by Monica Marier
The bitch is back! I'm jumping back into Friday Flash after a LOOOOOONG hiatus. Hopefully this is the start of more beautiful magic in my life. Wish me luck.
The city outside was hidden in a cloud of whirling green particles. The advisories today were all code-red warnings coupled with 2% visibility. “Civillians strongly advised to stay indoors,” Jamie repeated under his breath, in time with the broadcast. He didn’t care. He had to see Anh today. It had been five days of code reds and the school holidays were almost over! Desperate, he and Anh plotted to meet at the mall today. Both of them were going to get in a lot of trouble for it, but they both decided that it would be worth it to see each other. His mom would simply block his G3 access for a week, and with school starting in two days it wouldn’t matter much.
It was dangerous; Jamie was deemed a “high-risk citizen” by the board of health and one slip-up could be fatal. There were stories on the news everyday about people like Jamie who had “just gone out for a few hours,” and never made it back. He would have to take every precaution if he wanted to make it back home alive… so his mom could kill him.
Jamie tiptoed to the mudroom and got ready to go outside. His mom would be in her room until she finished her first pot of coffee, so he had a good twenty minutes. He would need every second. First came the brown canvas coveralls; his fingers trembled as he did up the snaps. He double-checked, then triple-checked to make sure all the snaps were done tightly and there were no gaps. He tied his boots and secured the cloth wraps around the cuffs of his pant-legs. Jamie set his headphones to the playlist Anh had made him and pulled up his interior hood. He checked to make sure his goggles were clean of smudges and smears before putting them on; he wouldn’t have opportunity to clean them until he was safely at the mall. Goggles in place, he checked the filters on his respirator and hooked it on. He also grabbed one of the outdoor-kits full of water, emergency protein, glow tubes and adrenaline injections. Then came the large hooded serape which he draped over all. It was bright orange to combat the low visibility of the green storm and the second hood and face-wrap protected the gear from prematurely wearing out. Last of all, he put on the clumsy gloves and wrapped the ends around his sleeve cuffs.
“Jamie,” came a voice from his mom’s bedroom. “Jamie did you check the dryer for your clothes?”
“Uh, they were still wet so I restarted it,” lied Jamie, hoping his voice wasn’t too obscured by the respirator.
“Okay,” said his mom.
She didn’t call for him again, so Jamie seized the opportunity to slip into the detox chamber and run outside. He forgot to brace himself for the wind and nearly toppled over as a blast of air and debris slammed into him. He shook his head at his own idiocy and began his slow march to the mall. The visibility was too low to drive. As he plodded down the sidewalk, he noted that there was no one else on the streets today. There was only whirlwinds of green fuzz that danced in circles, or shambled in clumps down the high street. Jamie concentrated on his playlist as his heavy boots plodded through the yellowish drifts.
He was almost at the mall when he saw the car. Someone had been stupid enough to try to drive today. A Chevy Quasar had careened off the road and smashed into a lamp post. It was only superficially damaged, but peering through the broken windows, Jamie knew that the driver was dead. The moron hadn’t been wearing a respirator; it was lying on the passenger seat next to him. He’d probably thought he was safe enough in the car with the filter running full blast. Jamie shook his head and flinched at the sight of the swollen black face lying lifeless in his seat. Jamie’s dad had always made them wear respirators in the car. He knew that it only took a few seconds for the car’s filter to hiccup and leave everyone exposed to the lung-choking particles. Jamie was growing hardened to the sight of dead people covered in a dusting of green, but it was never easy and it still made him feel horrible.
Jamie’s mom assured him that this was a good thing. It was a sign that he was growing into a good person.
Mom had often told him that it hadn’t always been like this. She remembered when the green storms started to make life unlivable for people. She said that when she was a girl, it had been different.
Jamie had already walked into the detox chamber before he realized he was at the mall. The blast of purified air shook him as it removed the green motes stuck to his clothes. Then the blast of icy air froze and killed the particles. Lastly the, mild chemical shower rinsed him off. He stepped out of the chamber and unhooked his respirator and goggles.
“Jamie!” cried Anh.
She ran to him dressed in similar orange and khaki, she too had livid red marks on her face from where her goggles and respirator had dug into her face. Jamie smiled and took her hand. They hugged and clumsily kissed each other.
“Anyone here today?” asked Jamie.
“Yeah, there’s a few shops open— ooh! And both the Starbucks and the movies are open today,” said Anh.
“Cool!” said Jamie. This was better luck than he expected. “I was afraid that everything would be closed again.”
“I know. But shop-owners gotta eat I guess.”
“Last day of holidays,” sighed Jamie. “Why did spring have to come so early this year?”
“But the news said pollen season will be over earlier too. We should be back in the school building by late April this year!”
“That’s true,” said Jamie with a grin. “Let’s just enjoy this afternoon before we go back home and get our asses flayed by our folks.”
“Yeah,” said Anh resting her head on Jamie’s shoulder. “I hate pollen season.”
“Me too,” sighed Jaime.
Outside, the green storm raged.