Friday, March 05, 2010
On most nights, Annie's mother smiled and promised she would eat later after she divided her portion of dinner between her children. But no amount of money could buy what they needed for survival anymore, and her weakness and apathy diminished her interaction with the surrounding world. Eventually her body, mind, and struggle against the inevitable stopped.
Yesterday, she died of starvation.
Today, Annie walked unfamiliar streets with her little brother looking for an address. Her mother's last whispers through puffed lips cleaved with arid lineations told of a place where rebels offered sustenance.
“Come with us,” Annie had begged as she held out a glass of water, but her mother shook her head and refused the drink. The fungi growing in her throat made swallowing unbearably painful.
“I'm sorry,” she said to her children in an exhale of shallow breath. A few hours later, there were no more words.
When the president of the country announced the unexpected and shocking news that war had come to their doorstep, Annie's father left immediately to rejoin his former military colleagues, all of whom were determined to take up arms against the invaders.
At one time in the past, a beloved politician intoned the immortal words, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But this battle had no precedent, and the citizens realized they could look neither to their stricken leader nor to history for guidance and comfort. Hope seemed non-existent; there was everything to fear now.
“Are we there yet?” her brother asked after she touched his shoulder and stilled his steps. They looked around the garbage-strewn area in the abandoned industrial section of the city.
“Yes,” she said. “We just have to stand behind this person, that's all.” She pointed to a man who did not acknowledge them except for moving forward a step and hunching his shoulders, as if to say this spot on this here concrete is mine!
Her brother turned to her. “Will we get food?”
“I hope so,” she said, and saw that he shivered. Taking a small sweater from her bag, she helped him put it on and, after all the buttons were secured, placed her arm around his frailty. She knew they would be here for some time.
Lines stretched for blocks as people waited for their rations. Starvation instead of annihilation. The aliens were smart.
Note: I thank Selorian for the last paragraph, a prompt found at his #storystarters page.