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14 July 2013 @ 11:46 pm
Lj Idol Exhibit B: "Empty Spaces"  
Empty Spaces
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?

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

jeyhawkjeyhawk on July 15th, 2013 07:37 am (UTC)
What a fascinating universe, I've always been weak for dystopias and it's beautifully written as always. :D
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2013 02:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! I have a weakness for dystopias too, and only discovered it about two years ago. But they just fascinate me. There are so many ways to wind up in the wrong place, especially if governments are involved, and some of them seem more possible than others.
cindytsuki_no_bara on July 15th, 2013 12:49 pm (UTC)
i really really love how you write this world, but man, it is so sad. "did daddy love us?" *SNIFFLE* i like the vague paranoia of the adults and how charlie a. doesn't share it, but also b. doesn't get it, because he's too young to remember and everyone is too scared to answer his questions or even just explain why they're scared.

and! one fish two fish red fish blue fish! no dr seuss makes for a very bleak dystopia. :(
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
I always feel for the boys' mother too, because she has a better idea of why her husband didn't come home, but it's forbidden to talk about it. Whether the government imprisoned him or killed him, there is little hope of him returning home.

Those poor kids can't help but wonder if their father didn't love them enough to come home, because they don't understand the more sinister possibilities of what might have happened to him.

I'm glad you figured out which Dr. Seuss book that was! I was going for something recognizable but not too convoluted to describe.
alien_writings: Sadnessalien_writings on July 15th, 2013 01:35 pm (UTC)
You get extra super bonus points for NOT doing nonfiction for When I Was Young. ^_^

Now, onto the actual story...this was so saaaaaaaaad, seriously. You know I <3 this universe, and this one was well-done and awesome, even if it was at almost-make-me-cry levels.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
I was so tempted by non-fiction, but my other entry was non-fiction, and that didn't offer a lot of variety.

I knew you wouldn't be too sorry to see another story in this universe, regardless of which prompt I picked. This one would not have happened if you hadn't suggested it! The prompt made me think of what little remnants of "Before" Charlie might have remembered but probably didn't fully understand. And Jimmy would always hope Charlie knew more about their Dad, because Charlie was there. Being too young to remember that far back just doesn't occur to you when you're really little.

Thanks for your help and encouragement along the way, for all of this!
oxymoron67oxymoron67 on July 15th, 2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
I was three when my father died and I have no memories of him at all. It's just simply blank.

You got that part right, especially with the whole "trying to get some clue about him" thing.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2013 07:14 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry. That is a hard way to grow up, especially as the youngest of 4 kids with a monther who is then completely overloaded.

It seems unfair not to remember anything from those really early years, especially since they're usually happy ones. How can those things just fall out of your head? But they usually do. By the time my daughter was 6 or 7, everything from 3 or before was pretty much gone.

And with something so important as losing a parent, you would want every crumb of information anyone else could provide. Just so you know, and so you don't feel like that person was never part of you. It's so sad. :(
oxymoron67oxymoron67 on July 17th, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC)
Part of me agrees with you on this, but I think, in some respects, the lack of memories made things easier for me.

My siblings all remember dad, I don't. They KNOW that they lost something. For me, on some level, it's like I never had it. You can't really mourn what you never had.

I mean, there's a hole there, definitely, and his death has totally informed my life but it's not as awful as you'd might think.

Or, because it's the reality I've lived for as long as I can remember (literally, my first memory is the night he died), I'm just used to it.

Not sure which.
Desireex_disturbed_x on July 15th, 2013 06:33 pm (UTC)
Dystopia fiction always amazes me. It's so disturbing because I could actually see this happening but this world is fascinating!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
I'm with you-- and the more likely the dystopia, the more disturbing it is!

It's hugely interesting to read and write, though, I have to say!
the key of the day and the lock of the nightlocknkey on July 16th, 2013 04:35 am (UTC)
Perfect voice here and it paints a vivid picture through the boys words without you having to 'tell' us what's going on. Lovely writing!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Yay! That is exactly the kind of thing I love to hear. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. I know things have been busy!
☾witches on July 17th, 2013 01:09 pm (UTC)
This is beautifully written and really interesting <3
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2013 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I enjoy this universe, though it isn't always easy to write in it (I have to fact-check myself). But the prompt was a good one for telling this type of story. :)
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Government - Not Neededroina_arwen on July 18th, 2013 04:00 am (UTC)
This is very intriguing. I love the line about "this is where all the memories are, including the ones I can't remember." :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
:D Your store of occasion-perfect icons never fails to amaze me.

The line you mentioned seemed so much a kid's way of thinking. Surely if you try hard enough, those memories will come back some day! They don't realize that many times, going forward, what's lost is lost for good.
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": George with Post-Itsroina_arwen on July 19th, 2013 02:19 am (UTC)
I've got over 300 icons, I can almost always pull something out when needed. ;)

It's definitely a kid's way of thinking, which is why I liked the line so much.
lriG rorriMlrig_rorrim on July 18th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Your dystopian pieces are always so great. I love this narrator's voice, and how you get so many peeks into the world through a child's eyes. Perfect! :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Charlie really is a lot of fun to write (he's my youngest narrator, outside of fanfiction), and I like the challenge both of writing a child's POV (where there's so much they don't understand) and also of conveying things that are just wrong for the reader's version of reality. :)
Kellykajel on July 19th, 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
I got so much from this without you having to spell it out. I really like how you set it through the boys' perspectives.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
That is especially nice to hear, because I know this universe is a new one for you! Thanks so much for the feedback. :)
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on July 19th, 2013 04:45 am (UTC)
Aw, poor kid.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)
It's so hard to lose a parent, but I think it's worse when you just have no idea why they're gone. Charlie has been well-protected from the fact that his father was 'taken', and even his mother doesn't know whether her husband is alive or not.
Good old captain crazy-pants: rainbow legsdreamsreflected on July 19th, 2013 12:26 pm (UTC)
this is so sad. very captivating universe.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you-- I'm glad you found the setting intriguing, too, since it's not a typical one!
MamaCheshirecheshire23 on July 19th, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
I love the voice and want to hug the kids.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This dystopian setting would be sad enough, but with a missing father and any little remaining bits of happiness being stolen away, it's even sadder.