TAKING HEART

She awoke slowly, the Band on her wrist beeping in a soft, insidious undertone. How many days had it been since she last heard silence? She barely knew what the word meant anymore.

Shifting painfully to her side, the remnant of the dream she had stayed at the edges of her world, darkening the corners of her eyes. Of course, it could also be the persistent low blood sugar from consuming Their shitty food. Mechs were able to replicate almost all human-forms, yet for all Their technology, They could not understand the importance of balanced nutrients. Electricity was electricity, be it nuclear-fissioned or sun-generated. Their generated human-food veered into the extreme territory of bland muck or highly-sugared rubbish.

What was the dream she had? Water through a sieve. Pebbles on a beach. Sun on the sand. Whose memories were these? The ocean was a distant dream in the concretised and mechanised city of Alta; the memory of its saltiness only present in the glistening skin of the Hums, the sound of the waves drowned out by the beeping Bands which kept them within Alta.

Heaving her feet over the bed, she felt a lighting jolt of nausea that she fought back. No, not today.

The beeping of the Band accompanied her sluggish morning routine and followed her as she got onto the R train headed for Alta’s steam districts. The train was filled with the usual Hums on her shift. Dead-eyed and devoid of feeling, the Hums swayed listlessly as the train rumbled on. The beeping continued – this time in a sick symphony with the other Bands on the train.

She looked blankly out as the ramshackle buildings rushed by, wind blowing miserably into the cabin. By now, she knew every jolt and bump of the train. Soon the train would begin its ascent, speeding up as it curved around the Barrier. The Barrier was a hulking monstrosity of concrete and rusty steel bars. It kept the Hums in, not that they ventured any further – the efficiency of the Bands was able to frighten them into doing that. Bootleg clips circulated around the Hums of the poor souls who did and the deaths that followed. Hums argued which was a better way to die – eventual collapse at one of Their numerous worksites or a quick yet very painful end by high-voltage electricity?

She never had time to think about that choice.

The train rounded the base of the Barrier and began its ascent. Suddenly, somewhere in the unstoppable beeping, she heard it. A soft gentle rustle, followed by the rolling of a pebble. Her heart tightened, pulled taut. Her hand, with its own volition, found the icy cold rim of the cabin window. Jolt, rumble, jolt, jolt. She counted silently, eyes marking each familiar feature on the Barrier.

Then, through a crack, a sudden flash of silver; a jumping fish in a golden sea. This was it.

The rusting metal of the train floor creaked under her feet. She gripped the worn sides of the window and hauled herself out of the window. Flinging herself forward like a catapult, she jumped, body arching towards the hulking grey mass of the Barrier, aiming for the concrete holds worn down by the weather. Fear and adrenaline coursed through her veins. She closed her eyes in fear and hoped for her feet to find solid ground. Thud! A cloud of dust shimmered in the air, almost a mirage of an oasis. She sprawled onto the concrete surface of the barrier, pain shooting up her right arm from breaking her fall.

Heart pounding, she stood up shakily and stared at the expanse of blue in front of her. The warmth of the sun caressed her cheeks, welcoming her into its embrace. The rhythmic rolls of the water sounded like a distant memory of palm trees. It was only then that the crescendo of the Band reached her ears. A sudden sharp pain struck her wrist. A spiderweb of sparking electricity was starting to emanate from the Band. Time was running out.

She took a deep breath, inhaling in the warm salty air. It was time. Clenching her fist, she took a running leap; the sound of the crashing waves drowned out the wretched wailing of the Band. For the first time in a long while, her heart stilled in peace. She smiled, as the waves took her home.

6 WORD STORIES

Grandmother spoke in an incomprehensible tongue.

For rent: one womb, disease free.

55 WORD FICTION

She sighed softly. Waiting for the bus was a terrible mistake. The leaves rustled in the night breeze, and she stood uncomfortably in a jostling crowd that reminded her of gazelles drinking uneasily at a watering hole. The street lamp flickered. She looked up at the brightening sky. “What the f–“ Then, eternal silence.

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