I saw the carcass of a dead badger as I walked the dogs this morning. Nice image, I know. Anyway, it made me write this. Enjoy!
Gordon bounced along the grass with the early morning sun warming his face and the soft breeze gently caressing his hair. It was his day off and he was determined to enjoy it.
It’s going to be a good day.
Safe in the knowledge he had already collected more than enough provisions to sustain his family through the winter months, he had allowed himself this rare day off. He could not remember the last time he was able to stroll along so care free. The food was stored, his wife was expecting again and the children were all well. Life was good.
But, despite this, he was still on his guard. He always had to be. The area was still frequented by the machines which had taken the lives of so many of his friends. Since a young age, Gordon had been taught to listen for signs of their approach. In turn, he had passed on this knowledge to his own children. The hum of their life force was a tell-tell sign. Their attack cry was another, although, if you were unlucky enough to hear the sound, it was already too late. So, even on a day off such as today, Gordon was always aware. It was second nature.
He paused for a second – he’d been walking since dawn after all – and sucked in large helping of clean country air. The best kind. The only kind. Gordon had never known any other, nor did he want to. He had heard horror stories growing up of far-away lands polluted with toxic air and massive machines. His father had warned of these places only days before a rogue machine targeted him. One thing Gordon knew for sure was if a machine deliberately targeted you, you were in big trouble. His father had been notoriously quick, and very nimble, but even that was not enough to save him. There was no funeral.
Gordon allowed the thoughts of far-away lands and giant machines to drift from his mind like the morning’s wind. They had no place in his day off. He refocused on the grass and set off. He usually strolled much closer to the trees, as per his lessons, but he was feeling particularly assured today. Something soon caught his eye. A shimmering object at the foot of a tree, the sun revealing its hiding place. Gordon liked shiny things. They were very rarely edible, but always looked so nice and pretty. Plus, the kids loved them. He could leave them for hours with a shiny new present and they’d be happy. But it was on the opposite side of the Hard Land, an area he was desperate to avoid. He was in quite a quandary. The Hard Land was always dangerous, everyone knew that. But the object was so shiny.
Curiosity got the better of him.
Just a quick peek.
It was the last mistake Gordon would ever make. Despite not minutes earlier recollecting his father’s words of warning, and having been taught so vigorously the virtues of always being aware, the lure of the shiny object clouded these memories far too successfully. He was half way across the Hard Land when the hum of the machine’s life force reached his pointy ears. He didn’t need to hear the attack cry to know it was far too late. He’d often wondered if his life would flash before his beady eyes when this day came. Flashes of acorns and trees and scurrying and scavenging. Of his wife and their many, many children. It saddened him when none of this happened. All that followed was the cold metal of machine and the sudden blackness of non-existence.
* * *
Kaycee folded down the car’s sun visor and began applying a layer of blusher, careful not to spill the can of cider balancing between her fishnet-covered legs.
“Hurry the fuck up, Johnny, we’re going to be late!” she shouted.
Johnny took a swig from his beer can and pressed his foot down on the accelerator a little harder. “Jesus, alright!”
A sudden bump jolted the car, resulting in a spilled beer can and an eyeful of blusher.
Kaycee furiously wiped the powder away. “What the fuck!”
Johnny was too busy muttering under his breath and desperately scrambling for his can to notice.
“Hello? Johnny! What the fuck was that?” she said, focus already back on the sun visor’s mirror.
Johnny glanced up at the rear-view mirror, squinted his eyes at the small shadow on the road. “Nothing, Hun. Don’t worry about it.”