Flash Fiction: Pillow Poppy Opiate

Since I loved the challenge of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, I entered the NYC Flash Fiction Challenge. This involves writing a 1,000 word story in 48 hours based on the prompts provided. I was assigned Science Fiction (oh boy! in a 1,000 words... really?), a pillow (my object) and a poppy field (the place).

I started by trying to imagine my world. The week before I had read that the 1 percent were buying up bunkers in Kansas for when a lot of the land mass in the North America was flooded or burnt to the ground from forest fires as a result of global warming. I imagined enclaves of the rich who were highly dependent on scientists and engineers for providing them with all the amenities and opulence they were accustomed to. But they would also need servants and labourers, or an underclass, to do the farming, processing and building. How would the 1 percent keep them in line when they weren't accountable to anyone? What would happen to people left on the outside of the enclaves without any available food supply--the marauders? What would happen if a natural disaster befell your enclave, like it started to sink under the weight? What kind of technology would we have 50 years from now?

Anyway, I attempted to answer these questions in Pillow, Poppy, Opiate. Here it is:

Ava materializes in a wooded area next to a highway covered in detritus. She applies more dust to her hair, face and ragged clothes to make her look desperate. She feels the vibration of a wind farm. Estimate: 500 turbines.

Ava’s blond hair covers her pillow, a clear plastic component covering the back of her skull, her energy source that helps her scan, disable and strike. She touches her ear to check her energy capacity–92% is displayed in her mind’s eye. Teleportation used 8%.

She leans the back of her head against a tree for a few minutes of sleep to get a full charge. When she awakens, her implant displays 100% in her mind’s eye, followed by her recon and rescue task list: scan security camera positions. An exact match to the positions recorded by the previous two agents, Ester and Caron. They entered Enclave M never to return, both gifted engineers and Ava’s mentors. The record is sent to the vessel and then to Enclave B, a sinking city, home to Ava and her parents, both scientists. Next on her checklist: identify security robot make and model. At a glance, Ava notes four on the rampart, at least a year old.

Twigs snap under foot as she walks towards the fortification. Her nostril quivers, a pungent odour, foul yet familiar. A red light flickers in the corner of her eye. Danger. She swings around and faces three filthy marauders, snarling and salivating. She reaches out and grabs two of them by their biceps, shooting jolts of electricity from her fingertips into their arms. She then pulls them towards her smashing their heads together. They fall to the ground screaming in pain. Ava looks the third man in the eye sending an electrical jolt leaving him in blind pain, long enough to get away. Drones converge chopping overhead. She scans their make and model. New technology, precursor unknown reads the display. Ava runs to the stone wall and touches her ear: 79%, plenty of juice. She slides along to the wall so she can look both ways. The hillside, scrubland, is devoid of greenery. “Like home,” Ava mumbles.

There’s interference in her implant. It crackles hurting her ears. Is she being hacked? She feels sandstone grit against her palms searching for the reported entrance. A vintage film starts to stream in her mind’s eye, a young woman, Dorothy, walking through a field of red poppies. “I’m so sleepy,” the character says before falling to her knees. “I can’t run anymore. Where’s Toto?” she says before falling asleep in the poppies. The film plays in a loop, superimposed over her vision, a scratchy copy with spots, overriding her implant programs. A cloying spicy scent overcomes Ava’s olfactory receptors. She wretches.

Ava blinks hard several times to disable the interference, but fails. She switches from the task list to her personal files: classical music, Enclave B news, anything requiring less energy–68%, 62% and 56% flash on her implant display. Something is sapping her energy.

The red of the poppies flickers in the corner of her eye. Danger. Footsteps pound down the path. The marauders are back. Ava’s at 52%, but the scent of the poppies has irritated her. She’s ready to fight these bastards. She focuses on her attackers through Dorothy falling to her knees in the poppy field.

Ava disables the optic nerves of the first man around the corner through eye-to-eye contact. On her screen, through the image of Dorothy falling asleep, 40% flashes, then 32%, 28%. With an upward flick of her hand to the back of her head, she disengages her pillow from its portal in her brain stem. Only her natural five senses will process incoming stimuli.

Two angry men are running at her. Ava screeches at such a high frequency that both men clamp their hands over their ears and stagger backwards. Ava runs at them, kicks one in the head, crotch and chest. He goes down, but the second man has recovered. She lands a flat-handed cut to his throat. But not before he gets off one punch knocking her head into the sandstone wall, and reconnecting the pillow to her brain stem. The aroma of spice, images of red poppies, the garbled sound of “Where’s Toto?” flood her brain.

Ava’s fingertips find two long grooves on either side of her, once an entrance in the wall. She fires high-voltage electrical impulses through them to break the door’s seal and open it. She pushes in the rock and slips through, 6% flashes. Ava disengages her pillow and runs for cover in an alcove.

Alarms sound in Enclave M to signal a breech. Security seizes the marauder trying to find Ava. She is concussed, but knows not to rest. Droves of emaciated people with small open sores on their arms mill around. After observing awhile, Ava approaches an older woman.

“Hey,” says Ava. “I’m lost.”

The woman stares at her. “You’re new, too.”

Ava nods. “I’m looking for work in service.”

“Wrong part,” says the woman. “Have you got enough for the pain?” she asks pointing at her cheek.

Ava shakes her head. The woman passes her a pill.

“In service,” the woman says, starting to walk away, “that opiate is a mandatory supplement.”

“What do you do in this sector?” asks Ava following her.

“On paper, we’re all opiate addicts in a rehabilitation program. But we pay for it through work, by processing poppies,” says the woman with a shrug.

“Effective,” says Ava.

“Yep. That is the rehabilitation part,” says the woman pointing at a large screen in a hall filled with hundreds of people working in lines.

The Wizard of Oz is playing.

“Take the corridor furthest to your right, past the poppy farm, and you’ll find service.”

Ava nods and walks on. Enclave M drugs its underclass. “Oh what a reactionary place this must be,” Ava mumbles.


Post a Comment