I found out the secret of my birth when I was thirteen years old. It had been midday so the window shades were wide open, letting in the familiar waves of blue light bouncing jovially off of the stark white walls that our Spirals are made of. I remember walking into my mother’s room and seeing one of her cabinet drawers wide open, a mess of papers spilling out onto the floor. I walked closer, thinking that I might be helpful and organize her papers for her. They were formal letters and speeches, presumably used for the many public appearances that she makes as the Leader of our Spiral. The oldest one looked to be dated fifteen years earlier and I smiled as I looked at how similar her speeches still were, how nothing much had changed since I’d been brought into the world, how she needn’t say more to the people of the Spiral than good job, keep doing what you’ve been doing for the past two thousand years.
I stacked the papers neatly back into the cabinet and made to turn and leave before a flicker of white caught my eye. It was a little scrap of paper with tiny, cramped handwriting squeezed onto its small surface.
“Serena,” It read, “You must take my unborn daughter as your own. You owe me. She is to be born in three month’s time. I will hide my growth well until the time comes. Remember what you’ve done and who you’ve done it to. You owe me.”
On the back, it was dated as the third of June 1986. I was born on September the fourteenth in 1986. I hid the paper in my pants pocket and left, too stunned to imagine that what I read meant what I knew it must. Who was writing my mother using her first name? Why did my mother owe this other woman? I had heard of secret births taking place in some Spirals because of the one child limit, but I was assured that this kind of behaviour was not present in our Spiral. Besides, I looked just like my mother, everyone always said so.
I went back to my room and sat on the floor to try and decide what to do. I wanted to know the truth, but there was also a large part of me that wanted to rip up the piece of paper and never think about it again. There seemed to me to be two options: confront my mother or forget that I ever found this small scrap of paper.
“Thank you,” My mother said to the serving girl who had just brought out the desserts for us both.
“Thank you,” I echoed, watching the girl quickly scurry away to her quarters.
My mother and I were now alone in our large dining hall. Our cabin was very big because most leaders invite their cabinet and advisors to live and dine in it with them, but Mother was different than most of the leaders that I had read about in history class. So, unless there was an important speech or a big election coming up, our dining hall hosted only the two of us, the other eighteen seats silently and majestically waiting to be used one day.
“Mother,” I ventured uncertainly. “I – I found this note today.” I took it out of my pants pocket and unfolded it before handing it to her. She took the note, a look of comprehension dawning on her face as she scanned the short letter. Comprehension gave way to anger and a quick flash of fear rippled over her face before her features returned to the neutral expression that she donned so frequently.
“I didn’t know when I should tell you,” She said cautiously. “Or even if I should ever tell you. What good would it do? I asked myself.”
She was admitting to committing a crime – some say the most serious crime that one can commit in the Spirals. I wanted to be incredulous at her admission of guilt, but I knew that her high moral standards would require her to tell me the truth, if confronted with it. So I listened as the truth, guarded as it still might be, came out.
“Amelia,” She continued, looking at me softly. “You are my daughter, in every sense of the word but the scientific one. I named you and raised you and cared for you and did all of the things that good mothers do for their daughters.”
As she was talking, I realized that she was right. The shock of the secret had worn off and I didn’t care that I was not of her flesh. The only thing that I cared about now was this debt that she owed my birth mother. I waited for my mother to tell me who my mother was and what she owed her. But she stopped talking, her face bore a pained expression as she struggled to pull herself back, I could see a look of realization that she, the leader of our Spiral, had just admitted to committing the most heinous of crimes. She looked wildly around her, erratically searching for signs that someone had heard. Then I saw her remember where we were and who she was.
“Oh god,” She said, her face crumpling up and tears leaking out of her eyes. “Forgive me, Amelia. I was only trying to do what was right.”
That was when the doors slammed open and the police force stormed into our dining hall. They grabbed my mother and led her to the small Spiral holding cell. Her trial was to be held the next day. As any other citizen would have been, my mother was sentenced to expulsion from the Spiral. As no oxygen exists outside of our home, this was a death sentence, though the Spirals did not like to call it as such. I cried as I watched her led into the outer chamber, the one that fills with water once a blue button is pushed. The interim leader, Hilda Stroop, pushed the button as soon as the men that had led my mother into the chamber closed the door to the room. My mother never stopped looking at me, her eyes proudly dry and her head held regally until the end. I did it for you, My mother mouthed to me as the water began to rush into the chamber, And for her. I wanted to ask her so much more, but before I could, a wave crashed in and she was swept into the great unknown, that deep blue watery pit that surrounds our Spiral.
My mother was taken from me when I was thirteen years old. That was seven years ago. I am now twenty and have risen to be the assistant leader of our Spiral, under Hilda Stroop, the woman who killed my mother. But I mustn’t let those thoughts ever escape my lips, because to the Spiral and its constituents, Hilda did not kill my mother, my mother’s own actions are what killed her. I must keep a clear head and remember this: my mother killed herself.