lj idol season nine | week 18 | 987 words
Disinformation (a story set in the S.A.T.E.D. universe)
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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