Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Choice

Snow began as they crossed the frontier. "That's just great," muttered Stevens.

Larkin growled, "Keep walking."

Walk, or die.

The city looming out of the snow was broken, though not by fighting. The Syndicate pulled down buildings while retreating, preventing any refugees from staying in the contested territory.

A low moan made Stevens turn around. Brooke had stumbled in the woods, soaked her clothes. She was staggering, wouldn't make it unless she warmed up.

An old factory offered three walls and part of a roof. "We need to stop, make a fire. She's gonna freeze."

No one slowed. Larkin didn't even look back.

He'd managed to coax his tinder alight when the flash threw hard shadows around them; the shockwave knocked more bricks from the wall and showered dust. Another Syndicate gift - booby traps. Outdated munitions attached to tripwires; easy to avoid unless you were so exhausted that you could barely put one foot in front of another.

Brooke didn't stir. He wondered if he'd have to carry her in the morning. Or if he'd be better off looking for another bomb.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Test

"Teacher, what is faith?"

The older man nodded approvingly. A good question. "Do you know the doorway in the old warehouse, on the second floor, the one with nothing underneath it? Just a door in the wall?"

Excited mutterings. A hand raised up, "So faith is what lets you walk out of that door, and not fall to the ground?"

The resulting glare provided the answer. "No!" They recoiled from unexpected vehemence; he paused, collecting himself. "No, that's not faith. That would be... foolishness, stupidity. You can't step out of a door into thin air and not fall."

He waited, building anticipation, letting them settle into quiet listening again.

"We have faith that the builder had a reason to place that door in that wall with nothing underneath, even though we cannot understand why."

Closing his book, the signal that lessons were over, caused all the students to bow their heads in respectful silence. They sat in contemplation as he carefully stood, picked up his crutches, and slowly hobbled from the room.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

No Walk In the Park

"Ask Sam about it, he was an Occupier."

Their faces all turned expectantly toward the grizzled, unkempt man who'd been herding them along these seven weeks.

He nodded, barely visible in the shadow of the half-fallen wall. "Yeah, I was. Not in New York, but I was there, for most of it." They waited. "Well, I don't know what else to say. We had some shitty tents, it was cold, everybody smelled bad. But..." he trailed off, gathering his thoughts. "But we made a difference, I think."

A small voice piped up. "So it was a lot like what we're doing now." Cracked lips smiled underneath a bushy beard. "Yep. We're making a difference. And it's always cold and we all stink but dammit, this is better than one of the Realignment Facilities." A murmur, nodding heads. "I'm glad you agree because we have more walking to do. Everybody get some rest, sundown's in two hours. There's a safehouse but it's twenty miles. We need to be there before dawn."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In the Old Days

"Daddy, what's that?"

"The sign? It's for a church, that had a fallout shelter."

"I don't know what that is."

He paused. How to explain such an antiquated and foreign concept?

"Many years ago people were afraid of, well, this thing they thought might happen, and would be very bad. It would be the end of the world. And this is a place they went because they were afraid."

Wide eyes. "What thing?"

"It was something that would come from the sky. It would be so powerful that nobody could stop it. The people thought that if they came here, they would be okay, and afterwards they could start over again and make new lives."

"So this was a special place?"

"Well, no, not really, but they thought so. Nowadays we know that it wouldn't really have helped, but that's okay, because we also know that the thing they were afraid of will never happen."

"Oh. That's good. Thank you, Daddy."

"You're welcome." He sighed. At least he hadn't had to explain what a fallout shelter was...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

But soft (in the head)

He liked to think of it as her balcony.

(it's not a real balcony, just a decorative architectural element)

Perhaps she liked to stand there, lean on the railing, gaze out at the moon and stars.

(it's only a foot deep, the railing eighteen inches high)

Her long hair would cascade over her shoulders, drape along the rough stone.

(she'd have to be two feet tall for that to happen)

Just as a dreamy look of contemplation came across her face, he would whisper from the bushes.

(the neglected garden, overgrown, full of weeds and thorns)

Startled, she'd look about in confusion until he stepped into view, then a smile would bloom.

(more likely a shriek and quick call to the police)

Their moonlit conversation would last until the first shades of dawn, and her tears at their parting.

(nighttime temperatures just above freezing, so she'd be hypothermic)

He knew it would never happen.

(of course not)

But what was the harm in dreaming?

(well, you've got me there)

Thursday, February 16, 2017


A hushed conversation.

"Yes, I think she's made a lot of progress. You can see it in the way she..."

"But she still walks that way. You know, looking at the ground. She never notices anybody, walks right by her friends, everyone who says hi. I don't get it."

"Well, that could be a reaction to overstimulation. We can work on that."

They pause to look at the girl, reading a book. It's possible that she can hear them, but she gives no sign that she cares what they're talking about. Or even that they're talking.

As the whispers begin again, a quick glance from her. There's nothing she hasn't heard, half a dozen times before. She isn't counting. She no longer cares. She isn't shy, either. Or overstimulated. She just sees more when she's looking down.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What Friends Are For

"Get out, I don't wanna see you here, never again!"

Big hand pushing him backwards, threat of more where that came from.

"But I just, we were just hanging out, he's..." choking on the words, pain in his chest that has nothing to do with the shoving match.

"He's not your friend. He's not nothing to you any more. He is never gonna see you again. If I catch you here, I'll break your goddamn neck."

Dust whispering down from the porch ceiling after the door slams, window glass set to rattling.

Danny is barricaded in his room, but can't stay there. When he comes out, more buises, another black eye they'll work together to cover up in the school bathroom.

It's dark. He should go.

His grandmother used to say whenever God closed a door, he opened a window. The hunk of broken brick in his hand is just the right size, and they're both fast runners. God never specified how the window was to be opened...