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18 August 2014 @ 11:07 pm
LJ Idol Season Nine: "Remembering What To Forget"  
Remembering What To Forget
lj idol season nine | week 18 | 987 words
Disinformation (a story set in the S.A.T.E.D. universe)

x-x-x-x-x

I used to think there was nothing but farms around the outside of town, but I was wrong. Today, I found a whole bunch of big machines out in a field a long way from home. They were mostly buried in the ground, but I guess the rain washed some of the dirt away, so now you can see them.

Ma doesn't want to talk about it. She says I can't tell anybody else, not even my brother Jimmy. I don't see why she's so upset. It wasn't my fault—I found those things by accident!

Me and Bobby Waters were riding a couple of his horses down to the creek, when something happened to mine. I guess she got stung, maybe? Or spooked? Either way, she kind of jumped and then just started running. I was lucky I didn't fall off, but I hung on as hard as I could and after lots and lots of running, she finally stopped. I wasn't sure where we were at first, but I looked in all directions and I finally spotted our town. The church was tiny-tiny from way out there. That stupid horse could've gotten us lost! When I turned her around, that's when I saw the funny rising-up part of the ground and rode over to look.

"What kinds of machines could be that big?" I asked Ma later.

"The kind they don't make anymore," she said.

"Some of them looked like cars. Didn't there used to be cars, before the Remaking?"

"That's enough, Charlie! Go outside and get some wood for the fire."

The government used to let us have a little bit of electricity every month, but it's gotten less and less lately. There's just about enough left to run the overhead lights after dark, and Ma thinks that'll end soon. Taking away all the technology during the Remaking was supposed to make us better people. I guess we haven't been good enough, if the last little pieces they left us from Before are going away now too.

I wondered if we could have some of those things back again, if we worked hard and prayed like we were told to, even though sometimes it seems like that's all we do. I don't even know what most of those things were, except words like machines and computers and scientists. I can't figure out how electricity fits into it. It just seems like magic.

Who knows? Maybe it is.

At least we still have trains. They don't come through very often, but we still get food from other parts of the country sometimes, and Ma can get into the city when she runs out of vaccines and antibiotics. She's not a real doctor, she just does shots and some of the little things. I'm not sure what happened to the other doctors. I think Emma Hightower's mother used to be a doctor, but she was one of the people who went to work one day and didn't come back. Just like Daddy.

I think people have trouble remembering how much they're supposed to know and how much to forget. Mrs. Tolliver's son, Eli, has purplish lips and gets awfully tired, and I heard her ask Ma once if she could help Eli get surgery.

"Nobody gets to have surgery anymore," Ma said.

"What about government workers?" Mrs. Tolliver said. "Do their families get surgery?"

"Hush, Ellen before someone hears you! We were told all that equipment was destroyed."

Mrs. Tolliver walked away with her head down and her face all scrunched up. Ma looked sad and angry at the same time, but I wasn't sure exactly why.

I try not to think about the machines I saw or the things we're losing, but sometimes it's hard. When we go to church on Sunday, it's darker than usual inside. There are candles everywhere, but you can't see very well to read. We're supposed to have the hymns and Scripture memorized, so I guess reading shouldn't really matter. The minister leads us in prayers to forget our sinful past and embrace the simpler life ahead. The church is cold, and there are no fireplaces to warm it. I hate to think how it'll be come winter.

We all gather on the sidewalk afterward, talking with friends and neighbors. Susie Clinton from school stands right there next to me, smoothing the front of her yellow dress all ladylike and pretending she wasn't who knocked all the pencils off my desk last Friday. I don't pay her any attention, either.

There's a funny, faraway sound overhead that I don't remember ever hearing before. I look up and see a big, silver-colored thing heading into the clouds. I know it isn't a bird, and it kind of looks and sounds like a machine, but those aren't allowed anymore.

"Daddy, what is that?" some little girl asks.

"Yes, what is it?" Jimmy wants to know, and I wonder too.

All the grownups give each other funny looks, until the girl's father speaks up loud and says, "I don't know." We wait to see if anyone else can tell us, but one after another they all say, "I don't know," like a gaggle of birds with just one song.

I look at Ma, and her face has that closed-off set to it that means I'd better not ask.

We go home and eat, and then Jimmy runs out to the yard to play. "Was that something from Before?" I ask, once he's too far away to hear. "It seems like it might be, but I thought all that was supposed to be gone."

"It was," Ma says.

She spends the rest of the afternoon washing clothes in the sink, her hands yanking them so roughly I half expect them to tear. I go out into the yard and look after Jimmy.

I make sure he and I don't come in again before dark.


--/--


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rayasorayaso on August 19th, 2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
What a great story! It made me very curious as to how it would end. When Charlie and Bobby find the machines, I thought they might dig them up and get into trouble, but they're too brainwashed for that. The "voice" for Charlie is great. I also like the toss-away comment about Susie Clinton and Charlie - the accuracy and poignancy of it made me laugh. This entry is complete without the other S.A.T.E.D. (also excellent) entries and you do a good job explaining why the people no longer have any technology, what the Remaking is, and then exposing the hypocrisy/lies of the government, which has kept technology for the favored few.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 19th, 2014 04:48 pm (UTC)
but they're too brainwashed for that.
There's a lot of fear in this society, partly because most of the people who know something have lost a friend or family member during the Remaking (which was more of an anti-technology "purge"). The grownup and older kids don't say what they know, and the younger ones who are in the dark... the can sense the fear, which is a much stronger motivator to behave than simply "shouldn't."

I'm glad you liked the detail of Susie and Charlie-- that is such a kid thing, where neither entirely knows what they're doing or why, but it can be fairly obvious to other people. :D
adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on August 19th, 2014 03:57 pm (UTC)
Disinformation in Dystopia! Nice! AW
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 19th, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC)
It's almost a given, isn't it? One of the things that tends to make dystopias what they are is power-manipulation and disinformation from those in charge.

It's why a post-apocalyptic world is hard-going, but a dystopian post-apocalyptice world is MUCH worse than it has to be.

And so fascinating, at least to me!
(no subject) - adoptedwriter on August 19th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on August 19th, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
Ah you have created your own 'Verse! I'm bookmarking this to return to the earlier installments! Post-apocalyptic is always so depressing. You really captured that here. But there's a small spark of hope in the fact that some are still curious and many still remember...Nice work!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 19th, 2014 04:52 pm (UTC)
Dystopian settings ARE depressing, and yet I find them fascinating. All the ways in which people find to screw up a bad situation and make it worse... it's so obnoxiously human.

And yet, there IS always hope. As long as people are alert enough to question and possibly revolt, the hope is there.

Glad you enjoyed this!
(no subject) - bleodswean on August 19th, 2014 05:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 19th, 2014 05:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bleodswean on August 19th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
cindytsuki_no_bara on August 20th, 2014 02:41 am (UTC)
i love this verse, and i love that we see it through a kid's eyes, so we have to read into the stuff that he doesn't understand, because he can't explain what's going on.

(it's a bird! it's a plane! it's... a plane! but where did it come from?)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 20th, 2014 05:56 pm (UTC)
because he can't explain what's going on.
I think that's a much more interesting way to tell these stories than through adults who knew the before and are very clear on the transition to where they are now.

Including those who suspect that the 'reasons' behind the change are not entirely what they're purported to be.

The plane is something the government or some other power entity still has and uses... even while telling the populace that those were bad and are now forbidden.

Because isn't that always the way?
favoritebeanfavoritebean on August 20th, 2014 08:58 am (UTC)
Once again, this was very well written. I like the stream of consciousness that seems to fill the page from Charlie's day. To be honest, I was hoping that Charlie and Bobby would tinker with the machines rather than fear them. It brings the prompt home though- technology is bad, or humans are bad and can't handle technology. Either way, such a sad, sad place.

Bravissimo!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 20th, 2014 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

It's fun writing from a child's POV, partly for the randomness and also because they rarely understand entirely what's going on... even moreso when their society is being lied to from up above.

The adults here are terrified of anyone venturing back into messing with things that caused friends and family to be 'disappeared' during the remaking. That fear communicates itself really well to the kids, especially those like Charlie whose father was one of the ones who never came back home. While he may not fully know what happened there, his mother sure does. :(
i_17bingoi_17bingo on August 20th, 2014 09:56 am (UTC)

"Some of them looked like cars. Didn't there used to be cars, before the Remaking?"

So they found , Carhenge, then.

The confusion and sadness in your characters are the standouts in this really wonderful mood piece. "Sated" my ass.

I had an idea once for a dictatorship that ratcheted back most technology to the Post-WWII era, and--after some growing pains--it turned out to be a utopia. The idea was that the lack of serious robotics gave more people work to do in manufacturing, and less entertainment meant less coveting.



Edited at 2014-08-20 09:57 am (UTC)
i_17bingoi_17bingo on August 20th, 2014 09:57 am (UTC)
Also: perfect title.
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 20th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
A Karmic Sandbox: Smotheredkarmasoup on August 20th, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
This world just keeps getting sadder and sadder. I am glad to finally see a ray of hope for its future in the helicopter, though.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 06:34 am (UTC)
The bleeding through of things that are supposed to be gone is exactly the kind of thing that cracks the armor of the lie that keeps the masses at bay.

Knowing how you've suffered for "the greater good," only to find out that others are still using those forbidden things, can ignite a revolution.
John Louis: Applause Colbertgrail76 on August 21st, 2014 01:04 am (UTC)
Nice flavor.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 06:34 am (UTC)
Thank you!
uncawesuncawes on August 21st, 2014 03:30 am (UTC)
Big Brother is watching you. This had a very 1984 feel to that side of the story. Very scary indeed
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 06:39 am (UTC)
It's impressive how well you can control the masses when you diminish their ability to communicate over large distances, make them fearful, and render their lives so inefficient that they expend large amounts of time and energy on the basics of living. :(
MamaCheshirecheshire23 on August 21st, 2014 04:59 am (UTC)
The scary thing is the number of people who actually seem to WANT this to be our future. Or at least think they do until they realize that they really didn't think shit through.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
Exactly-- as if electing kooky, repressive people will never come back to haunt you.

So long as you're not in power, you'll eventually be a target. Because that's how repressive people just are.
whipchickwhipchick on August 21st, 2014 10:14 am (UTC)
I really liked this - you're so good at voice, and the voice and POV really sell it! Loved this detail:

Susie Clinton from school stands right there next to me, smoothing the front of her yellow dress all ladylike and pretending she wasn't who knocked all the pencils off my desk last Friday.

The one line that stuck out for me was Charlie hating to think how the church will be come winter, because up until that point I felt like the Remaking had happened long enough ago for it to be all Charlie ever knew (and which I think was your intention?) but that line sounds like she doesn't know what winter is going to be like. I think it's just a phrasing thing?

Really enjoyed reading this, and it would make a terrific premise for a middle grade!
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Penguin - Fucking Freezingroina_arwen on August 21st, 2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
The one line that stuck out for me was Charlie hating to think how the church will be come winter, because up until that point I felt like the Remaking had happened long enough ago for it to be all Charlie ever knew

Yes, I had the same reaction to that line. I'm glad it wasn't just me. :)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - roina_arwen on August 21st, 2014 04:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
penpusherpenpusher on August 21st, 2014 11:38 am (UTC)
I love the Charlie's perspective and the observations he chooses to share. It has such gentle moments of sorrow weaved in between the just trying to keep life "normal" feeling layered above it. Great voice and descriptive language.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
It's a sad situation for a kid to grow up with, especially (implied here, but obvious to readers in other installments) because his own father was one of the victims of that 'purge.'

Living in a pretechnological society is so different from living in one where all of that was taken back, abruptly... and there's a sense that the adults know things you don't, and certainly lived different lives from what's left over now for you. :(
swirlsofblueswirlsofblue on August 21st, 2014 12:10 pm (UTC)
I love your encapsulation of this world and the narrative voice, brilliant.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 04:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
Kellykajel on August 21st, 2014 01:53 pm (UTC)
The voice of this is just amazing. Love it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 04:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I enjoy writing for this character a lot. He isn't my only 'kid' character, but his world is so interesting, especially through the lens of his knowledge vs. what the reader perceives through him.
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": I Remember What Interests Meroina_arwen on August 21st, 2014 02:13 pm (UTC)
I had the same reaction as Whipchick to Charlie "hating to think how the church will be come winter," but otherwise I really enjoyed this piece and all the little details that you put into this universe. Charlie is a very engaging character.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 21st, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
I was surprised by that, because I thought I'd covered that within this story-- but apparently it didn't register for everyone.

Glad you enjoyed this all the same!