Of (Some) Consequence
Posted By: SeverianofUrth
Date: 21 May 2009, 5:38 pm
Of (Some) Consequence
Anna wondered, as she did sometimes, if she had done the right thing by staying. Her father had offered sanctuary of sorts, but she had turned him down out of some desire to stay faithful to the city. She had reasoned that it should take more than a full-scale alien invasion to move her from her home, and that she was much like a willow, bending towards the wind rather than trying to stand steadfast and instead breaking, like oak. But as the earth shook under the thunderclap blasts Anna was beginning to have serious doubts.
She moved off the bed, her joints aching, and reached for the bottle of lotion. Anna began massaging her legs, making sure to work her wet hands through the many folds on her thighs. They were massive things, and a common description of them would have been as thick as elephant legs. It took a while, oiling them did, but it had to be done, or else her legs would be full of chafed skin and raw sores by the end of the day. And doing so took her mind off the thunderous reverberations of the battle raging through the city, the never-ending stream of gunfire and the blast of bombs. Terrified by the noise but unable to leave her home, Anna, as she had done for the past week, tried to get on with it, tried to immerse herself in the routine of everyday life.
After she finished oiling her legs, the woman walked to the closet with a ponderous gait. TV service had been knocked out just a day earlier, and the 'net before that. Opening it, she was confronted by bags of cat food for the cat that never came back, and old jackets that no longer fit her hanging from wire hangers like slabs of meat in a butcher's shop. Looking deeper, Anna saw the box of junk that she had almost forgotten about, a small cardboard box filled to the brim with kids meal toys and bottles of weight loss pills. She reached down and hauled it out, gasping as she did so. The box was quite heavy and lifting it almost made her lose balance, but she succeeded, and when she put the box on the floor, Anna began digging through it. It wasn't long before she struck gold; her hands felt the plastic casing, the dial, the wire receiver. Triumphantly, Anna pulled the old radio out of the box of junk.
It wouldn't turn on at first; the batteries were dead. So she spent the next hour hunting for AA batteries. They were harder to find than she had thought, and only after digging them out of the alarm clock was she able to get the radio on.
Nothing happened when she flipped the on switch; then, she realized that the volume was set all the way down. Anna raised the volume up--
--and a rather horrible screech came through the speakers. She quickly turned it off, and realized that she had no idea what the stations were these days. The last time she had listened to the radio was in the thirties, when, as a student in Alaska, her classmates left her behind after a whaling expedition on the beach. She'd survived on whale fat and snow for three days, huddling inside a makeshift igloo while listening to the oldies on the antique FM radio.
She slowly moved the dial, working her way through the channels. Even now, a few stations maintained by enthusiasts remained in operation, and she caught a couple, one playing the classic pop songs, and the other looping over and over again a marching song from the 22nd century. It was something Russian, full of pomp and trombones blaring out a ribald tune. Not exactly to her taste. Anna continued to move the dial, until she found, at last, something enjoyable to listen to.
It was an American opera. Something from almost four centuries ago. Listening to it calmed her down--transported her back to those days when men sang with ten gallon hats and the women actually played their guitars.
And when I was a lad, I was so bad,
you know baby that I loved you oh so bad,
and when we were young, we were like oh,
oh, you know baby that we were meant to be~
Anna shrieked when an explosion ripped through the air. The echo rang in her ears as everything on the shelves--dishes, snowglobes, and mechanical gnomes--fell clattering to the floor. But soon the music began to dominate, once more, and she clutched the radio, her fingers gripping its plastic surface quite painfully.
And so I got in my truck, we went to fuck,
got my guns and you got your dogs,
and we sat on the logs, we sat on the bed,
we made love all night looooooooonnngggg~
She shivered. Gunfire dotted the night air. Anna often had nightmares about masked paratroopers barging through the doors, and shooting her, or worse. Ravishing her. But she'd laugh and concede that perhaps, it wouldn't be a terrible possibility at all. There was no laughter tonight, however. The combat outside, down in the streets, through the halls and the ruined buildings--the battle was intensifying, she could feel it in the way the ground shook under each concussive blast. It often occurred to her that she'd made a bad decision by staying behind.
And under the night sky we lay all night
until the dawn light came up poking through the clouds~
Her nightmare came true.
Someone banged away on her front door. She froze, as the radio continued to play the song. Whoever was doing it, sounded--frantic.
Then a soft voice cut through the gunfire, the explosions, and the radio: "Please," it said, "Oh god please."
Hesitantly, she turned the radio off and rose, and walked to the door. Whoever was behind it--a young boy or a woman--banged on it once more before stopping. Anna unlocked it, and slowly pulled it open.
She thought, at first, that it was a boy. A small, skinny body in an ill fitting uniform. Blood trickling from his ears. Tear streaks down grimy cheeks, cutting tracks though the dirt.
Anna reached down, and struggled to pull him--no, her, she realized--up. A young woman with shaved head, who lost her helmet.
"Come on," Anna said, gently, "please, let's get inside."
There was no response at first; but the young woman then slowly rose, accepting Anna's help. They clumsily made their way inside. The woman sank to the floor, exhausted, as Anna locked the door once again.
"Thank you," she mumbled from the floor.
"You are very welcome," Anna replied, frightened, but also... giddy. She'd never realized how lonely she had been, trapped in her house, hearing no voice save that of her own, and the screams sometimes cutting through the thick noise of combat. "Anyways, we better get you patched up," she said, looking with some concern at the blood trickling from the young woman's ears.
There was no response. "Hello?" Anna said again. But the woman remained silent, on the floor, and Anna realized that she might be deaf.
Still, Anna peeled the woman out of her uniform, and grimaced at the injuries. Innumerable cuts and bruises, and shoddy bandages concealing seeping wounds and skin peeling from flash burns. She had no idea what to do next. Antiseptics? But she had none that could work--but then, she remembered the gin she kept in the cupboard. It was an old bottle of the cheap stuff, but the alcohol could work. Anna found a small bowl and poured the gin into it. She took a handkerchief and soaked it in the alcohol, and after wringing it once, she carefully dabbed it at the young woman's forehead.
The woman winced when the 'kerchief made contact, but otherwise, she made no noise. Anna continued. It was all strangely calming. Perhaps, focusing on this other woman's misery allowed her to move away from her own.
"What's your name?" Anna asked.
The woman, seeing Anna's lips move, replied, "thank you."
She dressed the woman in one of her old gowns, and it fit her like a tent. It looked, in fact, like the woman was drowning in a giant pink pool. But the gown was clean.
Anna had been trying to find more stations when someone knocked at the door. Three knocks, one coming after another in a regular beat. Controlled.
Wondering who it might be, Anna slowly walked to the door. Perhaps another wounded soldier. Briefly, visions of her as some oversized angel danced through her mind. Anna, tending a makeshift field hospice, taking care of young men and women fresh from the field of war. A young man grabbing her wrist, grateful and forever thankful as she dabbed away at his wounds with gin-soaked cloth. It was all so absurd, and she told herself so, yet that hope wouldn't go away until she opened the door and faced the two men outside.
Two young men. They both took their helmets off and bowed low at her.
"Sorry to bother you, ma'am, but we had one of our soldiers go AWOL on us," the one on the left said. He had acne-scarred cheeks and clean white bandages wrapped around his forehead.
"Oh, that's, uh..." Anna tried to remember what that term meant. It didn't take long. Desertion, she thought, and she looked back at the sleeping form back in the apartment with concern. She's going to be in a load of trouble, isn't she?
"I hope she wasn't much trouble," the one on the right said. Young, brown-skinned. "Anyways, ma'am, we'd be glad to take her off your hands. She needs to get back to her fellow soldiers, if you know what I mean."
"Well, I don't," she said. "She seems perfectly fine here, and I don't mind her at all. I'll let her walk back when she's well enough to do so on her own."
The two young men sighed. One of them said, "told you."
"Well, she probably has her reasons for staying behind. All of them do."
"She probably did it because no one took her with them, and I don't blame them."
"Hello," she said, "I'm still right here."
They ignored her. "Let's just fucking do it," the one of the right said.
They walked in. That is, over her. Two young men marching into an overweight woman past her prime resulted in Anna falling to the floor. She stared as dirty boots sailed over her face and landed on the other side. Struggling to get up, she heard the two men drag the woman up.
"Stop!" she shrieked. But they ignored her. The acne-scarred one pushed her out of the way, knocking her down once more. From the ground, she watched the young woman, weeping, be hustled out the door. They didn't bother closing it behind them.
Should have chased them. Anna had another vision, of her racing down and knocking them out, and tugging the young woman to safety. But it was just another vision. She lay on the ground, feeling sorry for herself. Then the gunshot rang through the air, and she sucked in a surprised gasp. Trembling, she slowly rose, knowing, dreading, yet needing--to know.
One step, one after another, each foot bound for one more step.
She peered through the window, down at the streets. She saw a puddle of pink fabric clinging to the ground, swamping a limp form underneath.