posted on Jul, 8 2005 @ 02:45 AM
This was submitted previously, but I love this story dearly and I think it's competitive. It's my first attempt at writing a female protagonist and
I loved the challenge. I only doctored it slightly- about 4 sentences, to fit the contest. You know what they say- if it aint broke... (edit to add- I
saw something that might actually have been broke and changed a bit more)
And obviously enough, this is a fragile earth story.
Nikki groaned in displeasure as she awoke and sat her car-seat back up. She was still exhausted, but the heat had awakened her. She was drenched in
sweat, as was the badly weathered seat of her Camaro. She opened the door and let herself out, wondering which extreme the weather would shift to
today. The answer was a shockingly cold breeze from the North. It must have just started again- she'd been sweltering in the car. The frigid polar
air had been finding its way into Texas regularly for a little over two weeks now, mixing with warm moist air from the Arizona coast to give Texas a
roller coaster ride of extremely humid weather punctuated by sleet and snow storms every two or three days. It was summer- some days- theoretically.
There was rumor that Earth's orbit could be changing. The calendar said July- but in terms of seasons, what came next was anybody's guess.
Nikki's skin quickly began to numb as the nearly freezing air blew through her sweat-drenched clothes.
"Eeew", she said to herself in dismay, "This was my last fresh set of clothes." She looked up, either to God or to the constantly shifting hot and
cold winds "Just make up your F'ing mind!"
There wasn't anymore time left to agonize over her decision. Nine days in the Walmart parking lot on the outskirts of El Paso, crying for her family
and begging God for options had yielded nothing. News was slow, but as far as everyone had been told so far the government barely even knew what
condition the country was in, let alone the world, and couldn't help anyone. The good jobs just weren't going to happen- that was obvious now.
Unless there was any news today about the plans for construction of a harbor in Tucson she would have to take the one job she'd been offered. She
couldn't stand the thought of stripping though. It seemed as if she was doomed to loneliness already. If she wasn't an unapproachable goddess she
was mere eye-candy. Making the later her job couldn't improve things much, and she was already more lonely than she'd even known.
She looked through the back of the car, through her dirty clothes, a few remaining cans of food, and a handful of possessions she had salvaged. There
wasn't much left to pawn, but if she wanted a job she would need the money up front to shower and stay indoors, and lodging was at a premium now. She
shook her head, fighting back tears as she laid a hand on her great grandfather's cavalry sword. She'd rescued it for her brother, but she'd given
in to the fact that she'd never see him again. Her grandfather gave it to her in case he was OK- they were still rescuing people from Los Angeles
before the Third Big One marked the beginning of the coast's near daily march eastward. He said he couldn't leave until the last minute- in case any
of the family could make it to him. She withdrew it from the sheath far enough to unfold the letter from around the blade; her grandfather's last
words, explaining the history of his father's sword and the last great cavalry battle which had saved Poland from the Russians in 1920.
Nikki choked back the urge to cry and told herself there was nothing else she could sell. The car was her only way to reach a better place, her only
shelter, her only really useful possession- selling it wasn't really an option. She started the car and examined the gas gauge, pretending to be
confident that she had enough to get where she was going, and headed into town to check the news then find a pawn shop.
Flaherty's Pub was a small, easy to miss place that didn't want and didn't get too many new faces. The store-front entrance and mirrored windows
with no lights or signs left a great deal of question as to the presence of any business at all inside. Nikki almost hadn't bothered to try the door
when she'd first seen it, but she'd needed badly to beg a glass of water after her first day of wandering the city in search of work. She'd been
there every day since, save the day before- she had needed money- she went somewhere else- and done something else. She almost hadn't come to day as
a result. She was humiliated- and she knew that he'd see it. But Jimmy was her only friend, and her shame at yesterday's desperate action only made
her want to see him more. She wasn't just a girl to him.
He was a rascally-looking but kind man with a red face and curly dirty blonde hair. It could have been dirty blonde or it could have been fading
slowly towards gray- it was hard to tell in the dim light of the place. Nikki suspected he was adopting her in the place of a lost daughter.
She didn't open the door very far as she entered, as if trying to hide the place from the people outside, and helped herself to a stool just a few
paces from the door at the near end of the bar. She looked around the tiny place with a pleasant smile as she waited for he only friend to emerge from
the side room, which she assumed must house some sort of modest kitchen.
"Hey kiddo, I missed you yesterday! I was afraid you'd found a place that doesn't water down all the drinks."
"Water is all I ever order, Jimmy.", she replied with a faint grin.
Her new companion caught sight of her grin and pushed his antics,
"So 'tis, so 'tis. I tell ya what lassie. Ya gives old Jimmy a promise not to be runnin' me through with that wee cutlass there, and maybe gives
me but a brief look on it, and you might have yourself a coke or three this time."
His Irish impression was only funny because it was so much worse than one would expect from a pub owner named Jimmy Flaherty. It got her every
Holding the weapon by the sheath she offered it over to him. He gently withdrew it, looking over the beautifully maintained steel, which managed to
shine somewhat even in the low light of that humble dive of a bar.
"I couldn't leave it in the car- I dont know how I let myself do it before, but it just came to mind this morning. It belonged to my great
grandfather. It's just about the only thing of real value I have."
"I don't like the sound of that none too much. You wouldn't be thinking on selling this would you?"
"I'm afraid I might have to Jimmy. I've got to land a job soon or I'll be in big trouble."
"And would that be the job old Jimmy said he dinnay want a girl of your class considering one bit more?"
The sweetness threatened to drop out of her voice as she began to blush in shame. "That would be the only job a girl of my class has been offered
Jimmy. My whole life got drowned two weeks ago. For all I know the rest of us will all be gone in another week. You know how things are." By the time
she finished she was staring straight down at the counter.
Jimmy shook his head with a hopeful smile concealing his desperation as he began to explain the venture he'd been thinking up for the past three
"I'll tell you a little secret, if you'll promise not to think different of me. You know everyone carrying on the past few days about how everyone
who doesn't own their land is doomed and how these newly rich SOBs are being such evil pricks?"
Nikki shifted uncomfortably as she tried with little success to anticipate where this was leading.
"Heard? I've seem Jimmy. Forgive me if I don't make a big deal out of the 4th this year."
"I understand darlin'. Now like I said, don't see old Jimmy no different for this, but my cousin is one of them evil pricks. He owns a good piece
of Texas, and for what he lost under the Gulf of Mexico he's got new island property to make up for it. He's already talking about how stinking rich
he means to be with it all. I'm pushing him for a wee venture of my own."
The compact Irishman grinned mischievously as he produced a map of California to which he had added a taped a near-perfectly gridded map of the
Pacific which he'd drawn by hand. The map included a series of islands- most notably a large thin one, shaped like a fragmented crescent moon, with
its back to what remained of North America.
"This is coming out real slow like. With the satellites going off their orbits, the compasses dancing, tsunamis taking ships and what-not, there just
aren't too many people bringing back news to too many places. There's new land out there though, and there's a great big rush to claim it from just
those so high and mighty as to know its there, and of course poor old me who just happens to have an old buddy or two that made it back ashore on the
Nikki could only stare in amazement. On top of the incredible nature of the story, she still didn't know what was being proposed to her.
"How do you know its really there. It's just a hand-drawn map somebody gave you right?"
"Aye, you're sharp. That's why I want you to go with me. I need somebody I can count on to learn what I teach them and do a good job, and watch my
back without stabbin' me in it to boot, and if I don't take the right person the first time, I can't just fire 'em and send back ashore for a new
one. I'll 5 times the going rate- 25% of the land we settle and a suitable allowance to develop it."
He produced a newspaper from behind the counter which had several want-ads, mostly specifying military veterans or displaced construction workers.
"I called em all. 90% of em are from the same few corporations, and they all make the same offer- 5% of the settlement and a couple thousand
Nikki looked over the map in wonder. Could this be a new chance at home, and at a decent life?
"When would we leave?", she asked cautiously.
"Aye, a fine choice you've made wee lass. We leave day after tommorrah. Sell yer car, keep yer sword, and you can stay here for the nights till
She didn't see any sense in objecting.