Code Red River | Chapter 3: Orientation

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Written by: Kevin Gatti

SHORT SERIAL FICTION

Genre: Horror | Thriller | Suspense

STORY MODE: DARK | LIGHT

“Hello everyone!” Gloria said with a friendly smile on her face. She was calmer than I remembered her being at the protest in DC. There she seemed rigid and energized. I guess that was expected considering we were at a protest. She was still a very mission-oriented person. She always had a very clear objective when she spoke and was always very convincing.

During the new resident orientation, Gloria led the way in going over how everything worked on the ranch. We would all be assigned tasks based on what we did for work before moving to the ranch. I was an accountant, so I immediately assumed I would be doing something with money. I was actually excited about this because this was something I was good at and felt I could provide legit assistance in a meaningful way to help better the organization.

Once a month a retreat would occur were members that didn’t live at the ranch would come to visit. The sole objective was to make them feel like they were at a luxury resort so that they would want to live there too. Learning this was my very first indication that something was perhaps not right. Nonetheless, I choose to continue, not that I could have stopped anything at that point. I feel that I was already in too deep at that point. Unfortunately, the deep end just kept getting deeper.

During the orientation we also learned about something I found to be very interesting. We had codes living at the ranch, and no, I don’t mean rules. We had rules too. There were lots of those. I’m talking about codes in sense of like a secret way of communicating or a collective call to action. When a code was called it meant immediate action and/or a universal understanding of a situation among the residents of the ranch. Of course, we all signed non-disclosure agreements before the orientation started, so even if any of us ran at this point, our lips were sealed shut.

There was a range of codes. There was Code Strange Snake, which meant there was a suspicious person on the ranch. When this happened, we all had to shelter in place until the all clear code was given. That was Code Blue Sky.

There was also some more interesting codes and some horrifying codes. There was Code Mute Confusion, which was a call to action for everyone to create fake multiple social media accounts spewing out different inaccurate information and opinions on an issue. The purpose of this was to cause so much online confusion on a subject that the general public wouldn’t know the real truth. The intent was to use this a defense mechanism in the event a negative news story came out about the Love Thy Self People. It was meant to kill a story and to mute any negativity for the organization. I later learned that this was used for other purposes not related to the organization as well.

There was also the Code Green Water. This was a code that was named after a green colored chemical that would be put in the drinking water to make people sick. I still have no idea what was in this apparent green colored chemical. All I know is that the green color would dissolve in regular water making it invisible and that it would give people serious stomach problems. The purpose of this code would be used as either retaliation or as an extreme way to suppress voters for an election so the organization could make a political power move. The purpose for the residents of the ranch in knowing this was because during a Code Green Water, residents would only be allowed to drink approved bottled water that didn’t have the green chemical.

Then there was the most severe code. That was Code Red River. In the event this code was called, it meant the level of understanding for the Love Thy Self people from outsiders would have fallen so low that law enforcement would be surrounding the ranch in anticipation for what was described to us as an invasion. If this occurred, we were told that we each had to grab a knife and go down to the river about a half mile outside of the ranch. Once inside the river, we had to cut our own throats in what we called a mass sacrifice to Mother Earth. We were somehow made to believe that if law enforcement ever came that they would kill us all and therefore it was better to go out as a sacrifice then be killed by people who didn’t understand us. The mass sacrifice was meant to create a red river of blood as a bold message to humanity as to what happens when you reject your fellow man.

I must admit, when they first told us this I remember being pretty freaked out, even a little jittery. I also remember questioning myself whether law enforcement actually wanted to kill us all. However, it took some time of living on the ranch, but I eventually started to believe that whole heartedly. This was thanks to the regular paranoia that existed.

Living on the ranch required much of us. One of those things was attending protests for various causes to support our organization and our allies. We made frequent trips to DC particularly for protests. We were gradually increasing our political presence. We were told Mick wasn’t really a social person, which is why even living at the ranch we didn’t see much of him. However, we were told that he did have a strong desire to flex political muscle for the greater good of the organization. There were often rumors at the ranch that he himself was going to run for some political office at some point.

Not long after moving into the ranch, Jeff and I found ourselves at a protest in DC. After the protest was over the group dispersed to walk around and get something to eat before heading back to hotel. Jeff and I were walking down the street by ourselves. He said to me, “Hey, let’s check out this bar!”

I was immediately hesitant. It was against the rules for ranch residents to consume alcohol outside of a freedom night, which was an occasional preplanned night on the ranch where all social rules were off, and we were allowed to party it up. I only later learned that those nights were designed to exploit our vulnerabilities to things like alcohol, drugs and sex. Those exploitations would be later used against us in various forms, including punishment.

That evening in DC, Jeff didn’t seem concerned and successfully persuaded me into the bar for a couple drinks. “It’s just us. No one will know.” Jeff said. Well, apparently someone saw. When we landed back in Wyoming, Gloria pulled us aside from the rest of the group.

“You two ran off to bar in DC, didn’t you?” She asked.

I was shocked and couldn’t believe she knew. I was speechless and didn’t know what to say.

Jeff answered back, “How did you know?” He wasn’t the best at covering his tracks or keeping a secret.

Gloria told us that it wasn’t our concern how she knew but emphasized that there was going to be punishment. She ordered us to follow her and said, “We’re going to see Mick. He’s not going to be happy about this.”

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