THIRTEEN‘s characters try to celebrate Christmas in an occupation zone.

Part 1 – The Crawlspace

Part 4 – The TV

“The tree looks great.”

Nick commented as he walked into the living room. Jack had to admit the house was beginning to feel like Christmas with all the decorations up. It felt normal sitting in front of the fire drinking hot tea, instead of the traditional cocoa, and talking.

“How did it go today?” Jack’s mom asked Nick.

“Not too bad. Quiet really. Not too many people let to process, thankfully, and most people are keeping their heads down and staying home.”

“That’s a good thing?” Jack asked.

“Better than getting picked up by soldiers and brought in to be registered, processed or worse, sent to a camp. They started building a new one here.”

“Here? In White Rock?” Kim’s eyes were like saucers, fear pulsating from them.

“Ah yeah. They’re converting the WalMart by emptying it out and building a fence around it. Looks like a proper jail. Don’t worry Kim we will get you out as soon as we can.”

“I not leaving. Not without my family. I said I help and I help.”

Kim helped Nick by translating whatever documents he and his friends could get their hands on. It wasn’t much. Still, they had discovered a few things about where the enemy planned to position their troops and some of the supplies they had. Mostly though, the paperwork were orders to transport detainees from one camp to another, or to interrogation. Nothing useful. No big secrets.

“OK. Not like we can right now anyway.”

The house went from dead silence to a buzz of energy as the power came on. Every day for one hour they were given power to cook their one meal of the day and watch the General’s message.

Watching the General speak on the TV every day had become a ritual. Everyone wanting to know what was going to happen next, seeking the images for missing loved ones, and a morbid fascination.  It was a mixture of normalcy, a treat of indulgence, a horrific reminder of their situation, and compliance with the new laws of the land.

Every citizen was expected to watch the broadcast every day for instructions, information, and an introduction to the new rules and regulations. The laws were changing daily, each day another liberty taken away. If you didn’t know about the rules and inadvertently broke one, you could land in one of the many camps being built around the Lower Mainland.

“I’ll put on the rice. Kim plug in the devices to charge. Jack you get the TV and then help Kim. Nick fill the drinking water.”

Every time his mom barked out orders like a drill sergeant it stirred annoyance and revolt inside Jack. He didn’t like being told what to do and his mom loved to dictate to him. Something inside him twisted. Still, he got up and turned the TV on before helping Kim charge the electronics.

Once everyone was done they all sat in front of the TV waiting for the General to come on.

Every day it was the same. Images of Kim Jong Un, military parades, and North Korean culture moved across the screen to remind them who was in charge. Then images of those people who broke the laws flashed on the screen along with the charges and their sentences. Watching this part of the show was always stressful.

Would they see someone they knew?

Sometimes they’d show an execution searing their brains with the consequences of going up against the new regime. When these events were shown, Jack noticed that actual death looked very different than what Hollywood depicted.

They all sat watching the faces until the General’s face came on the screen.

Part 5 – The Message

Photo on 2014-04-17 at 12.25 PM

Shannon Peel is the author of THIRTEEN, a novel about a boy, his mom, a cop and an invading army. THIRTEEN is the first book in a series about North American kids trying to adjust to life under a totalitarian regime after a surprise attack utilizing terrorist and conventional tactics. 

Click to visit her website and learn more about THIRTEEN