen now?" one of the Reformers asked me as we turned to watch the sheer confusion on everyone's faces.

"We're going to do just fine. Just fine," I smiled at everyone and returned to the road. I could see Lorale coming from the other end of the street, looking exhausted yet accomplished. We embraced in the street, tears in both of our eyes, both understanding what we had accomplished, and what now had to be done.

A new beginning for a new world.

Story copyright 2003, Sally Stephens