fiction, flash fiction, forever young, short story, steal, story, urban fantasy, youth
Last FFF: Holiday
Susan looked out over the ten by ten rows of clear plastic cradles. Inside each was a tightly wrapped new life. Some wriggled while others slept. One of the babies wailed.
Susan rushed to its side and picked up the pink wrapped infant. The tiny cries quivered as she scrunched her face with some unknown need. Susan rocked the baby back and forth and cooed at it.
When that didn’t work, she ran her wrinkled hand over the child’s cheek. As she did, she stopped, noticing the discrepancy between their skin. Her own skin had become thin, and the hardened blue veins bulged beneath the surface. Whereas the child’s was soft, smooth, thick, and blemish free. She caressed the baby’s skin once more, and the crying hushed.
A moment later, a hint of a smile lit the baby’s face. Susan was entranced by it, so much so that she didn’t hear the door open.
“What are you doing?” a voice asked.
Susan looked up to see her sister standing there. Her sister was three years her senior.
“She was crying, so I came to make it stop. She just smiled at me,” Susan said, with a hint of wonder in her voice.
Her sister marched over to her and took the infant. She turned it over on her arm, and gave the baby’s back a gentle, circular rub. After a second, the baby spit up. White, noxious liquid ran over her sister’s arm. She did her best not to recoil. She placed the baby back in the bassinet, and wiped her arm on the pink blanket.
“See? Not a real smile, just gas,” her sister said.
“I know. But it still makes me think.”
“It’s best if you don’t think about it.”
“But is what we’re doing really right? There’s so much potential here,” Susan said, sweeping her hand outward at the babies.
“None of that is for us to decide. We were chosen. We are special. If any of them were special, they’d have been chosen, too. These leftovers are our bounty. Or would you rather-”
“No,” Susan cut her off.
“Good. Now, stop playing around and do your job.”
Susan nodded and placed her hands on the plastic crib. She looked down at the girl she had just been holding. She saw a spark in her eyes. She saw life there. For the first time in her very long life, she wondered how the counsel could be so certain that these children would succumb to the perpetual airborne toxin and become living corpses, brain dead and completely dependent. And even if they did, what about the time they had before they became vegetables? She worried that even a little life was better than none at all.
Her sister placed a hand on her shoulder. She was getting impatient.
Susan tried to shrug off her ethical concerns. She reminded herself that these weren’t children in the traditional sense. They were crops, never meant to have life anyway. A few from each batch were immune, and were saved. Maybe that was enough.
The tiny infant scrunched her face once more and began to cry again.
Susan removed a syringe from her pocket. The needle was thin as a hair and attached to a cylindrical receptacle. She had practiced on dummies many times. But until now, the duty had never fallen to her.
She placed the needle to the babies skin, just behind her ear. The infant didn’t seem to notice, and kept screaming as she had been before. Susan guided the needle, making certain that the tip found just the right spot. Once it had, she began to pull back.
A clear, almost sparkling liquid drained from the baby. As she pulled, the crying ceased. She drew the plunger back until the receptacle was full.
The infant began to seize. Its soft, smooth skin wrinkled and bulged before turning to dust. The baby was gone, and all that remained in the crib was the dusty remains.
She turned her back to Susan and parted her hair. Susan placed the needle into the same spot on her sister as she had on the child. She injected the liquid. As the the syringe emptied, her sister’s youth returned. Her skin smoothed, her posture corrected, even the hair that she held to the side became more lush and full.
Her sister turned back to her. No longer did she look elderly. Now, she looked as if she were in her prime.
“Well done,” her sister said.
Her sister repeated the process on a neighboring child. Susan accepted the youth, and felt a flush of guilty joy as it worked. She could no longer see her veins through her skin. Her face felt tighter, her eyelids and brows were lifted, and she felt pretty.
“Tonight,” her sister said, “we are young.”
Susan knew that eventually, this youth would fade. And that the older they became, chronologically, the lesser and lesser effect the serum would have. But this would last longer than a night. This would last decades.
“That we are,” she said.
“Now,” her sister said, “finish extracting the youth from the rest of the crop.”
Ali Isaac said:
Shudder!Sinister and unsettling… very well done!
Adan Ramie said:
“We Are Young” grabbed me from the first paragraph. I would love to read the larger story here, to find out when it started, how long it has gone on, and how it will all end. Great story, Angela!