The Gate

12 03 2012

Another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds. This one I like a bit better, but that may have to do with bringing out an old roleplaying character of mine to star in this little story. Feels good to write for Matty again even if she’s in an entirely different universe this time (I’ve played her in Star Trek and Firefly earlier). Maybe if I continue with these challenges, I’ll use Matty more often.

This past week, I talked about word choice, so it seems only fitting I choose words for you.
I have, in fact, chosen 20 words.
You must choose 10 of these words and use them throughout your ~1000 word flash fiction story.
Might be tricky, but hey, that’s why this is a challenge and not, say, me tickling your privates with a feather.
The ten words:
Beast, brooch, cape, dinosaur, dove, fever, finger, flea, gate, insult, justice, mattress, moth, paradise, research, scream, seed, sparrow, tornado, university.
You’ve got a week. Friday, 15th, by noon EST.

The words I ended up with are bolded throughout the story. Hopefully, that won’t confuse the reading of it. The story is 937 words long and starts with a rude awakening. Enjoy!

The Gate

The gate was open.

Doc slammed on the brakes as soon as he saw and the Beast came to a sudden halt that woke Matty by way of her forehead smacking into the dashboard in front of her. Grunting, she gave Doc a hard glare as she started to say something obnoxious and insulting about his driving skills. Then she saw.

“Shit,” she said, knowing that a wide open gate meant nothing but trouble. With a capital T.

“Shit, indeed,” Doc agreed, in that quiet and severe tone of his. Doc wasn’t an actual doctor. Not of the medical kind, anyway. He was one of those Ph.D doctors with a degree in literature or history or one of those things that were useless in more practical sense. Still, he’d been smart enough to survive ’till now, which was why Matty was always happy to be teamed up with him on recon missions.

“I’ll go in and have a look around,” Matty said and pushed open the door of the heavily armoured truck, grabbing the shotgun from the rack at the back at the same time. “You stay here.” Glancing back at him, she could tell that he would rather come with her than stay here alone and she gave him a shrug of her shoulders. “To guard the Beast. Case they’re still around…”

“Yeah, okay,” he said unhappily, then tapped his ear with one finger as his other hand dug into a shirt pocket to extract an in-ear comms device. “But stay in touch, will you?”

“Deal,” she said and jumped down, booted feet throwing up a small cloud of dust from the road’s surface. She slammed the door shut and turned, took a deep breath of cold air and started walking toward the open gate, shotgun held at the ready.

* * *

The world had been ending for a long time even before The Change. Human kind had not been kind to the planet they inhabited and depended on for survival. The only home they had. Scientists had warned about things like climate change, rising sea-levels and pollution for decades upon decades, but the economy had always taken precedence over the environment and by the time the politicians finally took the warnings seriously, it was far too late to do anything about it. Paradise was lost.

Those who survived the aftermath of the wars, the illnesses and the weather isolated themselves in small communities of like-minded people, splintering a human race into ever smaller and smaller factions, each with their own agenda and method of survival in the post-Change world.

This was the world that Matty had grown up in. The Change had started when she was just a toddler and she had no memories of the sort of world Doc talked about, where people went to work and school, ate out in restaurants before catching a movie at the theatre, went to a ballgame on Sunday afternoons. Lived what he called normal lives.

The stories Doc told were like fairy tales to Matty, something she could hardly believe had been reality, but she would never tire of them, no matter how long he went on and on, trying to teach her some of the things he had learned at university all those years ago.

* * *

The first thing Matty saw as she went through the gate was a bright orange plastic dinosaur lying on the ground near the door to the constable station. Stegosaurus, if she remembered Doc’s lessons properly, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that she recognised it as belonging to Constable Singer’s little girl, Delia. What mattered more was what she saw as she looked around.

Destruction everywhere. Doors kicked halfway off their hinges, windows glass laying shattered in a thousand pieces on the ground. There were signs of struggle, blood staining the ground here and there, but no bodies. But no sign of survivors either. She continued, following a trail of blood drops, through the narrow and twisted alleys, the silence making her want to scream just to break the spell, to make herself wake up from this nightmare.

“Matty, what’s going on? Talk to me.”

She’d stopped talking to him without even noticing. Now she could hear the fear and concern in his voice as he spoke. “Sorry, Doc. Still with you. Don’t worry,” she said as she turned a corner, walked slowly toward the large building at the centre of town. “Haven’t found them yet, but I’ll keep looking. I’m checking the community centre now.”

She found them there, all of them. The raiders had shepherded them there – men, women and children – and lined them up against the wall and then shot them. Everyone she had ever known, gone. Killed. The immense weight of shock and sadness forced her to her knees, a numbness spreading through her body and her mind like a rapid fever, sapping her will and strength until there was nothing but darkness and emptiness left.

* * *

“What now?” Doc asked quietly as he sat beside her in the Beast. They had buried the dead and loaded the truck with what few supplies that had been left behind by the raiders. They were ready to move on, but they hadn’t discussed whereto or what they should do. They had simply agreed silently that they couldn’t stay here.

Matty held the wheel so tightly that her knuckles turned white. She glanced sideways at him and released one hand to turn on the engine, Singer’s constable badge, which she had hung from a chain on the rear-view mirror rattling with the vibrations. “Now we deliver justice.”




2 responses

15 03 2012

Very compelling dystopian imagery; I’m afraid the world could end just like this.

17 03 2012
C. Rasmussen

Thank you for reading.

And, yes, that’s my fear as well. I fully admit that I’m a raging socialist (even in Danish terms) and one of my greatest fears is that capitalism will be the downfall of the planet. There just aren’t enough resources to continue the eternal economic growth dogma.

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