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Surviving the Orderites

by Mary Haynes about a year ago in Fantasy
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The Healing

Photo by Mary Haynes

"Shauna, I forbid it! You can't leave! " Terri slammed the cast iron frying pan onto the woodstove.

"Mother, calm down. Give yourself a reality check; I'm going to university."

Terri leaned heavily on the counter. "Shauna, I can't lose any more loved ones."

Shauna pushed away from the wooden table and embraced her mother. "Nothing is going to happen to me."

"What's all the yelling about?" Diane asked, letting herself in the kitchen door. She slid into an old ladder-backed chair.

"The usual," replied Shauna. "Mom is doing the doom and gloom, big city horror bit again."

"I don't make these things up; there are still factions out there. Diane, you decided to stay in Cedarville. Can't you talk some sense into her? You guys have been besties since you were babies; surely you want her to stay?"

"Sorry, I tried. There's no talking to the girl when she's fixated on something." Diane picked at Shauna's cold omelet.

"Oh, goodness, don't eat that. I'll make you a fresh one." Terri whisked some eggs in the skillet, adding chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Diane sipped her coffee. "At least your mother talks about the uprising. My parents and grandparents refuse! They say the walls have ears. When I was little, I used to peel back the wallpaper to check for tiny ears. I would like to hear about it from someone who went through it."

"Oh, please don't say that!" Shauna let her head hit the table with a thud. "Well, I better make some more coffee; you're gonna need it."

Terri slipped the fresh omelet onto a plate then sat down. She gathered her thoughts then cautiously spoke. "So, you know the beginning was after the nuclear war?"

Diane nodded. "Of course, terrorists launched nuclear weapons, then scrambled communications, so it couldn't be traced. Nations fired at each other in an abysmal attempt to pre-empt being attacked. What was it like living through it?"

"I was too young to remember living in the shelter; I was told that we stayed for thirty days. The shelters had everything we needed. Tensions had been building up for decades, so massive evacuation centers were constructed. Although most were in cities, some of them were in the country. They had been built to house animals, fish farms, and greenhouses, so we had a sustainable food supply.

President Pratt resigned; a contingency cabinet took over. Because of our advanced technological capabilities, we were told that we had an obligation to the world to be strong and prosper. The government controlled everything, including the schools and workplaces. The Orderites, as they dubbed themselves, were not questioned. Most people understood there was no time for dissension, no tolerance for anything but the new work ethic."

"I read that people who protested the Orderites were shot on site." Diane finished up the last of her breakfast and pushed back her plate.

Terri shifted in her chair, recalling the stories she was told as a child. "Yes. Again, I was too young to remember those early days, but I can tell you about growing up after that time."

"See, that's the stuff we don't get to read about. I'll clear the table while you tell me what you remember."

"As a child, I lived a regimented life. Early each morning, I went to the Learning Centre, where I stayed until late evening. Meals were provided. My parents ate at their Work Centers. We studied math, science, geography, and English; anything else was considered obsolete. We competed in giant mazes with obstacle course challenges. Winning was important because the winners received a bit of candy. After work and school, we did our family exercises, had showers, and watched the state-run news. My mom always read to me from the Orderites books for children."

"Actually, we sort of covered that stuff. It sounds pretty crappy to me. Did you ever have any fun?" Diane sat back down at the table after drying the last plate.

"Once a year, we were allowed therapeutic recreation time. We went to a small village on a lake surrounded by farms with animals and crops. The people had rosy cheeks and calloused hands. They smiled as they worked. The food was so good; fresh beans from the field tossed with juicy tomatoes, fresh-caught lake trout, and pie for dessert with blueberries bursting through flaky crusts. It was a magical place. Dad taught me to ride Sprite, a Shetland pony, while he rode Brownie, the old workhorse. I loved to bury my face in Sprite's neck; he smelled like popcorn and wet straw."

Shauna sighed, dropping the magazine she'd been flipping through. "Mom, life here wasn't easy either. You and Dad worked hard on the farm until he decided to take that job at the newspaper. When are you going to forgive him for that?"

"We are not discussing your father right now; he made his decision to leave."

Diane got up and headed toward the hallway, "Sorry, I'm taking too much of your time. You guys need to talk this through."

"Don't be silly, sit back down. I want to tell you the story. Shauna and I are never going to agree about my choice to stay here in the country when her dad left." Terri poured some more coffee from the old blue pot as Diane settled back down in her chair.

"Soon after our holiday, I woke up covered in red spots. Mom got the scanner out and waved it over my arm. The screen in my room lit up. Our doctor told us that I had measles. He said that some country hick must have skipped having their brats inoculated, and clearly, my measles vaccination hadn't worked.

Sick children couldn't attend the Learning Centers, so my mom was allowed to stay home with me. I remember waking up smelling coffee and something sweet. Mom wore an old grey sweatsuit which made her look soft and cuddly. She carried a tray with chocolate chip muffins and warm café au lait. Even though I was sick, I was happy to see my mother looking so contented.

After breakfast, we talked about our vacation, laughing about the problems I'd had with Sprite. Mom stroked my hair as I drifted off. I looked up at her; she was still smiling, but a tear slid down her cheek.

Dad had been surveying mineral deposits in the mountains; when he got back, he noticed Mom seemed distracted. She hung a vacation picture on the family room wall. She stared at it instead of watching the news. At night I heard her cry and Dad's hushed voice as he tried to comfort her.

One evening, Mom came home with an old box; she had been to the storage locker. She gave me books and a couple of dolls. The fancy dolls fascinated me; their eyes opened and closed. Mom read to me that night from an old book called Cinderella. As I was falling asleep, I heard my parents arguing. They both looked unhappy and tired the following day.

Mom visited the locker frequently, our sterile apartment became cluttered with pictures, books, and toys. One day Dad came home and found lace curtains hanging in the window. He yelled at me to go to my room. I heard them arguing. He said people would think she was a crazy, artistic type. He warned that if anyone reported those curtains, they would send her away to re-evaluate her dedication to the cause. She told him that she wanted her life back! Dad was firm. He said he loved her, but her behavior was risky. Mom cried and slammed the bedroom door. Dad packed up the curtains and trinkets. Later, I asked him to read Hansel and Gretel to me; he shook his head. He took the book to pack with the other things.

The next morning Mom wasn't feeling well. I heard Dad remind her that she was a highly educated scientist. That her time shouldn't be wasted cooking, decorating, and filling my head with fairy stories. People were assigned to cook, clean, and nurture children; she needed to let them do their jobs and get on with hers.

Things seemed to return to normal; my parents stopped fighting, although now they barely spoke. Dad worked even harder, trying to make up for the poor performance memos Mom brought home. She isolated herself at work, preferring to eat alone rather than with the rest of the scientists. Her behavior came to the attention of the state, and as my father predicted, she was sent away for testing. After two weeks of evaluation, the psychologists attributed her condition to female hormonal changes. The doctor adjusted her daily vitamins and pronounced her disorder under control.

After Mom's release, things changed between her and Dad. Instead of arguing, I heard them talking and laughing. Dad started telling me stories about growing up on Aunt Tilda's farm. How he spent time swimming and fishing in the stream with his friends.

Although home life improved, life in the city grew tense. Nights had always been quiet, but now people broke curfew, there was shouting and gunfire in the streets. I heard Mom and Dad whispering about Resistance fighting.

Mom worried about our next vacation being canceled. The Secretary of Defense felt the checkpoints were not adequate to stop the rebels from traveling into the city. However, the Secretary of Health thought it would be bad for morale and cause more backlash. So, we left for our week at the lake. What I didn't know is that we would never return to our life in the city. My parents had joined the Resistance movement."

Diane reached over, touching Terri's hand. "I learned that it was a short but bloody takeover."

Terri fingered the heart-shaped locket hanging from her neck. "Yes, very bloody, both my parents were killed fighting for our freedom. Before they died, we traveled farther into the country and reunited with family. They left me here to live with my grandmother."

"I'm sorry, no one told me. I guess I'm lucky my parents and grandparents are still alive. I wonder if they were part of the Resistance."

"Diane, I think you should know. They were captured by the police and tortured. They never revealed anything, even though they were badly abused. They escaped because many of the Guards, sick of the brutal, dictatorial government, joined the Resistance. They released the prisoners the night the Resistance hit their targets toppling the Orderites."

Diane got up and pulled on her sweater. "Thank you very much, Mrs. Greis. I need to go hug my grandparents right now."

Shauna hugged her friend goodbye and walked back to the table. Last night's mascara created gothic patterns under her damp eyes.

"Oh, my goodness, Shauna? You actually listened to your old fuddy-duddy mother this time?"

"Mom, I always listened, and I understood. But it doesn't change the fact that I'm going to university. Things are different now; we've elected people whom we trust. Besides, if the Orderites try to reclaim power, hiding here in this sleepy little town isn't going to help. I want to be where I can make a difference. You must understand that."

"I do, sweetheart. Did I ever tell you how much you remind me of your grandmother? Terri took off her locket, opened it, pressing it into Shauna's hand. You have her eyes and smile. You're stubborn like she was too! Shauna? I want you to do something for me."

"Yes, Mom?"

"When you get to the city, tell your dad that I read his column every day and that I'm proud of him."

"Mom, I think it's time you told him yourself. Why don't you pay him a visit?"

Terri smiled and nodded. "Perhaps it's time I did!"

Fantasy

About the author

Mary Haynes

Mary Haynes splits her time between a romantic old sailboat in tropical waters and a beach home in Ontario. A wanderer, by fate, she embraces wherever she roams! Mary recently completed her first children’s book, “Who Ate My Peppers?”

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