The Patrol

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Tried a dystopian theme for this one. Hope you like it, Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

The Patrol

By J.D. Anderson

 

He saw a glint of sunlight reflected about a meter away as he covered his assigned portion of the day’s patrol. Leaving his straight trajectory to cross the piles of rubble that had once been a town, he went to investigate the glimmer that had caught his attention. The community had long been known to be harboring “Free Thinkers,” and the Council that now served as an ad hoc government had decided to convince the town of the Council’s self-imposed legitimacy through a show of strength. They accomplished the complete destruction of the town instead.

As the patrol approached the former community, they were put on edge by the fact that there were no refugees coming toward them. The tallest thing on the flat plain, was a telephone pole that had the top four feet broken off, otherwise there was just a mass of wood, tarpaper and vinyl siding twisted into unrecognizable and uninhabitable shapes.

“Classic case of bringing a Howitzer to a knife fight. Absolutely brilliant.” He said to himself, rolling his eyes, then looking around for the source of the reflected light he had seen earlier.

Bending down for a closer look at the rubble, he saw a familiar shape hiding under a pile of gravel. He brushed some of the dirt and sand away and uncovered a small, bronze heart shaped locket. Lifting it up gently, he saw that the chain followed the locket from deeper in the pile. He felt some resistance against his pulling, so he added a bit more pressure.

Grasping the locket in his fist, he gave a tug. Two fingers and a thumb suddenly emerged from the gravel and rested on top of it. Startled, he jumped back and gave a sharp gasp, fumbling with his rifle as he stumbled backward. He sat down hard with his rifle pointed at the subject of his fright.

He stared for a moment at the red, chipped polish that covered the broken and split fingernails on the bluish-gray digits that had been holding the locket. He saw a trail of sand-imbedded blood that had coagulated and dried in a line down one of the fingers. He then looked up a few inches into a small tunnel that had been formed by fallen timbers. About six inches in he could see the shape of a face, blood matted hair covering half of it. One eye was left unobscured, but it was staring blankly into the distance, as if through him, no glimmer of life present.

Putting his thumbnail into the seam on the side, he opened the locket. Inside he found a picture of a pretty woman, smiling and looking at the camera. Behind her was a handsome man, also smiling, his arms wrapped protectively around her waist and his chin on her shoulder, obviously in love. On the other side was another picture, this time of three children. Two boys were sitting side by side behind a younger girl, the boys’ arms wrapped around their sister like their dad’s were around their mom.

He looked up from the locket and asked himself “Was this the enemy? Were these the ‘Free Thinkers’ that were so dangerous that they had to be blasted into non-existence?” He remembered his high school history class, and a quote from Franklin after he had read the Constitution, “Well, this should last about two hundred years.”

It was 2090, and the country was engaged in a factional civil war. “It lasted about three hundred, Ben, were you being an optimist or a pessimist?” As far as he was concerned, the whole war boiled down to a case of national Tinnitus, everyone was more concerned with the constant buzzing of their own rhetoric that they couldn’t or wouldn’t listen to what anyone else was saying. The federal government had been so busy appeasing one group or the other and restructuring the foundations of the country that they fell into ineptitude and the foundation crumbled. The strongest portion that was left was the military, and even that was severely fractured.

It took no longer than a decade for the country to go from a Superpower, policing the world, to a third world entity that couldn’t clean up its own yard. Several factions were clamoring to take control, and the Federals, clamoring to keep control. This was done through the enacting of a forced, voluntary law keeping force. If a person was in violation of a law, they were given a choice between a prison sentence, that they had a less than likely chance of living through, or four years in the Law Keeping Force. This gave a person a slightly better chance of survival, primarily because a person had an opportunity to hide from those that wanted to kill them.

He thought about his own infraction. Yes, he had killed a man, but the man had been in the process of raping his sister. At that point, the fact that the man’s uncle was an aide to a member of the Council, and that his father was on the Commerce Commission had no affect on his actions, he saw that his sister was in danger, and he had eliminated the danger. He felt that the twenty-year prison sentence was a bit harsh, especially when statistics showed that he would only serve five of them and then be put in an unmarked grave in a prison cemetery, that is if he weren’t burned with the trash, but that rumor had never been proven.

He had made the choice, and joined the Law Keepers on his nineteenth birthday, now he was two months away from his twenty-third birthday and had been moved from the East Coast, that he had called home all his life, to the Interior Region, just West of the Mississippi. Flat land, where corn and wheat fields were considered scenery. There were also, he soon found out, innumerable places for “Free Thinkers,” and other “nonconformists” to hide, most of them in plain sight. The lonely barn on the edge of a field next to the tree line, the back of the abandoned grocery store in town, the all but forgotten 1960’s bomb shelter underneath the abandoned Police Headquarters.

For all the open land and abandoned buildings there always seemed to be enough people to fill all the meeting places to capacity, and then some. This was the army that the Council feared most, not the United Nations that renewed it’s threats every year or so to send “Peacekeepers,” and not the various foreign powers that saw the country as “room to grow.” No, it was the people that were furthest from the Council, just out of reach, that posed the greatest threat, and this little community was just the latest in the Council’s attempts to remind them who was in control.

He looked again at the hand, and then at the locket with the pictures of the no longer happy family, he wondered if any of them had survived. The attack had happened near midnight, so chances are that everyone had been asleep, Mom had probably been making a last-minute lock check before going to bed.

Why was it so unthinkable for people to make their own decisions? The country had prospered for over two hundred years with people thinking, speaking, debating, and acting on their own beliefs, but in the last hundred years, that right had slowly been eroded. Debates had become two or more people shouting over, or screaming at each other, no one was interested in hearing other ideas.

In a couple of months, he would be finished with his obligation to the Law Keepers. They had brought him to this part of the country, but he knew that they had no intention, or means, to take him back to the coast. He realized that if he wanted to go back, it was up to him to figure out how, but did he want to? He understood now why the “Free Thinkers” preferred this part of the country. A person could walk, ride, or drive for days and not encounter anyone. A person could think for hours, and no one would ask if it was the right thoughts.

He balled the locket and chain in his hand and slid it into his pocket. He, like many in the Law Keepers, that were nearing the end of their obligation, had built a small hidden cache of items that would help them when they were spewed out into what was left of society and humanity. He had some currency, but it wasn’t worth much. Most of the country had regressed into a barter economy since the Federal economy had failed due to the on again, off again civil war. He had several items, like this locket, that he may be able to offer for something to eat if he met the right sentimental person. He had a small pistol, some rounds, a knife for self-defense, and a small rifle for hunting.

As far as where he would go, he was unsure. He felt that he wanted to be as far from any Government influence as possible. As a boy, he had been told that the Government was “of the people, by the people and for the people,” but as he got older he had seen the Government as being more “over the people, despite the people and at the people,” and felt that he would be better off without the Government.

The rifle shots had started to the patrol’s right, from a stand of shredded trees, and quickly extended to their front. All the Law Keepers crouched and looked for places to hide. He saw one young Law Keeper look around wildly for a safe place. “Don’t do it.” he said to himself before he saw the kid stand up and bolt in the direction they had just come. Suddenly small dots appeared on the back of his jacket and a dark circle formed around each of these dots. The boy’s body jerked as though he had grabbed ahold of an electric fence and then flopped, face first into a pile of rubble.

The young man had started a stampede, and in seconds all the Law Keepers were running to the rear. He saw the sergeant in charge of the Law Keepers try to slow the tide, but then spin around and drop, unceremoniously to the ground, his rifle thrown ten feet from where his body fell.

As he ran, he said to himself, “Two months left, only two months left.” Suddenly, as he ran, he felt as though a spear had entered his left hip and went through to the right. His lower body twisted to the right as his upper body stayed facing forward and his legs tied themselves in knots. He hit the ground with his right shoulder and rolled a couple times, coming to a stop laying face up. He laid there for a while listening to the sporadic shots as targets presented themselves.

He heard the crunch of footsteps, then felt a shadow cross over his face. “Two months left.” he said reflexively. A face with a bandanna tied over it, covering its mouth and nose, appeared over him, then a hand with a pistol. “Times up.” he heard a deep, raspy voice say, then with a flash and a bang, finally, he was truly free.


Submitted: June 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 J.D. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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