Stories from Refuge – 101 – “You know the last thing he said? He started laughing.”

(c) Serjio74 |

Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report B-81, dialogue between O.R. and Vick Cortess, recorded by James 72A
RY 100.12.5

It’s hardly worth telling the story, is it? You all know what happened back then, how we got in trouble for fighting, or being out after curfew, or congregating in big groups, or saying a few too many things about how bad it is down here. If we didn’t come quietly when they sent Empaths to interrogate us, or if we were too rowdy or if there were too many of us for the Empaths to hit, then they sent in the bots. That’s what happened to this bad eye of mine, but you probably guessed that already.

Could’ve been worse. My best friend was killed that day when the riot broke out in Commerce. We weren’t even involved, just got caught in the crossfire. We were both lying on the floor for a while until everything calmed down and they found us, me with half my vision gone, him bleeding out of his head. You know the last thing he said? He started laughing, said I could wear an eyepatch now, just like a pirate in those books we used to read.

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Poetry Corner: Mesquite trees at Air Museum

They build
these birds of metal and glass
to fight each other
in the air,
all strength and fear and bravery –
We are at war, too
against weather and insects
blistering sun and blight
but when we lose
and it’s time for leaves to blanch,
roots to whither,
we just lose

Poetry & photography (c)2018 Michelle M. Welch

Stories from Refuge – 100 – “The bots were coming and if I made a sound they’d get me.”

(c) Radist |

I’ve made it to story #100! When I started writing these pieces of flash fiction as a world-building exercise for a novel I’d started working on – something I discuss more in the introduction to part 1 – I wasn’t planning on writing so many of them. But I finished the novel and started sending it out on submission and had time on my hands while waiting, and almost two years later here we are. (And still waiting, BTW…)

To celebrate, I’m also posting another piece of background writing I did, in the format of an official report summarizing the Reconciliation Council project. For those who are interested, it might provide some context for these flash pieces. Enjoy!

Refuge: A Reconsidered History

Reconciliation Council report B-80, dialogue between I.L. and Alan Yazie, recorded by Beatrice 75C
RY 100.12.4

You see this scar on my face, right? People have been staring at me my whole life, staring at this scar. When I was younger I didn’t know what to do about that, I used to hide my face, I used to sit in the back of classrooms and the back of the train so people didn’t see it and stare. I used to comb my hair really long over that side of my face, and for a few months I wore a scarf around my head until the teachers started getting nervous because there’s some religions where the women do that and religions make the teachers nervous. You’re likely to get bots marching into your classroom if you do that kind of thing.

When I was older I started making up stories about how I got the scar – the wilder, the better. I was running with some kids who kept talking about the riots they were going to start up, the jobs they were going to get in Credit Processing or Engineering where they could hack in and mess up the systems, the doors they were going to break through so they could break bots. I told stories about how I’d done all those things already, how I’d gotten the scar during a riot, how I’d broken into a server room and interfered with criminal records and cut my face sliding out through a door as it was closing during a lockdown, how I’d been slashed by a bot just before I took off his arm with a crowbar. I don’t know why I wanted to impress those kids, but my stories always did.

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Poetry Corner: Flight

Inside the Quail aircraft on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum

What made someone think
they wanted to see the world this way?
Distant objects on the ground,
soon to rise above them,
only this array of dials
to really tell you where you are?
But look outside at the birds above –
Oh! That’s it!

Poetry & photography (c)2018 Michelle M. Welch

Stories from Refuge – 99 – “People told themselves stories about it to get through the day.”

(c) Svedoliver |

Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report C-25, dialogue between Vick Cortess and Alan Yazie, recorded by Mary 80C
RY 100.12.2

I know what Vick has to say. He doesn’t have to say it all again. He already found me and told me. He said everything he wanted to say, and then he walked away and told me that if I had anything to say for myself, if I had anything that would make up for Phil killing himself, then I could come in and say it to the Council. So here I am.

You know, my grandmother told me a story about her grandmother. Maybe it was her great-grandmother, I don’t know, it was a long time ago, back before they built Refuge, back before the cancer and the racial blending and everything. That old lady was a little girl and she was packed up and sent to a school with other girls like her, girls who were different, girls who didn’t speak English. And they were taught English and dressed up like white girls and got in trouble if they ever spoke their own language, and the teachers told them to forget their own language and forget their parents and forget who they were. So they lied about who they really were and said yes, I’ve always spoken English, I was never anyone else. They spent a lifetime lying and that was even before we all got shot up with new genetics so we’d all be the same.

So I’ve got all those generations of lying in me and I just kept on lying. But I didn’t lie really well, did I? My name is still Yazzie, even if my grandmother had to take one of the Zs out trying to make us look less different.

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Poetry Corner: Fountain

Play of light
water running in the desert
not caring that it’s artificial
constant brilliant movement

Poetry & photography (c)2018 Michelle M. Welch


I took this shot as a miksang light exercise at one of the water features at Water Tower Plaza in Gilbert, AZ. The background graphics on Gilbert’s website, with the sun and cactus, should give you a sense of the dichotomy of this much water in a desert town. (Oddly, there’s not actually a photo of the water tower on that website.)


Stories from Refuge – 98 – “You know what it’s like to lie, and keep lying?”

Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report C-24, interview with Vick Cortess, recorded by James 72A
RY 100.11.30

He told us to lie, our boss. Lie about what we were doing, I mean. He told us to say we were building new hatches and airlock components, ’cause the bad air and the sand outside is so corrosive, it just keeps eating away at them, and if we don’t constantly replace the hatches and airlocks they’ll fall apart. That’s not what we did, though. We built bots.

I never figured out why he wanted us to lie. I mean, now it makes sense. That’s what he told us when the riots broke out – the last ones, the ones that turned into the Revolution. Don’t tell anyone what you really built here, he said, and you’ll still be able to get jobs after this all falls out. So that’s what I’ve been saying, I built new hatches and airlock components, and I went right back to work in Manufacturing. Building new track for the tunnels that have trains, where rioters tore it up. Building new sheet panels for sections where it’s falling apart and the dirt is coming through. All those repairs that didn’t happen much before because everyone in Manufacturing was building bots.

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