Short and Sweet Reviews // The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

In The The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood tells the story of a woman named Offred living in what was once America but, after the United States government is overthrown, is now called the Republic of Gilead, and governed by a system based on 17th-century Puritan roots.

Offerd—meaning, literally, “of Fred,” or belonging to Fred—is a Handmaid, a fertile woman who must act as a surrogate for the wealthy and privileged men who’s wives can no longer bear children. Offred still remembers the old world, when women had freedom and choices, and despite the danger of forced labor, or death, or both, she can’t let go.

Originally written in 1985, this book has been recently rediscovered by the public due to Trump’s election, the rise of the conservative right all over the world, and Hulu’s adaptation premiering this week.

I for one didn’t find a lot of parallels to our time and our current political climate except in the way it was allowed to happen, in the easy silence and acceptance. We are often silent and accepting, and that makes us easy to control long past when our energy and outrage flare and burn out.

“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

Still, some of it felt very plausible. The way women will become complicit in the oppression of other women, hoping the same won’t happen to them. The way women will participate in the oppression of other women to ensure the same won’t happen to them, only for the same to happen to us all in some way or another eventually. The way that women are given only hard choices, but still will hold all the blame for what they must do and with whom. The way men will betray and pacify you and never truly see that women are just like them with the same needs for freedom and fulfillment.

What felt relevant will be different for every reader, but I believe everyone who reads it will find something of this tale in our present times and in our deepest fears. For me, the book was terrifying because, as a queer woman of color, I’ve spent much of my life terrified of a rising up of the religious right. I do not think I would have the same privileged place in Gilead but instead, would lose my life or be sent to labor camps.

Hush, he said. … You know I’ll always take care of you. I thought, already he’s starting to patronize me. Then I thought, already you’re starting to get paranoid.

So, I wouldn’t call The Handmaid’s Tale a prediction, but more of a warning. A warning about acceptance, and complacency, and the false belief that it can never happen to you. It is also an encouragement, to tell the stories of your time. Offred reminded me a bit of Anne Frank, who didn’t give us the historical breakdown of how Hitler came into power but instead simply told her own story and made us feel what Hitler’s power did.

But unlike The Diary of a Young Girl or even 1984 as I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale often compared too, Offred’s story doesn’t read so timeless. With references to specific movements and changing views of porn, gender roles, sex, and sexual orientation it made it hard to bring the danger into our time.

The style of writing makes it a hard read at first. Not difficult to understand, but difficult to stay engaged and interested in. Things either progress slowly and we are left frustrated for more information, or we are thrust forward and back with little or no understanding of how we got where we are. Stick with it through the first third, it gets better, and there will be answers to many of your questions, but not all.

I do consider it a must read, because it is different, and interesting, sure, but also because it is a warning, and because it is about women and the ways people can suffer and let other people suffer, which is something we all too easily forget.

“I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name; remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me. I want to steal something.”

***

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Featured image via Tom Blunt

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Z is for “The Zealots”

After humans had gone too far and all who had denied our ability to kill a planet had to admit that we had done just that, the scientist worked together to find he one being who could help us. They searched for God, found him in the places he hid, and asked for his forgiveness and help.

He gave his forgiveness but refused to help.

He had grown weary of his creation, a people who were given life and asked only to cherish it had done everything but. Humans were no longer his concern and no longer the object of his heart. He had promised never to attempt to wipe them out again, and he had kept that promise. It had been easy because he knew humans would do the job for him. When they were done he would begin again with a new race, one better than this. One that loved him and the world he would give them.

Humans heard his words and grew angry. He had not been the God they needed and now he sat idly by and allowed their flaws to consume them. Flaws he had created.

So humans did what humans do and they charged, convicted, and ordered God put to death for crimes against humanity. The way they figured it, every death and every atrocity had been on his hands.

In order to fight Him, they needed an army to rival the one of the Angels and they found it in those struck down by the God long ago. They found the Prince of Darkness, still bitter and brooding in his prison, set him and his army free, and in return asked his help in bringing the Supreme Creator to justice. He agreed and the ensuing holy war was like nothing in all human history. Many died, but in the end, Man prevailed. God was jailed, tortured, and finally put to death in a spectacular public execution.

Man and the Devil both found themselves free.

And man did what man always does and refused to let any live who were greater than him.

And the Devil did what he always had and declared himself the Old God’s greater and Man’s true ruler.

And the world was further destroyed as the two fought each other seeking to take the place of the being they had dethroned.

What neither could see and what neither suspected was there were those who had loved the Dead God and wanted nothing but to avenge his death. They declared war on both the Evil One and those they called the Killers of the Light.

The Zealots, as they were called, remembered the old stories and how people had prospered who were nearest to the God. They wished to return humanity to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

They did not have the technology of the scientists, and they did not have the power of the Devil. What they had was the understanding that the knowledge of events as they had happened was nothing compared the knowledge of what those events had meant. They knew that the fact that they existed and believed as they did meant the war and the world had not been lost.

What they had was the power to resurrect their God through sheer faith in His power.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

This being the last post of the challenge I thought I ought to take a moment and thank everyone who visited and left comments. You have encouraged me and given me the confidence to keep writing fiction and to learn all I can about the craft. I will be making fiction a regular part of this blog and I hope you will continue to read and support me. Thank you again, your kind words have meant so much.

Featured image by Luca Signorelli [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Y is for “The Yolk”

The first light of the morning crept through the window, and I lightly traced the lines of the muscles on your back in it.

I’d been laying here listening to you breathe for a long time now and I worried about what I might be feeling. I’d wrestled with myself and decided that, for you, I would take the first step. I had been enjoying our time together, and I wanted to show you that.

I climbed from the bed quietly, and I crept downstairs. I decided I would make you breakfast. It took a bit of searching, but I found everything I needed. There is coffee, bread, bacon, and eggs.  Making the coffee was easy, but I had to guess how strong you like it. The toast went into the oven because I realized too late you do in fact have a toaster. I hoped you liked your bacon on the crispy side.

The eggs were the tricky part; they were always the tricky part. There were so many options: boiled, scrambled, sunny side up, poached, over easy? I think over easy. He seemed like the kind of guy who preferred the yolk runny but the whites fully cooked. Soft on the inside, harder on the outside. At least, I hoped he was.

Over easy was tricky, though. You always had to be watching him. If you turned away for one minute, the egg became over cooked. If you rushed things, the whites would be too runny. If you weren’t careful when you flipped it, the yolk would break and what you ended up with would not be what you intended. Lucky for you, I was very good at over easy.

I searched the cabinets for plates and mugs. I searched the drawers for silverware. I got everything ready, and I heard you creeping down the stairs, just in time. I took my place at the table and waiting for you to see everything I had done for you. I waited for you to see how perfect the eggs were. How perfect I was.

“What the hell are you doing in my apartment.”

Oh no, you looked angry.

“I made us breakfast. I hope you like crispy bacon; I got a little distracted and the cooked longer than I meant for them too. The eggs came out perfect, though, try them.” If you would only sit down and try the eggs you would understand, I loved you, and I could be the right girl for you.

“No, I won’t try them. I want you to leave Alice or else I am calling the cops.”

“James, listen, just sit and try the eggs. Try the eggs and we can talk about this. I just want to make you happy, if you could just see that we could have a wonderful breakfast together.”

He stood there, staring at me, rage in your eyes. I realized you were not going to sit down and enjoy this breakfast, or any breakfast. You were not an over easy kind of guy after all. Oh well, maybe the next guy would be.

I grabbed the knife from the table and wondered how I was going to eat all this food by myself.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image by tednmiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

W is for “The Wasteland”

My name is William Asher Morris. I am a child of the survivors and the last of the men. I am the future of my people, the only hope of the Earth. I am William Asher Morris and today I am turning 13.

I am becoming a man and proving to my people I can be strong, I can be brave, and that I can survive. I am proving to them that I can do what needs to be done in the face of danger to myself. I am proving to them that through me the future of humans is ensured.

Every man had gone out a boy and when he had returned he was welcomed, celebrated and given the wife of his choice. He was made a member of the council and given voting rights. He was free to pursue what happiness he could and entitled to equality among his peers.

Today it was my turn to face the Wasteland. I must go out into the dead forest, into the exclusion zone, into the radiation, to bring back something useful. I had to bring back something to give to the whole community to move us all forward together.

If I came back with something useless I would bring shame on myself and my future children and my family would be considered of a lower class for at least a generation.

To come back with nothing was not an option. It would be better if I died out there.

The day I left my mother cried and my sisters cheered for me. They wished I would bring back something as valuable as my own father had before me. If I could my family would continue to live among the most respected in the community and we would have everything we ever wanted. If I failed another family would take our place, and we would have to wait for more sons to earn it back.

When I walked beyond the boundary of the safe zone my father was with me in spirit and I remembered his words, spoken in defiance of the traditions, warning me of the way to go before he died many years ago.

The wind blew hard and felt rough with dirt on my skin and the smell of rotting eggs filled my nostrils. The oil fields were long dead but the chemicals they’d injected into the Earth still emitted their poison.

The earth was dead. The ground was cracked and dry nothing grew there anymore. I stopped along my path to look at the old plant in the distance. The plant that had melted down, so they say, and burned the land with radiation. The plant still leaked poison too but there weren’t enough people anymore to clean it up again.

The way was hard to find. The roads led nowhere anymore and the signs could not be trusted. There were no trees and the grass had blown away before my father’s father was born, so they say. Here and there were old buildings and homes but other boys had picked them clean years and years before me. I wouldn’t find what I needed among all this death.

I walked the way my father told me. He had brought back something truly valuable, he had brought back clear water. He had shown his people where the springs ran clean underground and now fewer people were sick. When he returned the whole village held him up as the new leader and all eyes were now on me to follow in his footsteps. Luckily, my father had the foresight to know I would need help to top that and he kept secret the other treasure he had found. He told only me and only on his death-bed.

I walked almost to where the clean water ran but followed the sun to the west. I walked for two days and ate and drank only what my family had packed for me to carry along the way. I had begun to wonder if I had made a wrong turn or if I had missed what my father meant for me to find. I had begun to panic and wish I had made my own way in the Wasteland to find something worth returning with. I was just losing hope and on the verge of cursing my father, and his father before him, when I came upon the high hill of cracked earth my father described to me.

I waited to climb it. I waited until I felt ready to see whether my father would make a man of me, or if I would have to die out here rather than return empty-handed. If my father had been wrong, if I had made a mistake, I did not have enough supplies to find a new way to go. I could not start again to find the thing my community needed to keep going. I would leave my family shamed and shunned. I took one more deep breath and began to climb.

I reached the top and the wind threatened to blow me off. I stooped to allow the gust of wind to pass and I caught something in the air. A smell I had never smelled before, something sweet, something that made me wish for clearer air so I might separate it from the rotten eggs and poison and take it in all on its own. The smell must be a good sign!

I stood up and looked to the other side of the hill and knew my father had secured my future and that of his wife and daughters. I stood looking over a deep valley of green grass and little yellow flowers. they swayed in the wind and were parted by a stream of water running out of the base of the hill. I had found something beyond the measure of any man before me.

I had found the next birthplace of mankind.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image by Boris van Hoytema from Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Barren Wasteland) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

V is for “The Visitor”

“I had a bad dream.”

Her sweet, sad voice floated to me from the dark corners of the room. Without looking at the clock I knew the time, it was the same time it always was when she came to me. Always after the bad dream.

“Will you hold me until I fall back asleep”

“Of course honey.”

I lift the covers on the other side of the bed and I feel her slip in next to me. She’s cold, but I let her warm herself on my skin. She feels like she’s made of nothing so I hold her gently. She smells like the rain and the river, I bury my nose in her hair.

“Do you want to hear about my dream?”

It didn’t matter how I answered, she would tell me about it anyway. I’ve learned what to say to get through it faster.

“Yes honey, tell me about your dream”

“It was my birthday. You took me to that nice seafood place we like, the one we go to whenever we have something to celebrate. We like the oysters, we like the wine even more. We were having such a great time. I can’t remember what we were talking about, I just remember laughing and feeling like I loved you very much. I thought you loved me too but then you did something so….horrible.” The last word was spat out in disgust and I cringed to hear it.

“What happened honey? What did I do?” I knew what I did but she needed to tell me and maybe if she told me enough times we could both move on.

“We left the restaurant, I think we were drunk. We drank a lot of wine.” She laughed when she said that. She laughed because we always drank too much wine.”It was raining outside, pouring rain, we could barely see.” She was getting scared. She was

“It was raining outside, pouring rain, we could barely see.” She was getting scared. She was beginning to cry.

“We had to cross the bridge but you weren’t looking at the road, you were looking at me, laughing, and we hit the side rail and went over. I hit my head and when I woke up the water was up to my waist and I was still in the car. I saw you get out. I watched you swim to the bank. I saw you watch me from the waters edge. I was screaming, and screaming, and screaming, and you just watched me. You just let me go down.”

She was sobbing now but this was her time, I let her speak.

“Then everything was dark and I tasted the water.”

“Why would I dream that? I know you would never do that, right? You love me too much, you would never leave me behind.” She was still sobbing. She was shaking and trying to turn around to look at me. I held her tighter and did my best to calm her.

“That’s right honey, I love you too much. I am sorry about your dream. Everything is okay sweetie, just relax.” I rubbed her wet hair while I said this, I wanted to comfort her, to help her forget her pain. I wanted to forget mine too.

“No! I can’t relax! You let me die! Why would you do that? How could you do that?” She was fighting me now trying to get out of my grip, trying to look at me. I could let her turn around. I couldn’t see her face again.

“YOU LET ME DIE! YOU LET ME DIE! YOU LET ME DIE!” I could let her see me. I couldn’t see her.

“No baby, it was just a dream. Just breathe, just relax, just listen to my voice. It was all a dream. I didn’t let you die. I didn’t let you drown. You are here. You are only dreaming. I love you. I would never leave you.” She stopped fighting. She was crying quietly still but she was calm.

“I know you wouldn’t. You would never leave me would you? I know you wouldn’t. You love me too much.”

Her voice was fading. She was falling back to sleep and the smell of the river was fading. I wasn’t holding her anymore, I was holding the pillow and the bed was soaked where she had just been. I had tears in my eyes and I knew there would be no more sleep for me. There never was anymore.

She would come to me every night and I would have to face what I had done. It was only right. It was what I deserved.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash

U is for “The Unwell”

I hadn’t been feeling very good for a while now. I thought it was just a cold, but this was the sickest I had ever been in my life. It must be the flu, some new kind of flu. I should have gotten that damn shot. I would be ok, though, it was only old people and kids that had to worry. I was still young. I just had to ride it out.

I couldn’t let myself worry too much about this. Working in the back of a restaurant meant I had no health insurance, and I had no money to get any. It meant there was no time to get my shift covered anyway. It meant if I didn’t go in I would lose my job and be replaced the same night.

There were more people than jobs, more bills than paychecks, and no time to worry about a little cold.

I climbed out of bed feeling worse than I had when I got in and mindlessly dragged myself to the bathroom. My head was pounding!

A shower would help. I needed to loosen my sore muscles and wash the disease off of me. I took my blood soaked shirt off and threw it to the side where the others laid in a pile. I must have had another bloody nose in the night. I’d been having more and more of those lately.

As soon as I got in, I hated it. The water made my skin crawl, and the soap disgusted me. Somewhere in my mind, I knew I had to get out. Somewhere in my mind, I was told not to wash off. I did not want to be clean.

I tried to resist; it’s been so long since the last time I washed. I worried how I must smell, but the thought was quickly pushed from my mind as I began to feel hungry. The hunger was intense that had to be a sign of improvement, right?

I got out and shuffled to the kitchen.

Without thinking, I grabbed a bag off the shelf and pulled the raw steak from it. Both the refrigerator and the freezer were filled with them. They were all I had to eat, all I wanted to eat. All the other food I’d had before just made me feel worse. I’d thrown it all out to make room for the meat. I ate it in front of the fridge, no need for plates or cutlery. No time anyway, I had to get to work.

I couldn’t afford not to go in. If I called in, I wouldn’t get paid today and even though the money didn’t amount to much I needed every penny. The rent was due, and the lights were close to getting shut off I was sure. Plus I would need more of these steaks. I couldn’t stop eating them, nothing else would do. Nothing else made me feel better. Nothing else tasted so good.

I looked up and saw the dog watching me. The dogs tail wagged, it wanted the steak too.

The steak good but I craved something…fresher. I wanted the dog.

No! No time, I had to get to work. I let the dog go, for now. I couldn’t lose my job. There were bills to pay. I had no choice but go in. At least I worked in the back where the customers wouldn’t see me. Yeah, all I could do was go in and do my best. I would eat and drink plenty of fluids. I would get better.

I got dressed quickly. I was beginning to feel hungry again, and something told I needed to get among the people.

I needed to get among the flesh.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image via By Alpha from Melbourne, Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

T is for “The Traveler”

Mommy told me not  to talk to strangers, but this stranger says he’s me, just bigger, so, I think I can talk to him. He says to meet him every day at the playground and I do. We sit on the swings and he tells me things I don’t understand.

He says one day I will be all grown up and I will eat ice cream for dinner and have a puppy named Bella. She will follow me everywhere and we will have lots of fun together. He says I will go lots of places and try to fix all the bad things that happen to everyone. He tells me I will be a superhero and that if I want to I can wear a cape. He says when I am older I won’t want to, though.

He says Mommy and Daddy will be happy but one day they will have to leave and I will think I can’t live without them, but I can. I am a superhero.

I ask him why they have to go and if I can use my super powers to keep them with me. He says there are some things even superheroes can’t do.

He says in the future there are some sad things and that he came all the way here to ask me if I’d like to be a superhero now instead of later. I like this idea. I want to be strong, I want to save people, and I want to save mommy and daddy, I want to go places making everything right.

He tells me in the future there is a bad man who will make everyone sad. He says the bad man is a traveler like him and that he had to come all the way back her to stop him before he learns to be a bad guy. He tells me he needs my help to stop the bad man. He asks if I will please help, like a sidekick.

I ask if I can wear a cape now, and a mask too. He says that is fine.

He tells me that sometimes heroes have to do bad things to do the right thing. He says he is going to ask me to do a good-bad thing so that mommy and daddy can be happy in the future. I will do the good-bad thing for mommy and daddy so that maybe they will stay with me and never leave.

He tells me the bad man is a kid now, like me, right now he is isn’t so bad but that’s not important, he will be bad in the future. The future where ice cream is for dinner and we miss mommy and daddy. The bad man has to be stopped before he is the bad man. He has to be stopped while he is the kid like me.

The kid who sits’s next to me at school. We have to be heroes and get him now, and then ice cream for dinner, puppies, capes, and maybe mommy and daddy can stay.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash

S is for “The Secret”

 

For some women their wedding day is the happiest of their lives, for me, it was like the bars of a prison cell slamming shut on me. My family had chosen a man for me, scratch that, my father had chosen a man for me, and no matter how I begged or pleaded I was to be wed.

Now my life before, the life of keeping quiet, would blend into my life now, keeping quiet and keeping my husband happy. What boredom, what tortures await me I have no idea. No one cares about that, though. They care that the man that has been chosen was a good match. He was an asset to the family.

My family is among the richest in the world, my father sits at the head of the largest privately owned multinational conglomerate of corporations. My family had their hands in everything, legal and not so legal.

They thought I didn’t know that. They thought none of the women knew that. They thought we didn’t understand secret meetings and security guards and men showing up bruised and bloody. They thought we didn’t understand secrets. We heard whispers, we heard screams, we were ushered out of rooms, and we were visited by police and agents often. They never told us exactly what they did but we knew enough to keep our mouths shut about whatever it was.

I also knew that the secrets we had kept the men my father worked with as close as family, and just like tradition called for, we kept our unions within that family. My role was only to be pretty and worthy of attracting the kind of men that my father needed to keep close. I had done that and now I was staring into a dark future filled with more secrets and pretending.

My life would be a facade and what had been done could not be undone. For us a combination of religion, fear, and money kept us together no matter what. Divorce would never be an option.

So here I am, feeling the cage doors closing while my husband and I dance our first dance in the presence of my family, those related by blood and those related by secrets. I felt myself smiling, that was what I was supposed to do, but inside I felt hollow and low. I felt trapped, I felt angry, I felt hatred for everyone in the room, and I felt hopeless to do anything about it.

“I can tell you are unhappy.”

The sound of his voice snapped me out of my rage.

“What do you mean?” I couldn’t look at him. I hated him and I was afraid of him. How would he treat me? What secrets would he keep? What lies would he tell me?

We whirled around and around, still smiling like puppets. Still pretending this all meant something

“Your nails are digging into my back and even though you are smiling, you look like you could kill everyone in the room. This isn’t what you want, I know, and I am sorry. This is just what we have to do. I hope you will forgive me.”

The rage was back.

“I will never forgive you.” That was all I dared. This man would decide how much I suffered for the foreseeable future.

“I know you won’t. I know this is not the life you want. I want to tell you a secret though and I am hoping you have enough hatred for everyone in this room to hear me out, give me a chance, and maybe even help me if you can.”

He looked me right in the eyes when he said it, he smiled the whole time too, and he never missed a step in our dance. I was shocked by his words but he held me up when I lost my footing and kept the facade of the happy couple going.

His eyes promised something more than the life I thought I was getting. His eyes promised me a life where I mattered and I would trade anything for that, especially the people who had traded me so easily.

This man had more secrets to tell and I hoped he would tell them to me.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image via April Killingsworth

R is for “The Royals”

“There are reports this morning coming out of Washington, D.C. of shots being fired as the Queen arrived at north wing of the Capitol to preside over another Senate session. This is Meredith Scalia and you are watching Citizens Cable Inc breaking news.”

“We are following what appears to have been an assassination attempt on America’s beloved Queen Olivia Carter. We are hearing from witnesses in the area that anywhere from four to six gunshots were heard and the Queen herself was hit. We have not had confirmation on the Queen’s status yet.”

“We go to CCI reporter Amy Delarosa who is on the scene, Amy what can you tell us?”

“Thank you, Meredith. The scene here in Washing is quite chaotic. Witnesses say about 10 minutes ago, as Queen Olivia was walking up the steps of the Capital, someone called her name very loudly and yelled ‘Democracy will be bathed in blood.’ and opened fire. As she turned they heard four or six very loud gunshots. Those who saw the man are saying he was wearing plain jeans and a brown jacket, and that he had a scarf around the lower part of his face. They did see that above the scarf he appeared to be a white male and his hair was brown.”

“As for the Queen herself, the Royal Tactical Response Unit is being very tight-lipped about her condition. We have heard reports that the Queen herself was shot but that the wound is not fatal. Witnesses who were in the area say that she was up and walking after the shots stopped and may have been shot in the side or shoulder. We do know that there were no other injuries today. This attack comes days after  a reports leaked of a terror threat from the rebels, The Democratic Front of America’s Free Peoples.”

“We have not been able to gather more information as of yet. The Royal Tactical Response Unit is keeping civilians and reporters out of the area while they conduct their investigation. As more information becomes available we will update the public. Back to you Meredith.”

“Thank you, Amy. We have helicopters on scene, and you can see the RTRU have set up a perimeter around the capital and are even keeping the Metropolitan Police Department back as they begin to conduct their initial investigation. They are keeping everyone back to protect Her Majesty. At this point, the entire population could be a suspect of the assassination attempt, including law enforcement.”

“We suspect the DFAFP is responsible and we are checking their Facebook and Twitter feeds for confirmation. In the last five years, we have seen a rise in their activity as the Royal Family has moved from their role as representatives of American pop culture to a role in government and actual law making. The rebels have threatened to remove them by force and return America to her purely Republic roots.”

“If you all remember your history you know that as Americans became less adept at following politics and voting in their best interest, the Royal family was put into place to give American’s something simple to follow, something they could understand.”

“Queen Olivia has had different ideas in recent years and has taken an active role in law making and has expressed intentions of expanding her family’s role and responsibilities. They currently hold controlling positions in each branch of government and retain absolute veto power. American’s may love her but as she has moved from a symbol of the country to a woman who wishes to truly rule it, the population has become divided and tensions have risen.”

“No one can deny that since she has began actively ruling the country has seen a rise in job creation, expanded civil liberties, better international relations, and unprecedented economic growth, but some believe none of that matters if Americans are not truly free.”

“We are getting reports now that the Queen has suffered only minor injuries and not only will she address the public but she will still preside over the Senate session today. We go live to the capital where Queen Olivia is speaking now.”

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, USA (Miss Liberty I) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Q is for “The Question”

I wasn’t sure whether to kill her or kiss her.

The job called for bringing her in alive, but after the stunts she has pulled over the course of our return trip I didn’t feel like the money was worth it. Here I was, one of the top rated bounty hunters in the country and this woman had pushed every button and worn down every nerve. I had never dealt with someone so difficult or angry.

Being one of the only female bounty hunters meant dealing with some of the worst of the worst, the women. The guys hated going after the girly ones, they were almost always worse than any man, no matter what his crime.

The men might fight at the beginning, and if they were bigger, smarter, or gutsier than you, they could give you a real run for your money, but once they were caught they usually gave up. The men knew when you had them. They knew when the game was done.

The women never knew they were caught and so, the game of cat and mouse never ended. They never stopped fighting you. You couldn’t turn your back on the women. You couldn’t trust the doe eyes and the meek demeanor, they were always looking for their chance. They knew we were limited in our ability to use force and they knew we would only resort to lethal force. They pushed you.

The men were mad at first but during the cold nights camping in the desert or trekking across wastelands, you could talk to them, you could get to know each other and become something like friends for a while. Oh of course with me they were crass. Of course, they made grotesque comments but they were predictable. The women were wild, you stayed on your toes with them.

The job was for a Jasmine Quinlin. She was small, she appeared delicate and feminine, but she was wanted for murder. She was beautiful so I was surprised boys turned it down and since I didn’t have a job at the moment she was mine.

Took me months to track her down, which isn’t unusual  for someone who knows they are wanted. It took me weeks more to catch her. She was adept at finding unusual hiding places. It doesn’t help that there are so many abandoned buildings and cars to sleep in either.

But I got her and now we needed to start the long journey back. She kicked and screamed, she bit me and fought me. She wasn’t bigger or stronger but she was fast and ruthless and fought with everything she had. All women did. I fought too, I was a woman after all, and I matched her blow of blow, and beat her in experience.

So there we were. After many such brawls and almost nightly escape attempts, we were both sleep deprived, injured, and angry. I was out of bandages and because I had to watch her I couldn’t find food. If we kept it up we might both die out here and I know she didn’t want to die. No one who fought that much wanted to die.

We couldn’t fight anymore and I couldn’t keep going like this. I watched her over the fire and she watched me back. I asked her with my eyes if were going to be fighting again tonight. She answered with her own that we would just have to wait and see. I sighed and settled down for sleep. If she tried an escape tonight she just might make it, I couldn’t subdue her again.

I drifted off thinking momentarily of the stories I heard of the life that used to flourish here before everything died. I slept lightly and my mind swam with memories of the places and people I’d known. And the hardship and the suffering we’d all seen and inflicted. These were my nightly thoughts, and just as I was going to give up on real rest, I heard the jingling of chains and held my breath to listen.

I felt the warmth of a body near me and I wondered if she was going to strangle me or worse. I didn’t move, though. If she tried there were ways to put her down and I would be justified. I couldn’t keep going like this. It had to be over, I would find a new job, one that didn’t look at me like she wanted to gouge my eyes out.

I held my breath and waited for her hand on my throat, what I got was her head laid gently on my chest. Her hair smelled sweet and she felt warm in the cool desert air and for just a second I relaxed and forgot who we were and why we’d been thrown together. It’s been so long since I had been this close to a human being who wasn’t trying to harm me.

When I snapped out of it I opened my eyes and looked down at her. I silently asked if this was a ploy, if she meant to hurt me. She answered with a raised eyebrow, daring me to find out.

So I asked the question of myself, do I kill her or do I kiss her? Because I can’t go on without doing one or the other. We had a long way to go and if something didn’t change we both might die.

Do I kill her or do I kiss her?

She didn’t give me a chance to answer.

***

Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.

Featured image via Pexels