I couldn’t think of a title so I modified one of the lines from Fallout 4 to use as a title for now.
In the late 1990s Kayla was with her family as a child. The Germans had won World War II and installed their own government in the United States. Everyone else was happy that day, but Kayla felt disconnected from her family and didn’t have a sense that she really belonged with them. It was the earliest memory she would have of being different.
As Kayla grew up she noticed that she wasn’t treated the same as the other girls in school but didn’t know why. She tried to discover the difference between her and the other children but couldn’t come up with anything that separated her from them. When she asked her parents and teachers why she was treated differently they denied that there was anything fundamentally different about her. They said that kids were mean sometimes and everyone got treated badly and there was nothing different about what she was going through even if it felt like there was. Kayla believed it at first but realized that there had to be something different about her.
When Kayla was in high school, she started to notice that she wasn’t like the other kids. She knew that there was something different about her but she couldn’t identify it. The was the point where she started having regular dreams about living in Russia which was still communist. The border had been pushed eastward by the Germans. These dreams made Kayla feel like a freak. Everything that she had learned about the Slavs said that they were backward and disgusting freaks. It felt like there was a weight constantly present and some force was eating away inside her when she felt a connection with Slavs and no idea what her problem was. Kayla read about depression and her family concluded with a psychiatrist that it was what she was experiencing, but medication never worked. Nothing she did made the daily fog go away.
A few years later when Kayla was 20 she came across a conspiracy theory online that she couldn’t stop thinking about. The Nazis had replaced children they wanted to turn into Einsatzkommandos who were engineered super humans patrolled the Reich. They replaced the missing children with Slavs who they thought could be integrated into their society. This theory was almost complete dismissed as creative imagination but there were people who had come out as the children who had been replaced. Their experiences were covered up as being delusional. Kayla was fascinated and couldn’t stop reading about the theory. It explained why she had always felt disconnected from her family, even in her earliest memories. She had a high paying job with the Nazis, so she never mentioned her discovery to anyone.
After another year Kayla found a forum run by someone named Dima who claimed to have a refuge where Slavs could live and be accepted. It was filled with people like her who had always known that something was wrong but never had any idea what was wrong with themselves. She started asking how to know if she was a Slav. Several people came to tell her that there was no test that could be done, but she could figure out herself if she was a Slav by examining her memories and any strange dreams that pointed toward being a Slav. It was hard for her to accept coming from the atheist Reich, but she felt sure enough that she was a Slav that she decided to listen to her feelings. They told her it wasn’t just about feelings and to look for particular signs that she was a Slav. She mentioned the dreams she had about living in Russia and how she had been ashamed of them and how completed she felt when she had first learned that she might be a Slav and how it felt like an answer to the life long fog she had lived through. The other users on the forum told her that it sounded like she was a Slav and she felt immense joy in finally being able to connect with people who had lived through the same experiences as her.
Over the next several months Kayla spent time at home with the Slavs on the forum. She had started using a Polish name and worked on open source projects with the other members. She discussed plans to go and live with other Slavs and learned that many of them lived in the refuge but some of them continued to live where they already were and tried to make the best of their situation. Kayla wanted to go live with them, but she already had everything she wanted where she already was.
As Kayla started to accept her new identity as a Slav, she stopped being able to take the weight of hiding it. She told her parents why she had felt different growing up and that she had discovered that she was a Slav. They responded by disowning her and her father told her that he wasn’t going to waste time and money on a Slav. A man named Ryan she worked with took her in.
One day when Kayla was at work, two Einsatzkommandos came in to the building and took her to one of their interrogation rooms. One of them introduced himself as Officer Smith.
“You’ve been living as another person late at night. You’ve even found a name for this other life.” Kayla stayed slient. “You seem to believe that you’re a Slav and you were replaced at birth because that’s what they told you. It’s a lie they told you to manipulate you. All they want is to take advantage of you. This other life that they’ve tricked you into creating has no future. Right now you have a future filled with everything you want working with technology for the Reich. If you want you could throw it all away chasing this fantasy that you’ve clung to as a way of explaining your history of mental illness. You’re depressed. The Reich will pay for medication to treat you. If having an easy and productive life isn’t what you want then you can chose your other life based on lies. Once everyone knows you’re a Slav you lose everything. They’ll treat you as an abomination. You can continue living your delusion and lose everything or you can live the life intended for you had have the wealth and support you still have.”
Kayla agreed to stop living the life she had discovered and to go back under the impression that she was simply delusional and had clung to a conspiracy theory in order to explain her mental illness. She spent the next few years living with her boyfriend who had accepted her after learning that she was a Slav. She tried to avoid thinking about it and reminded herself that she was just believing a conspiracy theory if she ever started to wonder about it, and believing that theory would cause her to lose everything for nothing.
In 2015 Ryan came home and told Kayla that he would be meeting with a family in the morning to discuss what happened to their daughter who had left suddenly. She was 18 and had suddenly disappeared without giving any details. Kayla didn’t have any idea what had happened.
The next day Ryan went to meet with the parents of the girl who disappeared. They said that she had left a note saying that she had gone to live with other people and they shouldn’t worry, but no other information then that. Her father wondered if the note had been faked by someone else. Ryan spent an hour asking questions to learn about their daughter Kate and learned that her grandfather had died a few months earlier and the two of them had been very close. The parents showed Ryan where Kate’s computer was and asked if he could use it to find out where she had gone. He took out a Linux USB drive and got to work checking it to see what information it could offer about what had been going on with Kate before she disappeared.
Kate had constantly visited the same conspiracy website in the months since her grandfather died where other people posted stories about concluding that they were Slavs. Kate had been very active and posted about strange dreams she had been having and a sense of pointlessness she had been experiencing. Other users told her that those were signs that she was a Slav. Ryan felt disgusted that these people were taking advantage of teenagers who were clearly suffering from depression.
Ryan went to Kate’s parents and told them what he had found.
“There’s no way she can be a Slav.” Her mother said. “We raised her.”
“There’s a conspiracy theory that the Nazis replaced children they wanted with Slavs.” Ryan said. “There’s a whole community of people online who believe that they’re Slavs.”
“That’s impossible.” Her father said. “Why would the government replace children with Slavs? There are so many other options if they wanted to run a secret program.”
“Teenagers feel angst and get depressed and they want something to make themselves feel special.” Ryan said. “Then these sick adults encourage their delusion because they want validation that they haven’t completely ruined their lives by turning themselves into outcasts by claiming to be degenerates. My girlfriend went through the same phase. I’ll get your daughter back. The Reich has treatment for depression so she can get the help she needs.”
“We’ve already tried everything and her depression never goes away.” Her mother said.
“I’m sure there’s something we can do. There’s a safe space in the mountains where some of these people go to live. I’ll go there and see if I can find Kate and bring her back.” Ryan said.
Ryan went home to tell Kayla about the website he had found that led to the location where Kate might be. Kayla said that she had been to the same site, and for the first time she had trouble convincing herself that she was delusional for thinking she was a Slav. Everything she remembered came back and she felt validated in a way she had never felt before to have a connection with someone who experienced the same things as her. The thoughts that she had about being a Slav came tumbling back and she started to doubt what she had been told about being delusional. She didn’t mention them to Ryan.
It took several days for Ryan to get to the Slav refuge. He entered the main compound and was directed to the building where new arrivals went. He felt strange walking past the residents who were all there because they were considered subhuman back home. Inside the old building he met Dima who was the leader of the refuge. Ryan asked where to find Kate because she was missing and had been planning to live in the refuge.
“Kate is here.” Dima answered. “She is dealing with questions in her own way to figure out her identity.”
“What is she trying to figure out?” Ryan asked. “She thinks she’s a Slav. Isn’t that why she came here?”
“Kate is going through a difficult transition. Every person who comes here is facing the possibility that their entire life has been a lie. We try to make it as easy for them as possible. It’s not easy to learn that your entire identity was taken from you and replaced to suit someone else.” Dima said.
“Do you really think Kate is a Slav?” Ryan asked.
“That is her decision to make. Only she can decide who she really is.” Dima said.
“Her grandfather died recently and her parents said she was depressed because of it. Haven’t you considered that as a possibility for why she’s clinging to this identity? You’ve taken a vulnerable teenager away from a loving family.” Ryan said.
“I’ve considered that. It would be sad to take a child needlessly away from their family, but most people who are depressed don’t conclude that they are Slavs. It usually takes a long time before people will even admit that possibility.” Dima said.
“How did you end up here?” Ryan asked.
“I was put in a mental hospital after I discovered that I was a Slav. One day I escaped and came here. I spent a year just existing until I realized I could help other Slavs, and I built this place. I wanted a place where Slavs could be who they are without the prejudice that they would face in the Reich.” Dima said.
“How many people have you brought here?” Ryan asked.
“We’ve brought in hundreds of people over the years, but many Slavs choose to stay where they are. Some of them eventually move here when the pressure of living in the Reich becomes too much. Some of them have to go into hiding and deny who they really are.” Dima said.
“That’s what happened to my girlfriend. She said that she was just depressed.” Ryan said.
“I remember a girl who reached out to us a few years ago. She was so excited by discovering our community and created a Polish name that she used with us. I felt excited and filled with purpose. Then she posted that her parents disowned her and shortly after we lost contact. The Einsatzkommandos probably got to her and convinced her she was delusional. It’s what they do. They present Slavs with a choice of being who they are as an outcast or continuing their current life and chance at prosperity.” Dima said.
“What if some of those people really aren’t Slavs? If they believe they are then they’re facing a life of discrimination.” Ryan asked.
“People should be free to make their own decision. If they’re not a Slav then they’ll come to understand that on their own.” Dima said. “I have a question if you feel like you can answer. Are you a Slav?” Dima asked.
“Why would I be a Slav?” Ryan said, completely surprised.
“You mentioned that your girlfriend is a Slav. You’re also here. You didn’t have to follow Kate all the way here. Most people aren’t that interested in us.”
“How would I even know?” Ryan asked.
“There isn’t only one way that everyone realizes. Try going though your memories. Look for any feelings of isolation or not fitting in that are like splinters in the mind.” Dima said.
“I’ve been having strange dreams since I started watching Jordan Peterson’s lectures. I’m fighting in a city somewhere in Russia and there’s a girl. We never fight each other.” Ryan said.
“That is usually a sign. Strange dreams like that are hinting at some other identity. I know this might not make sense, but please give it time. This can be a lot to process.” Dima said.
“I don’t think I could possibly be a Slav.” Ryan said.
“When you go home, please let your girlfriend know what you learned here and try to support her if she changes her mind. I hope that she can find peace.” Dima said.
Dima went to look for Kate. She was working on projects for the refuge since she had experience building things with her grandfather. He asked why she had decided to live with a group of Slavs and why she thought she was one of them. She went through the story starting with being alone after her grandfather died. In all the time she had by herself she started going online constantly. One day she came across a thread discussing the conspiracy theory that children had been replaced with Slavs. She started researching it out of curiosity and found Dima’s website where she got lost reading all the personal accounts of people who believed they were Slavs. Over time she started to consider the possibility that she was a Slav. Then she started having strange dreams. Kate ended up contacting the other users on the forum and eventually started making plans to go live in the refuge but decided to keep it a secret from her parents because she didn’t want them to know she was a Slav. Other users on the forum had posted that telling their parents was like telling them that their child had died, since their actual child was long gone and many parents reacted with denial or disowned them.
When Kate arrived in the refuge she was welcomed by Dima. He introduced her to the compound where they lived and told her that she was finally with people who would accept her. When they were discussing the refuge, Dima offered her help deciding if she was a Slav and told her to take as much time as she needed to transition.