Rays of Hope: Chapter 3

A few years ago, I started a series of Flash Fiction pieces based on photos I took while I was out and about.

My brother, John suggested I write dystopia based on our current lock-down situation.

Hmmm… I wonder what’s up with birds and these two fictional characters.

If you’re interested in starting at Chapter 1, click here.

Chapter 3

“So,” Ray said it like that little word explained everything; not a question, but a statement.

Marla looked up from her mending. “So?” she said.

She craned her neck back over the sock and wove a piece of worsted in and out of the patch she started.  The darning reminded her of the pre-school potholder craft kit she had as a child.  One of her earliest memories of Christmas.  Perhaps that’s why mending socks felt so melancholy. She pulled her sleeves down around her knuckles.

“So,” Ray said again, this time stacking her fists on the kitchen table and planting her chin on top of that, eye-level to Marla’s busy hands. “When are we going out again? I want to see a real bird, you know.” Her eyes looked hollow in light of the lantern. “One with feathers, you know.”

Marla remembered the naked baby bird with its sealed, over-large eyes. She felt her scalp tingle and a shiver run down her spine.

“Do you think I’m a dotard?” Marla said. She hated it when Ray punctuated every sentence with ‘you know’. She noticed the girls fingernails needed clipping.

“What’s a dotard?”

Marla laughed. Her distraction efforts worked like a charm. Ray’s chair complained to the worn linoleum as she pushed it back. Exaggerated foot-clomping took her toward the dictionary before Marla had a chance to say, “Go look it up.”

“How do you spell it?” The Webster’s was a hold-over from her grandmother, a relic. Like the Rand-McNally Altlas her grandfather insisted she keep. Marla breathed a thank-you to the spirit world.

Neither Marla nor Ray saw a sign of birds since their initial venture two weeks ago, not even a dusty feather. Marla did see something else that day on the abandoned computer platform. A droplet of something. And scratches in the railing. Scratches made by something or someone. She slipped a sample vial from her pocket and captured the droplets.

Trumble would know what it was. Or at least, he knew how to find out. She’d tell him about the scratches. The memory was as etched as permanently as a photograph. Maybe more so.

It was Trumble who gave her the vials. “See something. Take something,” Trumble told Marla when the Events first began.

The two of them worked in the lab together back then.

Walking to Trumble’s took too much time to remain safe outside. She had to get a Pedalabout. That took effort.

“An old person, especially one who’s become weak or senile,” recited Ray with her finger on the page. “I’m sorry, you know.” she looked up from the dictionary with her lips pulled into a pout. “You’re not old and you’re not weak. What’s senile?”

“S-E-N-I-L-E.” Marla smiled and crooked her neck over the darning egg. Her mind wandered back to Christmas celebrations and woven potholders.

For just a moment she thought she smelled gingerbread.

And then she remembered that the memory center of the brain is right next to where the sense of smell is processed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a bit of crystalized ginger to savor?

I still don’t quite know where we’ve going.

I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

Until next Friday…

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