Authors: Simone Pond
A Short Story
VOICES OF THE APOCALYPSE SERIES
By Simone Pond
Copyright © 2015 Simone Pond
All rights reserved.
This short story was inspired by the New Agenda book series, which currently includes The City Center, The New Agenda and The Mainframe, and The Torrent is coming soon.
There are ten stories in the Voices of the Apocalypse Series. For more information, visit:
This story is dedicated to the K-town girls. Keep seeking hilltops.
night was the final time the five of us would meet at Gore’s hill. We didn’t know it was the last time we’d meet there, or the last real cigarettes we’d smoke together. We just knew it was the first day of summer break, and the first year none of us had summer school. We wanted to commemorate the occasion. With the Repatterning in effect, we didn’t have too much else to celebrate. The past two years had been rough on everyone, and it seemed like things were only getting more annoying. The new law keepers––the lame Planners––had been gradually taking away our freedoms. Soon there’d be none left. We
to meet at the hill to make some sort of stand.
Right after dinner, I left the house with my younger sister, Andi. Our ex-military father was a real stickler for nightly meals together. Though we weren’t sure why, since he ignored us the whole time. We headed down the street to our meeting spot. We only had an hour to spend with our friends before curfew—not the mandated curfew the Planners had enforced sometime during the initial phases of the Repatterning. Thanks to our strict father, we had “house curfew” that was even earlier than the mandated one. He had fought in Afghanistan back in 2004, and though that was over twenty years ago, he couldn’t seem to shake his military standards, or his buzz cut. The man didn’t mess around––the last time I missed curfew, he put me on a two-month restriction, and I ended up missing the homecoming dance. I wasn’t about to miss out on summer. Regardless of the asshole Repatterning.
“Can you believe how hot it is already?” Andi asked.
She pulled her thick, black hair into a ponytail to keep the humidity from frizzing it up. Her favorite hair straightening treatment had been removed from the shelves, forcing her to spend hours laboring over her hair, blowing out every curl and kink. I had recently shaved my head, so I didn’t need to worry about my curls puffing up.
“Yeah, it’s pretty hot,” I said. “The Planners are gonna start monitoring everyone’s central air. So get used to it. Might consider shaving your head, too.” I tugged her ponytail.
“Um, like you? No way!”
We were the first ones to arrive at the hill. The place wasn’t a public park or anything like that. It was actually the Gore’s backyard, but they didn’t mind the neighborhood kids using it as a hangout. In all the years we’d been using their property––doing questionable things––none of us recalled ever seeing anyone from the Gore household. In the winter, we’d get drunk and go sledding down their hill, and in the summer, we’d perch at the top, smoking and drinking. It was the one place we felt shielded from our parents. And the Repatterning police.
Lynn showed up wearing a tank top and a mini-skirt that made her legs look like toothpicks. She lit a cigarette before saying “hi” to either of us.
“Been craving this all day.” She exhaled a cloud of smoke into the dense, humid air.
We had to be conservative with our cigarettes, which were only available on the super expensive black market. Banning tobacco crops was just another lame law the Planners had implemented. Lately, getting a real cigarette was tougher than getting drugs. But we weren’t about to waste what little money we had on those shitty e-cigs.
“Look.” Andi pointed at the trees, laughing.
Kristina bustled from the shadows, frenetically glancing over her shoulder to make sure her mother hadn’t followed her. Her mother was worse than our father in the strict arena. The four of us walked to the top of the hill, assuming that Lee would show up late. By the time she arrived, we were finished with our cigarettes.
“Where’s mine?” she asked.
“I didn’t think you were coming, so I went ahead and smoked yours.” Lynn smiled.
“Typical,” Lee said, flipping off Lynn.
“You can have the rest of mine. I didn’t smoke the whole thing.” Andi picked up her half-smoked cigarette from the ground and handed it to Lee, which she graciously accepted.
The five of us watched the sky turn to a dark shade of purple as the sun faded behind the trees. There used to be a lot more banter, but over the last few months there wasn’t much to talk about. The Repatterning was messing up everything. No more internet. No more cigarettes. No more movies. But the worst part was yet to come: no more boys. The Executive Order of Conscription would force all males seventeen and up to be shipped off on that following Monday morning. The world had changed, and we now lived in an alternative universe where everything sucked and fun was illegal. We used to talk about where we wanted to go to college, but now college was out of the question. Nobody could afford it. We were the disintegrating middle class.
“What if there were still scholarships; where would you apply?” Kristina asked the group.
Whenever things got too quiet, someone would spark up the “what if” game.
“Pepperdine!” Andi shouted like a game show contestant. She used to love those shows before all the networks shut down.
“NYU. No doubt.” Lynn picked up a cigarette butt from the grass and tried to relight the stub––addiction breeds desperation. I remembered seeing a homeless man in D.C. doing the same thing once. What would she do when cigarettes were gone for good?
“I don’t think I wanna go to college,” Lee said, playing with her sandal strap.
“That’s not the point. None of us can go anyway. Just name a place.” Kristina didn’t like when someone stepped outside the lines. There were rules to the “what if” game––everyone played no matter what. It was a nice distraction from our crappy circumstances.
“Fine. University of Maryland.”
“That’s it? Out of all of the places you can go, you pick a school that’s thirteen miles away?” Lynn laughed.
“Schiller University in Paris.” I jumped in.
“I bet they still have real cigarettes over there.”
“If you’re going to Paris, I’m going somewhere in Germany. You know, to honor my roots.” Kristina smiled.
“Your roots?” Lynn smirked, knowing it was a touchy subject.
“Okay, my parents’ roots. I can’t help if I’m adopted.”
“Hey, nobody said anything about you being adopted. Pretend like you’re going to any damn university you want. This is all bullshit anyway.” Lynn flicked her cigarette butt down the hill. Tiny flecks of burning embers scattered and melted into the grass.
“Let’s play nice, please. We’re all we have left in this fercucked world.” I reminded the girls.
“I’m sorry,” Lynn mumbled.
“Can we change the subject?” Andi asked.
Lee’s face lit up. “How about . . . what if you could kiss any guy in our neighborhood?” Of course she asked that question. It was easy being boy crazy when you were drop dead gorgeous.
“I don’t like that question.” I nervously rubbed the top of my head, where my hair used to be.
“That’s because you’ve ruined your chances of getting a guy,” Andi replied, repeating something our mother had screamed after I got home from the barbershop.
In my defense, I blurted out, “Matt Wesson. Okay. Happy?” I scanned the ground for my cigarette butt, hoping I could suck one more drag out of the thing.
The girls laughed and laughed.
“You’re still crushing on him?” Lynn squinted.
“It’s been, like, two years.” Lee reminded everyone.
My cheeks warmed. “Yeah, well, sometimes things take a while to get over.”
“Don’t give her a hard time. We can’t help how we feel.” Kristina patted my shoulder. “But seriously, get over that dude. He’s not worth it.”
“Okay, enough of this stupid game. I don’t wanna kiss anyone.” I lied. I hadn’t stopped thinking about Matt since the summer before last. It was the day he got his driver’s license and showed up at the pool in his mother’s light blue minivan. He offered to take all of us girls for a joyride. While we were cruising around Kensington, I kept glancing at the rearview mirror and catching his pretty blue eyes looking at me. But I didn’t think he’d like a fourteen-year-old, so I didn’t pursue it. That was two years ago and I hadn’t let it go.
None of that mattered anymore because Matt––along with every boy in our country over the age of seventeen––would be gone as of Monday morning. But because I couldn’t let him go away without telling him how I felt, I had done something completely covert; something I was keeping from the girls.
The previous weekend, I wrote a long letter to Matt, telling him everything. I gathered up every ounce of courage and walked to his house to hand deliver it. On the way down, I must’ve turned around five times, and the envelope started to feel like a brick in my back pocket. When I finally reached the front walkway, I stopped and waited by the curb, praying the pukey feelings would go away. Then I got all paranoid that he might see me standing out there like a stalker creep, so I forced myself to walk up to the front door. It took another few minutes before I could pull up the nerve to knock.
Matt’s mom opened the door; her eyes were all red and puffy from crying. She stared at me for a few seconds, trying to place my face.
“Toni,” she finally said.
“Is Matt home?” My voice trembled.
She shook her head and blew her nose into a handful of tissues. I was so relieved he wasn’t home that I fell against the door jamb and let out a long breath. Mrs. Wesson started sobbing.
“Are you okay, Mrs. Wesson?” I knew she wasn’t, but I didn’t know what else to say.
“Oh, Toni. This damn Repatterning is taking away all of my boys,” she cried, covering her face.
I stood motionless, unable to speak. She looked like most mothers in our neighborhood: distraught and hysterical. Their boys were being shipped away for no good reason. And the ones who refused to go were skipping town to avoid the draft. Nobody agreed with the law, but the protests ended when the Planners starting shooting people down in the streets during rallies.
I thought maybe Matt had decided to skip town. Selfishly, I was worried he wouldn’t get my letter and my crush would be unrequited. “Did he leave town?”
“No, he’s out with his friends. As far as I know, he’s still planning to ship out on Monday.”
“I’m really sorry you’re going through this. I wish . . . I just wish things weren’t so wrong,” I muttered, feeling helpless.
“You’re a sweet girl.” She hugged me into her large bosom and cried into my mass of curly hair. That horrific moment is what spawned the trip to the barbershop––my silent protest to the diabolical law.
After a few moments, I stepped away and removed the envelope from my back pocket. It shook in my hand. “When Matt gets home, can you give him this?”
“Of course, sweetie.” She smiled as though my letter had restored some semblance of hope. “They can’t take away love. Can they?”
“Um, I gotta go.” I gave her a quick hug goodbye and ran all the way home. Matt had the whole weekend to get back to me, but I never heard from him.
“Hellllo?” Andi waved her hand in my face, bringing me back to the hill.
“What?” I asked.
“Dang, girl. You’re in deeeeep,” Lynn said.
“I was just thinking about how unfair this shit is. On Monday morning, every single guy we know will be shipped out. And we can’t do anything about it.”
Lynn folded her skinny arms across her chest. “If we do anything, we die,” she spat.
“What if . . . we
do something?” Kristen’s eyes widened as she looked at each of us. She really loved the “what if” game.
I didn’t say it out loud, but if I
do something, I’d kiss Matt goodbye.
“What if we could get a bunch of people to march downtown?” Andi asked.
“They’d get shot,” Lynn said.
“What if we found a way to hack into the news channel and sent out a message for everyone to take a stand?” Lee suggested.
“Don’t you think someone already tried that?” Lynn was forever the realist.
“Who made you the judge of the ‘what if’ game?” Kristina shoved Lynn.