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Science Fiction Drama

The ground was solid. It broke beneath my fingers but didn't blow around by gusts of wind. Good. It was the perfect condition for sensor replacement.

I checked the small monitor strapped around my forearm, there were 58 displaced sensors in Tarrow Fields. I could almost hear my joints groaning under the weight of the replacement sensors in the rucksack over my shoulder. If I was lucky I could get in and out before the sun falls. Being a Seeker is a tough enough position with the sun up. 

I huffed, watching the wide rows of corn blow softly in the wind. Tarrow Fields is the least sought after position. In the turn of summer it was filled with long green stalks, papery folds guarding what would soon become ears of corn. The fields were atop rolling hills, dipping up and down as far as the eye could see. I was assigned here because I make the least noise. I could not fault the field for being monotonous, it deserved safety, just as any other street or town. 

My suit sensors picked up stronger gusts of wind, I see it in the corn, bending over for an unseen power. I slid the screen over on my monitor to see a topographic map of Tarrow Fields. On the map were small red dots, haphazardly scattered, blinking back up at me. A larger red dot started to move on the screen as I began to walk West. While the ground was solid now, evidence of the tornado two weeks ago was still scattered, shingles, garbage and toys that barely resembled themselves. 

I breathed out slowly as I followed a path to the closest black dot. My vision blurred for a moment as my helmet fogged up. 

The sun was resting at its peak, rays of light sparkling against the rows of green. It almost made being a Seeker today a magical experience rather than what it truly is. Necessary. 

Finally I stopped, my radar marking landing atop a blinking black dot. 

I knelt to the ground. There was nothing in front of me. Eyeing the dirt I patted the ground in front of me a few times before digging my fingers into it. I could feel the warmth of the earth through my gloves, time for a gear replacement it seems. 

A few inches down my fingers hit something solid. A small black box reflected the sun in my gloved hand. It was hardly larger than a chocolate bar but was crumpled on one edge with small bits of circuitry poking out. I toss it into my rucksack and pull a shinier one out. 

I press a small button on the new box and wait for three seconds before a small light start to flash green. I watch it for a few moments, to assure it does not dim or stop. When I was finally satisfied I dug a small hole in the ground and pressed the box firmly into it. It stayed even after I retracted my hand and it did not move as I tossed a spattering of dirt over-top it. The small black dot on my monitor had disappeared and instead was replaced by a bright green blinking dot. 

One down, 51 to go. 

I pushed off my haunches and stood against the corn once more. 

No one was going to be harvesting corn from Tarrow Fields this season. They were going to grow, rot and then die. The farmers had been displaced by the recent tornado and it was too late to start rebuilding their infrastructure now. It was a stroke of irony that the corn itself was fairly untouched. 

I made my way to seven more sensors, plucking the useless ones from the and replacing them in the same clinical way I had with the first. As usual it became something of a routine, pick up, toss and push into the ground, on repeat. Some of them had potential to be fixed and so I was more delicate with those as I tossed them into my rucksack. The sea of blinking black dots on my monitor began to change to blinking green. 

I was holding a particularly scratched sensor when a deep rhythmic noise cut through the air. My suit alarms started going off at the same time, synchronizing with the booming from outside. In my hand, the scratched sensor, though previously dead, began to blink red. 

It was The Bellows. The Bellows were ringing. 

I dropped the sensor immediately and looked up. From where I was, covered by stalks of corn, I could see a spout of hazy smoke floating lazily through the distance. I watched it for a moment before a dark puff of smoke spat out from the horizon, filling the sky with smoke. 

A shrill second alarm joined the first, reverbing through my suit and into my bones. 

My monitor was buzzing with bright red words flashing across its screen. 

“The Bellows predict forest fires across North-West Arcadia; Tarrow Fields & Tian’s Prosper. At your location, time to destruction: 00:04:34, time to disaster management: 9:59:45.”

I shut my rucksack, strapped it to my back and started to run. 

The smoke was stronger now, penetrating through my suit and filling my nostrils with the acrid scent of burning organic matter. The Bellows had not stopped ringing.

For years I heard this sound from the comfort of my own home, able to run to our family bunkers to wait out whatever new natural disaster was here to claim our lives. That was the point of The Bellows, to give us time. 

Breathing hard I took another look at the sky, now curling with black fog. Flecks of ash were settling amongst the stalks of corn. My eyes were burning. 

At your location, time to destruction: 00:02:56. 

It was faster than most fires I had witnessed. The Bellows were slower today. Some people, weeks later, might say it was because we didn’t have enough sensors in Tarrow Fields. They might say that it was because we didn’t act fast enough after the last tornado. They might say that the Seekers are too slow. 

The Bellows are only as capable as the data it gets. I know that, the world knows that.

So maybe we were too slow. 

I was approaching the end of the corn fields. The fire, now blustering high enough that I could see it was spiralling through the fields, burning the dry stalks to a crisp and racing out in all directions. 

I stopped and turned to see the orange flames lick the sky and turn it black. 

When I started again I felt the heat against my back. I swiped my monitor to show me the topographical view and saw a steep plumeet just meters in front of me. 

A river gorge. 

The Bellows boasted protection. It boasted predictive elements that could save lives. It meant that we would not have to live in fear of the next disaster, we did not have to always watch the skies. 

That much may be true for those inside their homes. 

At your location, time to destruction: 00:00:15. 

But it isn’t true for me. Not today. 

I took one last look behind me, smoke blackening my lungs, flames licking at my feet before I leapt forward into the gorge. 

September 25, 2020 17:44

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4 comments

Soofia Asad
22:13 Nov 11, 2020

Loved this story from the start to the end and your description feels like I am in the situation

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Hema Nookala
17:04 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks Soofia! I appreciate your love so much!

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Bareera Samra
18:13 Oct 01, 2020

Oh God! It was such a good story. And a good read. I liked how you described everything clearly.

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Hema Nookala
16:54 Nov 03, 2020

Thanks Bareera! :) I appreciate the comment.

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