Stories from Refuge – 78 – “I pretty much had to stay alive if they did.”

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-66, dialogue between C.P. and Della Goldsteen, recorded by Beatrice 75C
RY 100.11.1

I was lucky. I know I was lucky. I really don’t have any reason to feel like I do. It’s not like what happened to my friends. They’re the ones who actually got hurt, they had a reason to feel bad. They got interrogated, when the Empaths showed up, got their heads filled with nightmares that they never woke up from. I got knocked out before then, when the bots showed up, and I was still out cold when the Empaths got there. I never got interrogated. I woke up in Confinement and never got anything put in my head.

I still woke up with nightmares, though. Bots marching in my sleep, not even seeing them but hearing them, those clanging metal feet, those…

Yeah, I’m okay. Well, no, but I can go on.

I thought it would stop as soon as I got released. The workers from Production who found us after curfew, where we were hiding out on the old tracks under the factory floor, they thought we were stealing or trying to sabotage something, but they couldn’t prove it. So we just got charged with breaking curfew, served a few months and got let go. But I just kept having nightmares. My friends would knock on my door in the middle of the night because they were so scared, they couldn’t sleep, they didn’t want to be alone with the memories of what got put in their heads. I had to pretend I wasn’t up all night with my own nightmares, because I couldn’t tell them that. They talked about how they couldn’t take much more of it, how they knew some drug runners in sub-16 who had handguns, old-fashioned gunpowder ones, and if they could get a hold of one then it would all be over.

But the years went by and empathic projections don’t last that long, so what got put in their heads started to fade and their nightmares went away. None of them got a gun, none of them shot themselves. So I pretty much had to stay alive if they did. It would’ve been rude not to, when I was so much luckier than them.

But I didn’t have any projections to fade. I just had the same memories, trying to run, getting tripped up, those metal hands grabbing my legs, those metal arms…

I don’t know why. I don’t know why it doesn’t just go away. Do you?

[Recorder’s note: Councilor Ethen tries to stop the dialogue. Funny how it took her this long to recognize the parallel between the subject and Goldsteen. Ethen demands to know whether I read the similarities. I did – in the application. What I read now in Goldsteen is no misery, no triggered depression. I read clarity. The Councilors should be able to read it themselves, in the faint smile that crosses Goldsteen’s face. I offer to let her speak. She does.]

No, I don’t know. But I know it doesn’t. I guess that’s how it is.

©2017 Michelle M. Welch

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Next story: “Can’t do anything about the nightmares.” ->

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