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09 July 2012 @ 02:15 pm
The Real LJ Idol: "Waiting"  
real lj idol | week 33, prompt 2 | 791 words
The call that never came. (Note: this is set in the same universe as this story, which it might be best to read first).


Jenny Glass and her husband John had heard the rumors, of course, but there were always rumors. With a two-year-old son and a baby on the way, those weren't the kinds of thing you discussed at the dinner table.

Those things, you whispered in the dark.

What started out as pillow talk became scattered bursts of communication (always outdoors, never in the same place). They tried to make sense of what they'd heard and seen thus far, and (don't panic, it's too early for that) tried to figure out just how bad things would get.

Before long, there were more and more religious groups clamoring for the country to steer away from the distractions of technology and return to simpler times. No one paid much attention at first, thinking the government would surely ignore them. Besides, people who wanted that kind of radical change were always free to choose it for themselves. The Amish had been doing it for centuries.

But everything changed after the satellites went down. All the newspapers reported that the Chinese government had destroyed the satellites, but a lot of people didn't believe that. Over time, it began to seem less and less true.

Nobody really knew what they were supposed to do after that, so they stuck to the same things they'd always done. John drove to the office to work on the same software project as before, an advanced Data Recognition system. His coworkers did the same. They were all certain the satellites would be replaced right away—the whole country had lost the Internet, television, and national radio broadcasting overnight, and people depended on those things. Because John's office had backed-up their code locally and still had an internal LAN, they could make progress while they waited, even if it was on a slower scale.

Some of John's colleagues told him that other companies' projects were being cancelled, that the funding was drying up. He relayed the news to Jenny, and admitted that it all sounded pretty suspicious. All of those companies losing funding, and the government saying nothing about repairing the Internet or even fixing basic television broadcasting? The whole country was cut off from itself and from the rest of the world, and the nation's leaders didn't consider that urgent?

Two days later, John went to work and he didn't come back.

Jenny was beside herself. Part of the local phone system still worked, but when she called John's office, nobody answered. She called his number, one of his friend's numbers, and the main office number, but she couldn't get a hold of anyone—not even an answering service. Finally, she called police dispatch, only to be told that she needed to file a Missing Person's report.

She tried so hard to be calm for Charlie, always offering him the reassurances she wished she believed herself. Still, he clung to her and cried, and all she wanted to do was just cry along with him. She'd never felt so alone and scared in her life, or so trapped. She couldn't even leave the house, always afraid that John might call or that someone else (please, not someone else) might finally have something to tell her.

A person couldn't just disappear, there had to be someone who knew where he was—a friend, or a hospital (or worse). God, why hadn't he come home? It had been three days (a week, two weeks) with no news of him. Why hadn't his friend Ed called anyone, and what about Michael Schroeder's wife? Jenny asked around quietly, messages passed through friends-of-friends. What she learned wasn't promising: none of the local people who'd worked at John's office had been heard from again.

Three weeks later, the baby was born. Jenny would sit in the rocker with him at night, all seven and a half pounds of him, and wonder how on earth her life had come to this. Six months ago, she'd had a good marriage with a wonderful man, and both she and John were safe and healthy and working at ordinary, non-hazardous jobs. Now she was a single mother (or a widow), raising two young children on her own. No matter how she tried, she couldn't find anyone to tell her what had happened—or to explain why it was all getting worse.

Where are you, John?

Rocking the baby in her bedroom-turned-nursery, she sometimes asked herself which was better: hoping that John was still alive, or knowing the truth—even if it turned out to be so awful that it completely destroyed her?

In the meantime, she sat in the dark and waited, watching the road for headlights and any sign that John or the sad story behind his disappearance might someday come.

Voting for all stories for this LJ Idol prompt is here. Only 18 stories, so they're a quick read!

A Sentient Being: Fairyalien_infinity on July 9th, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
Yay, more from this universe! I'm enjoying a lot this world you've created, so I'm super-happy you're writing in it again. ^_^
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 9th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
I'm glad someone's happy to see it!

I thought and thought about writing the prompt in a different setting, but it was perfect for this particular story (a kind of flashback to how things wound up as they did in the first story).

There's a reason the boys' mother doesn't talk about their father much. By the time they're older, she has to be fairly convinced that he's dead, but to even say how or why... those are risky words when you can't be sure who's listening.

Thanks so much for reading!
medleymistymedleymisty on July 9th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
More dystopia! Are you trying to scare me to death?!


Oh man - I can't imagine my John disappearing. I'd do anything it took to track him down. But then - I know my lifespan in an authoritarian dictatorship is pretty much nil, unless I could maybe escape somewhere remote and live off the land - that's where Appalachian roots come in handy. :)

This is so scary and sad, and also so well done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
When leaders or governments start to think in terms of control and results instead of people, it's amazing what truly awful things they can do.

So many countries have had "disappeared" citizens before. The reasons behind those policies might differ, but the effects on those disappeared and on their families is the same.

And not knowing... how much worse, to never really be able to let go because you so hope it isn't that awful, final thing. :(
cindytsuki_no_bara on July 10th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
yay, prequel! but heartbreaking! i love that you keep writing in this 'verse - it's a scary future but you write it well.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! If this were to be a book, I'd use this part as a flashback, because I really like that first story as an introduction. It hints at so many awful ideas, that are filled out with stories like this one. You can see, with this, why many years later the mother would not want to talk about the father-- and might even be afraid to.
notodettenotodette on July 10th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
This was a good addition to the previous story, for sure.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
Yay-- I'm glad you think so!
whipchickwhipchick on July 10th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Really interesting to see more from this world! I'm enjoying how much your stories focus on the people in the world and how they are dealing with the issues. This in particular -

Now she was a single mother (or a widow),

- was such a sharp little stab.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)
I think this story focuses on people who were emotionally invested in something that the Remaking stole, and it's filled with little moments where both characters still want to hope that what's happening isn't as bad as it might possibly be... but that nagging little doubt creeps in again and again. It was time to panic, at those first early stages, but nobody did. And what followed slipped through unchecked until it had supplanted everything before it.
Kristenpixiebelle on July 10th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
I was so happy to see more from this world! This was really well done and very sad. I'm really loving this storyline you have going on here :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 06:45 am (UTC)
I'm glad this story seems to work for the prompt. It suggested this idea so strongly, and I tried to resist, but... of all the calls to not have arrive, this would be one of the worst. To just be left dangling, never knowing what happened, and raising your children on your own... I would just hate to be in that position.
Myrnamyrna_bird on July 10th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
So heartbreaking. I think I would want to know the truth, even if it was the worst.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 06:52 am (UTC)
I think I would too, but maybe only eventually-- only cnce the instability was torturing me more than the hope was worth.

Either way, it's a desperate choice.
Myrnamyrna_bird on July 12th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
For sure.
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on July 11th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
I really like this universe. I think this stands on its own pretty well, too, although remembering the original piece probably did add to my enjoyment. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 06:55 am (UTC)
I'm glad the story stands on its own-- that's always the risky issue with doing part of a series.

Regardless of the backdrop, having your spouse disappear in a time of societal unrest (and knowing that other people also disappeared)... I think that would just be incredibly frightening. I'd feel so trapped between wanting to hope and needing to know the truth.
m strobelmstrobel on July 12th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
I'd want to know the truth.... but then with the truth there *might* come the loss of all hope and that'd be so very final :/

Man, I loved this. You rock.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 06:58 am (UTC)
but then with the truth there *might* come the loss of all hope and that'd be so very final :/

That's the hard part. You can see why people would get stuck, not knowing which would be better, because either way the immediate outcome is not good. One leads to more waiting, and the other to the hopelessness of knowing that it will never get better.

I'm glad you liked this so well! If I remember correctly, you were one of the people who was so encouraging about the first story in this series. :)
alycewilson: Alice dark dooralycewilson on July 12th, 2012 09:33 am (UTC)
How sad! I depend so much on my husband's support it would be devastating for me to try to get along without him. I can imagine how terrible that would be.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 13th, 2012 12:57 am (UTC)
Me too. It's so different trying to do things as one person instead of as a team, especially when that person has been stolen away from you so suddenly. To have a two-year-old and a new baby, and a missing husband, and the world around you in unrest... I would just hate it.