Latinx Science Fiction Suspense

There’s no way people actually eat this shit. I ladled the brown goo onto the plate and handed it to the person waiting in line. They accepted it gratefully, giving a small smile before they turned and left to go sit with the others. That’s what I thought before I had to eat it myself

In truth, it wasn’t actually bad. It looked somewhat concerning, yes, but once you got it into your mouth, you’d come to find out that it was actually pretty good. For being the leftovers of whatever had been scavenged from the trash bins of the Corpuses, the cooks sure knew how to make it taste fancy. And it wasn’t like we were eating chewed up Corpus crumbs or anything. They often threw out hordes of perfectly fine food. 

I scooped another large spoonful into an outstretched bowl and handed it to the next person. “Thank you camarada,” they said, and went traipsing off. I rolled my eyes. Camarada. After three months of serving people here, I still had no idea why they chose to address one another by such ridiculous names. But what was worse than when they called me camarada was when they called me sister. My first reaction to when one of them called me that for the first time went something along the lines of this: “I’m not your sister, so fuck off.”

Heidi had pulled me aside after that incident and told me that if I wanted to be a part of the cause, then I’d have to start treating people with dignity and respect. She went on this whole rant, saying that even though our “material conditions” were destitute, that didn’t mean we had to behave destitutely as well. “That’s what they want,” she had said to me. “They want to divide us. They want us to be polarized. They want us to form ideological factions and call our brothers and sisters ‘enemy’ so that we can remain powerless. Right now, we are deaf, dumb and blind.” She pointed to her ears, her forehead, and her eyes as she said this. “But we must organize. We need to come together: individuals to form a collective, so we can realize who the real enemy is. Then no longer will we be blind.”

I couldn’t look her in the eyes when she told me this. I just looked down, pretending to be interested in the cracked and grimy tile. I nodded and said a lot of ‘okays’ and ‘yes ma'ams’ so she would leave, but I really had no idea what she was talking about.

When the soup line had finally died down, I took that as my cue to leave. I pulled my tin out of my bag and filled it up with what remained at the bottom of the soup pot. The soup warmed the tin, and I cupped my hands over it as I shuffled towards the door. 

The air outside wasn’t cool. It wasn’t fresh. It was simply there: no wind, no movement-a stillness in the night sky. But even the night sky didn’t seem like the night that everyone always used to talk about: the one that was tragically dark and beautiful. Our night was barely even dark at all. If I looked up, I would see a good deal of nothing. The smoke that came from the industrial machines of the Corpuses made it too foggy to see anything. 

Seeing the night sky reminded me of a story that I had once “read” about at one of Heidi’s lectures. It was my first day serving in the kitchen, and she told me to stay for her lesson afterwards.

As soon as Heidi had started lecturing, I became completely lost. She started talking about the ‘importance of education,’ and how everyone is deserving of it, and that it is the “needed roses to go along with our needed bread.” She started drawing a bunch of figures on the whiteboard, and said it was something called the allforbet. 

“For those of you that know how to read, I want you to grab one of the books from the pile and try reading it aloud. For those of you who are still learning, please move forward so you can see how our alphabet works.” 

“But, camarada Heidi,” one of the adults had called out. “I already know how to read. Why should I continue to learn something I’ve already learned? Wouldn’t it be more useful for my time to be spent doing something else?”

I always thought Heidi was passionate. Too passionate. But boy, did she grow something fierce when that person had said that. “Your mind is pickaxe!” she had preached. “Like the pickaxes we use to mine the minerals from the ground for the Corpuses! And books are our whetstones! We can sharpen our pick once, but it will eventually become dull. We need books to keep us sharp, so that we may never go dull. After all, a dull pick cannot mine the best minerals, can it?”

There was no question after that: books were necessary. 

Everyone went scrambling to get them. The smaller kids who didn’t know their letters went up front, all staring in awe at Miss Heidi. I was going to join them, but suddenly thought better of it. The kids in the front were all so little. And here I was, large and cantankerous like one of the Corpus industrial machines. It would have looked plain ridiculous for someone like me to go learnin’ with the little ones.

I decided to grab a book instead. I couldn’t make out what the words said, so I just looked at the pictures. I flipped through the pages, just staring at them. I could have stared at them forever. If heaven meant flipping through those pages and looking at those pictures for an eternity, I would have been content. 

There was a mouse on the first page. Not the kind we see crawling around the floorboards at night, but one that lived in a house. Not the kind of houses we had, where it was crowded and concrete and high up in the air, but the kind where you had space and couldn’t hear your neighbors arguing across the hall. The mouse sat at a table, eating some yellow block with holes in it with a daddy mouse and a mommy mouse at her side. When the mouse went to school, there weren’t any adults in her class. It was full of small mice that looked just like her. She must be one of the corpus, I thought, if she’s rich enough to learn. I wonder, has she ever heard of the cause? I bet if she was real, I could ask her and she’d be smart enough to tell me what it means. 

All of the pages were colorful, with fantastic shapes and images. But the one that caught my eye was dark. It showed the mouse looking up at the sky. It was black. Not like the lit-up fog we have, but truly dark. Like an endless void. If it weren’t for the shiny, little white dots in the black, it would have been scary. But it wasn’t. The dots made it beautiful. They shimmered and danced while the mouse watched. 

Remembering the mouse’s sky while looking up at the fog for some reason made me angry, so I stopped looking up. There was nothing to see. Only fog. So instead, I looked forward. I ran.

My lungs grew heavy as I weaved through the buildings. Vines covered the walls. They traveled way up to the top of the concrete walls, as if trying to peek their heads over the fog. They used to be green and I had always appreciated the overgrowth. It made everything look natural. Maybe even a little pretty. But it wasn’t pretty anymore. The vines were gray now, and sometimes they deflated and leaked puss and left some foul odor lingering in the air.

I ran towards the alley that hid behind the large building with the broken windows. I always liked that alley. It was darker-not dark, because nothing was completely dark anymore-but just darker. The light from the Corpus factories didn’t reach here as much as it reached other places. Kneeling in the gravel, I pulled a mask from out of my backpack, and slipped it over my head. It stifled my breath.

I crawled through one of the windows, making sure not to accidentally step on any of the broken glass. As I jumped down into the darkened room, my feet pounded against the concrete floor. The sound echoed throughout the abandoned building. A burst of laughter erupted from down the stairwell that descended into the underground. I followed it, making sure that my mask didn’t slip off my face.

“Well, if it isn’t la rata!” One of the voices called out as I descended down the stairs. Brockerel sat in one of the chairs around the table. His feet were propped up against it, one hand behind his head and the other around a brown bottle. “Why the hell are you late?”

“I had things to do,” I murmured, giving a nervous glance towards Tommy sitting next to him. He looked ridiculous, sitting in that too-big seat with his legs dangling down, acting as if he were one of them. Tommy looked back at me. We mentioned nothing about how only a few hours earlier, we were both at the soup kitchen, I behind the counter spooning out the soup, and he at the front, holding out his bowl, waiting for me to put something in it. 

I shuddered to think about what would happen if the Brotherhood discovered that I was giving food to people in the day and stealing from those same people at night. I could almost hear Brockerel shouting: “Ain’t no brother of mine gonna be asking for handouts. No, the Brotherhood fends for ourselves. I ain’t gonna be hearing some idealist goonies call my brothers a ‘camarado’.”

“Well,” Brockerel said, “just don’t keep us waiting, next time. You know I’m not a patient man.” He turned towards Tommy, putting an arm around his shoulder. “But we got more important things to discuss tonight. Our brother Thomas here is a man today. He’s turning nine.” Brockerel held up a bottle and put it to Tommy’s lips. “Drink up, brother. It’ll make you feel better than you feel right now.”

Tommy opened his mouth, sputtering and choking as he drank it down. Brockerel continued. “And in celebration of our Thomas’s manhood, we’ve decided that he gets an extra special mission today.”

An extra special mission?

“Brother Thomas is gonna git us some pork tonight!” He shouted, snatching the bottle away from Tommy and downing what remained. The brotherhood rose up, raising their drinks in their air, pounding and cheering.

Pork. God, no. Not this.

I hadn’t done it many times before, but just then I prayed. Or maybe it wasn’t even a prayer. It was more like a glance. Not really staring, but just glancing. At God. I didn’t know what to say to God, and I was honestly a little scared at the prospect of Him actually replying back, so I just said in my mind, “God,” hoping that would be enough to save Tommy.

I had only heard about ‘God’ a few times. The few times I’ve heard about Him was during the weekly Corpus announcements held by the Guard. They would make all these fancy speeches over the city speakers which had always made me cover my ears. They screeched out things about God and how He had a name, but I forgot what that name was. The Guard told us that God wanted us to listen to Corpus so that everything would be peaceful. They said that God would reward us when we went up to see Him if we worked hard in the mines. They said that when we finally went to see him, we wouldn’t have to work and could have as much food as we wanted as long as we weren’t being gluttonous. 

I didn’t know what the word gluttonous meant, but glut sounded a lot like gut, which got me thinking about that part of the stomach that always hung out under the Guard’s uniforms.

I wondered: if we had to work on earth so that we wouldn’t have to work in heaven, then what about the Corpus? I’ve never seen any of them work. Maybe since they got to rest right now, when they go to God, they’re the ones that will have to work.

I followed as Thomas and the brotherhood streamed out the door and up the stairs and out the broken windows. We wandered the streets, staying in the shadows of the buildings, coming to a halt when we reached one of the tenements. Vines crawled up the walls of the building. A dim, blue light came from the top, shining through one of the windows.

“Thomas,” Brockerel whispered. He bent down, handing the little figure beside him the steel he had taken out of his pocket. Thomas shook as his little fingers wrapped around the metal. “Tonight, you prove your worth as a brother. You prove your worth as a man.” His large hands gripped Tommy’s shoulders. Tommy began to cry. 

“I don’t want to,” he sobbed.

Brockerel slapped him. The sobbing subsided. 

“Quite that sissy shit. You ain’t got the privilege to cry. You ain’t one of them. You ain’t one of the Corpus, and you sure as hell ain’t gonna be one of the Guard. You ain’t gonna prove your manhood by getting one of them degrees or other fancy learnin’ that they have. And you certainly ain’t gonna get your manhood from working in the mines. Don’t let those Camarade bastards fool you. They say that there’s honor in workin’ and spew their shit about how ‘all value comes from labour’.” Brockerel tapped a finger on the gun in Tommy’s hand. “But this is where we get our value. Get us some pork.”

The Brotherhood began ascending their way to the top, climbing the vines up to the window with the blue light. When we got to the top, Brockerel and Tommy peered inside.

“You see that Guard?” Brockerel asked. “There’s your pork. Now open the window and aim.”

“I feel sick,” Tommy said, swaying among the vines. His grip on the plants looked dangerously loose.


Tommy cracked open the window and pointed the gun inside. 


The shot rang out through the air. I hugged the concrete wall. I hated that sound. 


Another shot. A yell. A fall. A thud. I looked down. Tommy was at the bottom. He lay sprawled out on the concrete. A puddle began to form around him. 

Brockerel shrieked. He sounded like a woman. He jumped inside the window. More shots began going off. In the distance, I could see the white lights coming out of the fog. They were coming. 

“The pork is coming!” One of the brothers yelled, and they began descending down the wall, all scrambling and racing towards the bottom. I followed suit, sliding down the vines. When my feet touched the floor, I looked up. Not at the window, nor the building. Not even at the fog. Just anywhere but Tommy. And I ran.

I ran from the sirens. I ran from the building. I ran from Brockerel. I ran from Tommy. Towards where? I didn’t know. I just ran. People began streaming past me. First one. Then another. And another and another. There seemed to be hundreds of them, all running towards the chaos, shouting and swinging in the air the pickaxes Corpus had given us to use in the mines. 

I continued to run against the crowd, but no matter how far I ran, the screams and the sirens never seemed to get any further away. It was no use. I let my legs give out, crumpling to the floor.

“Camarada!” A voice shouted amidst the confusion. It was Heidi. She rushed over towards me. “Why aren’t you fighting? Our emancipation is just beginning!”

“I don’t want to fight!” I cried. Tears ran down my face. I felt like a kid. Maybe I was a kid. “I want to live. I just want to live. I want to live and I want things to go back to how they used to be.”

“‘Like how things used to be?’” Heidi laughed. “You call that living? Things have always been this way. For years and years. Even before you were born. We’ve always had to fight.”

“But we’ve never won! Why do we still fight?”

Heidi took a step back, surprised. She looked at me like I was asking an obvious question. “Why, we don’t fight because we think we can win. We fight because that’s the only thing we can do! And we’ll continue until we don’t have to fight no more.” She leaned close. I felt her breath on my face. “And I don’t know about you, but as for me, I will not settle. I will not settle. Even if it means fighting a losing battle, I’d rather go down swinging on my feet than die on my knees.”

She shoved her pickaxe into my hand, patted my head, and went running off with the crowd. I watched as she ran off towards the sirens and the riots. For the first time, I could see the lights clearly. If I had looked up, I knew I would have seen straight through the fog. Why did we continue to fight? Why did I think that I was never fighting before?

I began to run. My torn shoes pounded against the earth. The pickaxe was heavy in my hands. I was tired of running away. Maybe it was time to be running towards something.

February 03, 2024 00:22

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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