By Mojisola Aiyekusibe

We named her Rebecca. She was the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. She was perfect from head to toe. She had her mother’s eyes and my nose. So small, yet her presence filled the whole room. She was all I ever wanted, but we couldn’t keep her.

Ever since President Tomson passed the bill in 2022, things went downhill. People like us couldn’t have children anymore. We were forbidden to have them since we’re in the lower class. He said families with incomes under 20,000 couldn’t have children because they didn’t make enough money to take care of them. Women who were pregnant were forced to have abortions, and women who tried to hide their children paid a price if they were caught. The government would eventually take away their children and turn them into slaves. They raised the children and at the age of eight had them working in the factories, either paying off their parents’ debt or adding to their income until they were no longer considered lower class.

LeeAnne is my older cousin. She finally got her son, Will, back after five years. She worked two jobs while her husband worked three. Will was their first and only child. LeeAnne was pregnant when the bill passed; she tried to hide her baby, but they caught her as soon as he was born. She begged and pleaded, but they snatched him right from her hands. I was there. They put him in a van and drove off.

The factories had visitation hours though. It was basically a prison. Barbed wire, metal detectors, and crammed spacing to fit all the children. LeeAnne told me that Will’s fingers were always shriveled and his skin was pale. The factories didn’t feed them enough, but she was allowed to bring food during visitation. When she finally got him back, he cried all night. He spent the days outside just staring at the sun, because he had never gotten a chance to be outdoors. He missed his friends though. He prayed for them every night. LeeAnne would let him visit on weekends, and he would always save some of his lunch for them.

Will started going to school but had to be placed in a separate program for children who had worked in the factories. Kids weren’t allowed to learn how to read or write in there, so they needed extra help. It was a punishment more toward the parents, for not following the law.

They were always spying on us. The government, I mean. When my wife, Joy, got pregnant, we devised a plan. We were going to run away. We thought of leaving the country, but LeeAnne told me that there was a safe place somewhere on the outskirts of New Jersey. About 30 minutes away from us. It was for families in our condition. It was a hiding place. It provided work for the parents so they could pay off their debt and finally make enough money to move to the middle class. LeeAnne told me she wished she had known about the place before, but it didn’t exist when she was pregnant.

They had a list. A list of all the pregnant women in the town. My wife was very small during her pregnancy, so the spies never noticed her. It was easy to tell the spies apart from real people. They tried to fit in with everyone, but anyone from poverty could clearly distinguish between the real and fake. Some people in the neighborhood would team up with the spies, LeeAnne would tell us. The spies in return gave them money for each child they turned in. LeeAnne told us to trust no one. She was the only person who knew of my wife’s condition. She helped deliver Rebecca that day.

The government would always send people to do weekly inspections in everyone’s homes. They did it to make sure no one was hiding anyone. LeeAnne said the government didn’t know about the place we were going because it was hidden in the woods. We would be safe, she repeated to us often.

Before our weekly inspection, my wife and I packed all our things into a suitcase and hid Rebecca under her clothes. We made an escape at midnight. No one in the neighborhood was allowed to leave after 10 p.m., but I found an escape route. We snuck out through the back of our building and jumped into the truck. I sped off, leaving my headlights off.

“I think they’ll find us,” my wife cried.

“Sweetie, it’s either this or they’ll take Rebecca away from us. I can’t live without my daughter, so we’ll have to make this sacrifice!”

“What if this place doesn’t exist? I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, Davis.”

“It has to be true; LeeAnne wouldn’t lie to me. Do you see how Will is now? Do you want Rebecca to end up like him? Antisocial, traumatized, and depressed? They brainwashed that kid. We have to go. It’ll take us ten years to even pay off our debt and another two to be considered middle class.”

“I know. I’m really just nervous.”

“Relax, sweetie,” I whispered. “Everything will be okay.”

After hours of driving, we finally arrived at the spot in the woods. The sun would soon rise. The air felt moist. I quickly jumped out the car with my flashlight out and looked at the signs.

“We’re here, sweetie,” I said, waking her up. “Hurry, grab Rebecca and get out of the car.”

As we approached the gate, a man dressed in black silently walked in front of us.

“What’s the code?” he asked, grabbing my collar.

“33125,” I mumbled.

“He’s good!” he shouted. “Open the gates.”

As the gates opened, three more men appeared. They grabbed my suitcase, took Rebecca from my wife, and quickly handcuffed both of us.

“Wait!” I cried. “What’s going on?” I thought you guys were supposed to help us!” 

“Rebecca! My baby, no, please don’t take my baby. Please! I’ll do anything!” my wife cried

“Did you really think you were going to get away?” he asked. “Crime never goes unpunished.”

I looked into the man’s eyes and quickly realized that he was a spy. My wife and I fell to the ground.

“But…but my cousin LeeAnne told me that I was safe here. I don’t understand.”

“LeeAnne tricked us!” my wife cried. “She made a deal with the spies, can’t you see? Now Rebecca is gone.”

“Ah, looks like your wife is smarter than you. LeeAnne was close to falling under the middle class again, so she made a deal with me. She didn’t want to lose her son, so she told me that your wife was going to deliver any week and she would set up a place for us to get the baby.” He laughed. “Did you really think you’d get away with this?”

“Please,” I heard my wife repeat. “I’ll do anything, please. Don’t send her to the factory!”

I was silent. My mouth became dry. I slowly began to close my eyes. I couldn’t hear anything anymore.

Mojisola Aiyekusibe is a creative writer and content creator with a passion for storytelling. She currently interns at FamousTouch Media/BronzeAge Productions, where her role is to create and produce television content for Houston Media Source.