Here’s a short story that I wrote. Enjoy!
My father had always told me that war didn’t often change; that it always stayed the same. I wasn’t so sure, myself. I remember reading about these wars in the past, where the soldiers hid in trenches taking pot shots at each other. That wasn’t like the war we had. Definitely not. Even in some of the older e-books there were tales of wars where the opposing sides would walk up to each other and the leaders would shake hands before fighting. That wasn’t like the war we had either. There was a bit of name-calling over email, but that’s about it. So, in all, I disagreed with my father. He was a real idiot.
So why was I trying to find him?
Maybe I wasn‘t, I didn’t really know. All I knew was that I had a lot of ground to catch up on and that I hated war rationing. The wind on my skin was harsh and unforgiving, very much like the war we had. The road was strewn with crashed hover cars, each one abandoned months ago. At that time I wished I had had the necessary surgery to drive one of those cars. It probably would have sped things up, but I hate needles. Always have, always will. Scalpels too. They’re like flat needles. I pretended I was sick to avoid the surgery. I wrote the sick note myself, and believe it or not, the teachers actually believed me. They thought it a bit suspicious that the note was written on paper instead of an email or a tablet or something, but I told them that my mom was in a rush. I didn’t care that I was lying, there was no way I was letting some crazy doctor open up my hands.
I thought about pulling the same stunt when the government started the conscription, but it didn’t work. In a way, I was glad it didn’t. I don’t think I’d be alive if I were still at home. I peered into the distance. More roads. I was beginning to think the trader back at the outpost had lied to me, but I kept going anyway. He told me that he’d seen my father heading north. I wasn’t entirely sure what north was at the time, but he produced this little circular thing with this needle on it. Did I mention that I hated needles? This one wasn’t bad though. The trader told me that it was called a compass and it always pointed north. In the end I traded some clips for it. Sure, the bullets were valuable, but at least with the compass I wouldn’t lose where north was. The outpost told me to scram after that. I guess they didn’t want soldiers clogging up their trading. I wouldn’t call myself a soldier, though. I didn’t do any fighting.
I fumbled about in my pockets and pulled out the compass. It looked ancient. I mean really old. It was all rusty - which was enough of a giveaway. Nothing rusted anymore. I couldn’t see any registration number on it, either, so it must’ve been from long before I was born. Not that I was born a long time ago, but it was still pretty old. The needle was still pointing in the direction I was walking - north. I quickly put the compass back in my pocket. I didn’t want any thieving magpie stealing it. If magpies still existed, that is. I looked up toward the sky, hoping to actually see the sky. No luck, however. Still the same ugly black clouds that had been there since the war. That was another thing I didn’t understand about the war. It killed people. Sure, the ones I read about killed people, but that was back in, like, the Stone Age or something. Our war killed a lot of people. Way more than all of the wars before it.
I had to weave about the hover cars as I came across a bridge over very troubled water. And by “troubled” I mean “sick.” It was a horrible murky brown, looking a bit black in some places. I wondered why the water purifiers had stopped working. Perhaps they’d been hit in the war. They were in London, after all, and that had certainly been hit by the war. Actually, that reminds me of something that happened while I was in London.
So I was still looking for my dad, and I was in London, or at least, what was left of it. I came across these three scavengers who’d found a hover car that was in pretty good condition. They were cheering and everything. I don’t really know why. Maybe all of the hover juice was still in the magic reactor or something. I don’t really know much about cars. Anyway, they saw me and I asked them about my dad. I told them he was a tall guy with one of those new laser rifles that had been rolled out just before the war. They said that they’d tell me where he was if I tested the car for them. I didn’t know why they wanted me to test the car, so I asked them. They told me that it was rare to find a hover car that was in that good condition, and I quickly agreed with them. I’d even seen hover cars with wheels on them because the flying generators were broken or whatever. I still don’t know much about cars. The guys thought that the car was suspicious and that it might have been rigged with explosives or something. This was an understandable concern. There were traps all over the place - especially near the centre of what-used-to-be-London and it was always better to be safe than sorry.
Anyway, I held out my hand and showed them that I hadn’t had the surgery. They just gave me this weird, disbelieving look and told me to get lost. There were three of them, and one of them looked pretty thin. Food was scarce ever since the matter creators got hit so people had to start doing this thing called farming. It’s a thing people used to do in the past to create food like carrots and peaches, but it takes forever and doesn’t even work most of the time. I had some potato chips with me and since potato chips are immune to time, they were still in good condition. I offered them the bag of chips in exchange for the information about my father’s whereabouts. All three of them made to snatch the bag from me, but I held it back and asked about my father.
They told me that Dad had passed through London on his way to Birmingham a few days ago. They even got his hair color right. So I handed them the potato chips and left them to their own devices. I had a vague idea of where my dad was going at that point. We used to live in Brighton, until the war, and I remember my dad telling me that if ever we needed help, we had to go to New Washington. I had no idea why. Maybe we had relatives in New Washington or something.
I learned from that merchant who sold me the compass that New Washington was north, which is part of the reason why I bought the compass from him. I was fascinated by how the little thing didn’t need any electricity to work. The gun on my back didn’t need electricity to work either. It was probably the most valuable thing I owned and definitely the rarest. I was just disappointed how I never really got to use it. Nobody else had guns and I just felt that if I had a gun and they didn’t, it wasn’t really a fair fight. I had no idea how you were even supposed to use a gun, either. The e-books I read said that you point one end at the enemy and pull the trigger. I tried that one time, but nothing happened. I also wondered where bullets came into the equation. I knew you needed bullets for the gun to work, but I just didn’t know where. I used to have a lot more bullets, but merchants always seemed really interested in them and they often had things I wanted to trade for.
There was this book that said that you used guns to shoot animals. I didn’t really understand why you would want to shoot an animal, but then I realised that it was before matter creators had been invented, so you had to kill the animal if you wanted to eat the meat. It sounded pretty disgusting to me, but my teachers told me that it apparently tasted the same. Just another reason why I wouldn’t want to live in the past. Even after the war, things seemed better.
The sun had started to set behind the smoky clouds and I decided that it was time to set up camp. There was this story I read a while ago and it had this group of travellers. When they stopped for the night, one of them would have to stay up late and keep watch. It was apparently to keep them safe from attackers, but I doubted there were going to be any attackers in my case. Besides, I had a gun.
Even if I didn’t know how to use it.