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The Heap

by H.H. Lynn

By Heather HublerPublished 2 years ago 10 min read
11

Perched on top of a rusted-out refrigerator, Lizzie contemplated her offering. It was abysmal. Like her life. Only daydreams of something more kept her going from day to day. But wanting more marked her as a troublemaker.

The shrill sound of a siren began to scream through the Heap startling Lizzie from her reverie. Scrambling down with her bag in tow, she raced for the line-up.

"Lizzie Scavenger!" the Keeper shouted.

Breathless, Lizzie came to an abrupt halt directly in front of the Keeper. Her face flushed in irritation.

"You're late! Better impress me," the Keeper spat out.

Swallowing the bitterness that bubbled up her throat, Lizzie dumped the contents of her bag and moved to her place in line.

"Unacceptable. You will be docked evening rations and stay for the evening shift," the Keeper rattled off moving further down the line, sparing her no sympathy.

Foster Hauler slowly moved up behind Lizzie and nudged her arm.

"Don't worry, I'll share my rations with you."

His warm breath landed on Lizzie's chilled neck, and she shuddered. It was cold out, but his close proximity was the reason for her reaction. She was entirely too aware of his presence.

With her eyebrow arched, she glanced back over her shoulder at him. "We both know that's not possible. But thank you." She gave a little smile to let him know that she truly appreciated his offer.

"I'll manage it this time," Foster pleaded. "You can't go on like this, Lizzie. If you'd just stop pushing me away for once, we could do this together!" His voice had started to rise until he was almost shouting the words at her.

With less affection in her gaze, she turned fully around to address him. The same old argument riling her up.

"How dare you get angry with me about this! You think I don't know what's on the line? How close I am to meeting the Protectors. And there can't be an US!"

At that declaration, Lizzie's shoulders sank. Her situation truly hitting her. She was one more incident away from leaving this miserable world, and she couldn't drag Foster down with her. He didn't know how close she was to the Scattering.

He hesitated too long in replying. They'd been dismissed. No dallying was tolerated at the Heap.

* * *

Lizzie's stomach growled so loudly that it caught Maud's attention.

"Oi, even your stomach complains!" Maud grumbled. "You should be grateful to the Protectors for what you have instead of sniveling all the time about how unfair your life is. I don't know what that good man, Foster, sees in you."

Maud was a Scavenger like Lizzie, and a good one at that. She was always trying to make Lizzie look bad in front of the Keeper. Lizzie knew that the real rub in their relationship was that Maud coveted Foster's affections.

As her mind raced over the conversation with Foster earlier, Lizzie caught the late-day sun glinting off something shiny right below Maud's search area and froze. If it's what she thought it was, Maud couldn't find it first.

Trying not to give away where her attention had settled, Lizzie called out to Maud the one thing she knew would grasp her undivided attention, "Incoming!" The moment the word left her lips, she regretted it. She knew the distraction would work, but at what price?

Thankfully Maud began following protocol. She yelled, "Incoming," then hunkered down low and began moving toward the shelter, leaving her search area wide open. Lizzie quickly scrambled over to the place she'd seen the metallic glint.

A cloud had covered the sinking sun, making it harder to locate the source. Cursing, Lizzie desperately tore the area apart. Despite the cold, she was sweating and shaking. She had to find it! She needed to get to the others soon, or there was no way she could cover for what she'd done.

There! Lizzie's fingers grasped the cold metal, and she tugged. Pulling it free, she immediately placed it in her pocket and raced to the shelter.

"Late as usual," the Keeper barked. Lizzie tucked her head and tried to scurry further into the shelter, but Maud was at her side in an instant.

"Where were you?" Maud hissed. "You were right near me. Just what are you playing at?"

Taking a measured breath, Lizzie replied, "I was higher up than you were and it took me longer to get down without killing myself. You know how treacherous the Heap can be." Lizzie hoped her calm tone relaxed Maud's suspicion.

"I'm keeping my eye on you," Maud said. "I don't trust you for a second. You're always scheming." But she didn't push it further, so Lizzie slowly moved away, searching for Foster.

She found him a moment later looking for her with a determined expression on his face. One that did not match the current circumstances. He grasped her arm and pulled her as far back in the shelter as they could go, giving them the semblance of privacy.

"Lizzie, I can't stop thinking of our last conversation. This threat has reminded me that we can't take time for granted. I'm sorry it seemed like I was blaming you somehow. I know your only fault is placing too much importance in wanting a different future, and that's not even a real fault. What I'm trying to say is that I want to be with you. I think we could have a great life together for as long as it lasts. I know you want more, but can't I be enough?" All the breath whooshed from his lips as he stared and waited for her response.

"Foster, I—"

"Lizzie Scavenger, report to the Keeper now!" someone shouted.

Startled, Lizzie tore her gaze from Foster and quickly made her way to the front of the shelter.

Standing before the Keeper, Lizzie wondered if she was really ready to pay the price for her endless search for more. Had she been selfish in wanting a better life? Shame washed over her as she realized what a fool she'd been to push Foster away. Her thoughts were interrupted as the Keeper began speaking.

"Maud's been telling me that you're the one that raised the alarm, yet we've found no evidence of beasts. Explain yourself and remember the consequences for lying."

"Keeper, I know I saw a pack of wild ones off in the distance, heading our direction."

"Then why didn't Maud see them or why haven't we seen any sign of them thus far?" the Keeper growled.

Swallowing down the reply she wanted to give, Lizzie opened her mouth and pleaded instead, "Please Keeper, I was high up on the Heap today and had a much better vantage point than anyone else. I know I saw beasts. Isn't it better to be safe than sorry?"

Lizzie held her breath waiting for the Keeper's response, feeling the weight of the metal in her pocket.

The Keeper took a minute to mull over Lizzie's words clearly not wanting to be in the wrong either as this would need reported to the Protectors.

"Alright, in the interest of our safety, you were right to begin the protocol. No punishment for this infraction, but know that I am watching you." Then the Keeper dismissed her.

Lizzie returned to the spot she had been with Foster, and grasped his hands in hers. Surprise crossed his face for a moment before heat flushed his features. They had never held each other like this, and she could tell that he liked it.

Just then, the light above the exit door began to blink, signaling that the threat had passed and interrupting them once more.

"Come find me when your evening shift is over," Foster whispered before gently placing a kiss on Lizzie's cheek. She couldn't help the smile that spread across her face, especially when she noticed Maud glaring at her in response.

* * *

Lizzie's double shift had just ended. Exhaustion pulled at her, but the silent promise of the metal in her pocket gave her a buzz of energy. She hadn't tried to look at the hunk of metal, too afraid at getting caught, but her hand had strayed there several times. She was fairly certain that she'd found a necklace. The chain felt knotted, but the pendant was intact. She couldn't wait to show Foster. It would be the answer to everything!

He already had the door swinging open as she approached. Entering his pod, it hit her that she had never been inside before. The moment suddenly felt intimate. A blush crept up her neck, but she didn't let that shake her. She had made up her mind on the way over. She wanted a life with him.

Foster slowly extended his hands and clasped her shoulders, turning Lizzie to face him. His eyes were warm and his smile gentle. He really was a good man.

Before he could speak, she pulled the necklace from her pocket and dangled it in front of them. Foster inhaled sharply.

"Is that metal?" he asked, voice full of wonder.

Cupping it in her palm, Lizzie examined it before answering. Upon inspection, it appeared to be made of gold. There was a beautiful scrolled detailing on the face of the heart, and she could just make out a small clasp on the side.

"It's a locket!" Carefully prying it open, they peered inside. Empty. It didn't diminish its worth though. Any type of metal was priceless. It was their ticket to a better life.

"Lizzie, this is amazing! Why didn't you show it to the Keeper right away?" Foster exclaimed. "You wouldn't have had to finish the night shift! Or any shift!"

Lizzie looked away, her cheeks staining red. "I wanted to share it with you first."

Foster's eyes burned and he stepped toward her, taking her face into his strong hands. "I love you, Lizzie Wilton," he said right before kissing her. His mouth was soft and warm. Lizzie was reeling inside. Being with him was everything. And he'd used her real name. He was giving her this one thing from the past, acknowledging her fight for more. They broke apart heaving. Smiles painted on their faces.

"I love you too, Foster Shephard."

* * *

Walking to her shift that afternoon, Lizzie noticed the beauty of her surroundings. It reflected the joy in her heart. She'd stayed with Foster for the rest of the night, explaining to him the risk she'd taken to secure the necklace. They'd agreed to wait a few days before she "discovered" it during one of her shifts. Then, they had taken the Vows. Their lives now joined for better or worse.

Everyone she passed noticed her permanent smile, especially Maud. Just as Lizzie reached the Heap, the Keeper came looking for her.

"Lizzie Scavenger, come with me," the Keeper's expression shuttered.

Lizzie calmly followed, subtly searching for Foster. She didn't see him anywhere.

When they veered away from the path to the housing pods, Lizzie couldn't contain her nervousness. "Where are we going?" Silence rang in her ears.

Finally they arrived at a gray, squat building where five imposing figures stood. The Protectors.

"Lizzie Scavenger, you've committed your final offense and taken advantage of our protection for the last time. You're a thief." They knew. How?

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Maud approaching.

"Maud, has come to us with an eye-witness account that you found metal and did not report it. For that crime, you are sentenced to the Scattering," the Protectors said in unison while motioning for the Keeper to grab her. "Search her!"

She didn't bother to resist. Her fate was set. The locket was safe in Foster's hands, and she couldn't implicate him.

Her heart breaking for the life they should've had, she lied, hoping that Maud's obsession with Foster kept him safe. She would hold onto his love until her last moments. He'd been right all along. He was always enough.

Short Story
11

About the Creator

Heather Hubler

Coffee/reading/writing/family/science–my favorite things in life.

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Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  4. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (7)

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  • Sneha Pradhan4 months ago

    Fascinating worldbuilding Heather! Can’t help but hope Lizzie somehow escapes the scattering!

  • Keila Aartila4 months ago

    A compelling read - I enjoyed your story - well done! 😃

  • Luke Foster4 months ago

    Excellent story with compelling characters. Great work.

  • Absolutely excellent story, one of yours that I had missed so hope this is another read for you

  • Wow, this was an amazing world, very dystopian. You always come up with unique storylines! I loved this story!

  • Veronica Coldiron4 months ago

    Dag-nabbit! I have GOT to stop reading these on my lunch break! Lol! I'm so mad at MAUDE I can't think straight. 🤣 You definitely have a good grasp of short story technique. Loved this!

  • Cathy holmes7 months ago

    This is great. The ending though, sad.

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