by Jake Christie

OUT OF SIGHT.
a story.

If you don't have something to hide, there's no reason to be scared.

It was written on billboards, pamphlets, and sandwich boards. It was repeated on television, radio, and over the public address system. Everybody Sam saw seemed to be scared anyway. That they might all be hiding things from the State, that every man, woman, and child he saw on the train or in the commissary was a terror-sowing Enemy, was an idea that he could barely wrap his head around. Sam, on the other hand, did have something to be scared of, and he was hiding something, but he wasn't frightened at all.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Sam was scared that he was going bald. He couldn't properly see the back of his own head, but every morning there was hair in his shower drain and it had to be coming from somewhere. He would towel his hair gingerly and touch the part atop his skull with his fingertips, and wonder to him self if he could feel more skin than yesterday.

Sam wasn't scared that the State would find out he was harboring an Enemy refugee. This was the thing that the broadcasts and the politicians and the neighbors kept warning everyone to be afraid of. Justice, they promised, would be swift and inescapable. He'd heard the stories about the pre-dawn raids on tenement buildings and the severe penalties levels against ordinary citizens for minor offenses, like possessing literature by subversives or delicacies that had been produced outside the State's borders. Everybody had heard the stories, and the penalty for harboring a refugee was almost certainly death. It wasn't that Sam didn't believe the stories; he just had more important things to worry about.

When the girl appeared on his doorstep she was so exhausted and famished that she couldn't speak. Sam was rendered speechless as well, by surprise at both her condition and her striking beauty. Her clothes were tattered and dirty, her hair matted and clumped, but she still could have graced the cover of any glossy magazine at the news stand. Even the tattoo on her wrist that identified her as someone from past the bordered was alluring.

After her hunger was sated and her thirst quenched, the girl told Sam her story in short, stilted sentences, as if the words were afraid to come out. She didn't have any place to go – nowhere back home, nowhere in this strange and dangerous land – but she didn't once ask Sam to let her stay. She placed her hand on his and thanked him for the food and water, and he made the offer himself.

Now this girl, this Enemy, this beautiful refugee, was squatting in Sam's attic, and he was growing more and more scared about going bald. Every morning he combed his hair and touched the spot on the back of his head. When he brought the girl breakfast he craned his neck so that he was looking up, not watching his feet on the attic stairs, so that the part in his hair was hidden. She thanked him and thanked him and kissed him on the cheek, and he watched her eat for a moment and thought about going to the commissary and buying a hat. Outside the blurry attic window, the public address system boomed:

“If you don't have something to hide, there's no reason to be scared...”


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