Friday, March 05, 2010

Blockade

The city's resources were no longer adequate to feed the hungry after enemy forces arrived.

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.

41 comments:

  1. Chilling. Very well written.

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  2. Frightening. No way to fight back. Your story is intense in that it is all too plausible in our future.

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  3. creepy reminds me of what is going on in Haiti!

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  4. Suitably apocalyptic for my mood this Friday bathed in Spring.

    I think you might need a comma after 'lineations' as the reader may be struggling for a mental pause in that sentence without it.

    It faintly reminded me of McCarthy's "The Road" which can be no bad thing of course.

    Good job.

    Marc Nash

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  5. Wow. So incredibly sad. Your paragraph about the little sweater really touched me... it was all she could do to ward off the evils of the world, just a sweater, and a small one at that.
    Nice work, Marisa. Struck a deep chord with me this morning.

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  6. How touching and sad. I think of the Haitians, the families in New Orleans, Chile, and all those who will come after and all that have come before.

    You captured our frailty and the cruelty that can erupt from those in charge in a beautiful flow of words.

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  7. I just left a site that asked the question, "What is your greatest fear?" Many things swirled around in my head. But after reading this, Marisa, I have found my greatest fear. Young children having to fend for themselves and in many countries it is already happening.

    What a well written story.

    Warm Wishes,
    Cynthia

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  8. You've got some really powerful sentences in here. The opening line is strong, I also liked: " A few hours later, there were no more words."

    Interesting story prompt, too - it made an unexpected ending. Spooky!

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  9. So sad, and so strongly written Marisa. I'm not surprised, but I am in awe. As much as I enjoy your humor pieces, I believe you do these even better.
    Bravo!

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  10. I thought this was a great piece overall, but I really liked the final paragraph. Summed it up perfectly. Great story!

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  11. Bleak and spare. Truly awe inspiring flash.

    Well done.

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  12. This was great. And the last line turned what would otherwise a tragic war story into science fiction too. Great job.

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  13. For me, the whole thing served as a well detailed lead up to a pitch perfect ending. The last two paragraphs are like a black and white photo in the mind.

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  14. Disorientating throughout in a way that grips you tight, exemplified by "Yesterday, she died of starvation".

    Smart aliens, smart writing.

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  15. Like Mr. Solender, I can't help but think of Haiti and Chile even with your frequent references to war. It's all just so sad.

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  16. Reading this, I thought of my two first novels (one, written when 16 doesn't count) and writing a dystopian narrative. My first thought, "chilling," was taken by Jemi. One small quibble: it took me two readings to make sure it was Annie's mother and not Annie who died. Tragic ending and compelling story.

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  17. So sad, but so beautifully written, (also gave me the chills too).

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  18. "Starvation instead of annihilation. The aliens were smart." Indeed, as others have said, chilling. I can see the sister repeating the actions of the mother. And similar cycles repeated until--there is not only no hope, but no one to have a chance to hope. Well-written and haunting.

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  19. You’ve done an excellent job here writing a chilling and bleak tale. I found the moment where Annie helps her brother put the sweater on and then puts her arm around him touching. There is some hope with such simple human gestures.

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  20. "puffed lips cleaved with arid lineations" -Delicious phrase.

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  21. Horrible. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

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  22. Excellent Marisa. I could feel the story just as much as see it in my mind. You are smart to write about a subject that is in our minds today. My favorite of yours todate.

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  23. This is so well written, and builds up the situation brilliantly. It could be any war, any time (I was thinking WW2 Europe) so the fact it is aliens in the future was a complete surprise. Lovely last paragraph.

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  24. Very well done with horrifying details like the fungus growing in the mother's throat and the appearance of her lips. Sounds like the aliens know how to hit 'em where it hurts. A strange contrast to Mazzz's "Slice of Life" -- lots of bitter memories there.

    CD

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  25. Chilling tale. The aliens always say they come in peace, but they never do.

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  26. That was terrific. So vivid, I felt it in the pit of my stomach. It's a remarkably good use of the #storystarters.

    Take care,
    Jess

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  27. I think what makes this story so disturbing is the realization that it could happen (maybe not the alien part but the devestation). I was also reminded of Haiti and Chili. Very well written.

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  28. Anonymous9:42 PM

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  29. Bleak, sad, and a strong little girl. Annie stepped into her role as protector so well, your heart just breaks for the two children.

    I too thought the ending lines beautiful.

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  30. So poetic, Marisa. It's haunting, and though it is undeniably bleak I found the human touches touched deeply - the sweater, the mother sharing her food out. A thoughtful, wonderfully crafted piece.
    Simon.

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  31. Wow, Marisa - as others have said, this is so reminiscent of many recent events and it is so sad and chilling. There is a lot of irony in the other-worldly ending since our own world holds so many tragedies.

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  32. This is your better tale so far Marisa! (at least from the selection I've read ;) I loved it!

    But I've got to tell you that I was expecting the twitching alien thing in the end, heh. You caught me on the last one though.

    Ah yes, Mari-girl, I left a blog award for you in my latest post. Will you stop by and collect it? ;D

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  33. Awfully sad - and like others have said, reminiscent of Haiti and real-life situations where people have to go through this sort of hell :(

    Loved the bit with the girl helping her brother with his jumper - a little humanity will always survive, it seems.

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  34. These are the kinds of stories that movies are made of. Excellent! Gave me chills and makes me think of the words, "All that space, we can't be the only ones out there." Yeah, but I'd rather not know or meet them!

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  35. Anonymous9:55 PM

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  36. Very bleak, and I wasn't expecting the sci-fi twist. It's great that you used a #storystarter as a story ending. I really enjoyed reading.

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