Conspiracy Theory

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"We don't know if they did anything wrong," says Georgia, Nat's mother.

Nat's fourteen. Her face red, hair tied back in messy pig tails, she cries furiously. "They can't just take her. She was my friend, she didn't do anything wrong. They can't just take her away."

"I know," says Georgia. "I know, but there's nothing we can do." Georgia tries to comfort her, to tell her she understands, but her efforts fall drastically short. "You'll just have to... I don't know. You'll just have to get used to the fact that you won't see Gwen again. It happens. It'll happen again, and you may never know why. But you'll get used to it."

Nat wipes her her eyes and tries to compose herself. "I know, but... It just..."

"Just never happened to someone you cared about."

Nat nods. Eventually she lays on her mat and stares at cold steel wall. Their apartment within the commune is small, divided into four rooms by thin hanging cloth. Nat's "room" is hardly big enough to contain her. Over the years she's picked away at the rusted metal, boring a small hole from her room into the family's apartment next to theirs.

Through the course of the night, Nat slowly numbs, her eyes tired and sore. The face of a boy, Josh, appears in the hole and he whispers, "Hi Nat. Don't be sad." He pokes an arm through the hole and pats her on the arm and she winces. "Oh yeah, sorry."

"I just don't understand." Nat says. "They just took Gwen and her family. How can they do that?"

"I dunno," says Josh. "They're from the undercity, they can do whatever they want."

"What..." Nat hesitates. "What do you think happens to them?"

"I dunno," says Josh. "But you wanna know what Rene told me?"

"What?" she asks, both eager and afraid to learn the truth.

"Rene's says his dad knew someone who got taken. His dad works on vats of goo that they turn into food paste, and he said the day after the guy was taken, he saw him pumped into the vat's through a tube. He was turned into food."

"That's stupid," says Nat.

"Food's got to come from somewhere, and I don't see nothing else around. Think about it. If they ever come for you, I'd run. You won't see me turned into food. No sir."

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