I started a story some time ago based on a Scriptic prompt. I never got around to finishing it, and decided I wanted to share some of the story here on the blog to get your honest thoughts on it….
She stood at the crosswalk, waiting for the walk signal. A soiled and tattered trench coat covered the once upon a time fancy lace blouse and tattered red skirt that mostly dragged along the street. The skirt hid the fact that she wore no shoes and indiscriminate holes scattered randomly across the mismatched socks that adorned her feet, unless she was walking, her toes catching on the rusted shopping cart she pushed in front of her more often than she would like.
She mumbled to herself, in complaints of how difficult pushing the cart had become, as she picked up more and more left behinds panicked people had forgotten. She ignored the rustle of dust her feet kicked up as she crossed the road, against the walk signal, finally impatient in waiting. The sign never changed anyway, not since the last time a car came through the city, which was before the bomb turned the busy metropolis into a ghost town.
“Damn Arabs,” she mumbled.
“Damn President,” she answered herself.
She did not care anymore if someone caught her mumbling. The population had dwindled so much that if you were lucky enough to find a friend or two, a little self-mumbling was welcomed. No, that was not quite right. The general population had dwindled, while the rich—the politicians, the big business gurus, etc.—continued to prosper, just as selfishly as they had before the nuclear bombs destroyed most of America. Many still hid underground, avoiding the exposure to radiation, not realizing that it reached even underground, contaminating the water and the soil where they laid their beds. Some of them were lucky enough to adapt to the radiation, and those few ventured to ground zero, seeking a way to improve the quality of life for their loved ones left behind. In return, the underground shunned those who dared the daylight, rejecting them from the safety of the people below.
She sniffed the air around her. Winter was coming. She felt the cold tingling the hairs in her nose. She turned down an alley, watching fervently for intruders in her small space. It was not much, but it was shelter. The building itself had been hollowed out, but scattered roofed corners provided enough cover from the elements to call it home. She had made the small space as cozy as she could. A thin, wide slab of wood served as a bed. A ragged quilt covered most of it, and a small bundle of oily clothing compacted into a pillow at one end. Beside it, a small table sat, with a single, broken chair pushed neatly underneath. A smiling child peeked out from a small, simple blue frame placed at the center of the table. A yellow flower, its edges dipped in brown, drooped over the side of a cracked glass serving as a vase behind the frame. A small plate sat next to a tarnished fork over red fabric stretched across the table. A small wooden shelf hung on the wall over the table. The shelves contained a few canned items and some empty bottles. A small hand broom kept the dirt absent from the floor.
She usually paid little attention to her vacant surroundings, but on this particular day, a shiny catch of light from the ground ahead of her interrupted her mumbling. A light breeze toyed with the dirt, sending swirls of dust moving through the air and revealing this treasure hidden beneath it. She hobbled over, the sores on the exposed part of her feet making her wince, and stooped down. She reached out quickly and snatched the item, hiding it within her overcoat. A huge smile revealed broken teeth, a consequence of opening metal cans too often, and her tongue darted out and slashed across her lips, as she made a small leap.
A Pepsi can and an unopened one at that! She thought, her mouth drooling in anticipation. I wonder how much they’d give me for it, she thought, shoving her desire aside. The belief that her family was out there somewhere kept her going, but she needed money to find them.
Her mind quickly made the journey from her makeshift home to the recycling center at the edge of the city. She shuddered unwillingly. The recycling center was the only building that had survived unscathed. The powers that be had taken up residence within it, and were notoriously cruel and stingy. To live among them was a dream only the bravest put to voice, but she had her longings too. She leaped once more, ducking into her little home long enough to grab the picture and spare clothes from the pile on the bed. With a deep sigh, she examined the clothing. She was ill prepared for winter, but these would have to do. A set of gloves, their fingertips snipped off, was produced from the bottom of the pile, and she slid them on her hands. She dropped the picture, spare clothes on the center of the blanket, and pulled it tight around them, securing it with a string she produced from a pocket. Enough string remained to attach the knapsack to her back. She turned the cart over onto the bed and stepped back, taking one last look at her space before moving on. Leakage from her eyes left wetness on her face that surprised her. She would miss this place, after all. With a pat to the can in her pocket and lips pressed together, she took the first step of her journey away from that place.
She had managed to make it halfway across the city before nightfall. A chill wind blew through her, causing her to shiver and clutch her coat more closely about her. The sounds in the center of the city were foreign to her. Gunshots and shattering glass nearby were too close for comfort. She needed to move faster or face spending the night defending what little she had against strangers. There was a savageness here she was unaccustomed to. Her eyes darted fervently, seeking out a safe place to hide until morning. A small alcove with three walls, just off the street, met her approval and she made house in the darkest corner. Unable to hold her eyes open any longer, she drifted off into a fitful sleep….
Thanks for stopping in and reading. I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this story. Should I continue working on it?