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Short Stories

Hell of a Letter

Punish me, will you? Two can play this game. (Flash Fiction)

I’d like a day without punishing you​, it says.

Hell of a letter. Waste of pneumatic tubes and limited resources, but I guess you just had to have the next word.

So: punishment? That’s what you call this? This bombardment, this ending of all earth-life? The walls rattle and the ground hums with detonations so constant they’re white noise. You’ve killed the world, but you’re punishing me?

I do what I always do when remembering you makes me mad: I go for a walk.

Lights fizzle, working when they feel like it and swinging when they do. Things crunch under my boots – bones, broken bits of plaster, ruined bullet casings – and though I try to get lost, I can’t. I know these tunnels. I built them, designed and dug them, reinforced them with my own precious blood when human sweat and steel failed. In the end, my blood wasn’t enough.

I know the humans didn’t think it would last this long. They thought, we thought, the bombs would end someday, the fight would cease, nothing can last forever, etcetera and so forth.

I guess none of us realized just how much of a bitch you can be.

If there were any Others left, they’d shake their heads at this behavior. If there were any Others left, they may have even stopped us. Or maybe they’d have sat on their celestial-size butts and eaten comets while they watched.

Another bomb drops, rattling dust down from the ceiling. It won’t bury me; it’s part of me, as much my self as my bones and my brain, and I know you know that, so why are you still doing this? You already took all the humans from me.

Sure, I chose them over you. They were fun. Clever. So mortal and short-lived and silly and dramatic. I loved them.

I loved you, too, once. But you never changed, and changing is all they do.

Did. That’s all they did. Petty bastard, you killed them all.

With one last cracking flicker, the lights go out completely.

I don’t really need them to walk, anyway. I could walk these tunnels backwards and blindfolded, deep in the ground where my pet projects and I took our last stand.

I really thought you’d stop before now.

In the end, you told me, in the end, we all go back to the starsThere are bigger things to do, projects that stretch over millennia instead of fourscore and seven years, and we’ve talked about all of this before.

You told me all would be forgotten and we’d just get back to business once I came out of the ground.

I believe you. But I’m not coming out.

How long will you do this? Until the planet cracks and all that’s left are my tunnels, extensions of my body and will, floating in space? Until the sun goes out and this whole system goes nova?

Until there’s nothing left to attack but me?

Let’s find out.

Maybe I want to punish you, too. Maybe I want you to keep waiting and striving and annoyed at why I’m not answering because you know I’m here, you feel I’m here, and yet I won’t come out and play with you. I just keep walking and walking as though I still have living people to oversee.

Punish me, will you? Two can play this game.

I choose rubble over you.

By Ruthanne Reid

Ruthanne Reid is one of those pesky fanfiction authors who made good, and thus eschews most labels. Except for being a Generation X-er (or maybe Xennial, according to some guy’s webpage), a musician who loves music but also carries a ton of baggage about it, a self-taught graphic artist who designs her own covers, a spoonie who wrestles Fibromyalgia not unlike yon Hercules and the Nemean lion, a Christian who hesitates to use the word because too many of them are crazy but Jesus is pretty great, a rabid shipper who’s too smart to lay out precisely which ships because of the wars, and an avid reader when she isn’t busy caretaking for some pretty ill folks.

You know. Unlabelable.

Currently a resident of Long Island City and a loving mommy to one current cat and numerous future ones, Ruthanne is happily married to a fellow geek who loves good stories and great games as much as she does. Between the two of them, they own a lot of things that need to be plugged in.

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