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Title: Like Cassandra, Like Alice, Like No One at All
Rating: PG-13
Length: 500 words
Warnings: Disturbing imagery, mention of mental health issues.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Trang and Erin for the beta. This is my first attempt at posting original fic on LJ, and I'd love to hear what people think!
Summary: I knew enough to be afraid of the dark.

The sound bites were triumphant. The annual Conference of Mayors met in Providence, RI and declared victory in the War on Poverty. Mayor Brown of Buffalo took the stage, talking up his “Pathways to Jobs” initiative. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City praised his city’s efforts to ensure that all families eligible for Earned Income Tax Credits claimed the money available to them. San Francisco’s Mayor Newsom claimed that his controversial “Family Improvement” program was responsible for the turnaround in his city.

Whatever the mayors were doing, they knew it had worked. Despite the recession, despite the doom-and-gloom predictions of economists, unemployment was down. Crime was down. Food banks had enough to feed all those in need. The homeless shelters were empty.

Empty.

I watched the news. I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. I knew what was going on. I knew what had happened to the felons whose names were stripped from the voter registration lists. To the squatters, addicts, and runaways moved along by cops. To the immigrant children whose sudden disappearance from school meant there was more funding to go around.

They were gone. All of them.

It had crept up from sewers and subways and steam tunnels, as silent and invisible as its chosen prey. Those with no locked door to hide behind. Those with no family to look for them. Those who would not be missed. It crept up. It seeped in. And where it had touched, there was nothing left. No laughter. No love. No life. Not even a fucking corpse.

The canary was dead, and the politicians were slapping each other on the back.

I’d tried to warn them. Had made phone calls, written letters. I’d broken past security into Senator Hagan’s office, ready to stand up and speak my truth. Kay Hagan was a champion of working families, a mother of three children – I thought for sure she would listen.

Like Cassandra of Troy, no one believed me. They’d stuck me in here, filled me full of pills. Blue pills and white pills and yellow pills, until my mouth was dry, my stride a shuffle, my head an empty, echoing playground. The pills made me small, like Alice in Wonderland, lost down the rabbit hole.

No more visions of past, present, and future for me. Just the TV in the dayroom with its flood of Babylon; cartoons and advertisements and reality shows that show nothing real. Just the nightly news that I always, always make the orderlies turn on for me. Big strapping boys still moved to pity by a woman’s tears.

Because it’s getting stronger, night by night. Soon it will have run out of easy prey. Then it’ll start hunting everyone else, and the seven locked doors between me and the dark won’t be enough. It’s not that I think I can change anything, me, some crazy lady can’t even look in the mirror any more for fear there’ll be no one looking back. Just, when it finally comes for me – I’d like a little warning.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
luzula
Sep. 8th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC)
Ooh, creepy. And more creepy for not giving details of the scary thing, whatever it is. Also because you never know, it could actually all be in her head.

I like the title, and also these lines:

The canary was dead, and the politicians were slapping each other on the back.

my head an empty, echoing playground

It reminds me vaguely of the short story "Those Who Walk Out of Omelas", by Ursula le Guin, although it's not really that similar. I think it's that in both stories there is a good society that is bought at the price of someone else's suffering.

If you write more original fic, I will totally read it!

(I actually got an idea for an original fic recently. Would you beta-read it if I ever write it? It's kind of a post-apocalyptic fairy tale, and I think it'd be up your alley.)
keerawa
Sep. 8th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you luzula! Those lines are favorites of mine, too. And I love Ursula le Guin, so that's a delicious compliment.

I'd be delighted to beta that piece for you! I'm still at keerawa at yahoo dot com.
dragonlit
Sep. 10th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
I did read this when you first posted and meant to come back sooner to comment as I loved this. You've made the beast a plausible entity and my first thought was that it was a genetically engineered government solution, primarily by the way you introduced us to the politicians. Also, the woman is likeable and in that respect, I want to believe her, want to see that kind of link between the economic improvement driven by the scary thing. That might say more about my mind though.

Now where did I put those pills?

keerawa
Sep. 10th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the feedback, Alex! The monster in this story is left intenionally undefined, described by verbs that provide inconsistent imagery. Because the narrator has no idea what it is. She only sees it's wake, the empty spaces it leaves behind. I'm glad you found her likeable and at least somewhat credible.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )