CW: adult language.
Have you been wondering what I’ve been up to with my NaNoWriMo project? Well, here’s your chance to take a sneak peek! All content here belongs to me and may not be used or reproduced without my permission. This is a first draft so it is subject to change. Keep a lookout for more updates including an eventual release date in weeks and months to come.
Enjoy this excerpt from “Rezistory.”
Ev Gardner had deep dark pockets flowing, like a river, between her lower eyelids and cheekbones. A slender finger traced the delicate caverns on her face, which had become a permanent fixture. She pinched at her protruding collarbone and slid her fingers down her sides, counting each rib as she went.
“Jesus,” she chuckled to her reflection in the mirror, “I shoulda looked like this 15 years ago, I would’ve made a fortune as a super model.” She laughed at the thought, a thought she had at least once a week with fleeting dreams of how different her life may have been. In the old days, the Unspoken Days, skeletons in stilettos owned the fashion industry. But, now, nearly half the population was underweight from low food rations, so the wealthy and powerful embraced a new idea of beauty; one that can only be purchased by specialized alt surgeons.
She turned the brass knob on the sink and listened to the pipes groan in the walls. After a few moments, yellowish brown water began to spit out of the facet along with the distinct smell of rotting eggs. Ev scooped the water in her hands and splashed it on her face. She squeezed a drop of cleansing paste onto her finger and proceeded to scrub her remaining teeth. She had sold a few in exchange for extra rations when she was pregnant with Millie. What someone wanted with her teeth, she didn’t know, but it kept her and Theo fed for a week so she didn’t really care.
Bwap. Bwap. Bwap. The screech of their neighbor, Castro’s, alarm next door permeated their studio “Crip House,” the nickname most of the residents had given to the government Housing for People with Disabilities Apartments, or HPDA. It was one of many of the government housing projects in the Trushchoby neighborhood, where the undesirables of society were mandated to live.
“Fuck,” Ev exhaled. She carefully lowered her body back into her wheelchair and rolled herself over to the shared wall. “Turn your fucking alarm off, Cas,” she grumbled under her breath while gingerly knocking on the wall. It wasn’t that she was worried pissing off Cas with her demands, she was worried about waking up Millie who was sleeping on a crib mattress shoved in a closet. Millie was five, but small, and didn’t need much space to her own.
Ev’s eyes darted to the closet as Millie shifted and groaned. Ev pressed her eyes closed. Please don’t wake up. Please, just five more goddamned minutes. The offending shrieking of the alarm stopped and Ev sighed. She turned her chair away from the wall, parking it parallel to the bed. She slowly stood up, feeling dizziness take over and pain running down her left leg, then carefully lowered herself back down on the bed.
She turned herself in the bed to look at Theo, who was in a deep sleep. His face seemed to melt into the pillow under him. He had been up late the night before, cutting together clips of the Grand High Leader on one of his many trips abroad. Theo was an editor for the local Ameri-one Public Communications Center. She gently pushed a stray hair off of his forehead.
“Hmmm, what are you doing,” his voice croaked from the dryness of the morning, but he wore a smirk on his face.
“Nothing, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she subtly inched her body closer to his.
“Hmm mmm,” he pried one eye open and chuckled before yawning as he stretched out each of his limbs, “why are you up?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Theo opened both his eyes to take in Ev’s whole face.
“You okay?” a touch of concern accompanied his words.
“Yeah,” Ev lied, “just my leg acting up again.”
“Hey, med day today, right?” his smile was hopeful, as it always was.
“Yep. Woo hoo,” she faked enthusiasm the best she could.
“Have you already used up last month’s ration?” Ev looked into his smoky grey eyes. They still sparkled, no matter how desperate their situation got. He always believed something better was just around the corner.
“Yeah, I used my last pain pill a few days ago,” it had actually been over a week ago as the number of pills given each month was getting smaller and smaller. Theo scanned Ev’s face. He could read her better than she realized. He could see the slight downward turn of the corners of her mouth and the sadness in her almond shaped eyes.
“You know I love you?” he slipped his hand around her waist and pulled her closer to him. She could feel his breath on her face. Even as shitty as things had gotten in the world around them, his love was always the one thing she could count on.
“You better,” she whispered back to him with a devilish grin. Theo faked outrage. His fingers ran amok all over her body, tickling her up and down, while she laughed and squirmed.
“Say it,” he shouted over her giggles, “you better say it or I’m never gonna stop.”
“All right, all right,” Ev threw her hands up in surrender. Theo stopped his attack and let her catch her breath.
“All right, what?” he taunted, wiggling his fingers in the air, daring her to try something.
“I love you, you creep,” Ev pushed him gently on the shoulder. A smile spread across Theo’s face. He gently tilted Ev’s face up towards his. He brought his face towards hers, until his lips lightly grazed her.
“I know,” they both laughed wildly, Ev taking her pillow and hitting Theo with it.
“Oh God, that movie is from forever ago, you need some new references,” they stayed wrapped in each other’s arms. Even after twelve years together, he still gave her butterflies.
“Well, if they ever start allowing us lowly Chobies to watch movies again, then I can get some new references. Until then, you’re stuck with the classics, babe.”
“Mommy?” a small voice drifted out from the closet. Ev looked over and saw Millie tossing around, slowly waking herself up.
“Maybe if we don’t move she won’t see us,” Theo whispered, moving his mouth as little as possible in the process.
“Not funny, Daddy,” Millie was a grumpy riser. She was pleasant and cheery for the majority of the day, but something in her switched whenever she would wake up, giving her the attitude of a dragon guarding its treasures. Millie pushed herself up to sitting and feverishly rubbed her eyes with her little fists.
“Come on up here, sweetie,” Ev motioned for Millie to join them on the bed. Millie picked her teddy bear, Captain Floppens, up off the floor, where it had fallen while she had slept. Her shirt was at least three sizes too big and hung down below her knees, but it would last longer that way. She crawled up onto the bed with her parents and nuzzled herself down between them.
Ev closed her eyes. For just a brief moment it was as if they were the only three people in the entire universe. All that mattered was right there in that bed with her. Thoughts of the Grand High Leader, the GHL police, dwindling rations, and her worsening condition were temporarily safely tucked away behind a closed door in her mind. It was a trick she had learned from a therapist during the Unspoken Days, and she was glad to have remembered it. It was often the only way she could get through the day without collapsing under the weight of all her fear and anxiety.
“I’m hungry,” Millie’s voice snapped Ev out of her reverie, “can we have breakfast?” The frown returned to Ev’s face. They were out of food. It had rained nonstop for weeks, and the weight of the water broke through half of the kitchen ceiling, leaving half of their food rations desTheoed. Theo and Ev had been cutting back their portions more and more every day, so that Millie could still get all that she needed.
“Maybe Castro could spare some again?” Theo spoke barely above a whisper. They didn’t want Millie to worry.
“I’ll pop over and ask,” Ev pushed herself up onto her elbows, “how about you two get up and start getting dressed while I’m gone. If we’re late for med day, we’ll have to wait until next month and I can’t go that long without them for that long again.” All three began to rouse themselves from the bed. Ev stood up slowing before lowering herself back into her wheelchair.
Ev had barely begun to knock on the door when it swung open, revealing a long gaunt black man sitting in his own wheelchair. He wore large round pearl earrings, one in each ear, and a pink silk kimono with butterfly print.
“Don’t worry, honey, I got you covered,” Castro waived Ev into his apartment, “I heard y’all talking through these shitty ass paper thin walls.” His apartment was the exact same as theirs, yet it always seemed so much larger with only one person living in it.
“Are you sure?” Ev watched Castro roll into the miniscule kitchen and rummage through cabinets.
“I started saving a bit of my rations from each mean as soon as you told me about that damn leak. We can’t let little Miss Millie starve, now can we?” he pulled a couple of boxes and sauce packets from a cabinet and placed them on the counter. “All right, I’ve got one bag left of instant rice, half a sleeve of crackers, and two soy sauce packets, will that help y’all out?”
“Yes, definitely,” Ev rolled toward the kitchen counter, which was about a foot of plywood jetting out to the side of the sink. As Castro placed the items on her lap, Ev noticed a short puffy line of skin, as if it had recently been sliced through. “What happened there, Cas?”
“Oh, this?” Cas tugged on his sleeves to banish his scar back into hiding, “you know how it is, honey. The medicine rations aren’t covering whole months anymore, so…sometimes these thoughts creep into my mind. But, don’t you worry your skinny ass about it because today is medicine day and I heard rumor that medicine supplies are booming again so our rations should go up.”
“Right, Cas. Then the water will start to run clear and the smog will miraculously lift from the sky.”
“You hush, now! I’m gonna choose to believe it because I want to. Now go ahead and wheel yourself right back over to your apartment and feed that child,” they exchanged kisses on the cheek, something that seemed rather upscale for how big of a dump Crip House was.
“Hey,” Ev stopped at the door and turned herself to face Cas again, “you know I’m always here if you ever need to talk.”
“I know, girl. You’re just a call away,” Cas through his head back and let out one loud, high pitched, chortle. No one in Crip House had a phone. In fact, no one in the Trushchoby had a phone. They weren’t allowed to. Phones were expensive, as were plans to keep the lines alive, and everyone in the Trushchoby was considered a drain on society already.
“No luxuries,” that’s what the party line had been when the Trushchobies were created. Every major city had one, lying on the outskirts, just hidden enough so that the productive members of society wouldn’t have to look at them. “Luxuries breed dependence, and people dependent on government assistance are leeches to the true hard working citizens of Ameri-One.”
That’s all it took. One short speech and suddenly disabled people, low-income people, and other Undesirables were sent off to live in small rundown buildings with just enough supplies and amenities to keep them alive. The lack of luxuries didn’t seem to help anyone get out of the Trushchobies, though. No one would hire an Undesirable, at least not for a decent livable wage. After all, they were undesirable.
“Did Cas have anything?” Theo looked up at Ev when she returned. She entered to see him helping Millie stuff her shoes with socks so that they wouldn’t fall off when she walked.
“Yes, I did. And you’re welcome,” Cas shouted through the wall.
“We’ve got to get Deja to teach us sign language if nosy bones won’t at least pretend that he can’t hear us through the wall,” Millie giggled at her father’s joke.
“That’s silly, Daddy. Mr. Cas doesn’t have nosy bones,” she giggled again, her little body shaking with glee.
Ev rolled to the part of the studio apartment designated for the kitchen, where a small stove sat next to a short row of cabinets, a dripping sink, and a yellowing refrigerator. She turned on one of the two stove burners and tossed the bag of rice in a pot with a little water.
“Let me finish that,” Theo placed his hand on Ev’s shoulder, “you’ve got to get dressed and ready to go.”
It didn’t take long for Millie to scarf down her bowl of rice and soy sauce. She was licking the bowl as Ev finished strapping up her boots.
“Ok, let’s do this,” Ev sighed as she lowered herself back into her wheelchair. Her leg pulsed with pain. She was lightheaded and short of breath. She yearned for the days, from the Unspoken time, where she could curl up on a bed with a mattress that didn’t collapse under her weight. She could wrap her aching body in soft clean linens and watch TV all day as she nursed her injured body. But, those days were gone. She shook the memories out of her mind and continued to roll down the hallway, complete with a flickering yellow light.
It always took people from the Crip House the longest to get to the Community Hall. Undesirables, or chobies as they were often called, weren’t allowed cars or vehicles, so they had to walk or roll anywhere they wanted to go. The government wanted to make it clear that if someone wanted luxuries such as cars or transportation, then they needed to work hard and get themselves out of the Troschchobies. People in the cities, the Blessed People as the Grand High Leader called them, didn’t care that chobies didn’t have the same protections that they had in their jobs, so the most a choby could earn was up to a dollar a day. They didn’t have to look at the chobies, so they didn’t have to bother themselves with understanding how the chobies got to be there or why. They just liked not having to be around them anymore.
The Community Hall was already half way full by the time Ev and her family arrived. It looked like most of the Alien House had arrived, where the undesirable immigrants lived. A group of men wrapped in sequins and feather boas entered the hall through its two large glass doors. They laughed and danced their way into the center of the room as all the other chobies looked on.
“Now, that’s the house I want to be in,” Ev jumped at the sound of Castro’s voice behind her as he rolled up and joined the group.
“Oh yeah, Cas? You want to be in the Sin House?” Theo laughed as he spoke.
“Hell, yes! If only these legs of mine worked properly, then I could join the fun,” Cas let out a high pitched cackle. But Ev felt a strong pulling in her stomach.
“Cas,” she hissed, “you can’t talk like that here. You’re going to get us all killed.” Ev’s eyes darted to Millie who luckily was distracted by her attempts to dance along with the men of the Sin House.
“Oh, honey, please,” Cas swatted at the air as if batting her words away, “don’t you believe all that gossip. The polits won’t kill you just for saying hell. They might through you in a Reformation Center, but could those really be worse than the Crip House? Ha! I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Ev continued to whisper. Her eyes scanned the room for any polits who may be wondering the hall, “but even so, please, cut it out. For me, okay?”
“You’re lucky I love you, girl,” Cas clicked his tongue and shook his head, but Ev knew that he meant it.
The four of them stood together in a clump as more and more people filed into the hall. Soon the room was so full of bodies that Ev wasn’t able to see beyond a foot out to each side. Heat radiated from the beings around her, leaving her light headed and dizzy.
“Why are there so many people here?” Ev shouted to Theo, hoping he would hear her over the chorus of voices around them, “Med Day is never this full.”
“I don’t know,” Theo shouted back. He searched the room for answers, eventually tapping on the shoulder of his neighbor to ask, who apparently knew something about what was happening. He shouted again, “Something about an announcement for all chobies.”
This can’t be good, Ev thought. The last time the Milits held a meeting with all of the chobies was when they were moving them all to the Troshchoby to begin with. The Milits tried to avoid direct contact with the undesirables as much as possible. They left it to the Polits, who were the ones actually patrolling the streets and grabbing people out of their beds in the middle of the night.
“Excuse me,” a cold voice bounced around the room through hidden speakers in the walls. Ev couldn’t look past the bodies to see who was speaking, but she didn’t need to. Mary Matheson wasn’t a Milit. She wasn’t even a Blessed. She was a Faith Crusader, a member of the top class of Ameriruss society. It was unusual for a woman to be considered a Faith Crusader, unless they married into it, but Mary’s revolutionary ideas about getting women out of the workplace and back to raising society’s children gave her a pass not afforded to many others. It’s not that none of the men had thought these things before, it’s that they knew to convince the Blessed women, they needed a female mouthpiece to persuade them. And, Mary Matheson was quite the mouthpiece.
“Quiet, please. There will be quiet,” her voice demanded the attention of the room, and all were willing to oblige. Ev tried to calm her shaking hands, but she knew something horrible was about to take place. A white screen on the wall lit up with an image of Mary as she spoke into the microphone. She was dressed head to toe in white. Her lips were a deep purple while her skin had been tinted with a trendy emerald green. She wrapped her hands around the microphone, showing off her diamond encrusted nails that were filed down to a fine point, as if she was intentionally turning them into talons.
“Thank you for your attempts at civility,” the dripping disgust in Mary’s voice matched the look of contempt on her face. Behind her stood a row of Milits, in full combat uniform, ready to attack should the chobies not respond in an acceptable manner. The Polits didn’t have the honor of standing on the stage with the Faith Crusader, they had to roam the room with all the undesirables.
“Before we begin, let us bow our heads and pray,” almost simultaneously, all of the occupants of the raised their clasped hands, with their pointer fingers reaching up towards the sky, and pressed them to their lips. This was the official Ameriruss prayer stance. The hands were clasped to remind them to be humble and patient, the fingers pointed to the sky to honor God, and their hands pressed their lips to remind them to be silent and listen to the word of God. The word, which was revealed to them by the Grand High Leader, and spread through the mouths of the Faith Crusaders.
“Father God, we ask that you bless this congregation today. Help the people of Troshchoby to understand your plan for them so that they can do their best to leave their wicked ways behind and maybe, one day, join the ranks of the Blessed. Fill me with your spirit that I may help guide these lost souls to your light and show them that you are the one true path to salvation. And, lastly, thank you God for the Grand High Leader, who works tirelessly each and every day to lift our great country up to you. Always in your light,” Mary finished the prayer with the traditional call.
“Let us be so blessed,” the chobies responded, completing the prayer.
“Wonderful,” Mary said, although her expression betrayed her true thoughts, which were that this was anything but wonderful, “the Grand High Leader, and our other fearless Faith Crusaders, have sent me here with a message for you all. It is a message of hope.” The crowd around the hall filled with murmurs and buzzing. Several of the younger tenants were excited, believing that the Milits were finally rewarding them for being obedient citizens. The older members of the crowd, the ones who could still remember the Unspoken Days with full clarity, wore expressions of fear.
“When the Grand High Leader first designed the Troshchoby Order, he envisioned a place where people, like yourselves, would learn to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and become productive members of society. You have disappointed him greatly in this endeavor,” the room filled with gasps of fear and quiet crying. “You have shown the Grand High Leader that you do not want to be exceptional people. But, certainly that can’t be true. You want to be among the Blessed, don’t you?” Every head in the crowd nodded. A few people whispered “yes” as if that would absolve them of the sin of being undesirable.
“We, the Faith Crusaders, as well as the Grand High Leader himself have realized that we, perhaps, have spoiled you all. We have afforded you too many luxuries that make it far too tempting to continue to live off of the charity of the hardworking Blesséd rather than your own efforts.” Ev felt a lump rising in her throat. How could they live off of less than they already had?
“To remedy this situation, we will be reducing your food rations,” Mary began but was abruptly interrupted by a middle aged woman standing in front of Ev.
“No,” she shrieked in terror, “we are already starving! How will we live?” The woman’s shoulder’s shook as she heaved and sobbed.
“Shh, quiet now, Myrtle,” the man to her left grabbed the woman’s shoulder in attempts to steady her. He glanced from side to side, the corners of his mouth twisted downwards as he noticed two polits making their way through the crowd. They were hard to miss in their blue metallic armor and helmets with bullet proof tinted face masks and razor sharp point at the top of the head.
“Shhh, Myrtle. They’ll take you away, you have to calm down,” the man continued in his attempts to quite her, but Myrtle was beyond consolable. Her thin frame waivered and quaked. The two polits quickly reached the hysterical woman. They each grabbed an arm and began to wrestle Myrtle to the ground. The man beside her fell to the ground with her, pleading with the polits.
“No, please,” he cried, stroking Myrtle’s face while she continued to sob and moan, “she is my wife. She is not well.”
“Quiet, you,” one of the polits shouted to the man. Ev was startled by a hand resting on her shoulder. She looked up to see Theo’s face scrunched in worry. She placed her hand over his.
“She can’t help it, she didn’t mean…” one of the polits had released Myrtle and began to violently jerk the man’s arms behind his back. The crowds parted slowly, as the polits made their way towards the exit, dragging Myrtle and her husband behind them.
“She’s not well. She’s just so…hungry…” the man’s voice trailed off as the foursome exited the room. The air was thick with terror. Mary cleared her throat, diverting attention away from the spectacle and back to herself.
“I hope we can continue without any interruptions or outbursts,” Mary gave the milits behind her a daring look. “As I said, food rations will be cut. Before, we generously gave you exactly how much food you needed to survive. However, that has bred dependence on the system. From now on, every resident of Troshchoby will get half of what they are currently receiving. While this might seem troubling to you, it is done to help motivate you to get jobs and work to support yourself and your family.”
“Medications will also be reduced,” Ev fought back the impulse to scream, “every citizen currently receiving medication will have an interview with a Blesséd doctor, who will determine what, if any, medications are necessary to keep you alive, and what medications are erroneously prescribed for pleasure rather than utility. You will not receive any medication until your interview is complete.”
“And, finally, we are starting a new program for Troshchoby residents called the Blesséd Womb Effort. Any Troshchoby that offers up a child for adoption by the Blesséd, will be eligible to move to the new Nishche housing project, for citizens who show they are willing to make sacrifices in the name of God. Young women, under the age of 30, who wish to offer themselves as nurses and nannies for the Blesséd, will receive free room and board in the home of their Blesséd family, as well as the opportunity to be matched with a Blesséd bachelor for marriage.
“These are the gifts our Grand High Leader is willing to give to all of you, even though you have not shown him an ounce of gratitude,” Mary’s voice carried a scolding lilt, “any other leader would have given up on you all by now. They would have left you all to wonder the deserts or freeze in the mountains. But, our Grand High Leader is a forgiving man, so he has offered you all these wonderful new opportunities. Always in your light,” Mary called out, indicating that her speech was over.
“Let us be so blessed,” the congregation responded wearily. They carried the burden of knowing that there was nothing they could do to save themselves.
© 2017 Saidee Wynn and spooniewarrior.com