A busy shopping street.
A lane in a quiet coastal village.
Nowhere was safe.
350 children. Gone.
What started as a single, observational path just exploded.
250 were taken in the last month alone.
In a bizarre twist, families with one child taken, were hit again. as if losing one wasn’t bad enough. It also brought the age of the youngest child down.
The envelopes were plain. The address labels typed onto stickers. The only prints were from the postman and there was no DNA on the stamps.
Everyone watches CSI. Everyone.
Each family received one. As did every major news service.
And most of the minor ones.
They all contained a single DVD.
Center screen was a podium.
Experts deduced a a camcorder fed to a computer. Though they could have also checked the site to which the video was uploaded. This detailed camera type, computer system, and a great deal of other, less interesting, technical details.
A girl, 14, pig-tails, freckles and a summer dress walked, stage right, to the podium. She coughed, frowned down at the podium, then up, into camera.
“I am one of the 500. My name is Sandra Fields. I am fine.”
She looked beyond the camera, nodded slightly, then walked off, stage left.
Next, a boy, 16. Acne, band T-Shirt. “People are talking about our kidnappers; about our captors.”
Then, a girl, all smiles, skipped to the podium. “Hello, Mommy.” Suddenly shy, she looked down. “I…I’m ok. Don’t be sad. I saw you on TV, crying. It’s ok. Don’t be sad.”
Sandra came back on screen and hugged the girl. “Come on, Tray. We have to read, remember? Look, here we are.”
That was the second, most played, clip. The love, friendship and caring of these two girls continues to confound psychologists. Even after everything that followed.
Tracy Coleman, 8, read.
“We have no…no cap…captors. No one is holding us. We are free to go.” She swallowed and breathed. “If we want.”
Tracy Coleman beamed the brightest, gap toothed smile into camera and waved, “I love you, Mommy. Bye bye,” then skipped from the podium.
Until Mrs Olivia Coleman got a court order preventing it, that was the most played clip.
Sandra was left at the podium. She looked uncomfortable, wrong footed. She shrugged at the camera, ran her hands through her hair, and followed Tracy Coleman off screen.
Brian came next. His eyes were red. “Mr and Mrs Coleman. You have a wonderful daughter.” He sniffed, cuffed his nose and wiped his eyes. He looked down at, what was apparently, the script.
He coughed. “Why would we need to be taken when you drive us away all on your own?”
A flame haired girl, 18, flirting with her audience. “You have it all. You were meant to hold it for us.”
She was joined by a blue haired goth “But you wanted to keep it. You own all the money, keep all the jobs.”
A pierced, tattooed punk. “For the first time in history, we can expect a future darker than your present.”
They walked off together. A young, black man followed. Neat, in a suit. The picture of a business man.
“You left us in debt. Most of you knew of The Collapse, but did nothing about it. We.”
“We don’t get to inherit the earth. We get to pay for your failings.”
A small child came from the left. The punk came from the right. When they met at the podium, he was lost behind it. She hoisted him up, cradling him against her hip. She whispered the lined to Tommy Franks. Her 6 year old brother.
“Vair…vair is no one.” He mumbled. “Jus us.”
He looked to camera and was joined by his sister. “Just us.”
More children joined, from left to right. Repeating the refrain, ensuring it was understood. “Just us. Just us. Just us.”
Then, walking to the front of the group, Margret Pierce. First Child.
“You will find us, eventually. You might even try to take us back.” The camera pulled into her face. “But we will never be yours. You took away our future and gave us up. We are simply returning the favour.”
That ended the news organizations discs.
The family videos contained special messages, for their eyes only.
To date, 1200 more children have vanished. Each sends a disc every three months. None have been traced.
Of the children, 250 have been found, and 150 of those were forcibly returned.
Of that 25 stayed.
Some were committed, sent for deprogramming. They were gone within a week of capture.
50 have returned voluntarily.
First Child will be 23 this week.
The following month, Tommy Franks will be 13.
Both are still missing.