by Fiona Campbell
The old ones who live amongst us ramble tales of the ‘golden age’ of peace they were born into, after the second world war and before this, the third. My name is not important to you, nor perhaps my story, but I have little left to lose in the telling. We are a people without a history, we live in this dry and toxic death-filled place and all look for release. Many have found it too much, to keep on waking into this nightmare with no end. There are two main methods of escape, I have not the stomach for either.
The new government with their grey trucks come into the villages and offer pills to the survivors, to ease the nightmares. The queues for this magic are longer than those for bread and water. This then is the first choice; the second is swifter, offers no return to reality, does not fade away after a few hours. The brave, they choose the second. The weak take the drugs and wait for tomorrow to save them.
I am paid by the new government to clean up the streets, the daily suicides. After a while you become immune, you don’t think of the face that kept all the bits of brain together. I have been sick only twice. The first time, it was only my second day and the heat and the stench of dead bodies turned my insides out.
The second time, I had been with the crew for about four months, we got a call at midday from the centre to go down to Fourth Street; a young girl, unidentified. We had just had lunch, me and another lad, I forget his name. We were in no rush, the heat trickled down the back of my neck in rivers of sweat and the truck’s air conditioning was on the blink. It was a good half an hour before we reached her.
She just lay there, the slightest trickle of blood starting to matt her dirty blond hair. I didn’t react at first, though I knew in my gut it was her. The baby of the family, the only sister I had, fourteen yesterday. Something inside me was so still, so controlled then as we walked towards the body of my little sister. I knelt in the dust and somebody screamed, it could have been me.
My little sister was brave and I wanted to tell you about her; she did not deserve this inheritance, this twisted place the old ones will tell you was once a paradise. I wish she could have seen the trees and the blue skies they talk of, heard the birds that they say sang sweeter than any music man could make. She was born too late; we all were.
Fiona Campbell lives in Surrey, is mother to two girls under four and writes while the housework takes over the house.