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-51, interview with L.O., recorded by James 72A
I didn’t know you were going to fire him. That other Empath, the one who was the recorder when I came in a few days ago. He wasn’t really erasing people’s memories, was he? That was just a rumor, right? And I said something and got him in trouble and now he’s gone.
I wonder about the people who are gone. Not like my brother, people who got killed. Not like the people who got arrested, like my friend from back in school. The people who disappear and no one ever hears from them again. The people no one talks about anymore, because we can’t say they got killed by bots or a Commander, we can’t say they got arrested and they’re in Confinement and someone tried to visit them but the guards at the junction to Sec 5 wouldn’t let them in. We don’t know where the disappeared ones went and we don’t know how to talk about them.
Did they go Aboveground? Is the air really still poisonous up there? People still go up and get lithium for the air scrubbers, right? Or is it just bots? I thought about that once – there are still bots up there that haven’t been shut down. It gave me nightmares for a week, thinking about that, imagining one of them busting through the doors at the entry port, clanging down the stairs, breaking down my door. I kept waking up before I found out what it would do to me.
I can’t remember what they look like anymore, those bots. Can you believe that? They’ve only been locked up and shut down for a year – I can hardly believe that, either, the Revolution was a year ago – but I can’t remember what the bots looked like. I used to draw pictures of them in my books in school, back when I was a kid, in the margins where other kids have been drawing and scribbling stuff for a hundred years, but when I try to think what I drew, I just remember this poem some other kid wrote in the margin, that I had to draw my bot picture over.
One day I’ll grow up
And work for Maintenance
I’ll dress a bot up
And make it do a dance
I tried to draw my bot and make it look like it was dancing but I couldn’t do it right. They had long spindly arms and legs, right, and their bodies were square? Or their heads were square, or both? Or cylindrical? Their eyes lit up, right, like lights on computer panels, backlit behind some kind of grating, horizontal lines that glowed yellow from behind – or white? Or vertical lines, or concentric circles?
I can’t remember any of that but when I saw that Empath the other day I was absolutely sure I remembered my neighbor telling me that she couldn’t remember a thing since he moved into 11d with us. Maybe she just forgot like I forgot the bots. Maybe I made up her telling me the story in the first place. Maybe we just wanted to find someone to blame for how we felt, and it’s not enough to blame machines or the Commanders who aren’t even here anymore. We wanted to look someone in the face and say it’s you – you’re the one I’m mad at. But I didn’t really look at him anyway. I can’t remember what color his eyes were, either.
©2017 Michelle M. Welch