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Smartystan

Cradled

By Skyler SaundersPublished about a month ago Updated 11 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Smartystan
Photo by Chintan Jani on Unsplash

Rain didn’t stop Mala. Swaddling for Edgar covered the baby boy’s body and she held her other son’s, Burton, six-year-old hand. The mud, muck, and mire didn’t hinder her from staying on course with her mission. From Pennsylvania, they all trekked to get closer and closer to land that was never promised but simply implied. Each step produced more mud caked around her sneakers. She didn’t care. Her rucksack provided them protein packs to put into plastic bottles and nuts and berries and dried meats to keep their muscles in good health. Water hydrated. She rested. The baby had been asleep the entire time that she had started her journey and her eldest son remained silent throughout the excursion as well.

After a short break, she returned to the trail. She hadn’t seen another person for miles. The foliage appeared dense and the moon seemed to glow even brighter. With no car, no means of hailing a ride share company, Mala had to get it out of the mud (literally) and fight off cold temperatures, uncertain fauna, and be guided by flora. Mala had no means of using navigational devices either. All she knew was to step further. Every time she felt the pangs of simple misfortune or feeling sorry for herself, she picked right back up again and marched like a general leading troops into battle. It was like a war when she had thought of it….

At the time, Mala didn’t realize it but she had gone a few miles without even pausing for food or drink. She allowed her infant to feed from her bosom and offered her son as many victuals as she could. To be so beneficent in her way meant she cared for her little ones selfishly. Without a father in the picture, she considered herself the lone warrior on this battered landscape. After they had paused, she had packed enough supplies in order to keep the trip going. Some of the meat got stuck in Burton’s teeth. Mala then grabbed some dental floss from her hygiene kit and loosened the bits to relieve her child’s discomfort. With just the North Star and moss on stones and trees, she had taken it back to the earliest years of men and women struggling to sup from the cup of liberty. Mala heard branches snap. A bear? A fox? A wolf? She knew not where or what the sound was. Then she looked.

Synths, or synthetic beings, had surveyed the place in search of human life. They never punished or attacked any travelers, however, they discouraged curtly. One of them, a bluish purple looking figure jetted over to Mala and her boys. She muffled a scream and just went down into a gully and held her two sons closer to her. The synth used infrared and night vision to detect Mala. Her heart thundered. Her mind slowed and she thought quickly.

“Miss…Shankman…Mala…These woods are protected by private property rights. You are currently trespassing. Is there any way I may assist you on your journey back to where you originated?”

Mala looked incredulous for a second then blurted out, “I am going to make it to this place out of these woods. You will not deter me. I am a human being. You are a collection of parts and pieces made in a lab. I wish to enjoy life. You are hindering me.” Mala sort of pushed past the being and held her baby and son even tighter. The synth stepped to her once again, its agility impeccable.

“I want to offer you fifty thousand dollars to turn around and go back. All you have to do is suspend this journey and your account will be filled with five figures. It’s either that or you and your two children will be forced to go to a labor camp. Sure, they’ll be given child care, but you will perform soul-crushing, mind-numbing, back-breaking work for pennies a day.”

Mala scoffed at the notion. “I’m not afraid of that. I’m going to continue on this route and not think anything of it. You will not pressure me into doing something I wish not to do. I don’t care how much money you may offer. I’m steadfast with my mission.”

The low hum of a motor soon came into play. Dr. Frampton rolled up to where the synth and Mala discussed her future.

“What is happening here, 1A?” Dr. Frampton asked the synth that she had constructed in her lab.

“We have a trekker here who will not take an offer of fifty thousand dollars to go back to her home.” Dr. Frampton looked at Mala. The woman with the two boys looked up at the doctor.

“Please…I have no car…very little money…but I will not sacrifice by living in a state that does not care about rights. I would love the money offered, but it would mean nothing if I have to continue to live under the heel of the authoritarians.”

Dr. Frampton drank in the woman’s words. She looked at her with a thoughtful empathy.

“I understand your plight. We’re going to ensure you get the proper nutrition and any medical care as well. You will be admitted into Smartystan without discussion or delay. I can promise you that.” Mala’s eyes turned to saucers. She wept slightly then inhaled deeply.

“Thank you.”

“Absolutely. There should be room on this vehicle for you to put your belongings and have ample space for your children,” Dr. Frampton said.

Dr. Frampton’s vigilance of her synths usually meant that she stayed in the office and monitored them from afar. Today, though, seemed to be an especially keen night to go out with the rover and get the gritty feel of people braving the woods to find refuge in the country-state. Mala sat with the seat back and cradled Edgar. Burton looked a bit tired and put his head on his mother’s shoulder.

“If everyone is ready to go, we should get to the place of freedom now. Let’s get somewhere dry as well,” Dr. Frampton announced.

Science FictionYoung Adult

About the Creator

Skyler Saunders

I’ve been writing since I was five-years-old. I didn’t have a wide audience until I was nine. If you enjoy my work feel free to like but also never hesitate to share. Thank you for your patronage. Take care.

S.S.

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Comments (3)

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story! :)

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Loved your story. Didn't end how I thought it might. Really enjoyed your descriptions of the mother. Congratulations on Top Story! 🥳

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    Great descriptions and dialogue, congrats on your top story

Skyler SaundersWritten by Skyler Saunders

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