Category Archives for "Dystopian Future"

Splintered

Katy stumbled across the muddy field, her heart still beating hard in her chest. Adrenaline from the battle still pumped through her veins.  The raid had ended, but it always took hours to bring herself down from the rush of war.

The area between where the rebel coalition called Ahuva had set up fort and the occupied city of Rostislav sat empty of human life.  Other than herself and a handful of retreating soldiers, only the crows occupied the dead zone between the city and the rebel camp.  In the darkening field Katy couldn’t tell what uniforms the stray soldiers wore so she didn’t fire at them, but she did suspiciously watch them until they disappeared. Dusk had fallen, and no one wanted to be out alone in the war-torn mud pit after dark.

Her feet ached from running on the concrete inside the city for hours. Her neck and shoulders ached from tension. Her stomach ached from hunger. Her bones ached with utter exhaustion. Parts of her young body she had never before acknowledged ached. Even her teeth hurt from grinding them in anxiety. Not even her previous life as a farmer punished her body the way her life as a rebel soldier did.

Again and again Commander Hayim sent them in to raid small strongholds of the Teodor Empire’s army in Rostislav, with little rest and little planning.  She didn’t mind the many chances to avenge Victor. But anger roiled in her stomach anyway, because she knew she and her fellows were being used until collapse or death. And then their new commanders would just be replaced them all with someone else who would be driven just as hard. The days of being a family…of being a small band of cheerful rebels throwing off an invading power were gone.

Now she was so tired she could hardly see straight. Her heavy feet caught frequently on pieces of broken tanks and trucks, and occasionally she even stumbled over a body.  Only her anger at Hayim and her hate for the Teodor kept her upright.  One dirty hand absently rubbed at her face, the other hand loosely clutching her gun as she made her way across the field towards the lumpy cot she knew waited for her.

Her mind focused on the glorious idea of a few hours of sleep, she didn’t notice the figure crouched in the mud and destruction in front of her until she saw movement in the corner of her eye. She had almost passed an entire human being without noticing them at all.  Suddenly the adrenaline that had been slowly flushing out of her system rushed back full blast, making her head spin.  Her other hand came around and tightly clutched the gun that had been held limply at her side.  She jumped back slightly, training her gun on the living body, blinking furiously to clear her vision of the dizziness brought by the adrenaline.

She looked closely at the figure in front of her.  A woman dressed in muddy clothes crouched in the increasing darkness. Katy could see the faded mark of a medic emblazoned across the chest of her jacket.  She also wore the white and red scarf denoting her rank as a doctor, but the strips were more a brownish gray now than white.  Dark, curly hair covered her head and hung around her shoulders, obscuring her face for the moment. Katy realized she had to be very short as well; all these things made her nearly invisible until Katy had almost tripped over her. The medic crouched low over a gurgling and squirming Teodorian soldier.

“Hold it!” she shouted, cocking her pistol at the top of the medic’s head.  She had to be a doctor for the Empire, or perhaps the Wojciech. Katy couldn’t let them go.

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Salvation Inc

Father Eduardo Arroyo rose slowly and unsteadily to his feet. The short half hour of kneeling in prayerful adoration before his God severely stiffened the joints of the fifty-seven-year-old cleric. The priest winced at the pains which lanced through his thin legs. Father Arroyo resisted the temptation to lament over how much soft tissue, ligaments and tendons, he had lost to the plague eating away at him from the inside. Instead, the priest recalled Saint Paul’s words to the Colossians and made them his own as he took three faltering steps on numbed feet towards the Eucharist centered in the golden, sunburst-shaped monstrance. “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I fill up what is lacking in your afflictions, O Christ.”

With his hands placed on the chapel altar, Father Arroyo genuflected carefully. A fiery stab of pain shot through the bending knee.

“For you, my Lord,” the priest prayed, silently offering up his pains, joining them to the tortures suffered by his loving God.

A minute later, when the pangs subsided, Arroyo pulled the lunette out of the back of the monstrance. The small, silver, crescent held the Blessed Host firmly in a groove carved into its concave edge. The priest transferred it to the tabernacle and closed its’ doors. Arroyo then bowed, pushed the horn-rimmed glasses back up the aquiline nose which dominated his broad face and finally limped of the chapel.

The smell of roasting garlic greeted Arroyo in the hall. A heavier scent, oily and meaty, wafted through the air beneath it. His taste buds stirred to life as he made his way slowly down the long hall. With every step down the long corridor the sharp pains receded to a dull throbbing.

All three members of the parish staff were gathered in the kitchen. Johnny Chang, the priest’s deacon was sitting straight and upright at a round table centered in the room. The tall and lean-limbed young man was slicing up a small loaf of bread. Chang was the native New Yorker of the staff, baptized in the very Chinatown church where they all now served. Behind him were two nuns. Sister Josephina was a middle-aged Haitian, her dark and plump features were wrapped in the white habit of the Dominican Order. She was bent over the stove, fluffing up a pot of rice. To her left, Sister Angelica, a milk-pale and freckled young Iowan, habited in Benedictine black, was cutting up a head of lettuce on a counter beneath a bank of cupboards.

“Smells great in here,” Father Arroyo announced as he entered the kitchen.

“That would be the garlic-roasted pigeons, father,” Sister Josephina said as she slipped oven mitts over her hands. “They should be ready.”

“Good, because I’m famished enough to eat a whole flock of pigeons, sister.”

“That would be a kit of pigeons, father, not a flock of pigeons,” Sister Angelica corrected him.

“Are you certain, sister?”

“Fairly so, father.”

The priest shot his deacon a questioning look.

Johnny Chang shook his close-cropped head. “I wouldn’t challenge Our Lady of Trivial Pursuit if I were you, father. That’s never ended well for any of us.”

“No, it hasn’t,” Father Arroyo said, turning back to Sister Angelica. The Benedictine nun was grinning impishly as she divided the shredded romaine into four glass bowls. “Fine, I’m hungry enough to eat a whole kit of pigeons.”

“And I could eat the whole caboodle,” Sister Josephina added as she pulled the sizzling iron pan out of the oven. “But there were only four birds in this squadron. We’ll have to settle for one a piece, I’m afraid.”

“Bless you Sister Josephina,” Arroyo said. “You have saved me yet again from falling into the sin of gluttony.”

“Remember that next time you’re prescribing penance, father,” Sister Josephina said, placing the pan across two of the oven’s burners.

“It’s a deal, sister. Henceforth I shall insist self-flagellation be administered by nothing harsher than a wet noodle.”

“You’re too kind father.”

“Vocational hazard, my child,” Father Arroyo said taking a seat at the table. “So Johnny, how did your shift go?”

“It was quiet, father,” Johnny said, cutting the last slice. “Mr. Simmons and Mr. Highet have started coughing up blood, however. You might want to pay them a visit later tonight.”

Arroyo nodded somberly. “I’ll see them after dinner.”

The plague that was killing them and everyone on Manhattan was popularly referred to as the Mold because of the fibrous lesions it left in the wake of its passage through the body. The Mold spores initially nested themselves in the lungs before spreading throughout its host. While the steady erosion of tendons and ligaments was a constant and painful drain on the quality of life for the infected, it was the loss of the lungs that usually killed them off.

“And Mrs. Greeley, father,” Sister Angelica said while quartering a pair of tomatoes. “You should add her to tomorrow’s morning visits. That poor woman is suffering terribly. But oh my, she is so brave about it. I don’t think she has but a few days left in her.”

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In Another Life

Sarah was the only person still at the laboratory. Her obsession demanded that she be the last person to leave, and the first person there in the morning. Most nights she didn’t even go home at all — why should she? Not even a cat waited there to greet her.

Next to her monitor sat an old fashioned photo, with a print and a frame and everything. She did not want a digital device. Her heart could only handle a single picture. The blue light of the computer illuminated it so she could see it all hours of the night. Except for the dim emergency lights, her monitor provided the only bright light in the entire building at this hour. Darkness blanketed the rest of her office and the whole laboratory building. At 3am, only Sarah and her work existed. Not even Joe, the janitor robot, ventured away from his charging module at this hour.

The mahogany frame held a picture of Abram. Sarah glanced at it while she thought, and her chest constricted painfully. Why did she even keep it around? But every time she convinced herself to finally toss it in the trash, she turned and set it back on her desk instead.

He was a handsome man even though he had been twenty years older than her. Sandy hair, wireframed glasses, hazel eyes with laugh line crow’s feet. Even now she remembered every inch of his features. And he’d been an absolute genius. Sarah spent her life amongst people as far beneath her as a dog was beneath a human, but in him, she had finally found an equal.

It was perfect. Even their names were written in time – Sarah and Abram – the parents of descendants as numerous as the stars.

But he was gone now, lost to her. Everything they had planned for ended one awful day a decade before.

She would bend the universe to her will, do anything to have him back. The cost didn’t matter. Sarah Cowen always got what she wanted.

Sarah stared at the picture for a moment longer. The despair always lurking at the edge of her mind surged forward, threatening to consume her again. Angrily she slammed the picture face down on her desk, removing it from her sight. The glass covering the picture shattered from the force she used to knock it down. The breaking of the photograph barely registered with her. Breaking it was of little consequence now.

She would have the real Abram back soon enough, and wouldn’t need the picture any longer. She was so, so close to finally finishing it. So close to finally realizing their work.

And then she would get her happy ending, and it then the last ten years would never happen.

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Number 43

First came the gurgling in my ears, swiftly turning into a roar as the fluid all around me emptied into suddenly-gaping orifices. Next I was falling, slamming hard into a metal grating on my hands and knees. I let out a low moan, flinching as gobbets of tissue and semi-congealed blood splattered onto the floor all around me and slithered down my back. Gasping for air I curled my fingers into the holes in the grating and glimpsed the dull glint of metal beneath the fluid that coated my skin. Seeing more metal encasing my joints and feeling unexpected firmness in other parts of my body I shuddered, and wondered what had been done to me this time.

Lifting a hand to wipe my face clear of the liquid, I looked up as a rattling, clanking sound announced the arrival of a servant. An iron framework in the rough shape of a man stood before me, spars lancing inwards to pierce the flesh of the hunched person within at half a dozen points, the most prominent being straight through the forehead. His cloudy eyes rolled madly as he tried to focus on me, eventually settling on a point somewhere above my left shoulder.

“The Master will see you now,” he intoned, rasping voice tinged with faint static, amplified by a speaker sutured into his throat. He turned, twitching within his iron shell, and lurched away through an open doorway without waiting for a response.

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We Bury Our Own

“Brother Micah has fallen. And it’s your fault.”

Preceptor Adam jabbed his finger into Gabriel’s chest. Gabriel fought the urge to snap it. He was a mere sergeant, and the preceptor was as human as he was. No man of the Order may raise his hand against another human, not for something as trivial as this.

And, more importantly, Adam was right.

“I accept responsibility,” Gabriel said. “I shouldn’t have signed off on his solo patrols.”

“We have the two man rule for a reason, Sergeant Gabriel. We are men, not angels. None of us are above the rule. Not even for someone like Micah.” He snorted. “Especially for someone like Micah.”

Again, the preceptor was right. Among the men he had served with, Micah was the best. He could go alone into the mists, become one with it, and return unscathed. He boasted often of his exploits, and took pride in them.

And pride was the first sin, the cardinal vice that led to the Deluge and the Second Fall of Man.

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