The spring air cooled as the afternoon sun ducked behind a patchwork of clouds in a desolate countryside, marked by wildly overgrown scrub brush, small twisted trees and weeds springing determinedly though the cracking pavement that once carried travelers to destinations along the eastern coast. A cluster of workers, garbed smartly in khaki uniforms bearing black and fluorescent green markings and dark glasses that obscured their tense, young faces, cautiously eyed a line of wretched human beings as they approached the entrance to the weathered remains of what had once been a fire station.
After a close examination and with gloved hands gripping ugly, black rifles, they motioned each person forward. A dog’s howl in the distance only heightened the young workers’ vigilance as they prodded people forward with their weapons, maintaining a menacing presence despite their true fear of these people, fear of their potential for disease, the filthy attire and almost feral disposition that seemed so foreign to them.
One by one the tattered dregs of this untamed landscape approached and were allowed to enter the door. Among those in line was a somewhat bewildered young girl of ten, undersized for her age due to malnutrition, with brown hair tied into a pony tail and clothes that had been sewed together by hand from various scraps and rags. On her face a poorly healed scar stretched from eyebrow to ear, drawing closer scrutiny of the guards. Walking behind her was a middle-aged man sporting an extra layer of dirt invading every crack in his callused hands, with roughly cut hair and beard and coarse, sun-browned skin. Only a few yellowed teeth showed as he said something to the girl, her tiny hand wrapped around the fingers of his. A piece of pink cloth trailed from the grip of her other hand, some sort of talisman in a time when toys were few.