Short story: “Those Left Behind” pt.1

I have several short stories that I wrote during my undergrad. I was proud of them then, I still am, but I do see how my writing has become more polished since. I thought of maybe sending them off to get published somewhere, but really I just enjoyed writing these stories. I hope you enjoy them too.

The stories show off another side of myself, another side of my skill and artistic expression, even if it is a bit dark. I hope to make people think. I hope to make people unsettled. But, perhaps more importantly, I hope people find some sense of humanity, especially in this current story.

The first story I’ll be sharing is a bit long, and there is a part that I want to rewrite, but here is part one. I’ll roll out part two when I feel it’s ready, and then continue till the entire story is published. However, I’ll try my best to not leave more than a week between parts.

“Those Left Behind” is one look at our possible future, a future where people can adjust their very DNA to survive in the hostile and polluted world we created. However, what about those who can’t afford the enhancements? What would their lives be like? How would they be treated? For those who can afford them, would they use them cosmetically? What would be considered a ‘flaw’? Here’s one possibility.

Those Left Behind

Jimmy tried to open his eyes, but they were frozen shut. Painfully forcing his green eyes open, he blinked away the crust of frozen tears that grasped desperately to his light blonde lashes. Jimmy yawned sleepily, his exhaling breath leaving his body in a white puff. Using what little energy he had, Jimmy shivered and pulled the torn rag that was his blanket up around his face.

“It won’t help,” Lindsey said.

Rolling onto his side, Jimmy could just barely make out Lindsey in the early morning light. A single weak ray streamed through the tiny entrance to their hovel.

“Pulling that rag around you is just useless,” Lindsey said. Jimmy watched as she smashed two rocks together. The sparks that sprang from the force briefly illuminated her, her curly mop of red hair and pale grey eyes dominating her pale features. Even in the dim light and freezing cold Jimmy couldn’t help but become a little excited by her beauty: her pouty lips, her angular face, and her long slim neck. Jimmy noticed that Lindsey was wearing a long emerald green puffy down jacket. He frowned. The overstuffed jacket prevented his eyes from following the curves of her young developing body downwards.

“That’s new,” Jimmy said.

“Ah… yeah… I found it in the dumpster… in the alley,” Lindsey said. Jimmy felt the weak tinge of jealously in the pit of his empty stomach.

Jimmy watched as she smashed the rocks again, and a spark landed on a pile of damp paper, human hair, and other small combustibles. He could hear the clatter of rock on compact dirt as she tossed the rocks aside.

“Come on, come on,” Lindsey said softly. Jimmy heard her blowing softly on the ember. Desperately wanting for warmth, Jimmy tried to not get his hopes up as he watched the tiny ember fade.

“Fuck!” Lindsey said as the ember snuffed out completely, but not before causing a strand of hair to smoke which filled the air around them with a thick rancid odour.

“Forget it. That stuff you got is too damp,” Jimmy said as he reluctantly removed his tattered blanket. His stomach grumbled, pleading for some sustenance. His aching body felt despairingly weak.

“Well, if you think you can do better—” Lindsey said.

“Forget it. I’m gonna go see if I can find some food.”

Jimmy rose into a crawling position, careful not to bang his head on the rotten wood rafters just inches above his head. His frozen red hair fell around his face.

Jimmy carefully shifted into a seated position, contorting his body so that he was almost doubled over. The cramped conditions of their living space infuriated him, but it was all he had ever known since he was cast from the woman who raised him through infancy. He was never sure if she was his mother, she never said that she was, so he had always just called her Angela. He’ll never forget the day she cast him out of her brood. He was only eleven, but old enough to take care of himself according to Angela. And for the last five years he struggled to do just that.

Jimmy’s skin prickled as Lindsey coughed harshly behind him. He heard the hard phlegm rattle in her lungs. She retched and spit. In his mind’s eye he pictured the thick black phlegm propel from her lips and land on the dirt floor, the pungent mass congealing in the shadows.

“The polluted air still contains the sins of those before us, and it is us lowly animans that suffer because of it. Those of us not good enough for enhancements, those of us who technology and medicine left behind,” Angela had told Jimmy once. He couldn’t help but recall the night she told him that. She sat stroking the forehead of another child who found refuge with her only weeks before, the poor little boy’s lungs filled with the black ooze.

“He won’t have long,” Angela said. “But at least he won’t be alone in the end.” Jimmy never forgot the sound of the little boy’s desperate gasping just before he died.

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