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The Countryside

by Victoria Cage 2 months ago in Sci Fi · updated 2 months ago
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The Era of The Fixer

Eleanor T. Howard looked up from her newspaper as the tea kettle whistled. An ancient, hefty pipe hung from the corner of her mouth, puffs of tiny clouds escaping the basin like a witch’s pot. Her face was mostly smooth but her sunken eyes revealed her true age of 56. The addition she held shakily in her grasp was from the 30’s. The headline: THE NEW AGE OF THE FIXER? glowed with a pale blue light. What she called an ‘oldie paper’ was actually a hologram. The letters floated in her peripheral vision as she stared at the kettle. Waking from her thoughts, she finally set down her white tablet and went to fetch herself a cup.

Soft morning light pooled into her cabin, illuminating the dust and stained floors. She enjoyed the coolness of the countryside, especially the breezes. Everything smelled wonderfully natural out here, away from the gasoline and stench of dense citiescapes. Not for the first time she said to herself, “Thank you, El, for your impulsivity.” Taking a shuddering breath, she gathered her quilt and tea before making her way out onto the porch. Her swinging bench creaked under her weight and for a moment she thought her bones would do the same. Her joints had shown warning signs since she was in her forties that they’d give up on her sooner rather than later. Now she felt that the ‘sooner’ was knocking at her door. Sometimes, on cool mornings like this, her aching would ease ever so slightly.

She inhaled the passing breeze which came from the ring of pine trees a couple yards from her. Crops of all sorts lined the greenery strategically near the well she built herself. Well, not the entire thing. She had help from her husband before he passed over eight years ago, and she just finished it for him. The cabin was an idea they had since The Fixer began worrying them.

The self proclaimed Fixer gradually came into power with the creation of his new Industry and was a hit across the country. No one really knew where he came from or how he managed to take over every tech company in the globe, but it worried Eleanor and her husband. When they began looking for property out in the countryside they were ridiculed by their colleagues and friends. Why would you go back to the stone age? they’d ask. We’ll be living like gods!

Eleanor snorted grimly at that thought. Gods? No, there is nothing godly about being chained to electronic comfort. In fact, there was nothing human about it either. She had said this to those too blind to understand. Thoughtfully, she took a sip of hot herbal tea. Although she had reservations against The Fixer, she didn’t realize how far it would all go. She would never be able to visit her sister again, her only living relative, because neither of them would be able to leave. Nothing angered her more than that hopeless thought. She was going to carry out her life in Timbuktu alone because of her blessed ‘impulsivity’. Her teeth ground together in frustration for another minute before she realized what she was doing. Sighing, she set her empty cup down and stared out at her crops. It was nearly time to harvest them, but not quite yet.

Her days were much the same. She’d read her old papers until tea time, and then she’d admire the landscape. Once she had agonized herself enough over her isolated thinking she got up and tended her crops. She’d check on their readiness and if she found a strawberry or two that were ripe she’d pluck them. Once the sun became too hard on her she went inside and made herself lunch. Unfortunately, meat was scarce. It had been ages since she last had rabbit stew, and oh how she craved it. She’d been stuck on a forced vegetarian diet since then. Sometimes she supposed that her body would simply give out if she went long enough without meat, but it never happened. She’d curse her mother for taking her to get her ‘one shot’ at three. It was relatively new when she was a kid, but the ‘one shot’ was the vaccinations of all vaccines. It did something to you, something Eleanor never could figure out, that would last all the way into your late adult life. Now, at her age, the damn thing was finally starting to wear off. It was usually at 60 when you’d have to get it again. If you wanted to live until your 120’s, that is.

After her last meal of the day, she’d take a small nap on her couch. Dinner was always early. She attributed it to her age, but she couldn’t eat anything past sundown without her stomach hurting. Bathing in the golden light from her window, she gently fell into a light sleep. The concentrated warmth made her feel at ease, like her husband’s hand caressing her brow. Usually she’d nap until sundown, go back to reading for another hour or so, and then head upstairs to actually sleep. When she lived by herself the first year after her husband’s passing, she couldn’t sleep without having twisted nightmares. They’d be filled with horrible images of her family, her husband, and The Fixer, their faces warping and contorting in delight at her misery. Her loneliness. Her self hatred. They’d laugh silently, their mouths wide, toothy grins that only grew the more frightened she became. By the end, she realized that the sound of laughter was coming from her own throat. She’d tried to stop it--to stop herself from laughing while burying her decayed husband’s corpse; the one she refused to put to rest until it nearly turned black. The skin around his mouth would slop off and he’d be smiling at her too, as if he also found it funny.

Eleanor found out after that year that if she took a nap close to bedtime she wouldn’t sleep as deep and relive the nightmares again. And it worked. Until it didn’t.

She lightly dozed, her chest rising steadily. Some conscious part of her told her that it was dark in the living room. It was time to get up. But she couldn’t. Her limbs were tensed; her hands were stuck on her chest like she was in a coffin. Her quilt had slipped off her in her sleep and her fingertips were nearly numbed from the cold. She hadn’t lit the fire yet, she realized. Still, she didn’t move. Her chest began to rise and fall quicker. Mentally, she tried sending signals down to her fingers to ‘move, dammit!’ but they ignored her wishes and remained statuelike. Her eyelids were the only part of her that was still half listening. With great effort, she managed to crack them open a sliver. After she got a brief look at the ceiling they gave up on her and she was back in darkness. Frustrated and frightened, she tried extending her senses. She was cold, hungry, exhausted and-

She was in danger.

She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she was positive of the fact. Something was in her cabin with her. Holding her breath, she tried to stretch her hearing. At first there was only silence, but then she caught it: something heavy was scraping on her floorboards. It was slow and heavy, trudging its way through her kitchen. It would pause for a moment, and then continue to move.

Had it seen her yet? She was completely exposed with absolutely no way to fight back. Controlling her breath, trying to keep it as quiet as possible, she forced herself to think. Where was she? In the living room. Where’s the nearest weapon? Kitchen drawer. There wasn’t any way to get there without getting past her intruder. Fuck! Her cramped fingers slightly curled.

A shock of hope revitalized her. Sweat dripped down the sides of her face and her neck as she tried moving her hands. They shook with effort as she clenched and unclenched them. Good girl, come on El, you got this, honeypie. Her husband’s voice drifted encouragingly through her mind. A small grunt left her stone throat and she froze, horrified.

CRASH!

The glass shattering woke the rest of Eleanor’s body. She gasped and rolled off the couch with a thump. She landed near the fireplace, where--thank God!--was an iron poker. Snatching it in her hands she leapt to her feet and confronted the intruder.

It was mostly covered in darkness, but twitching blue lights stared back at her. The figure was hunched, its cocked head hung on its chest. The air around it seemed to warp where it stood. It was something unnatural, something inherently evil.

“Get the hell out, y’hear me?!” Eleanor screamed, shaking with horror and fear. She swung the poker violently. “You go back to whatever hell hole you crawled out of! Get out!”

It processed her for a moment. Its head slowly spun until it was nearly upside down on its chest. “Virus.”

She felt the blood drain from her cheeks. It wasn’t human. It wasn’t alive. It was one of those horrible monsters, created by the worst among them. But something was wrong with it. “G-go! I don’t want nothing to do with you or your asshole boss! Get the hell out of here!”

There was a long, cold pause. They stared into each other’s eyes like ex lovers, afraid to make the first move. Then, it charged her. It crawled with crazy speed over her table, making a horrible crk crk crk! noise that sent terrible goosebumps all down her body. Reacting a bit too late, she kicked the couch forward. It hit the thing in the gut right as it had launched for her. Quickly, she swung to knock its head off, but it grabbed her weapon with lightning speed and in turn took a swipe at her. She lifted her arms instinctively to her face and backed up simultaneously, but it still got her good. She heard a crack in her forearm and cried out painfully. Suppressing panic and tears, she reached for the nearest lamp and threw it. It shattered on the intruder’s head, disorientating it for a moment.

She took the distraction to run for the kitchen. That awful scraping noise came from behind her but she had no time to look. Before she got half way, a spike of fiery pain flared through her hip. She didn’t look to see what happened, but she could smell burning clothing and flesh.

Her hands fumbled for her sink of dirty dishes and she spun around. It was eyeing her across the kitchen table, its head clicking back and forth. Screaming, she used her one good hand to toss ceramic plates and bowls at it. A couple missed, but she managed to hit it enough for it to stumble backwards. While it caught its balance, she searched through her drawers until she held a handgun. She loaded it with a fresh magazine of glowing yellow bullets and turned back to her enemy.

It had shrunk the distance between them without her noticing and knocked the gun out of her hand. Before she could make a move, it grabbed onto her throat and squeezed. Oil dripped from its arm socket down its side. The gold liquid was even on its hand, stinging Eleanor’s nostrils. Its bright eyes flickered unevenly as well as The Fixer’s symbol on its chest.

“Eleanor Taylor Howard, virus, orders: exterminate, virus, orders…orders.”

Its voice was cracking and becoming more distorted. Something was very wrong with it. As blackness began to edge her vision, her fingers found their savior. With a last exertion of energy, she stabbed the intruder in its exposed neck. Sparks flew from the unprotected wires and, after one more harsh squeeze, it released her. She fell onto the floor, gasping for air like a fish. Her lungs took in too much air and not enough at the same time. She almost believed she was going to die like that, choking on what she had been breathing her entire life.

The pain subsided enough for her to lift her head and see the metal enemy slumped over onto her table, oil spilling onto the floor. After a few more seconds of processing what the hell just happened, she struggled to her feet and approached it. All the lights had turned off in the machine. ‘Lifeless’.

Her eyes lifted to her broken window. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief and then slowly approached it. Out in the tree line were an army of glowing blue eyes. She could hear their creaking already. They were coming for her.

She fixed a picture of her husband and herself that had fallen in the fight and retrieved her handgun. “I’ll see you soon, hon.” Gathering herself, she began to prepared for battle.

Sci Fi

About the author

Victoria Cage

I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Every chance I could get I was either writing, drawing, or telling anyone who’d listen my stories. Throughout high school I self published three books on Amazon. Enjoy my short stories!

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