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-31, submitted anonymously
Is it over? The Council? Things keep happening and they keep cancelling the interviews, but we still have stories we want to tell. I want to tell someone about my sister.
I have this memory – Callie was a baby, just a few months old, I think. I would have been five. Dad was still living with us. He brought us ice cream. Real ice cream. You just don’t get that down here. No cows. I was too young to figure that out or put together how he managed to get a hold of it. I think mom yelled at him about it later, but they fought a lot and I was never sure what about. I’d hide in my room and cover my ears, but even if I’d heard what they were saying I probably wouldn’t have understood it at that age.
I remember that ice cream, though, all of us sitting in our living unit, hunched around it like it was some buried treasure we found. All of us grinning and laughing. I don’t even remember what the ice cream tasted like but I remember we were happy. I can think about it now and still start laughing.
I tried to explain it to Callie, but of course she doesn’t understand.
Mom said later that the last straw, the thing that made her leave him, was when she found out that he lied to her. He knew he was a carrier and he never told her. I might have been born with Grays Syndrome, too, but I was lucky. The day she took Callie to the doctor and never brought her home was the day she left dad. Packed our stuff and left, me and her. I probably thought we were going on some kind of adventure, like in a story book. It took a while for me to figure out that it was just the two of us now. It took a lot longer for me to figure out that Callie never came home because the doctors tested her and found out she was a Type 2, so she belonged to Government now. They were going to turn her into a machine-head.
I remember asking mom, “So they’ll put a computer in her head and she’ll be able to remember things? She’ll be able to remember ice cream?”
Mom told me I was too old to ask silly questions like that.
I was twenty when mom died. She never found out that Callie came back. Unable to successfully integrate with the hardware, whatever that meant. Some doctor told me when he tracked me down as Callie’s only remaining relative. I just sat there and wondered what had happened to dad, but never actually asked.
So I was twenty-two when I got a sister again. She didn’t know me, although someone had given her a little notebook and she wrote down my name and my address, and she knew enough to keep looking at it and asking me. She couldn’t find her way home without that notebook, though, and she never remembered my name without looking at it. I got a look at it once. They had to write down that I was her brother. She wouldn’t have known otherwise.
They let her come to work with me in Factory Production. She stood next to me on the line and fed pieces into the machine. She couldn’t tell you what they did or what her job was, if you asked her, but when she got on the line she’d just do the job, like her hands remembered how to do it even if her brain didn’t. Those pieces went into making bots, and when the Revolution happened and they locked up the bots, that part of Production closed. We lost our jobs. I’ve been able to find work here and there but no one else will hire her. She sits in our living unit and listens to the same damn music come on the speakers every morning and it doesn’t drive her nuts because it’s like she never heard it before. When I come home she’s still sitting there on the couch and I have to introduce myself all over again, and tell her to read her notebook so she’ll know who I am. I ask her what she did all day and she doesn’t know.
I try not to do that too often, because it’s mean. She won’t remember me being mean but I still don’t like to do it.
We went up to Section 13 the other day. I had to hold her hand so she wouldn’t get lost. I looked all over, hoping to find ice cream, but of course none of the authorized vendors were selling it. Even now, those hatches are still closed. Maybe that’s for the best, or maybe some of us could get jobs if the Councils let us go Aboveground and look. I don’t know. But we did find someone selling shaved ice. It wasn’t as smooth as I think the ice cream was, and it must have had a different flavor – some kind of fruit they grow in hydroponics. But I got a spoon and I gave the first taste of it to Callie, slipped it in her mouth just like I did when she was a baby. And I watched her face light up. She grinned. She was happy.
©2016 Michelle M. Welch