A short story I wrote about the future of America, dystopianized (that's a word, right?)
|February 1st, 2056 |
My bare feet slap the street as I run, little pebbles and jagged bits of trash slicing into the flesh. Why am I barefoot? I remember putting shoes on. Wait.
I slide to a halt, wincing as the road grates on the soles of my feet. I look down at my feet, confused. No, I did have on shoes. And the thing I was running from, or to, what was it again? C’mon Nat, try to remember.
I look around, waiting for something to come out of the old flower shop behind me, or step off the bus that’s boarding at the stop across the street. Nothing happens. No one comes towards me. Some people are giving me odd looks, but that’s probably because I’m standing in the middle of the road, barefoot. I scan the area, looking for familiar scenery or people. Nope, none. No shoes, no familiar scenery, no reason to be running. This isn’t real.
February 2, 2056:
Status Report: G.W. Carver High, San Fransisco
Students are progressing well in eradicating their emotional deficiencies. This is good, as they will need to be able to soundly reason in order to survive the parasites. That is all.
February 2nd, 2056
My mind surfaces long before my body does. It’s been doing that since I started the class, along with all the other lowerclassmen in my high school. I’m not sure if that’s normal, and I’ve always been scared to ask. The last thing you want to be in these times is different. People will start to ask questions you can’t answer, and then eventually, you’re put into exile, where the people who can’t answer the questions go. No one knows what the questions are, but supposedly they can root out those who have the parasites inside them.
The San Francisco Post: February 3rd, 2056
It has come to the attention of several reputable world leaders that the parasites are indigenous to North America specifically. There have been threats of war if we do not go into a mandatory quarantine period until widespread screening can take place. Dr. Laila Salzberg, a leading expert on the parasites, says those with red hair are more likely to already have the parasites. Please separate yourselves from those who have red hair, even those in your immediate family.
February 4th, 2056
We read about them in class, but there’s not much to read. Nothing is definite. The 2 kids with red hair in our class, Marc and Caitlyn, got escorted out around noon yesterday. Nothing makes sense. I wish they’d tell us something. Anyway, I got a good score in my Health class, which my mother says is nothing like the health class she took as a young girl. She was born in 2013, before the 2020 Pandemic and the Parasite outbreak, only 35 years later.
“We live in a complicated world, Natalie.” She’ll say every time I ask her about the parasites. “Best not to worry.”
But I do worry.
February 5th, 2056
Usually this time of year we have a Valentine’s Day dance, but not this year. This year we go straight home after school and work, and we stay there until instructed otherwise. My mother doesn’t work anymore, and my father works all the time to support us. I hardly ever see him. You’d expect that it would make me sad, but actually, I don’t even know my father well enough to miss him when he’s gone. I hope he’s safe, wherever he’s working.
CNN Broadcast, February 6th, 2056:
It seems as though the parasites have mutated again. All work on a potential cure has been scrapped, as it’s been rendered ineffective. The new estimated release date is February 20th, but that may be delayed. New symptoms may include the following: Foggy eyes, premature greying of the hair, and personality shifts. Leading minds think they may have found a way to leech onto the central nervous system, therefore controlling the emotions of their hosts, causing them to react based on those emotions.
February 7th, 2056
Another news broadcast last night. People are avoiding those who are emotional in public like the plague. There’s been a couple of murders, and people blame the parasites. All the victims have had red hair. I don’t think the parasites would kill the people who are the most vulnerable to them unless they don’t know the difference. The scientists say that they’re sentient, at the least, and possibly sapient. I’m starting to wonder what the scientists really know to be true. Theories are only good if they’re proven.
February 8th, 2056
There are people on the streets, preaching about the end of days. They hold signs that say things like “Admit your sins and be one with Him” and “The end is upon us, are you right with Him?” I hope they’re wrong about the end of the world coming so fast. It’s a scary thought. At school today, they forbade the use of the word Parasite, in any context. Any books with the word were removed, even history books. I wonder how we’re supposed to learn if we don’t have our history to teach us?
The San Francisco Post: February 9th, 2056
Riots have continued, led by those whose families have fallen victim to the brutality caused by the newscast’s induced panic, and those believed to be infected. There have been 10 reported casualties thus far. Law enforcement hasn’t been able to do much in the way of restoring peace. In other news, the word “Parasite” is now banned from use by all citizens, effective immediately. Those who use banned words will be taken into custody immediately without an immediate chance of bail. Please don’t travel alone at night, and stay away from strangers.
February 10th, 2056
They sent everyone home today, even the teachers and city workers. When I got home, a man that I vaguely recognized as my father sat at the kitchen table. I have his nose and lips, and his height. Odd, how you can have shared traits from a stranger’s face. I sit opposite him, waiting for him to speak.
“Your mother will be home soon, she said. She went to go get some groceries.”
He slides a note across the table, inviting me to look. I give it a cursory glance, making sure it’s her handwriting and nothing else. My stomach turns inside out with worry. My mother and her auburn hair, out getting groceries. We took a chance by not distancing ourselves from her, and it’d be so much more logical to send me, with my black hair. But I wasn’t home in time for that. We sit in silence until she gets home, 30 minutes later. Only then does my stomach untwist, at least until my father looks around and says that word. The one they just banned. Mother and I just stared at him in shock. He looked back at her, defiance in his eyes. He looks much younger with that spark in his eyes, much wilder. Like he could topple the city over if he tried. I wonder if I look like that when I get a spark of inspiration or a fire of indignation. The two often go hand and hand with me, I was a sullen child, according to my mother. We’re sitting on the couch later, watching the news, when a knock on the door comes. Father goes to answer, then is immediately handcuffed. He doesn’t struggle, and Mother can’t even cry, lest people think she’s got the beasts inside her brain. But I’m left wondering after all is over, How did they know what he said? It was the three of us and no one else.
February 11th, 2056
Everyone at school heard about my father’s arrest. Word travels surprisingly fast, for such a big city. But some people love to talk, whether what they’re saying is truth or lie. It’s a flaw in humanity, for sure. But humanity wouldn’t thrive as well if it didn’t have flaws, or at least that’s what the Mayor says. Maybe because he’s a politician, and he wants people to like him. But what he said has some truth. He also says “Make examples of the proud,” which I used to love because if you cut out an important cog, the whole machine goes down, but would he consider my father one of the proud?
Or just one of the guilty?
CNN Broadcast, February 12th, 2056
The cure is coming along nicely, the government assures us. A new name for the infection has come out and can be used without worry of being arrested. It is now called “The Parasitoid” as a single or someone with the condition, and just “Parasi” as a collective. That’s all for tonight.
February 13th, 2056
Classes were canceled until further notice. The Parasi had spread throughout our city, with some of the upper-class people getting sick. Strange that they didn’t think to separate families from others until the rich people started getting sick, but I’m sure there’s a good reason. The riots are getting worse, and the casualty counts are getting up towards the hundreds. Between the murders and the riot casualties, I think the city will tear itself apart. It’s got rot at its core, and it’s close to collapsing. The only thing we can do is hold our breath and wait.
February 14th, 2056
People don’t care that today is the day of love, they’re hurting too bad. Even in our community, there are rumbles of mouths and stomachs alike, because the stores have had such low stock lately. We’re not poor, at the worst you could call us lower middle class, even though we aren’t getting any income from Father and Mother can’t find a job because nothing is open. We aren’t starving, and we’ll survive. For what it’s worth, Happy Valentines Day.
The San Francisco Post: February 15th, 2056
Today the death toll rises to over 300, nearly tripling in a two-day period. The government blames The Parasitoid, who have about 250 known murders. Authorities have yet to capture A Parasi, though they say they’re going to work on the issue. Family members of someone who is infected are asked that they turn the individual in for study, and they will be compensated handsomely.
February 16th, 2056
I can’t believe they’re blaming The Parasi for this. Since when are they not humans? And why hasn’t there been any captured Parasi if they’re all over like the mayor and other politicians say? Something doesn’t add up here, but I’m not sure what.
February 17th, 2056
The cure is supposed to come in three days, but I doubt it will for some reason. The riots have started in our neighborhood. Mother was robbed on her way home yesterday, her pearls and wallet. She kept a picture of Father in her wallet. It’s the only time I’ve seen her cry. There’s a rally for students in my area, those who want to protest the government keeping us in the dark. I wanted to go, but I couldn’t make myself. It’ll probably turn out badly, one way or another.
CNN Broadcast, February 18th, 2056
Today, ladies and gentlemen, marks a sad day for all of America. Nearly 70 youths were killed last night in the city of San Francisco. Authorities point to the violent Parasi, whose numbers are estimated to be at 15,000 by now. There have still been no captures regarding The Parasi, but the law enforcement departments swear they will catch one yet. Our prayers go out to the families of the youths whose blood was spilled so needlessly. An alert, all footage regarding the incident, besides government-owned footage, of course, is not valid or real. No footage was found on the youths, and no footage has been released.
February 19th, 2056
I came so close to death last night. That could have been me, my body broken on the street, my heart still. It could have been, but it wasn’t, and now I have work to do. See, footage was found, filmed by one of the rich kids who could afford a phone, sent in a moment of desperation to a friend. The text was deleted, all evidence erased before they had a moment to search the phones to see who they had to intercept. It’s a tricky, delicate game they’re playing, and one little misstep has the weight to throw the whole thing off balance and onto the ground. One little misstep on my part could get me killed, harm my family, or both. This journal will hold evidence. Let’s play.
Here’s what I know:
1.No one else was around when my father said “parasite”, and no one left the room, so the authorities couldn’t be notified. Our house must be bugged in some way, and since our family doesn’t have any kind of special significance, I have to assume most everyone else’s is too.
2.The fact that The Parasi are as numerous as they say they are, but there haven’t been any proven eye-witness accounts, and none have been captured. The symptoms are wide-ranged and fit almost every human in one way or another. I mean, Greying hair? Over-emotional? That could fit anyone they want to get rid of.
3.The footage sent, shown to anyone who would look, clearly shows the uniforms of the upper guard, our politician’s protection. The police in our area were played. They didn’t know about this.
4.They sent us home one day, then sent us back to school and jobs. That’s not a quarantine, it’s not long enough. I’d bet money they were testing the surveillance systems.
5.The red-head vulnerability makes no sense. If I was a parasitic creature, I’d target the biggest audience I could, not the smallest. And since they’ve mutated, they’d be more suited to survive. A small population to turn the rest of the population on, to spread distrust? Maybe.
CNN Broadcast, February 20th, 2056
We here at CNN regret to be the ones to have to share this news, but the cure has been delayed again. They’re thinking mid-September now, but there will be a cure at some point. They have to make sure it’s safe. As far as the infected people go, they think somewhere around 25,000 and rapidly rising. Please stay indoors if at all possible, and treat others with extreme caution.
February 21st, 2056
Five little reasons. Five little details they missed out on. And a week until everything slides into place. I have a plan. A dangerous plan, one that could end my life, but free a million more. It’ll be worth it. I’ll have to be pretty light on details, in case they read this, but I’ll write it in later.
February 22nd, 2056
We’re back in school. A nine-day quarantine period. When I asked Mother, she said that during the 2020 Pandemic, the quarantine period was 2 weeks. Nine days isn’t a quarantine period. It’s a confinement sentence.
February 24th, 2056
I was so busy yesterday, I didn’t write. Nothing I need to write yet anyway. My plan goes into action on the 28th of February. The last day of one of the coldest months, the day at the end of the month that gives way to spring. New life. I like the sound of that. Nothing CNN and The Post say any more matters to me, it’s irrelevant, a story woven out of lies. No need to put it here.
February 25th, 2056
Something I’d like to write about, truly, is a little bit about myself. So if my plan goes wrong at least you know what I was like. Maybe we would be friends?
I’m 16 years old, my birthday is January 9th. I have black hair that’s a pain to keep brushed and a small cluster of freckles on the tip of my nose. I‘m about 5’5, and I’ve always had a passion deep inside me, for what I don’t know. But it’s there. I don’t have any friends, I’m much too quiet for that. I’m not very athletic, but I can run okay. I like rainy weather and sunsets. My name is Natalie. Please don’t forget me. My name is Natalie.
February 26th, 2056
Have you ever just looked at the stars? They’re like tiny little miracles, balls of fire burning a million miles away, just watching us, not realizing we’re watching them too. I hope I’m doing the right thing here, with this plan and all, because there’s no turning back.
February 27th, 2056
It’s time to tell you about the plan. It’s not very complex, or grand, but it’ll work either way. I’ll be giving a copy of my journal to a trustworthy person. For their safety, I won’t tell you who, but If you’re reading this, you might know anyway. If I should die, they’ll make copies of my journal and distribute them. The word will get out, and the people should take it from there. If I succeed, then it won’t be necessary and you’ll likely never read this. I’m taking the fight right to the government. And the government better take the fight right back to me.
February 28th, 2056
This will be the last entry regardless. If my plan works I’ll get a new journal, If it doesn’t I won’t be around to write in it. Nothing else left to do but put it all into action. I find myself going through photographs again, lingering in my memories. I hope March 1st is beautiful, warm, and sunny. The fountain in the park will catch the light on the water, and the toddlers will dip their legs in and throw coins in its depths as I used to when I was a child. I’m not a child anymore, but I’m not quite grown either. I’m like an idea, interesting and not-quite-fully formed, but that’s the beauty of it. Say my name, never stop. Not until we get the truth. It’s time for March.
A/N: Sequel out now: "Ides of March"