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The Growing Dark


By S. A. CrawfordPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Image: Patrick De Boeck via Pexels

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. Wondrous, lush - deadly. Nature was in control, out there, and only the best and bravest stepped out. It was up to people like Joy, and, of course, her charge Seamus, to keep the insular world of Haven running while the hunters and gatherers did their work,

"It's a big day for you Seamus," Joy chirped, and the old man turned his bleary eyes to her, "are you excited to move Up?" He blinked, fogged by medicine and delirium until he recognized her and extended a frail hand to her. He gripped it surprisingly tightly, bony fingers like claws,

"It's summer," he wheezed,

"It is, but it's nearly Autumn," she said and helped him to his feet, guiding him to the bathroom, "time to store power." He nodded and gave her a pat on the cheek,

"You're a good girl, Lucy," he said and dropped the loose robe. He thought she was his daughter; it was a delusion that hurt no one. In fact, it was why she had been chosen to guard and process him. She smiled and helped him sit, patting his thin, sharp shoulders before she turned the water on and picked up a rough sponge.

The growing dark was upon them, and that meant trouble... but Joy hated this time of year more than the deepest heart of winter. Processing was never easy. She scrubbed him clean and wrapped him in a warm, fluffy blanket, bringing hot buttered scones and tea to his armchair before she massaged sacred oil into his head and hands,

"You're a good girl, Lucy" Seamus wheezed and a tear pricked at her eyes, "just like your mother. I love you."

"I love you too, daddy," she lied through her crooked teeth and patted his shoulders. Though, she reflected as she trimmed his bunions and massaged his skinny legs, it was not all a lie. She loved Seamus. She had hoped he would be taken by Mother Nature long before he stopped working. That she would enjoy one of those rare cases where she was just a guardian. Just a little helping hand to keep him steady as he tottered to the grave. Then his mind had fled and Seamus Doughtry, renowned Professor, and creator of the processing system had ceased to have use.

His mind had failed before his body. It was not supposed to happen this way. The sun set shortly after dinner, bringing the chill breath of the Stoorwurm, reminding them of the precariousness of their lives.

"Come on Seamus," Joy whispered, rousing him from a fitful sleep, "it's time."

"Is it?" He asked, milky eyes confused, "where am I going? Will your mother be there?"

"She will," she said and patted his shoulder, "she's been waiting for you." She handed him a plate of cheese and fruit with a cup of honey whisky, warm and steaming. Sweet enough to hide the opium. Drooping like a late-season flower, Seamus let her lead him by the hand down the broad, shallow steps to the processing room. Only when she placed him in a wheelchair and pushed him through the doors did he seem to recognize the place,

"Is it inspection time already?" He asked, "my my, how time flies. You know, I made this machine when I was twenty-three?" He said and craned to look at her,

"Did you?" She asked, heart beginning to pound faster, waiting for the moment of understanding. Let the opium do its work, she prayed, let him be oblivious.

"I did, before that we lost four people a month gathering wood and digging peat," he nodded, "and the old, well, what do they need with a life like that? When I'm old," he said, "slip poison in my tea and process me, that's what I always say." He slapped his skinny thigh. Few people held that belief when faced with the machine. "That's what I always say...Lucy?" He turned to look at her, milky eyes somehow sharp,

"Yes?" Joy smiled, but she knew it was wobbly,

"Remember to feed Onxy, won't you?" He asked, smiling fondly at the thought of his arthritic, wheezing, long-dead terrier, "take care of him."

"I will," Joy whispered as two orderlies approached, one taking her hands from the wheelchairs handles firmly, "I promise."

Seamus didn't look back, just waved his hand cheerily as they wheeled him through the double doors, over the fine scratches on the floor, and when the green light engaged and the machinery whirred to life, she wiped a tear away. Joy waited until the green light died and they wheeled the empty chair out once more before she made her way to the main office. Theresa nodded and handed her a thick manilla file,

"Jude McLeod," she said, "seventy-two, third basement level. Formerly an engineer." Behind her, on the other side of Havens sectioned building, another empty wheelchair rolled by, a pink scarf draped over its careworn arm.

Short Story

About the Creator

S. A. Crawford

Writer, reader, life-long student - being brave and finally taking the plunge by publishing some articles and fiction pieces.

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    S. A. CrawfordWritten by S. A. Crawford

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