Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - Rebuilt

The concrete trucks arrived within days of the earthquake. The city was eager to rebuild, and with a population like ours, there was no time to be sentimental about it. Too many people were out on the streets as it was - there was only so much emergency shelter to go around.

My own home was destroyed completely. I got out, along with my phone and the toaster. I was in a panic. I just grabbed the first thing I saw. I lost my computer and the backup drive that sat right beside it, so all my old family photos and videos were gone. My filing cabinet, too, with my birth certificate and passport. I kept meaning to buy a fire safe. I don't know if they help against earthquakes.

They allowed me a day of scrounging through my rubble before the bulldozers came in and levelled the place, then came the printers. They looked like big, hollow scaffolding on wheels, with hoses to pump concrete and a lot of motors on top to move the print head around. They were going to rebuild everything in basic concrete, they said. It was faster and cheaper that way. We'd all be living in identical grey boxes, the most depressing suburb you'd ever see.

I waited in line at the shelter, my box of worldly possessions at my feet, shuffling slowly towards the door, hoping that tonight I might get a bed. I don't think I can take another night in the line. My skin is clammy and my muscles numb from lack of sleep. I know I'm basically running on adrenaline alone, and I feel like I haven't showered in days.

I get a bunk in a room that used to house 2 people, but is now squeezing in five. At least there are blankets. I sleep curled up with my box at my feet, a little uneasy, but grateful for the small comforts.

In the morning, I check out the window as I brush my teeth with a shelter-provided toothbrush, and notice something odd. Over where my house used to be, there's a tall concrete tower. Lots of them, actually. I spit the toothpaste into the sink, grab my box and run as fast as I can to find out what they've done to my land.

The construction foreman won't let me past the fences to see, of course, and he's got hundreds of other people to deal with. There are cops in riot gear guarding the reconstruction area. The foreman stands up on a box to tell us all that everything is explained on the signs and pamphlets hanging beside the gate, then he ducks back inside and locks himself in. The concrete printers still climb higher, laying down rebar and concrete to grow the structures into the sky.

People push forwards, all elbows and shouting, either trying to get to the gate or to see the signs. I can only make out a few words: "compulsory sale", "high-density housing", "new era of shared living space". It doesn't sound good. On a hunch, I check my bank balance on my phone, and there's a large deposit named "compulsory sale", just like on the sign. It's not as large as it should be. I've sold my land against my will and now, I assume, I'll be allowed to buy back into this concrete jungle.

Sure enough, I had email, too. "Exciting opportunity", "bargain", and, much further down, words like "shared facilities" that, despite the positive-spin adjectives nearby, made it clear that my bathroom, shower and toilet wouldn't be mine alone. I'd get out of the emergency shelter and go straight into my own, just like it. It wasn't appealing, but at that point, I didn't have a lot of choice. I headed out to work. At least if I was going to be forced to live in a concrete box, I'd make sure I could afford a good one.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is much later than I would normally like to post a story on Friday.
PPS - And still less time than I would have liked to work on it.

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