As requested by the wonderful TheLooker23, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is another short story! And it’s an oldy. 😀 I wrote this for a Future Problem Solvers competition back like two or three years ago (which means that I wrote this when I was like fifteen and it hasn’t been edited or updated since then — keep that in mind), and it turned out horrible because it was before I learned how to write to a word limit and the plot was too big, and… well, basically, I just like to read it for laughs now. 😛
Please enjoy the horribleness that is “District-Six!”
(Also, fun things to look for throughout: the humungous number of words I had to put dashes between, the important scenes I had to cut out — like the ending, of all things — and the overall lack of information or purpose in this piece, all due to getting down to the proper word count for the competition.) (Please note that I did awful in the competition, hahaha.)
Around midnight, only a half-hour after passing the entrance to dinky little District-Six, she first heard the warning rumble. Even though her MP7-player was blasting music in her rusty pickup truck and she was busy watching the eerie, vacant buildings on either side of the pavement, her ears managed to pick it up long before it reached her. Her knuckles turned white on the steering wheel and her muscles went rigid.
“Soil-storm,” she breathed, hardly believing her misfortune. It was the worst fear of every traveler; even worse than the cannibals who lurked among the abandoned remnants of urban sprawl—the only thing left of the pre-Nuclear War United States. A soil-storm meant that her lungs could be filled with dirt in sixty seconds flat and nobody would ever know what had become of her. She wondered if this was how Adrian, the last person to leave District-Three in search of a larger district with more food to give, had went.
In a trance, she spun the wheel and headed in the direction opposite of the storm, up the deserted street, the way she had come. The entrance to District-Six loomed into sight and she whipped out her ID, ready for a hard time getting in, seeing as it was the middle of the night and she wasn’t exactly a district native. Instead, the guard pointed to the parking garage across the street and then sealed himself into the gatehouse, safe from the storm.
She knew she had little hope of survival, even in the parking garage, but it was the only chance she had. She pulled the key from the ignition, and hoped she would still be alive in the morning.
As she endured the grit thwacking against her pickup, threatening to knock it over like a soup can, she wondered once again why she left her district in the first place. It had been a difficult and painful decision. But ever since the war started the fires and the fires burned half the country to waste, there hadn’t been enough food to go around. So, the government began rationing everything from sugar to computers.
And now, here she sat, debating with herself whether it was the stupid food distribution system, which gave larger portions to the citizens of the larger districts than those of the smaller ones, that was to blame for her impending doom, or her own fault. Then, as suddenly as the storm came, it stopped.
It was such a solid silence after the wind quit blowing, she nearly jumped. She wasn’t used to soil-storms just coming and going like that. It was different in District-Three. They pattered in and then out, lazy but deadly.
It wasn’t long until she had the pickup in working order again, after cleaning dirt out of everything, and she was pulling out of the parking garage into morning sunlight. But, then, the strangest thing happened. Her fuel light went on.
She was positive she had, had half a tank when she pulled into the structure the night before, but now she barely had enough to limp the vehicle over to the district fuel station. Fuel was the one staple she knew the locals wouldn’t get mad at her about taking. Of all the things the nation was running low on, nuclear waste—the most favorable thing to burn since the war—was not one of them.
She was surprised when she saw a sticker on the pump saying the station didn’t accept credit cards, and that she had to pay inside. Annoyed and wanting to get on her way to District-Ten, she left her car at the pump and went in to pay.
After thanking the kindly old man working the cash register, she went back out to her truck with a caramel sticking to the roof of her mouth; a sweet act, seeing as sugar was even rarer a treat than fresh meat.
But that didn’t keep her from stopping in her tracks; all pleasant thoughts of making it to her new district by nightfall fleeing her mind like a fleeting snowflake. Her truck was gone.
At first, she didn’t think, feeling utterly confused. What happened to it? Then, her body jolted back to life and she whipped out her cell phone, dialing 9-1-1.
Immediately, a young voice greeted her, giggling. “Oh! I’m so sorry, Miss! I think I took your car by accident! Don’t worry, I’m on my way back!”
Before she could ask how long it would be, the line went dead. Sighing in relief, she ambled over to a bench to wait for her pickup and the stranger to arrive back. Her stomach grumbled… all of her food was in the truck.
But wait, her mind began to reel as she realized what had just transpired. She’d called the police and some kid picked up to say he accidentally took her car… What!?
She whipped out her phone again and dialed 9-1-1. Nothing. In a frenzy, she ran back into the shop. “What’s the number for the police around here?” She asked the old man. He smiled in a grandfatherly manner, not seeming at all surprised by her request.
“Same as everywhere, Miss. 9-1-1.”
“That can’t be right!” she yelped. “I just called them…” Another realization was setting in: why there hadn’t even been ringing when she dialed the second time. She checked the phone… disconnected. Somehow her service had been turned off.
“Where can I find the police?” asked the girl, shoving her dead phone in her grit-filled jeans pocket.
“I would not be going to them if I were you!”clucked the old man, who then refused to say any more on the matter. “Candy?” he offered another caramel, smiling.
“Why not…” she sighed.
Outside, she began searching manually for the police station. As she was sprinting past a McDonalds, one of the few restaurants the government didn’t force into closing, a family walked out and nearly straight into her.
“Hey! Watch it!” she yelled. Her stomach growled forlornly at the sight of their half-full paper bags.
“So sorry.” The woman was eager to respond. “Can we make it up to you by getting you breakfast?” She was gazing at something in the distance, but when the girl looked over her shoulder she didn’t see a thing.
“Nuh-no… that’s okay.” She said awkwardly. She hurried away, but then stopped and turned back to the family. “By any chance, could you tell me where the police station is? Someone stole my pickup truck, and…” she trailed off.
“It’s beside Best Buy.” The husband told her warmly.
“But I wouldn’t go there.” The woman spoke up. “The sheriff’s always drunk.”
She must have looked even more dejected than before, because then the woman asked, “Are you sure you don’t want anything? You look fatigued.” The woman motioned to the McDonalds. Her stomach rumbled again.
“Are you sure? I mean, I don’t want to take away any of your rations…” she glanced at the son’s thin frame.
“We’re positive.” The husband looked past her, and then turned to the restaurant. She followed them inside.
The room seemed pitch-black compared to the sunshine just outside the doors. It was cold. She felt a hand guiding her to where she guessed the ordering-counter was and she wondered how the others’ eyes adjusted so quickly.
“What would you like?” spoke a sweet voice.
“Pancakes?” She didn’t know why she suddenly felt so confused. The entire world felt fuzzy.
“Coming right up!” said the nice voice. She turned to where she blurrily saw the woman.
“Is there some place to sit? I feel like I’m going to faint…”
“Oh, that’s just the air, dear.” replied the other woman. The dizziness was increasing and the entire room spun as the pancakes were pushed into her shaking hands. “Eat, it will help.” The woman sounded strangely eager.
Perhaps the girl should have been more cautious—who would really give up food, especially when living in a small community, where there wasn’t enough to go around as it was?
But she just stood there, forgetting about how impolite it was to eat standing, and the more she ate, the thicker the air felt, until suddenly her legs turned to jelly and she fell over.
When she awoke, she was in a bedroom, with plaid curtains on the window looking out on a dusty street. She must live here, she decided. She heard voices downstairs, and so followed them. In the kitchen, she found a man, woman, and teenage boy sitting at the table, all gazing distantly at the walls, which seemed perfectly normal, to her.
These must be her parents, she thought, and…“Adrian?” she whispered, not believing her eyes as they locked onto his. He seemed to jolt back to life when he saw her, and they both just stared at each other. Suddenly, she understood and he did also.
“Chloe.” He replied.
“I think so…”
But they both already knew.
Random Fact: For The Hunger Games Capitol PN thing and all that, a bunch of my friends and I were all sorted into District 6. What a coinkidink, huh?