Hell of a Letter

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Hell of a Letter (Flash fiction by Ruthanne Reid)

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 habitat-life? The walls rattle and the ground hums with detonations so constant they’re white noise. You’ve killed the colonized world, but you think 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 while 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 your snit would last this long. They thought, we thought, the bombs would end, the fight would cease, nothing can last forever, etcetera and so forth.

I guess none of us realized just how much of a petty 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 from taking out most of the few humans left in this Iteration.

Or maybe they’d have sat on their celestial-size butts and snacked on comets while they watched.

Another bomb drops, rattling dust down from the ceiling. It won’t bury me; this is 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. Where am I even going to find some more?

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, there are bigger things to do. Just come out of the ground, and I’ll stop.

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 raging at why I’m not answering, because you know I’m here but 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 may never come out again.

I choose rubble over you.