LJ Idol Exhibit B | week eight, 2 | 790 words
When I Was Young (a story set in the S.A.T.E.D. universe)
Jimmy asked me about Daddy again today. I still don't know what to say.
Jimmy thinks I must know a whole lot about Daddy, since I was two when he disappeared and Jimmy wasn't even born yet. But you can't remember stuff from when you were two, unless it's your favorite toy or something. I think Daddy maybe had a deep voice and was kind of tall like Uncle Pete. I remember being sad when he didn't come home, and feeling kind of scared. Then Jimmy was born, and I guess the Remaking started then too. A lot of people didn't come home after that, and nobody talks about why. It's like they've forgotten.
Maybe Ma doesn't remember Daddy either. I asked her once if she thought he was dead, and she looked like she was going to cry so I never asked again. All we have is a few pictures, like "John and Charlie" with me riding on his shoulders, or one of him and Ma getting married. I don’t know how pictures work—they're from Before. We have one of Jimmy as a baby, but that's about it. Pictures were taken by machines, so maybe they're not allowed anymore. I don't really understand why machines are bad, except what they tell us in school. I'm not supposed to ask about them, even where they all went. We still have a few machines left in our houses and our town, but Ma says those are the important ones. Who decides what's important? Maybe I'd rather have pictures instead of a refrigerator.
Sometimes I get this image in my head of me at night, leaning against a window and watching the stars go by. I think I might have been in a car, or maybe it's just a dream. Cars are gone too. Once, I found this little metal toy in the dirt next to the creek, and my head thought up the word 'car.' Ma made me throw it away when I brought it home.
We still have the roads cars used to drive on, though they're in pretty bad shape. I guess horses don't care. A couple of people still have bicycles, and how come bicycles are okay but cars aren't? Ma says it's because bicycles are more like gadgets, but I can never figure out why. Someday, the sidewalks will break down, and then we'll just be walking around in dirt and mud.
I asked Ma if it was supposed to be like this, with everything falling apart. It seems kind of dumb. She said the government might have wanted it that way, or maybe the Remaking got away from them. Then she acted like she shouldn't have said that, and made me promise not to tell anyone.
We still have some of Daddy's clothes, but not much else. People from the government came and took his computer, Ma said, along with most of the other machines. "What machines," I asked, but she wouldn't tell me. Kenny Bishop's big brother says it was stuff like TV, which was pictures in a box. That doesn't even make sense. The government took Daddy's math books—all the books from all the houses, even the ones with just pictures. I think Ma used to read me one about colored fish, but that was a long time ago. I wish I could remember it enough to tell it to Jimmy. He only got books read to him in school, but the school stories are always boring.
"Did Daddy love us?" Jimmy wanted to know last week. Of course he did, I told him. "Then why doesn't he come home?"
I used to wonder that all the time when I was little. "If he could, he would," was all Ma ever said. I never knew what she meant by that, but it always made me feel even sadder.
Yesterday, I heard people at the store saying the government might make us all move someplace new, because all these ties to our past were a bad influence. 'Bad influence'—I hate those words. It seems like they always show up when I'm doing something fun and have to stop, just 'cause Jimmy might get the wrong idea. How are grownups going to get a bunch of wrong ideas just by living in their own town?
I don't want to move. This is where all the memories are, including the ones I can't remember. How am I ever going to get them back if we start living someplace else?
I know there's not much chance of Daddy coming home again, but he might someday—he might. We have to hope.
But how is he supposed to find us if we aren't even here anymore?
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