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Tornillo Memorial

Sean Vivier--pronounced like Vivian, but with an R--is a web app developer who moonlights at his local Arthur Murray and writes science fiction in the space between. You can find his work in Analog, Flash Fiction Online, and Daily Science Fiction. Learn more at seanvivier.com.

As soon as Mike walked into the Tornillo camp, he felt the immensity of it bear down upon him. He had to hold his copy of Tornillo Means Screw tighter to himself to withstand it. The sheer force of history here. How his grandparents had been kept here, how his mother had been ripped from their arms while still a baby and kept separate for years.
It didn't seem right. The inhumanity of it all overwhelmed history, yet this place stood empty and abandoned, save for the schoolchildren who walked it. Some even had the gall to show boredom.
He had no words. It helped that Felix did. "I can't believe people actually did this. Hurt people just because they were different."
Mike waved his copy of Tornillo Means Screw, and a few pages showed the hints of color and dialogue from the graphic novel. "That's why we have to learn from history. Visit places like this. Read about it. Remember it and guard against it."
Felix bit his lip with chagrin. "Yeah, but... I mean, sure Daniela Hernandez wrote Tornillo Means Screw. But George Takei wrote They Called Us Enemy before that. And there was Maus by Art Spiegelman before that. It's not avid readers that are doing these kinds of things."
Mike looked down and again felt the pressure of history's demands. He swore he'd absorb it all. Make it all part of himself, make himself one more person who stood against fascism and inhumanity. He'd pay attention to every part and recognize its echoes if he ever saw the same in the future.
So he read every placard about the conditions. He seared into his brain the images of children on hard floors with only Mylar for blankets. He listened to the guides as they described the justifications for their treatment and he listened to the teachers as they explained various attempts and failures to end the practice. Mike even forced himself to keep the museum headphones on his head and listen to President Trump's meandering and nonsensical speeches.
He wanted it so to inspire him. It only made him cold. A chill ran through his whole body the entire time. He'd read about revolutions and fights for civil rights in other eras. Why had there been so little activism, even for those who opposed violence, to save the people held here against the law of the land? He felt no inspiration, only a growing misanthropy.
In the end, as they made their way to board the bus, he sank into himself. "I just... I just don't get it. People saw this and they... let it happen. Some even cheered it. How?"
Felix gave him the side eye. "Why don't you ask the therians?"
Mike noted a woman on a leash in the direction of Felix's nod, and he scowled at her, no doubt a therian Otherkin. "That's different. They think they're animals. So we treat them like animals, just like they want."
Felix sighed. "Well, hey, maybe you can read one of their graphic novels about their treatment when you're older. I'm sure it will make you feel better."
Felix jumped aboard the bus as if to get away from him. Mike risked another look at the therian woman, with her synthetic wolf tail at the end of her belt, as she tried to stop and smell a lilac bush, only to meet a kick for it. He wanted to feel sympathy, wanted to force it, but he only felt disgust. They were stupid and delusional. They were making a mockery of human society. They got what they deserved.
He stepped aboard the bus, to face Felix's face twisted in disappointment, and for a moment at least, Mike began to doubt.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Author Comments

This story began with the realization that some day someone is going to write about their time held captive at the border. Then followed the depressing realization that it won't stop the next casual cruelty. After that, I only had to guess the group we'll treat like shit next.

- Sean Vivier
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