Flash Fiction #41 – Barbed Wire
This is a continuation of a flash fiction I wrote at the beginning of the year. You can find part one here, but I think this will also stand alone.
I used to keep track of time since the day the Overlords came to earth. I stopped 267 days into the fifth year. I stopped counting the day I’d found my father. Until then, I thought I had something to fight for.
Despite the unkempt hair, the out of control beard, and the layers of filth, I recognized him immediately. But it wasn’t until feeding time that I was able to get close enough to speak to him.
He stared right through me as I ladled out the disgusting protein slop the Overlords called fuel for the people in line ahead of him. I doubted it tasted any better than the gas or diesel we used to use to run vehicles. It had taken a while, but I’d stopped missing thing like peaches and apples and hummus. But for some reason, on particularly hot nights, I’d wake up craving orange popsicles. I could practically taste the sugary tang of the artificial orange flavoring on my tongue.
As my dad drew closer, he shoved his bowl forward, obviously not recognizing me. I steadied the metal container, resting my fingers over his. He looked up at me then. He knew, like everyone in the camps did, that touching was forbidden. But there was no recognition in his gaze–only fear.
“Dad,” I whispered. “It’s me, Livvy.”
Yanking his hand back, the force of his movement spilled the gruel over both of our fingers. He met my eyes then, but there was nothing in his that gave any indication that he knew me. He tugged again, and I finally let go. The line had backed up. If it didn’t get moving again, the enforcers would be sent out, and I didn’t want either of us in their sites.
After I swallowed my portion of slop and cleared away the serving equipment, I spotted my father on the far side of the camp, near the area where the pots and ladles were washed. Since I’d served that evening, I wasn’t scheduled for dish duty, but I lifted the heavy pot from Karly, my coworker’s hands. “I’ll wash this, tonight.”
“Liv…this isn’t a good idea. If they catch us…”
“They won’t. Not as long as the right number of people are over there. It’s not like they can tell us apart without a scan. And they’re not going to expend the energy to do that.”
Nodding, I carried the pot toward the washing trough where my father stood staring through the fence at the sparse grass and bushes that struggled back to life once our captors had finally stopped burning everything green.
I shoved the pot in the cold, disgustingly greasy water. We were only allowed fresh water for washing every third night. This was not that night. I did my best to ignore the slimy feel of the water and inched closer to my father.
“Where are Sam and Max?”
He stiffened at the mention of their names, and I dreaded hearing whatever his answer would be. Alive or dead, there were no good choices, but I needed to know what had happened to my little brothers.
“Dead. First wave–looking for their sister.”
I couldn’t stop the gasp from escaping my lips. He turned to look at me then. Really look at me.
“The machines didn’t like that,” he continued. The recognition I’d longed for earlier was there. Though, now, I wished it wasn’t.
“What about mom?” I choked out.
“You know the machines don’t like carrying on. What do you think happened to her?”
The protein slop solidified into a rock in Liv’s stomach as her father whirled on her, hatred in his sunken eyes.
“If you’d come right home from school that day like you were supposed to, instead of seeing that boy, they’d all be alive right now.” He lunged for me, hands outstretched and expression nearly feral.
The interior fences topped with barbed wire that the Overlords used to contain those of us who were behaving in non-sanctioned ways, slid into place. They separated my father from me and everyone else in the compound. But that didn’t stop him. He tried to climb the fence to get at me. His hand closed around the barbed wire as an enforcer materialized and fired.
His body then his hand finally went slack and he slipped to the ground looking like a pile of dirty rags. That was when I stopped counting the days.