Re-Educated Runaway— By Frank Wang

I’m extremely excited to announce the Vault Writing Contest’s Second Place Winner: “Re-Educated Runaway,” written by Frank Wang. Thank you to everyone who participated! We are very grateful for your submissions.

Surrounded by a shell of glass skyscrapers, yet within the confines of the neatly-tended greenery, I finally stopped doubting myself that it was all over now.

Maybe the last two years had been nothing but a nightmare that I was too scared to wake from. It really wasn’t that hard to get out; they just deliberately strike you down the first time since they know you’ll run for the hills. Lots of kids did. But you know, necessity breeds innovation, and what kind of desperate child wouldn’t spend every free minute devising plans, studying staff patterns, and fantasizing about the escape? But you can’t trust any of the others. That’s how you’ll get snitched on and struck down again. I feel like blaming myself, but as a human just like the rest, of course they knew how to handle all that psychology.

I’d been abused to conformity by the system for far too long. They told us that we could “graduate” when we hit 18, but no one wants to stare down that barrel. Especially not those barely-pubescent teens that should probably have spent their days doing shitty mischief rather than being shipped away to a cult. And so I was blasted with insults, punched to unconsciousness, was stepped on, but later became the one stepping on others. Was I happy? I don’t know; can we really say that we are happy when we narrowly avoid solitary confinement, when the alternative is to scrub floors 24/7?

Whatever. It doesn’t matter what the details of that torturous house was, since all that was at the centre of it was getting a big chunk of cash. All it was was a scam for insecure and desperate parents like mine to sell the idea of a correctable child. Give yourself a fancy website or an ad in the flyer, toting yourself as some kind of special hoity-toity private boarding school for delinquents and boom! You’ve got yourself tens of thousands of dollars rolling in every year (per kid) while you can instruct your staff to do whatever they wanted. Unfortunately, I guess with that control comes a tendency towards sadism.

Well, in the last 3 days I ran for my life from a dinky hotel window, got picked up by some old truck driver, and got dumped off in the downtown core of one of the biggest metropolises of the country. I slept on the cold hard concrete for two days, but managed to sniff out some 1$ pizza slices. Best food I’ve had in years. I’m a homeless kid-nobody – a total zero in a city of millions, but in some ways that’s really lucky. And to be fair, if I were really unlucky I’d have probably been trafficked by that gruffy dude somewhere else. (Though, it’s still better than being at “school”).

We’re still a long ways away from getting through to my parents. I can’t give any info away; to be honest, it’s better that I forget about them at least for the next year. All I know is that I’m standing here, finally with my feet on living dirt again. Some day I’ll get myself somewhere to stay, to work, to live, to do whatever it takes.

“I’ve found my new beginning”. I heard myself audibly mutter after all the other thoughts were uttered by my mind’s voice. It gave me new invigoration, like I was at the center of the world.

Then, my world was knocked off center.

“You’re gonna start a new beginning, that’s for sure.”

I was going back, and I was going to be starting the whole process again from the beginning.
Because of course, I hadn’t been properly corrected yet.

A little bit more than inspired by the Elan.School comic by Joe Nobody, found at https://elan.school/

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