Category Archives: flash fiction

Stories from Refuge – 70 – “So we tried to help out.”

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-61, interview with R.N., recorded by Beatrice 75C
Refuge Year 100.10.20

We used to help out, both of us. We were down there in sub-18, and you know how it got. Not enough food, not enough work, too many people crammed in too small a space, and never mind what it does to people to be locked underground. It doesn’t even matter that they’ve never seen the sun before – they still miss it. They know that they’re even farther from it in the sub-tunnels, and they can feel that extra weight on their heads.

So we tried to help out, Nod and I. Both of us had a little medical training, even though we couldn’t get any work other than transport, moving bodies on gurneys. Nod used to tell some nasty jokes about what happened to cadavers in Refuge but when he actually handled them he was always respectful. We both got home really late, just before curfew by the time we got back to sub-18, but there would always be someone who needed our help. Kids with scrapes and broken bones, women who’d burned themselves trying to jerry-rig their broken cooktops so they’d work, people with black eyes from all kinds of fights. They knew to look out for us, the two guys who worked upstairs, and usually they didn’t even laugh at us. We tried to bring down food, too. Any time we got off work early we’d take a detour through Waste Management and collect any food that was being thrown out before they sent it Aboveground. Not that we have too much of that, but every little bit helps.

Then they shut down half of the air scrubbers.

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Stories from Refuge – 69 – “I could have put up a resistance and stopped the whole thing.”

(c) Serjio74 | Dreamstime.com

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-60, interview with W.F., recorded by James 72A
Refuge Year 100.10.18

You called me the subject. You’re giving me initials like I’m a victim who needs my identity to be protected. What’s going on? Are you confusing me with someone else? Are you bringing in one of my victims later?

Or do you really think I’m the victim? I could almost laugh at that.

So yes, I was arrested. The Government threw me in jail, and your Council, I suppose, is interviewing anyone who ever went to jail. You’ve decided the old Government was all bad, so the people who got persecuted must be all good. I guess every new Government probably does that to the one they replaced, never mind how much of an oversimplification that is.

Alright, then. I went to jail. I was identified by PsyOp as someone who was potentially hiding something, and they searched my living unit. They found drugs, narcotics I bought under the table from someone who’d smuggled them out of Medical. I was arrested for possession and purchasing contraband. Does that make me some kind of victim? Maybe the part about PsyOp invading my brain, hunting for people to accuse of something?

But that’s not really how it works, right? Empaths can’t read your mind; they can only read what you’re throwing out. And I was throwing out a whole lot of guilt.

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Stories from Refuge – 68 – “That was the scariest moment of my life.”

(c) Radist | Dreamstime.com

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-59, interview with K.M., recorded by Mary 80C
Refuge Year 100.10.16

I used to be a chemist. I worked in hydroponics, but when my son ran away I just couldn’t focus on the work anymore and I got fired. They gave me a job going Aboveground and scouting for new lithium fields, the kind of job you don’t talk about because if people find out you’re going up there, they don’t really want you living near them anymore. If people find out you’ve been working with Commanders leading collection teams of bots, even if they’re carrying barrels instead of a lot of weapons and they haven’t been programmed to hurt anyone, they think you’re one of them and they start spreading rumors about you.

For a while the irony really got to me. The only job I could get was working with machine-heads, the people I hated more than anything because I was convinced they’d killed my boy. It was about ten years ago that I got the job, right after that incident in the secret tunnel where the kids were killed. Never mind that my wife went to Medical to help identify bodies and said he wasn’t there. Never mind that she was called a few years later to I.D. a drug overdose and she was pretty sure that was actually him. I was sure he was killed by bots in that tunnel and I was ready to spend the rest of my life despising the job I was doing and who I was doing it with.

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Stories from Refuge – 67 – “Something about how she was crying over those dead kids.”

(c) Svedoliver | Dreamstime.com

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-58, interview with B.C., recorded by Beatrice 75C
Refuge Year 100.10.14

What, I don’t get anyone to talk to? No one to sit here and listen to me accuse them of all the things we had to live with? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Didn’t think anyone wanted to hear my story.

It’s not really mine, that’s what people are telling me. Why the hell should I go do one of these interview things when I never even got hurt by bots, when I was never in a riot, when I never put my ass on the line trying to fight back? No one in my family was even killed. It’s someone else’s story I’m telling and I’m trying to get sympathy for that, acting like I did something. That’s what people keep saying to me. Well, they never had to clean up the bodies after those riots, did they?

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Stories from Refuge – 66 – “She was sure they tossed her out in the trash.”

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-57, interview with J.P., recorded by Mary 80C
Refuge Year 100.10.11

You gave me a last name. A last initial, at least. I like it. Jimmy P. I went a lot of years without a last name. It’s fun to have one again. Sure, it’s not my real last name. I haven’t used that in a long time. Probably never will again. Anyway, Jimmy P. is good.

Did you give Trish a last initial, too? She never had one. Never even found out what her parents’ name was, that’s how little she was when they got rid of her. Always really mad at that, Trish was. She was sure they tossed her out in the trash. I kept trying to tell her that’s probably not what happened, most third kids were confiscated from Medical when their moms gave birth. Some of them even grew up for a few years with their moms, in hiding, until neighbors ratted them out or something. But Trish was too busy being mad and she never listened to me.

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Stories from Refuge – 65 – “All of us probably knew what we were getting into.”

(c) Serjio74 | Dreamstime.com

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-56, dialogue between T.L. and Luke Baron, recorded by James 72A
RY 100.10.10

I was one of those third kids, the ones you pretended not to know about, the ones who weren’t supposed to exist. We hid out in that tunnel that wasn’t supposed to exist either, the one between Sec 9 and Sec 21, the one where people smuggled things they weren’t supposed to have. Stuff to sell for a lot of money, drugs maybe, weapons I guess. It must have been weapons, right? They wouldn’t have sent bots down to kill people if there weren’t weapons in the tunnel. That’s what Jimmy kept telling me, he kept saying it was kind of dangerous to hide out down there in the tunnel, and all of us probably knew what we were getting into. He wasn’t a third kid, though. He was just a runaway, didn’t like his family instead of the other way around, it’s not like they got rid of him because they couldn’t have another kid, not like the rest of us. He had a damn choice. But he kept talking big and he said whatever Slide was doing was really gonna get us in trouble and the bots would show up any day and sure enough they did. People started running and screaming and tripping over each other and the bots were clanging and firing at us and kids couldn’t get away, and the Commanders were shouting too, big loud grownup voices I didn’t recognize at first, couldn’t figure out why there were grownups in the tunnel. Jimmy found me as we were running, said the Commanders were shouting at the bots to stop, said he was sure of it, said they didn’t want to kill kids, but I said no one ever gave a shit about us so I kept running. Never saw Jimmy again. Sometimes I hope he got stomped by a bot just to shut him up but I guess I shouldn’t say that. It was a long time ago anyway, I’m not a kid anymore and no one cares if I was a third one, but it’s funny, I still keep hiding.

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Stories from Refuge – 64 – “Instead of just shutting my door, I pulled him inside.”

(c) Radist | Dreamstime.com

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-55, dialogue between S.F. and Walter Newson, recorded by Beatrice 75C
RY 100.10.9

I knew one of the Commanders. There was some kind of incident in my section – I didn’t know what exactly, because I always locked myself up in my living unit at the first sign of trouble, I never wanted to get into any of that – but they sent two Commanders with the bots. I saw them marching down the row just before I shut my door. Then when the riot alarms stopped ringing and the all clear announcement came over the speakers, I opened the door again and saw just one of the Commanders still there. He was leaning against the wall next to my door. His helmet was off and he looked lost, confused, like he didn’t know what he was doing there. I just wanted to shut my door again, since it would be even more trouble. My neighbors kept talking about things, even though I tried not to listen to them, and if they weren’t the ones who’d just gotten arrested, they were going to open their door at any minute and see the Commander and… Well, I didn’t want to know what they’d do to him. But for some reason, instead of just shutting my door, I pulled him inside first.

He had a head injury. Someone had knocked him on the side of the head, and maybe there was a weak point where the visor attached to his helmet, because there was a big dent on his helmet and a bloody spot on his temple. I used to be a nurse in the school section. I had to treat him. Really, I wasn’t sure why, and I kept asking myself while I cleaned him up and checked him for signs of concussion. Maybe it was just some kind of reflex that made me pull him inside, like I recognized he was hurt when he was standing there next to my door and my instincts kicked in without my thinking about it. But he was there now and I had to deal with him. He didn’t seem to have any serious damage but it was like the hit to his head knocked out whatever memories he’d gotten programmed into him. He couldn’t tell me where he was supposed to be and he didn’t seem to know why he was there in the first place. He couldn’t even tell me his name. Do they even have names? He just sat there like he was waiting for me to give him an order, and he seemed upset when I didn’t. Not upset like he was going to get violent, which is what I was afraid of. Upset like he was going to cry. Big guy like that, in his body armor with his helmet, one of those big weapons still strapped over his shoulder, and he looked like he was about to cry.

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