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Mitchell's Change

by Megan Chadsey 9 months ago in science fiction

He kissed his world goodbye, now we will al regret it

Mitchell Moran kissed his world and soul goodbye on an uncommonly sunny day; forty days into the rainy season to be the precise. He wouldn’t know that out for sixteen more days.

“Everything is going to be fine, Carl.” He reassured his husband of seven years. “I’ll be along in a few weeks.”

Carl bit his lip, “Why can’t you come with us?” He asked again.

“Kylie, you know that.” He said with slight exasperation, “She’s not approving my transfer until the new girl is fully trained.”

Carl continued to frown, holding little Jamie close. “Maybe” he offered finally, “We can wait, that way we can all go together.”

Mitchell sighed mentally, a little irritated. He loved his mother-in-law dearly but she had Carl absolutely convinced that both of them were psychic. So when Carl got a little nervous about the impending move he had attributed it to psychic intuition.

“We have a place waiting,” he reminded the other man. “Plus…it might be better to be well away with the election coming.”

Carl’s eyes flashed out the window, a motion that seemed involuntary, to the yard across the way. Though it could not be seen in the dark Mitchell knew there was a sign there. One that proudly proclaimed, ‘Vote for Vicky Grace. She will save us from our sinful ways.’

“I suppose” Carl sighed softly, doubtfully. “I’m just worried.”

The next morning the three stood in the early morning light. Jaime was drowsy, dozing on Carl’s shoulder. Carl and Mitchell looked at each other quietly for a moment.

“It’s only a few weeks,” Mitchell repeated, suddenly feeling a bit anxious himself.

“I know. It just sucks that you can’t see us off at the docks.”

“We talked about this…” Mitchell started off. They had argued about it actually. It simply wasn’t safe to provoke the people around them. Especially not with their precious little one there.

Carl scoffed, angry all over again. “Some neighbors, right?” Again he glanced out into the dim morning light at the now visible sign.

“They’re frightened.” Mitchell answered back softly. It was hard for him to feel any real anger at the Collins across the way. Not with the desperate, fearful look in their eyes ever since Jeremy Collins had lost his job. “They are frightened. They are hungry and angry.”

“So that’s it. We just roll over and let them blame us.” Carl bit out, “You and I, we didn’t do anything wrong. Our son did nothing wrong. We did not cause the long dry season.”

“That’s why we’re leaving” Mitchell reminded him. “Why it’s better to spend the election in the Domes. Hopefully when calmer heads prevail we can come home.”

Carl twitched but his glower didn’t fade.

“Maybe” Mitchell continued, forcing his voice into a playful pitch to distract his husband, “The flying cities will have changed their minds about seceding, then we see about making Jaime a big brother.”

For another tense moment it looked like his gambit had failed. Then with a huff of rueful laugh Carl relaxed. “You’re ridiculous.”

Mitchell smiled, relaxing. “I try.” The first true rays of light came in through the window and Mitchell took a reluctant step back. “You’ll need to go soon or you will miss your ride.” He said, a touch unhappily. Now that it was time for them to go he found his own worries spike. It wasn’t exactly a safe trip to the Domes.

Thankfully Carl didn’t call him out on his worry. Instead the taller man pressed a peck on his lips and left their home without another glance. Mitchell forced down a wave of fear and sadness. Everything would be fine.

The next two weeks dragged each minute into an hour, or so it felt. It seemed like every question Jeanette asked pushed his leave date further from his grasp. Now though was his final day. Tomorrow he would board the transport ship and in a mere week he would be with his family.

Mitchell entered the office to an eerie quiet. Everyone was clumped together talking in low tones. A few eyed him with a weird mix of suspicion, which was unfortunately normal, and fascinated pity.

“I would have thought you would have been down town. It figures someone like you wouldn’t care.” His boss murmured without looking at him. Not that she had so much as glanced his way in several months.

It stung a bit, even now. Kylie had been his friend long before she had been his boss. They had known each other for almost a decade. She had been at his wedding to Carl, cheering them on. After she had found out she was infertile, though, things had changed. It had become a sore point between them, especially after they had given up on a surrogate and gone to the flying city of Devarra. Jaime’s birth cemented the rift. It had only gotten worse after Kylie had begun openly supporting Vicky Grace and her horrid hate filled speeches.

“Care about what?” Mitchell sighed. He had tried to stay away from politics and hoped this wasn’t some rally that everyone thought he should be at.

Kylie blinked and looked up, focusing on a point to the right of him. “You haven’t heard?” she asked the wall of her office. “It’s been all over the place this morning.”

“I overslept and had to run to get here. What happened?”

A strange change came over Kylie’s face. The contempt mixed with a bit of pity and some sadness. “There was a riot in the Domes three days ago. Umiko has been destroyed outright.”

Mitchell felt himself rock backward in shock, “Just Umiko? What about Cordelia?” he asked with a rush of sudden desperation.

Something in her face softened, the contempt draining away. “They evacuated Cordelia and Palagelia in time but there is no news about the survivors. When you weren’t here this morning I figured you were down at the Docks looking for news.”

Mitchell turned and ran without another word. He needed to get to the docks and find out when Carl and Jaime would be back; if they had been hurt. They weren’t dead, he would have known, have felt something. Jaime must be so scared. And Carl, well he was such a worrier already. He was never going to let Jaime off the island again.

The closer he got to the docks the people got out of his way. He barely noticed the looks of pity he got, or how many of those looks had changed to disgust when they saw the brace on his right arm.

He had only had the bracer for five years, though he had been married longer. Carl had been so angry, furious at the announcement when it came out. Five years ago the laws had changed, any same sex marriage that used the more traditional marriage pendants would be null and void. Every one of the couples had two weeks to turn in the pendants and find a set of leather bracers.

While Carl had raged Mitchell had shrugged, bought a plain pair of Bracers which he customized. It had always been Carl who was the rebel, the one to stand up for what he believed in. There wasn’t any chance that death would take Carl’s bravery from them but leave Mitchell’s passivity in the world.

He arrived at the building panting for breath. It had clearly been set up as a temporary information center. He pushed through the crowd; passing scores of people sobbing with relief or grief. No one paid any heed to his bracer now. Everyone was too wrapped up in their own situations.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, Mitchell reached the desk. A young woman, looking something between bored and harried under a mask of sympathy, sat there.

“Please” he gasped out, breathing hard from the run, “My family…They were in Cordelia. I need to know they got out safe.”

“OK” the woman began what was clearly a well-rehearsed speech. “Both Cordelia and Palagelia have been evacuated. Umiko was destroyed outright and the last indication shows that the other two Dome flooded shortly after. Of the 600 residents between the two dome, a total of 200 are still unaccounted for. We do have lists of the survivors and what ship they have been recorded on.”

Relief gripped him, strong and unrelenting; turning his knees liquid. He gripped the counter, hard, to keep standing upright. The woman saw his bracer and her entire demeanor changed. Gone was the boredom and false pity. In its place was an achingly familiar disgust.

“Not that we will need it for one of your kind. You have no business here.”

The relief popped and shriveled, leaving him feeling like he was caught in a whirlwind. “What?” he gasped.

“Your kind. They wouldn’t have evacuated your kind.”

“I-I-I don’t understand…My husband and son were in Cordelia. I n-need to know if…”

“They are dead. Or wishing they were. They didn’t evacuate the unnatural. Now you need to leave.”

Mitchell sputtered, “My son, surely my son is on your list. He’s only a toddler.”

The woman looked at him dismissively. In the pulsing, shift crowd of fear and grief he felt singled out and alone. After a moment of contemplation, the woman finally said, “Nits make lice. Now you need to leave”

Air rushed from his lungs, trapping itself in his throat. He could feel his jaw working helplessly. Inarticulate noises escaped as his mind tried to process. Nits make lice.

He didn’t know how long he stood there, stock still in that shifting mass. One moment to the next and hands gripped his arms. Two towering burly men grabbed him firmly but gently to frog march him from the hall. From the corner of his eyes Mitchell caught sight of the matching bracers on the security guards’ arms.

As they passed through the crowds Mitchell saw others like him, frantic men and women who had not yet been told. And he wanted to warn them; wanted to scream that nits make lice. But the crowd shifted too quickly and the hands holding him would not let him go back. The words were stuck.

The next few days he spent in a fog, wandering with those words echoing in his ears. Nits make lice. Kylie eventually found him. That last strand of friendship caused her to bring him to her home; to force food into him. In thanks he showered.

A week or two after he lost everything Vicky Grace spoke on the tragedy.

“…approximately 4 Third Shift, Dome time a riot broke out in Umiko. The destruction of the Umiko Dome was enough to damage the connecting tunnels. Cordelia and Palegia were evacuated. The elevator shaft down to the central hub appears to be completely flooded indicating that the Domes have been destroyed. Our sources have confirmed that the six responsible for the riot were protesting Unnaturals moving into the Domes. Our hearts go out to the families of those lost in Umiko and in particular the families of the six who died to make this point. I am happy to announce that only Unnaturals were lost in Cordelia and Palagelia. I assure you all that when I am elected I will ensure that such a sacrifice will never be needed again…”

Tinny cheers cut the speech off over the ringing in Mitchells ears.

Why? Why would they cheer? That woman…that monster called the rioters actions a sacrifice. Like they were martyrs; like they had done something good and it cost them. Echoing from his memories were those hated dismissive words, nits make lice. Overlapping that was the cheering. Why were they cheering?

Only Unnaturals in Cordelia. Only. Only his soul. Only his life. Only the two most important people in his world. Only…

“Not the way I would have put it but she makes a lot of sense.” Kylie commented from his right.

Mitchell whipped around to face her, ignoring the monster-woman who kept speaking. Kylie was looking thoughtfully at the screen. “What?” He breathed, horrified.

“About separating out the Unnaturals.” She continued.

Kylie appeared completely oblivious to the way Mitchell felt like he was a frayed rope about to snap. Like he had already snapped. Like there was nothing to keep him from flying apart.

“Surely you know you are unnatural?” She sounded so matter of fact. As if she wasn’t gutting him. “There is no natural reason why someone like you had a child while someone like me could not.”

Mitchell’s lungs felt filled with Ice water; freezing and unable to breath. “You-You” he sputtered out, gasping “You agree with her?”

Nits make lice, he heard again; dismissive and contemplative. The words overlay Kylie’s calm, “If there were not Unnaturals it would not have happened.”

Abruptly Mitchell was standing and moving, all but running out the door and down the street. To a little park where he used to bring Jamie to play on his days off. In the dark he could hear sobbing and cries and screams of grief. He could sense others like him; the restless dead forced to walk among the living.

They were few and far between though. Because he could also hear laughter and cheers. Distinct comments about how the tragedy was just. Whispers of a monument to the six who started it all.

It is impossible to know how long he wandered the park and its shadows. It could have been hours or days. It was light though when new whispers started. Of early voting and Vicky Grace’s landslide victory. The light was fading again when two military officers pointed at his Bracer and dragged him from the street.

Mitchell knew they were talking to him, telling him in disgusted tones why he was here. But he was no longer listening to the words. Because nits make lice and if there were no unnaturals it would not have happened.

He was shoved into a crowded holding cell on a ship. He neither knew nor cared how he got there. Because nits make lice.

Scream and cries echoed from the other cells; occasionally another person was tossed in worse for wear. Food and water came occasionally. By the time the guards came to drag them from their cells he had been sitting between two rat eaten corpses.

He didn’t care, because nits make lice.

A sailor snarled, “All ashore” as she shoved people overboard in the direction of an island. The water, though warm, was still a shock to the system. Enough that Mitchell automatically started to swim.

No matter how little he cared some part of him still had a survival instinct. A small spark that caused him to drag himself onto land.

Because nits make lice and he would make them bleed.

Just as he was contemplating dragging himself to the tree line a voice said, “Well, I’ll be fucked. I never thought she would actually do it.”

Mitchell turned to face the speaker. It was a young man, maybe a few years older than Mitchell himself. His pale skin was already reddening in the sun and his fire-bright hair seemed oddly familiar. Both made Mitchell ache for Carl’s dark as pitch skin and black curly hair. “What’s that?” He asked tonelessly.

The young man looked at him, faintly surprised that he had been heard. “Vicky. I was surprised she managed to pull this off. Let alone so quickly. Henry Grace at your service.”

“Mitchell Moran. Grace as in…?”

“As in” Henry agreed, watching others make their way to shore. “Vicky’s twin brother. Well twin anyway, not sure if the brother part still applies.”

“Why not?” Another man, barely a boy, asked breathless and soaked to the skin. He looked like he had been burned and was listing to one side.

Henry glanced around the group that now surrounded them and shrugged good naturedly, “Guess the secret’s out anyways. Vicky and I were Grey blankets.”There were several gasps among the crowd. “My parents decided that Vicky would be a girl and I would be a boy.”

“Really” Mitchell leaned forward, interested for the first time. Because nits make lice and he would make them all bleed.

“Yeah it was quite a kick in the teeth to find out. We would have never known ‘cept Vicky’s treatment didn’t quite take and Ma saved everything. ‘swhy she is so obsessed with normal and that damned biological law she touts. Proving herself kinda thing.”

“Wouldn’t she protect you?” asked a particularly beat up older man.

Henry laughed, “Not since she found me shacking up with her fiancé. Him she protected, after he claimed I had led him astray and seduced him. So here I am.”

“So here we all are” Mitchell growled, making a few people jump. “Abandoned; left to die because they, she, declared us unnatural.”

Gone was any passivity, any meekness. All that was left was that small flame, that spark. Because nits make lice and they would make them all bleed.

He straightened his spine, “As of now all of the ties you had before this are gone. All that’s left are the people here on this island. Now will there be more coming?” He looked around and a few people nodded.

“Un, I-I think there are um um um at least two more shiploads.” A young teen chattered.

“Good” Mitchell looked at the fifteen other survivors and said “we need to be ready.”

Because nits make lice and they would make them all bleed.

science fiction

Megan Chadsey

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Megan Chadsey
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