The sky is a crisp blue the world is bright and the birds are singing. Everything is shiny. Everything smells of apple pies, of Liberation Day and of celebration. The not too distant ocean breeze carrying the anticipation of fireworks later that evening.
Mrs Johnson stands with her husband watching from the kitchen window “we’re never gonna find her a husband” she spreads soft hands across floured apron sighing.
“She’s a good girl, Susan” his voice is rough just as the hand he places round her waist. “Pretty too, and handy-what man don’t dream of a woman who can fix dinner and his truck!” He laughs a full belly laugh pulling his wife into him.
“That’s the problem Phil she can’t fix dinner!” delicate Susan bats at him her eyes focused on the fossil truck in the driveway. Young Cassi is currently tuning the ancient vehicle, but would burn the roast without turning on the oven. “She’s eighteen now, and has had more time with engines from the dark ages then boys-that’s a problem that’s a-”
“Attractive quality” he proudly interjects she looks up at him in horror, but before she can protest “a man loves an experienced girl for” he struggles rocking his head and shrugging “say a nice cruise up to cherry hill” she blushes as he bumps hip with her “but the girl you marry, the girl you marry spent her adolescents busying herself waiting for you.” He’s looking down a romantic smile in his eyes as she looks up still unconvinced “that’s why I married you”
Shoving him off “oh! What are you trying to say Phil!” she demands stamping delicately heeled foot to freshly installed linoleum floor.
He laughs again full belly “that you were a good girl” grabbing her by the wrist he pulls he in “the best girl-that’s why I married you while other girls were playing fast, my Susan was at home cooking and taking care of her studies. Every boy wanted you” her arms are wrapped about his rather barrel stomach looking up lovingly as he looks down smiling eyes “but I saw you, and you were mine. Cassi might not cook yet, but you didn’t know the difference between fossil and hybrid before I met you.” He hugs her tightly as she buries head into chest “or filo and watercress”
She laughs kicking his shin gently, not moving. Sighing that ever so lovely womanly sigh “you’re right, Phil, I’m sure when that boy comes along she’ll want to do those things and I’ll be here to teach her. Just like you talk her how to build par-”
The windows shake, hoots, cheers, and the roar of a road techtank fills the air. The couple sees Cassi pop out of the hood as the tank reaches their front yard “ahh the Castillo boys are home” Phil laughs waving into the window excitedly.
“Oh that’s wonderful! Diane will be so happy to have her boys home! And just in time for Liberation Day!” Susan comments to no one listening as Phil’s attention is on Cassi whose attention is on the eldest Castillo hanging off the tank looking down at her.
Musing he comments “this year let’s go to the Marina with’em pay respect to the boys”
Again she’s laying in this bed no shadows, just light, bright white light. She’s wondering if they’ll visit today she might like to hear them, but if not maybe someone will turn on the music? It’s quiet, always so quiet, but Betty has become accustom to it having known no other existence.
She knows she is in the Capital, in the premier Medical Center of the nation, and she knows she was born defective. She has never seen a thing only shadows from above, or to the side. They say she is lucky for she will soon be fixed. No real use of the eyes, a missing leg, forearm, and hand, paralyzed from the neck down this pink haired angel cannot speak they only recently discovered she can hear. The whole twelve years little defective Betty heard every last sound. Since the discovery they’ve been reading to her the gossip has stopped, mostly. They say it’s so she’ll be ready, but she’s found she misses the daily drama.
The incubator begins to close around her, eyes shoot open, she cannot move. The light is changing as they lock her in, restraints attach, and the shadows still-silence.
She hears distant heel clicks, Mrs Sinclair, she’s with her husband and the doctor. What’s happening? Betty is terrified-have they changed their minds? Darkness covers everything as the nurses enter with a pitter-patter and hushed breathing. Everything sounds so strange, the incubator pump making everything hollow, milky eyes are watery.
She can hear Mrs Sinclair “are you sure?” her voice is small, but piercing. “I mean it will take? I don’t think I can handle a mishap.”
The incubator begins to shake as nurses ready the medical bed to begin. It’s happening. The heels are moving away, the shadows break in quick succession as bzzzz air hits her ears, the light return, her head is being held in place. There’s a tickle on her temples tendrils licking at her skin then pain. Severe pain. Six tendrils on either side dig in as the visor drops on open eyes. She screams, but there’s no sound. Down her open mouth drop several disk forcing the scream to remain.
Inside she is crying for her mother, father, the doctor, God, anyone to make it stop-is this fixing?
The bio-tech limbs fall into place again with a tickle and then with a bang. As scalpel goes down to chest she cannot see it, but when it touches skin another silent scream this time with static distortion.
The agony turns her numb as tear drops stream down pure white skin-is this being fixed?
She’s sitting in the waiting room kicking her feet just above the floor, the chair too big for the tiny girl. “This is it” she whispers to herself looking at the floor “this is my only shot”repeatedly pushing round glasses back up her sharp little nose “I got in. I know. I. Got. In.” Foot steps. Her ears perk “six sets” heart pounding in her ears “this is it!” she squeaks to herself.
Her mother and fathers shoes fall before her eyes dare to rise up the light turning lenses to mirrors-they’re smiling!
The recruiter is beside them-he’s smiling too! “Welcome to the colony Stephanie” his voice startles her as she notices her parents eyes are shaking. They’re crying-tears of joy?
“May we have a moment” her mother says weakly he mutters an of course and steps away. Both parents kneel down to eye level with their eight year old daughter “honey, you know papa and I love you very much”
“Yes” little Stephie smiles-she had to have gotten in!
Her father puts a heavy hand in her knee “Stephie, mama and I, we had no idea-”
Mama interjects “what it would mean if you got in-”
Eyes wide with excitement “I got in!?” jumping up she begins to scream in elation jumping up before mama’s form hands bring her back to sitting.
“Yes. Now, Stephanie listen.” Her voice is serious, but all the child can think of is happy. “If you join the colony program you won’t live with us anymore. They’ll take you, right now and-and-”
Papa jumps in “we see you for at least ten years.” His voice is grim, they weren’t prepared for this, none of the website mentioned it. No one mentioned it, until today, after testing.
“Now? I get to go now!?” her little heart can hardly contain the excitement.
This is what they were afraid of “is that what you want, Stephanie?” her mother is horrified because she is not surprised.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” She’s on her feet again bouncing on the chair as the recruiter returns handing the girl a white lab coat. Throwing the coat on she continues to bounce in circles “I did it! I did it! I did it!”
The recruiter laughs saying “yes, you did kid. In fact you scored so well I’m taking you to the fourth sector” his eyes are salivating, he pulled gold today.
Mama grabs her once again “honey are you sure? What about mama and papa?” Stephanie is their only child.
“I’ll see you in ten years” she says matter-of-factly her voice almost dry. Her parents exchange looks and resign themselves, but before they can say goodbye she’s gone.
Stephanie’s walking out of the waiting room hand in hand with the recruiter. “At least she’s happy mama” her father sighs hands on his wife’s shoulders.
“Yes, but it would have been nice if they’d told us before” she sulks “now I’ve nothing for the gala”
She wakes up in a ditch rain drops hitting her dirty face, a storms coming. Head aching she slowly picks herself up out of the dirt. She’s naked “fuck” sighing she begins ambling toward civilization. She doesn’t remember a thing, not a name, not an age, nor location-where the fuck are her clothes? But at least she sees houses. She’s in the suburbs of the Green District though she doesn’t know it yet.
The rain begins to fall harder and faster drenching our girl completely. She just keeps walking forward barely a shiver, there’s no time for cold, she’s hungry.
Coming to the first yard she finds herself in the back with a serendipitous clothesline and no one in sight trying to save it. They may be wet, but at least they’ll cover. Grabbing a black shirt, and ill fitting jeans she scampers to the next yard having eyed a pair of work boots left out all alone. Slipping into the wet boots she sloshes her way to the front still no real idea of what to do. Nothing looks familiar though quiet and homely. The sound of rain hitting ground fills her ears as she passes house after house, stomach roaring.
She’s watching her feet appear and disappear listening to the storm while everything else is gone. Mumbling as she goes “left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…”
“Katherine!” a man calls out from a car she keeps moving mindlessly unaware of the sound.
A woman burst from the passenger seat nearly slipping on her dainty heeled feet “excuse me! Katherine!?” rushing to our nameless girls side she startles her. Jumping back she screams eyes wide the woman puts hands up “oh! I’m sorry! I’m sorry we scared you Katherine” she’s ridiculously tall almost like she’s been stretched out, incredibly thin, moving like olive oil in the rain “we didn’t mean to be late picking you up! The whole situation with your bags had us all confused!” She’s laughing and smiling while she speaks.
Our girl smiles and laughs too thinking maybe Katherine likes food?
The woman leads her to the car where the man is waiting dry and cozy “hey there, Kathy, do’ya mind if I call ya Kathy?” he’s wearing thick square framed glasses and smiling bright.
“Yeah, that’s fine” it’s not lying, right? They drive off down the road with the Mrs asking all sorts of one word answer questions our girl just nods. Though she finds out Katherine was suppose to be at a bus stop thirty minutes further down the road, apparently they thought their girl walked all that way. They drive and drive while olive oil chit chats mostly to herself though her husband laughs saying “you’re so right dear, Kathy you listen to that.” She’d nod, but all she’s really hearing is her stomach at this point.
They arrive at a quaint farm with a picturesque little house front and center. Where Kathy is assured they run and own, not maintain or work this “little slice of heaven” as the Mr calls it. She’s ushered to the front porch where under its awning she’s able to dry off enough to sit and eat dinner.
Which she destroys.The food a bit cold from sitting out waiting for their arrival, but nonetheless fork in one hand, spoon in the other she plows through plate after plate. Meatloaf, potato’s and gravy, peas and cornbread-so much food. The couple watch as their newly obta-adopted daughter shovels the well prepared meal graciously into her face.
“I hope you enjoy it Katherine! And when your done I’ll bring in the dessert” she’s smiling ear to ear and so is ‘Kathy’-dessert! Her eyes water from happiness-so good!
“Welcome home Kathy” the new father says proudly ” Katherine Kelley” so that’s their name Mr and Mrs Kelley-our girls wondering what happened to Katherine.
She’s packing her things away smiling nervously as the theater empties. Our Dorothy doesn’t want to go home, but as the house lights flick off there’s nowhere else to go. Bag over shoulder she exits the dark. The sky is grey blue, the wind blowing hard, her dress whipping about her legs. She throws her arms out smile bright “at least I got this” if there were hills they’d be alive.
While she walks she takes her pulse, all day a weird feeling. She’s warmer than she’s ever been, but it feels oddly comfortable though her skin does feel clammy to touch. She keeps walking the wind picking up static is in the air it crackles as our sweetheart hums herself into a happy place.
Turning left, there’s her front door, her blue little house a picture of wholesome until-crash. Someone’s in the kitchen with Dina and our young Dorothy knows who. With a sigh she walks down the stone path smash up the stone steps thud hand on doorknob thump opens the door “you like this!? Is this what you want!?” Her mother screams as she quickly shuts the door. Rule one after all.
“Alright!” Paul screams from the kitchen floor as she passes by, his face is stone. Dorothy never really knew why it got to this, but Paul typically asked for it.
In her room she quickly changes to pajamas she’d stay late enough no one would question it. At least she hopes. Tucked in tightly Dorothy silently recites her lines her mind spinning to the tunes of the stage.
Hours pass with our girl sleeping sound when in the middle of the night the floor boards outside her door creak.
She doesn’t open her eyes. Sometimes she won’t stir her if she’s not awake. Hand on leg the blankets begin to move. She breathes in slowly-scent is different. Eyes open there’s Paul he’s smiling face stone. Her eyes are wide-she had a birthday last week. He’s smirking, she breathes-is it getting hot in here? The blankets off, she’s sweating, he has no clothes on.
Why button up pjs? Mom likes them. One button comes undone as he climbs on top he’s breathing heavy and hot but it feels cold. Her top undone his mouth meets nipple-it’s cold. She squeals and squirms her body is tearing apart. His hand between her legs pinching her mound as he mindlessly tires to rip off her bottoms. He tries again and again, she screams.
Is the room light on?
why is his face green?
Looking her dead in the eyes his face is no longer stone. He’s afraid-petrified. Her bodies ripping apart. Boom. The room turns toxic green, the house shakes, windows rattle and Paul’s not breathing anymore.
She’s staring into the mirrors big, round eyes, dead-she’s a doll. Sound returns slowly as her eyes move to the Elizabethan gown. Salmon with white frill trim and gold embellishments, everything selected ever so carefully. The tailor works diligently on the hem low to the ground near the eight year old’s tiny heeled feet.
“Oh! You look darling! my little princess” mother croons “you’ll be the talk of the gala!” behind little Victoria stands her picturesque future hands clasp at her ample bosom. Mother Humphries is adorn in similar attire her big round eyes wet with pride. “Clayborne, doesn’t your sister look lovely?” her voice a melody as her dapper lad smiles up.
“Yes, mother” Victoria watches him through the mirrors clad in baby blue her twin takes her hand “she looks beautiful in this color, doesn’t she?”
Mother gently grabs him by the chin smiling at her accomplishments tonight’s gala will be a success “yes my little one she’s a vision” she drops down to her children’s height “tonight is your big night Victoria, tonight the world meets you” her mother’s soft features all aglow and brothers hand loosely in her own “tonight is the beginning of your life” the tailors face becomes visible-everyone all smiles.
Victoria stares into the fitting room mirrors big round eyes dead as she looks over her should to mother Humphries “I’m so excited!” clapping hands together, golden locks bouncing, all smiles.
“She can be so sweet and loving…” her voice trailed off as she peered out the half open door. In the waiting room bathed in the orange glow of afternoon light sits their little Barbie playing and giggling gleefully.
Her husband grips her hand continuing softly “other times it’s like she’s possessed. Like a demon takes hold of her-those big blue eyes go cold and-and it’s like it’s li-”
“She doesn’t care, or love, or feel a thing” her voice cracks as she tries to keep quiet least her little lamb overhears. This is too much for the farmer and his wife.
“Well, have you ever asked her? Children are often full of insight into what they need and want, you just have to listen.”
“Yes ma’am we have.” He admits shifting uncomfortably in his overalls, but he paid a pretty penny to see this head doctor and this man is not in the field of wasting money.
“And what did she say?” The therapist smiles peering out at her soon to be client overjoyed to offer her ear to another misunderstood child.
“She don’t care about anyone or anything-in fact she says… she says she only likes my wife cuz little girls need mommies.” His voice is tired he never thought it’d be like this-wait your entire life to be blessed with a child for this.
The therapist is smirking still watching little Barbie with her two blonde pigtails bathed in warm orange light thinking the parents didn’t listen. “Well Mr. Whittleson I can assure you you’re child loves yo-”
A shrill cackle interrupts her as the trio look out the office door. Britney still bathed in the afternoon glow violently pounds a red plastic brick into the dolly’s skull. Her eyes dark and focused when she turns to the adults “Dolly got boring” her voice monotone and lifeless.
“Who are they?” she paces the butt of her cigarette glowing in the black “where did they come from?” her heels click, click, clack. The little red light moving up and down rapidly, puff, puff, puff “find out where they come from.”
“I don’t appreciate demands Mrs. Owens. Just the opposite in fact I rather feel the way about them that I do about late night visitors.” My back is turned to her as I sit at my desk watching the reflection of her cigarette glow dance.
A long drag “where else do I have to go?” the smoke lights the black with its sensual curves. “This is bad. This is real bad!” heel stamp “it’s a nightmare that no one will wake up from!”
She’s right. One thing about this bitch she can read the writing on the wall “how’s this my concern?”
Laughing she ask “you think you’re above this shit? We’re headed back to the Dark ages honey and when the walls come crumbling down you’re just as likely to be beneath them.”
“That may be so Mrs. Owens, but it can also be said it makes for damn good radio.” Her cigarette goes out-times up. She’s gathering her things in a huff knowing the rules all too well.
“I’ll be in touch, Mrs Owens.”
She’s out the door and the on air signal flicks on.
Wind blowing from the open side of the building we find The Grey, black hair floating, black lips framing a wild grin as she pulls a new toy. Double doors open click “BURN IT ALL DOWN!” The sound of the flame thrower obscures the wail, but the stream connects with the remaining heads. Cassi keeps moving, flame on, everything that catches it-blazing. Everyone who thought they’d live-dead. Our combat boot, camo pant hottie burst into the stair well walking down a trail of fleeing bodies, everyone went boom, and then no one could breathe. She’s grinning black lips safely encased protected from any residual gases. The flame still bright she maneuvered skillfully down, down, down to the basement where worried eerie silence meets her. Nothing could be heard but the sounds of her boots and torch-it’s too be expected but still a surprise. Puffing away on her stogie she makes a swift move to her hidden weapon.
“Let’s ride baby! Let’s ride!” She laughs wildly hopping into the drivers seat of a modified armored war truck. “Didn’t think I’d get this far” she muses corners of her lips twitching.
Running black nails over the control panel feeling that blood lust boil. Engine on, one hand gripping wheel, other hand flicking the blades on, one boot slamming to ground, and her beast barrels forward.
Breaking through the basement walls Cassi’s war machine meets sunlight as tires meet sky, the angle of exit sending them airborne. As she watches blue sky turn to city scape turn to city streets Cassi grinds boot to pedal. The war truck’s wheels unfortunately-or fortunately depending on who you ask-burn out over police bodies, cars and at least two faces.
“Catch me motherfuckers! Catch me!” She bellows like a demon slamming thumb into red button one. Heat sinking missiles launch from the trucks bed, even Impacts air patrol suffers casualties as the grey burns down the Marina Districts main street.
“What the literal fuck was that!?” Cindy Owens wails eyes nearly out of her head “we’ve got the footage!? What footage do we have!?” looking around at the silent staffers “well!? I’ll tell you” pointing perfectly manicured finger at no one in particular “I’ll tell you what the fucking footage is-a conversation!” stamping and jumping up and down on heeled feet “a short violent free conversation!”
Breathing turned near heaving our host composes herself turning slowly to give cold furious eyes to each and every employee. “Now, I’m sorry y’all, I’m just” sighing and fanning hand over eyelashes “it’s not your fault” grabbing a young grip by the shoulders “and it’s not yours” she quickly shuffles to a make-up artist who she hugs. Shaking her head “it’s not everyone’s fault and I’m sorry” she sniffles a bit and wipes a tear away “the monster got out, but we all know how I get…” with a heavy sigh and fist trapped in her bosom “it’s too protect all of us” arms outstretched “but someone has to be held accountable.” She walks slowly around the circle that’s formed each employee with their individual tell, she knows them all by heart.
The group seems to gulp as she nears their focus “uhh” a small voice and hand pop out from behind several others into the circle. “I… I set up the-”
With a million dollar smile and honey topping the words “walk with me sugar”.
Side by side Cindy Owens and the senior PA walk through the building hallways. Smiling and chitchatting as Cindy calls it “and you know what the little guy tells his teacher he wants to be a peace officer” cue loving motherly sigh “that ones a little angel, only seven.”
The PA pushes her glasses up laughing nervously “that’s wonderful heh kids are… blessings” keep laughing girlie.
“Yes, yes they are. Now, Natalie-”
Eyebrow raised her eyes narrow “Brenda” pronouncing each letter “tell me how your footage helps sell the Samaritan’s?”
Hiccup this frogs in boiling water “um… well I thought-I-I” Cindy’s eyes are dead, but little Brenda sees hope. Poor little froggy ” just having the footage y’know and giving the public the comparison y’know?” letting out a laugh the water gets hotter.
“No, I don’t know.” Cindy replies dryly our host her lips, and fist are twitching.
“Well y’know you-y’know no one else is-”
She’s had it with the amphibian “no I don’t know how showing” air quotes “the public a clumsy do-gooder in the colors of the dark ages tripping over Alpha is going to sell them!” Cindy’s screaming in the froggie face “do you have any idea what your incompetence could cost us!? Any conceivable idea what this could do to me!?” she turns violently around then in a blink she’s back “no! No! You don’t! That’s why you are going to fix this!” Heaving she attempts to catch her breath now arms length from Brenda.
The PA’s eyes wide words escape her, she wonders if this is real, it is. Keep quiet little lady.
She downs a glass of water brought to her by Brenda’s trainee those made for TV eyes never leaving the senior subordinate. “Ahhhhh” she sighs shooing the junior away. Shaking off the monster her million dollar smile returns “so Brenda” emphasis on the ‘a’ “fix it. Kay?” Brenda nods slowly at first then faster as with both hands Cindy bats her away. Then when the PA has gotten some distance our host sweetly calls “and Brenda” froggie stops, turns, the whole world’s listening as the women make eye contact “if you don’t fix it, don’t bother coming back.”