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STORY TIME SATURDAY: “The Grid”

Welcome to Story Time Saturday!

These are flash fiction stories. My word count goal is no more than 1,000 words each story. I’ll show you the prompt, the story, and a teaser graphic.

Here is this week’s:

“The Grid”

Three more days of this… At least, that’s what I was told when I was brought here.

My fingers, covered in dirt, pass over the grooves in the rough, damp wall. Thirty days. That’s the last time I’ve spoken to anyone. Twice as long since I’ve been allowed to bathe. I’ve forgotten the last good meal I had. Sorry, a tin can of cold beans and a cup of warm water don’t count.

It started with a power outage. The news reported it was a minor inconvenience that would be fixed in a few hours. That was three months ago. After the first month, people got desperate. Chaos erupted, and lives were loss.

The metal door scrapes across the concrete. Heavy footfalls enter the room.

“Kaelyn Armstrong?” The male voice belongs to a member of the task force guarding this place.

I swallow hard attempting to moisten my dry throat. “Who wants to know?”

A pair of rough hands yank me to my feet. “Come with us.”

The hall we walk through reminds me of a cave with torches lit every few feet. We pass other cells. I wonder what the prisoners did to land here. They’re probably like me. Just a kid who tried to charge her phone for one more text, one more game.

At the end of the hall is another door. It opens and I’m pushed inside. Four adults sit at a wooden table. No one smiles. Not surprising. People lost their happiness when they found out the power grid was destroyed plunging the United States into an archaic reality.

“Kaelyn Armstrong, do you know why you’re here?” A woman with slightly matted gray hair asks.

“No, ma’am,” I lie.

The media reported the grid went down because of teenagers overloading it. So-called experts claimed our heavy use of social media, and frequent texting taxed the power grid. The White House said it was a home grown terrorist attack. Again, the finger was pointed at teens. It didn’t look good that there was a major gamers tournament going on right before we lost power.

The woman holds up my cell phone. “This device was found on your person. You have numerous social apps on it. Many of them are the ones suspected of bringing down the grid.”

“Not possible,” I retort. “You can’t check my phone without power, lady.”

“Silence!” The skinny man to her right shouts. “We have our reports. You will be punished.”

I shift from side to side with my hands in my pockets. I knew this day was coming, but I thought I had three more days.

A particularly foul smell, like someone spilled the contents of an outhouse, settles near me. I choke down the bile creeping up my throat, and notice the man standing near me. He’s short and slightly overweight.

“Kaelyn Armstrong, you are charged with treason. Because you are a minor, you will be sent to the work camp. Alejandro will escort you back to the surface.” The woman closes her file.

Alejandro’s dirty hands latch on to my arm and drag me from the room.

My mind is stuck on the work camp. Someone had the bright idea that teens should be responsible for rebuilding the country’s power sources. Without the grid, Americans have been forced to utilize coal and anything else that will provide light in the evenings. People also use a lot of wood for cooking. It’s the teens who have to chop down trees. We’ve become indentured servants just because of our age and our love for everything digital. It seems unfair to punish us for keeping up with the trends.

“Miss, we go outside.” Alejandro passes me a hoodie, a beanie, and a pair of sunglasses. “You will need these things. The weather has been cool today.”

I look at the dirty sweatshirt and beanie before tugging them on. I slide the sunglasses on my face, and my escort pushes open the door.

My mouth drops when I see the devastation. Buildings have been picked clean like meat on bones. Glass covers the sidewalks. Down the street, a car burns slowly. The sun is too bright. Even with my sunglasses on, the light burns my eyes. Soldiers sit in doorways with their weapons drawn.

I shake my head. Teens didn’t do this. Someone attacked the U.S. and teens are the scapegoats. But why? That’s the real question. Next, is how this happened?

“Are you ready?” Alejandro asks.

“Ready for what? Where am I supposed to go?”

He points toward the mountains. If I had a car, it would take me at least an hour or two to reach them. Surely, he doesn’t expect me to walk.

“We need to start now. It’s not good to be out at night.” He pulls a hood over his greasy hair, hangs his head, and starts walking in the direction of the mountains.

I have no choice but to follow behind.

#

We’ve been walking for what feels like forever. The sun is starting to set. My feet hurt and I need to use the bathroom.

“How much further, Alejandro?”

“We won’t make the mountains before nightfall. There’s an abandoned building up ahead. We’ll stay there tonight.”

My stomach flops at the idea of sleeping in close quarters with Alejandro. “Just us?”

He smiles, and I get a glimpse at teeth that need to be brushed. “Don’t worry. There are a few others. It’s a stopping point for all of you.”

“And what if I don’t want to go there? What if I don’t want to go the mountains?” I don’t see any weapons on Alejandro. “How are you gonna stop me?”

“Kaelyn, I won’t lie to you. I can’t make you do anything. But I would think you wanted the opportunity to get to the bottom of this. Help out the other kids.”

I double take. “What are you talking about?”

Alejandro looks over his shoulder. “We can’t talk here. I know who knocked out the grid.”

 

 

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