PROMPT: She had missed the last train and there was only one person she
hated more than herself. It all boiled down to timing, she tried to say, but that was a lie. If she had just ordered the uber or lift one minute earlier, none of this would have happened and she would be there for–for–well, she didn’t know what she was running toward, but it had to be better than what she had left behind.
In the distant city night, a siren began to wail. It was long a pleading, like a lamb left out in the cold of winter while it’s yew is cozied in the shelter with its brothers and sisters. Why did she equate everything to farm animals? Maybe because the gig was up and the lamb was her and the cold was pressing in.
Her breath buffed out, visible under the street lights.
She could still see the taillights of the train, cruising away into the distance and all the while, the siren got louder.
They’d never let her leave. Not this city. Not ever.
She picked up her thrown bag and walked back into the station. Nobody was in there. The kiosks kept flashing their lights: 50 PERCENT OFF ALL TIX TO STOWAWAY.
Where Stowaway was, she didn’t know.
She left the lighted interior and went out onto the street corner and let her bag fall once again. It slumped on its side, like a child throwing a tantrum. Why couldn’t she do that? Just give up. She guessed that was what she had been trying to do. Give up, run away. Leave the businesses, the corporations, the lights, and noise behind. All she wanted was to live in the country. A small place. Maybe with a garden. She’d heard of people who grew their own vegetables and raised chickens for their eggs. The only vegetables she’d ever had were grown in an AngriVat and the only eggs were ones that came from the Pens.
People said those veggies and eggs even tasted better. But she’d never get to try them.
She could hear the wailing of the sirens closer now, and even make out the red and blue splashing of light off some of the nearby buildings.
When the trucks came around the corner, they barely made any sound at all. Just the whirring, like a drone, but they were cars.
A man in a suit stepped out of one, men in the uniforms of AngriPol stepped out of the others. They didn’t point guns or yell–they knew she couldn’t go anywhere.
The man in the suit stepped up to her.
“Susan,” he said. “You know you’re not authorized to leave the city.”
“I know,” she said.
“What’s best for the city is best for you.”
The man nodded as if explaining one plus one equals two.
“It’s very simple. If corporations create, you consume, work, and so on.”
“I don’t want to be part of it anymore,” she told him.
“Without consumers what do you think would happen?”
She looked at the curb. She shook her head. “I guess production would stop.”
“That’s correct,” said the man. “And if production stops, nobody would have jobs, and if nobody has jobs nobody can consume.”
She looked up into the man’s eyes. They sparkled as the lights of the AgriPol cars continued to flash.
“What if I don’t want anything anymore?”
The man bent down. “Everyone wants. That’s just the way things are. In this city, you get to fulfill that. Out there,” he pointed back into the station. “Out there, people want and never get to fill that void. They want and want and want, but they are stuck with nothing.”
She wanted to tell him that the people outside the city had choices too. Choices to make what they needed. To work on their own homes, not Agri-owned ones. They went for walks in the hills and bruised their bodies playing games that weren’t riddled with corporate sponsorship. They had enough, and the stars overhead and sometimes that’s better than having everything. But she’d missed the last train and the GhostTek she’d paid was probably dead by now.
She stood up.
“We can order something nice,” said her father.
She only nodded, a hollow shell of an answer. The man in the suit led her back to his car and she climbed in. Overhead, the stars could not be seen by the flashing of the lights and the glam of a city that seemed completely dead. She wondered what real grass looked like. Not the perfect GreenGrow of AgriGen, but the muddied pits of a football pitch in the country. Someday she would see.