Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic fiction

#flashfictionfriday: Hope in the Desert of Plenty

Sunset_in_Dubai_desert_12I dreamed of a green oasis, and woke this evening, feeling disoriented at the normality of our desert home. A little voice in my head kept saying this is wrong, this is not how it’s supposed to be. The voice was mistaken because this is how it is, and what it is.

Grandfather frequently moans that it wasn’t always this way, blaming this and that technology we can no longer use, but it doesn’t matter. Yes, I remember those days, and maybe it’s not supposed to be, but it’s life, and we live with it.

At sunset, I went out to work in the garden and found the wind had blown the muslin sun shield off the dandelions. I replaced it, but don’t know if they were harmed by the direct sunlight. The wind usually rises later in the day, so perhaps they weren’t exposed to too much. I don’t know what will happen if they don’t make it.  I do have plenty of the leaves dried and have saved every seed, but fresh greens are essential, and dandelions are the faithful greens that produce all year round and keep us alive no matter what happens to the other vegetables.

Other plants frequently fail when the temperature reaches the high 120s. With luck, we’ll get one more crop of beans harvested before the rains.

The Himalaya blackberries are covered with small berries and with constant care they might survive the drought. The berries are a staple, lending sweetness to our food and blackberry wine makes life pleasant. They’re also attractive to the wasps that pollinate our crops, so we desperately need them.

But it’s been a hard, hot year, and even the Scotch broom, which we’ve come to depend on for everything from fuel, to building materials and fibers for cloth, is struggling. Hopefully, I’ll have enough water to keep the plantation alive. My fog traps have grown steadily less productive, as they do every year at the peak of the heat, but we’re not going thirsty yet.

Water is an issue, but when is it not? It’s always darkest before the dawn, someone once said. I like to think of it as “driest before the monsoon.” November is coming, and the downpour will begin, those brief weeks of dangerous weather and devastation, fearfully clinging to hope we won’t be washed away in the floods.

But this year, if we make it through the winds, it will be a blessing and not a catastrophe. Yes, it’s too much water all at once, but we’ve adapted. Where we once lived on the ground, we have raised our shacks on tall stilts. Our dandelion, blackberry, and broom plantations are situated on high, raised platforms, with muslin sun filters, as are our goat pens. I know, it seems odd when for eight months out of the year there is no water for many miles, but we’re safe from the wildcats and feral dogs, and they can’t get to our goats. The wild rabbits can’t destroy our farms.

Our village of twenty families has survived when the others failed because we learned how to shield our crops from the both the broiling sun and the punishing downpour with sturdy awnings. This year, the moment the rain stops, we’ll be more than an island of shacks on stilts in a shallow sea. This year we will become an oasis.

Every year until now, we’ve struggled to save that water, as within a month the sea becomes large puddles and within another month we’re left with scant barrels of water and our fog traps to get us by for the rest of the year.

This year we’re prepared for the monsoon, and will be able to save the runoff in a cistern. It’s impossible to labor outside during the day, but we spent our chilly nights building it, covering it with soil to insulate it from the heat, so it resembles a small, perfect hill. We lined the interior with fired ceramic tiles, and made sure every roof is pitched and has gutters to channel the water into it. This last year there was no rest for the wicked, as they say, but it will be worth it. Next year we won’t have to choose between thirst and watering the livestock and plants.

Grandfather is filled with doom and gloom, but not me. Next year will be a year of lush gardens, of cool, sweet blackberry wine at sunrise when the work-night has ended. Next year all our babies may survive.

Next year.

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#FridayFiction: Meriko’s Eyes

Meriko's Eyes © cjjasp 2016

Meriko pressed against the wall, hiding ever deeper in the shadows.  One never knew what lurked in the streets of the city anymore. Since the change, things had been difficult. According to the internet, society was crumbling.

Of course, the web had always declared that.

The darkness in the alley emphasized the scarcity of electricity even though the grid was back up. Meriko’s own scant ration of wattage was reserved for her computer—her lifeline, her source of income and her only reliable link to the life she once had.

She knew things were still bad but had no idea how widespread the problems were. She hadn’t witnessed any violence outside her windows in weeks, but still, emails from her fellow employees at GiantSoft were rife with rumors of murder and worse, and now she went out only when she had no other choice. She wasn’t completely out of touch—she still had interactions with friends through emails and social media. Even if they never saw each other, the network of workers did have a kind of camaraderie.

It was just…she had found a solitary existence more difficult to endure than she had initially believed it would be.

Normally, she had everything delivered to her: food, clothing, everything. She never had to leave home.  However, her self-imposed solitude had at last driven her out of her flat; loneliness and the handsome face of a young man viewed from her window.

She emerged into the alley behind her building. The cool, damp air held a musty scent of mold and garbage mingled with other even less desirable odors, but she didn’t notice them, her senses open to other, worse things. Fortunately she didn’t sense the evil miasma of nightwalkers in the area. Nevertheless, she cleared her mind of any thoughts that might draw attention to her and quickly crossed the alley to the Double Joy restaurant, melting into the shadows. After a moment’s indecision, she entered the café through the backdoor.

Boldly walking as if she had simply been to the restroom, she sat on the only empty stool at the counter and ordered yaki-soba and bubble tea, adding a tip as she paid the bill.  Sipping her drink, she waited for her meal. Even if nothing came of her plan, it was good to be around real people, hearing real voices instead of virtual conversations through the social interface.

She had a flat full of cat statues to keep her company, but they only underscored her isolation, their marble features forever perfect and unchanging.

Meriko could barely tolerate the aromas of the restaurant, the scents of food mingled with the odors of others like her, people so desperate to escape their solitary lives that they would brave the shadowed streets just to dine in a sweltering café with strangers.

“How can you see with those dark glasses, girlie?” said the drunk next to her, with a leer.  The smell of stale beer made her ill, and reflexively, she leaned away from him.

“Oh, you know,” she said noncommittally. “It’s the fashion, so….”

“Hey there! Don’t be bothering the other customers,” the man behind the counter warned the drunk. “If you bother her again, you’re out of here.”

“I’m behaving, don’t worry,” the drunk mumbled, and after a few moments, he staggered out the front door into the night. As he left, fresh air came in, but it was quickly cut off by the slamming of the door.

“I hate drunks,” the man behind the counter said.  “They can eat elsewhere. I don’t need their money.” He busied himself with cleaning the counter and the soda machine.

Meriko pushed her food around the plate and stared through the service window at the young cook in the back.  He was why she came here, despite the danger in doing so.

Tonight she had come in close to closing time, and soon she was the only customer there. So she had timed it right.

She’d watched him come and go every night since he had started working there, observing him from the window of her flat.  The restaurant was just across the alley from her building, so much of her view was taken up by the alley and the back of this restaurant.

“May I have a box to take my leftovers home in?” The man behind the counter brought her a box. “Have a nice evening,” she said, as she walked out the front door.  She was so lonely.  Maybe tonight she would find a friend.  Other people had companions in their lives. Maybe this was the night for Meriko.

***

Ten minutes after closing the restaurant, the cook, a young man named Kai, walked down the dark city street to his bus stop. Usually he was the only one there, but tonight a girl was there, and a to-go box from his restaurant sat on the bench beside her.  He was sure she’d been in the café earlier. He’d seen her carrying the box as she left.

He’d noticed her because she was wearing dark glasses.

“Hello,” he said cheerfully. “Did I see you tonight in my restaurant? Well, it’s not mine, but I work there.”  His smile was unforced and honest, elevating his face from handsome to beautiful.

“Yes,” she said, smiling. “I go there often, but tonight I was later than usual. They were almost closed.”

“I only work the late shift, so that’s why I haven’t seen you before,” he said as he sat on the bench and checked his phone to see the time.  “My name is Kai.  What’s yours?”

“Meriko,” she answered, feeling happy for the first time in weeks.  He was so handsome!

They sat talking for five or so minutes.  Finally he asked, “Why do you wear dark glasses in the night? You wore them inside our restaurant.  I heard you tell the drunk that it was the fashion, but…well, maybe I am not up on the current trends or something.”

“Ah…it’s a genetic condition. My eyes are extremely sensitive to the light,” she told him. “Do you have any hobbies?” she asked, trying to distract him.

“Oh, so it’s painful to go without them,” he said, as if he understood. “So are you a vampire or something?” he joked. “That would be a hoot, me hanging out with a vampire.”

“No.” She laughed. “I’m not a vampire! I am just a girl, just a regular girl. Hobbies…I like collecting old Pokémon cards from before the change. Do you collect anything?”

“So let me see your eyes then, Meriko, who is just a regular girl,” he said, leaning forward to take the sunglasses off her.

“No! Don’t do that,” she said. But it was too late.

Meriko looked at the statue of the handsome young man sitting on a bus bench, holding a pair of dark sunglasses.  The lights of the approaching bus turned the corner as it made its way to her stop, but Meriko had already fled into the darkness, crying.

“Why do they always want to see my eyes?  Why can’t they ever just want to talk?”  Still sobbing, she crept through the shadows to her home.

Statues.  Meriko’s life was full of statues.


Meriko’s Eyes © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, all rights reserved

Meriko’s Eyes was first published on WattPad in January 2013 as Fortune’s Fool. It was republished in March 2015 by Edgewise Words Inn, under the title Meriko’s Eyes.

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