Drop Zone

Yukiru crept through the alleys between squares, trying to avoid everyone on the street. Every time she heard voices or shoes slapping against pavement, she flattened herself against a wall and held her breath, the only sound was the growling of her stomach. She hadn’t eaten anything in two days, and her body wasn’t letting her forget it. Her formerly skin tight jeans sagged off of her waist and she’d had to use a belt to hold them up. She wore sneakers made for cross country running in case she had to make a hasty retreat. She just hoped she had the energy to run when the time came.

Sometimes the FEMA drop zones got wild with people fighting over food. A month ago they used trucks to make the deliveries but those were too easily overrun with rogue gangs of angry citizens. The city had organized regular patrols of soldiers from Hunter Army Airfield and they had helped with containing the violence but there simply weren’t enough of them to go around.It was dangerous to journey into downtown, but Yukiru had no other choice.

An army jeep rolled past her packed with troops holding their weapons. They packed tear gas as well in case another food riot broke out. She knew they would be heading toward the drop zone.  One of them saw her and said something to the soldier next to him in the truck, but thankfully they didn’t stop. The sound of the helicopter in the distance got louder, too close. She didn’t have much time. Groups of people ran past with backpacks or cloth grocery bags, all intent on making it to the drop before everything was taken. There was no use in hiding now, she would need to run the rest of the way to get there in time to claim one of the emergency kits.

As she takes her first step toward Johnson Square a hand slaps over her mouth and pulls her backward. “Don’t scream,” he whispered.

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Yukiru fought down the urge to scratch and bite the man. He whispered so close to her face and she smelled old coffee and cheese on his breath.

“I’m not going to hurt you, if you cooperate.” His left hand caressed her side wrested at her hip where it squeezed her firmly. “ Are you going to cooperate?”

She nodded her head. He trailed the tip of a knife down her back and reached under her t-shirt slicing her bra off in one quick stroke. He’s done this before. He slipped a hand inside her shirt and squeezed her left breast. His fingers were callused and rough like sandpaper.

He pushed her face against the red brick wall, the sharp edges cutting into her check. She heard him sound of him unzip his pants. Will he kill me after? Maybe it would be better if he did. She shook all over with fear. “W-Why do are you doing this?”

He laughed a little at the question, grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head backward. “Because I can.” He licked the side of her face and when his tongue slipped into her ear like a fat wet slug she couldn’t stifle a scream.

With her eyes squeezed tight she hadn’t noticed the other man approach. One moment rough fingers were tugging at her jeans, and they next they stopped. Her eyes snapped open.

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The sound behind her was a combination gasp and gurgle. She turned around to see her attacker was slumped backwards and lifeless in the arms of another man holding a knife of his own. He let the body of her would-be rapist fall to the ground like a sack full of rocks.

The hooded man came closer and gave the body a severe kick to the back. He looked at her and she could see pale green eyes staring back from the hood. “Did he hurt you?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, are you going to?”

“No, but you should go home,” he advised. “It’s not safe for a female alone on the streets anymore, even during daylight.”

She looked down at her shoes, ashamed of being so foolish. “I know, but I was so hungry.”

The hooded man shrugged out of the backpack he wore and retrieved something in a wrapper. It was a peanut butter and chocolate protein bar, “Here, take this.”

Yukiru reached for the food and their fingertips touched for just a moment. She tore the wrapper off and took three successive bits of the protein bar as if she thought someone might take it from her.

“We need to get out of here before someone notices the body.”

“Lead the way,” she said and in that moment realized she was putting her faith in the hands of a man she’d never met.

Sketch mastery rendered by the phenomenal Tadd Trueb Designer and Person

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Book Review – The Power by Naomi Alderman

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I picked this up on impulse because it was marked down 20% at Target. I’d never heard of the author but of course the book has a recommendation from Margaret Atwood herself, and that got my attention. Since I’m also writing a dystopian, I try to keep up with what others are doing.

While this book had an interesting premise, I didn’t care for the ending. I felt the story just stopped but nothing was resolved, not even close. I realize that authors do this on purpose so the reader can draw their own conclusion but I’m not a fan of that kind of ending. I feel like the author easily has two more books worth of story here.

I enjoyed the idea that an innate electric power came to life inside girls and women and the chaos that this awakening caused. It was fun to see how roles changed and how women became violent and in some instances quite savage. It was clever how the author threw in historical references to “the power” throughout her history to suggest that women had always had the ability and that it had only become dormant in modern times.

I felt that the female characters were well rounded and strong in different ways. Roxy was clever, resourceful and by far the strongest in “the power.” Allie/Mother Eve was a real survivor and a charmer. She was able to influence others to the point of setting herself up as the figurehead of a new church with a belief system she created. There were plenty other strong female characters but what I didn’t enjoy was that the author had no redeemable male characters.

The reader spent the most time with Tunde but all he did was follow the women around and film them destroying shit. He was kind of a wimp and didn’t question the motives of groups of savage females even when he saw them murdering men in the woods for the sake of some crazy religious ceremony they created. The only time he became of any interest to me at all was at the very end when he teamed up with Roxy, and that’s only because I like Roxy and I thought she needed a little joy in her life. And that’s the only worthwhile purpose for Tunde, sex toy for whatever woman was around that felt like using him.

The only other men in the story where, Allie’s rapist foster father and then Roxy’s gangster dad that arranged to have her mutilated along with her brother who benefited from said mutilation. So, all real gems here. I just find it unrealistic that every single man would be a total shit.

Only the Strong Survive

Rick’s net was heavy today and he grunted with the effort of retrieving it from the murky water. He smiled to see the crawfish filling his net to the very top. For once, he felt a sense of pride at having done something for his family.  We’ll have a good meal tonight. 

A chill wind blew across the water and Rick shivered as icy drops splashed onto his face. The net fell to the ground at his feet. He couldn’t wait to show Alley, she’d always loved crawfish.  Of course, that was before she’d contracted the virus. These days she didn’t feel like eating much. Perhaps I can tempt her with a Low Country Boil?

Rick picked up his haul and slung it over his shoulder and came face to face with the business end of a revolver.

His immediate thought was to call for help. “Don’t try anything,” a gravelly voice warned him.

Age spotted hands clutched the gun pointed at Rick’s face. The man was at least 10 years his senior. He had one good eye, the other was a scarred milky ruin. It was hard to stare directly at the man. “Give me the bag,” he gestured with the gun.

“What?”

“You heard me, asshole. Hand over those crawfish.”

“Please sir, my wife has the virus and my son is nearly starving. “

The old man shook his head. There was no sympathy to be had in him, that much was clear. “Not interested in your sob story.”

Rick’s alarm gave way to anger at the strangers’ comment. Frustration had been building in him at his inability to feed his family and help his wife. He couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t know if the man would shoot but the bag he held represented days of effort and he wasn’t giving it up for anything.

“You’ll have to kill me.” He clenched his jaw preparing for the impact he was sure would happen next. He’d never been shot before.

The stranger shot his revolver into the open sky and birds scattered as the sound reverberated off trees.

The sound would have startled the old Rick, the Rick of two year ago. Prior to the famine he’d only heard gunfire on television, now it was an everyday occurrence.

“That was a warning.”  “You won’t get another,” the stranger promised.

Rick threw the entire net of writhing crustaceans at his would be robber. It caught the man off guard and he instinctively reached out to catch it accidentally releasing his firearm. Rick grabbed the stranger’s gun in an instant and pointed at the man’s head.

“Fuck you!” he screamed at Rick and turned his back to run with his prize in hand.

Rick fired off a shot without thinking and the man’s knee cap exploded. He screamed and fell to the ground still trying to hold onto the crawfish sack.

Rick stood over this attacker feeling several things at once, but none of them was guilt. The decision was made as soon as this person had decided to threaten his family. He fired off two more shots into the stranger’s skull and the screaming stopped. At least his death had been quick, instead of the slow gnawing ache in his stomach that had been slowly killing him. It had driven him to desperate lengths and Rick had to admit to himself that had the situation been reversed he might have done the same. Life was not easy on the marsh, but at least it was possible.

A handful of crawfish had come free of the bag and scattered on the dirt. Rick dusted them off and added them back to his sack. He left the bag unattended for a few moments as he drug what was left of the starving man to the edge of the swamp. A pair of eyes broke the waters surface observing Rick’s progress. Gators weren’t bothered by gunfire either.  With one booted heel Rick kicked the corpse into the water and didn’t look back.

He took off in the direction of home and his waiting family. A splash behind him let Rick know that he wasn’t the only one who would be eating well that night.

Post 4 – Kid Soup

My side piece, a fun SciFi escape!

The Trouble with Mars

Jessie and Michael have burst out of the Institute through a broken window, escaping from… well, they don’t know what they escaped from. But their troubles aren’t over – they are trapped in the Institute’s Tack Webb, which surrounds the building. You can read the previous post here

“They’ll be down here soon.” She looked above us at people in uniform standing in the broken window. MILLITS – what were they doing here? Were they the cause of all that screaming? Of the metal door buckling in on itself?

Kilgore must have run into them, but I didn’t see him now. Captured most likely. Too valuable to kill.

Jessie used a voice I had only heard come out of her in moments of high emotion. I couldn’t begin to explain it scientifically, but it had an implacable quality to it, one I couldn’t hear so much as I could…

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The Final Count

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“How many this week?”

Secretary Slatin licked her lips. She didn’t want to be the one to deliver the disastrous news to the president.

“The final count for the day is not in yet, Mr. President.” Her last word was punctuated with a wet cough. She pulled a napkin form her purse and held it to her mouth. No one in the room made a sound as she struggled to control herself.

President Allison had nothing but hard decisions lately. “Natalie, how long have you had that cough?”

She opened her mouth to answer and was overtaken by another fit. She bowed her head and her slender body shook with the violence of the cough as it tried in vain to rid itself of the infection inside her. When she removed her hand from her face there was a spot of blood on the sleeve of her cream colored suit jacket.

“Secretary Natalie Slatin, as President of what remains of these United States, I hereby relieve you of duty. Please go home and get some rest.” He looked at her, “God be with you,” he said then gestured to his security detail.

Without a word two secret service agents took hold of former Secretary Slatin and lifted her gently from her chair.

“Please, you cant!” She protested but even that sounded lethargic. Her sweat covered brow and the dull look in her normally bright green eyes gave away the truth of her condition.

The President seemed visibly shaken by the loss of Secretary Slatin.

No one else in the room said a word, this was President Alliston’s fourth dismissal in a weeks time. The Gender flu didn’t care if its victims were presidential cabinet staff, housewives or even little girls. The disease was always fatal. It was creating chaos in the general population as it burned it’s way through entire families.

All eyes avoided meeting President Allisont’s gaze. Secretary of State Natalie Slatin was a close personal friend of his since college. She had been the last female staff member left. “Such a shame, I really thought she wouldn’t catch it.”

He allowed himself one sigh of regret, one moment of weakness before pounding his fist on his desk. “Can someone get the damn CDC on the line?”

 

Druid & Thief Conquer the World (7)

On the last installment Pik and Selinde were reunited with their perpetually nude, hammer wielding dwarf friend, Redorra. Redorra had tried to smash them with her war hammer and Selinde threatened to banish her to the non-existent rhealm of fairie!

 

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Pikachu knew Selinde had no such power, and he was almost sure there was no such thing as a fairie dimension. He would have laughed but half wolves don’t have the vocal cords for it.

“Oops. I almost forgot. Pik, you can probably change back into your regular shape now.”

Redorra laughed at Pikachu when he simply stared at Selinde.“What’s wrong pointy ears? Don’t want us to see you in your skin?” Redorra howled at her insult. She was too drunk to realize she had landed in her own vomit and remained sitting in it’s puddle.

“What smells so bad around here?”

“That would be you,” Pikachu growled.  He transformed back into his regular half-elven shape. He looked around and noticed that it was suddenly dark outside the tavern windows.

“Selinde, wasn’t it mid morning when we got here?”

“You’re right. Something has darkened the sky. Either that or we’ve somehow stepped into a time warp.”

“Time warp?”

“That would explain why the others don’t seem to be moving at all. If we were caught in a time spell we might be moving at accelerated rate.”

“So it’s not that they aren’t moving, just that they’re moving too slow for us to see? How interesting.” He began to walk around the room examining each motionless person. “I wonder what it looks like to them.”

“Nice bottom,” Selinde commented.

“Thanks, I mean WHAT?!”

“That’s what it looks like to me, nice.”

“Are you feeling okay, Selinde?”

“It’s possible that this temporal imbalance is affecting me somehow.” She put two fingertips to her temples. “I do feel a bit dizzy.”

Ever the gentleman Pikachu walked over to pull a chair out for her to sit down. “Thank you, Pikachu, but I think I can manage.”

“You guys bore me,” Redorra announced. She walked to a table with a view of the night sky. “Say, is that a full moon?” The change in her voice was the first sign of trouble.

Red grew to three times her normal size, sprouting a course brown fur coat. Her mouth extended into a muzzle with a thick black tongue and rows of sharp bear teeth.

Pik drew out his groan. “Seriously, Red? You forgot how to control yourself?”

An ear splitting roar was the only reply he got. Red turned full were bear and stood on her powerful hind legs with her giant head nearly touching the ceiling and claws poised for slashing.

She launched her huge form at Pik, claws reaching for the flesh of his lovely half-elven face. Large vines erupted from the ground, splintering floorboards as they rapidly snaked up Red’s limbs, entangling her and pulling her toward the floor.

“Do something, Pik! I can’t hold her forever.” Selinde cried, already sweating from the effort of holding the spell.

Pikachu transformed back into his wolf hybrid form just as Red ripped through Selinde’s vines.

The two slammed into each other. Pik could only put up so much resistance to Red’s immense strength. Her gnashing teeth were coming way too close to his throat. Pik thought he could reach his knife, but he wasn’t in the mood to kill another former ally.

Just as he was sure he was at death’s door, an invisible force knocked Red off him.

“Don’t be killing yourselves, now,” said a cold, female voice. “You three each have something I need. And I need it while you’re alive.”

Druid & Thief Conquer the World is the fictional version of what life would totally be like if Mary Beecroft and Julie Bruce were magical beings living in the middle ages.

Mail Order

Her name was Leah, but that wasn’t the name she’d been born with. The documents she’d been given had the American name attached to her picture. They’d made promises about what her life would be in America. Freedom from a dictatorship that starved it’s people, was an attractive offer and one she couldn’t refuse. The group of foreign men came to her village, spoke her language and offered to escort her away from her misery. It had been a beautify story, but not entirely true.

After her boat reached American shores, Leah’s existence  had shrank. She was told they arrived in some place called Savannah, but she couldn’t see anything of the city from her room with it’s boarded windows. She was kept downstairs in a cramped unfurnished bedroom with a single lamp and small floor cot. There was a bedside table but no other furniture provided. She’d been given books and among them was a Korean to English translator. She’d filled her lonely hours with study hoping to one day have a conversation with her new mate and convince him to let her out of this room.

Leah was currently lying on her cot in the single sweat soaked dress she owned counting the minutes until her next meal. It was the only time she saw him. When the handle turned in the door Leah sat up straight and mentally prepared herself for the task ahead.

Her mate came down the stairs with a covered tray for her mid day meal. He was a white man, tall and tanned by the sun. Judging by the streaks in his dark brown hair Leah guessed he was at least 10 years older than her.  He sat the tray down on the bedside table and made a short bow, not meeting her eyes. He said nothing, as always, and turned to leave.

Leah reached out and grasped his hand. She knew it was a bold move. “Stay,” she said in English.  “Sit with me.”

His smile completely changed the shape of his face, it made him appear younger.  I have made him happy, good.  This is a start.

He took a seat on the cot next to her. His large hand engulfed her own until it almost disappeared. “Ethan,” he said pointing to his own chest. “Nice to meet you.”