Thriller Suspense Science Fiction

“By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire.” Julie said to her daughter. "It was black, and that was all I could see."

"Is that why daddy had to stay?"

Julie hesitated for a moment. "Yes baby—daddy had to stay to—" she gripped the steering wheel and her vision clouded. She could see Peter’s face staring back at her and she shuddered at the thought.

"He had to stay to help fight the fires, baby."

They rode in silence except for the sound of the electric motor and the occasional thump of the tires over the highway reflectors. Julie’s neck still throbbed where Peter’s hands had been. She touched her neck and looked down at her hand. Her hands hadn’t stopped shaking since they had left the house. 

She looked in the rear-view mirror at Elena who struggled to fight sleep. Her head jerked with each thump of the tire. Soon she yawned and her eyes closed. Julie sighed. She wasn’t sure how much of the night Elena would remember, but she knew one day she would have to tell Elena the truth. 

But not tonight. Tonight Julie was only concerned about getting her daughter to safety. She drove the old truck away from the city and towards the mountains. By morning they would arrive and Elena would like it. The sky was clean and clear there, the breeze brushed the branches of the trees in soft greeting, and the water sparkled and gurgled through the canyons in a playful whisper. Elena was safe. Julie smiled. She had kept her promise.


The city was in flames. The freeways were crowded with people heading East. Those that had vehicles, or could pay for a ride, packed themselves into and onto cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles. Alongside those in the vehicles were those unable to afford a ride.They fled on bikes and skateboards. Beside them were the even less fortunate - those that walked on tired sore feet and begged those in the tightly packed cars to have mercy and make space for them.

One woman walked with four children. Her eldest, a twelve-year-old boy, pushed a shopping cart and his two younger sisters sat inside it, they were covered in heavy blankets and surrounded by jugs of water and black trash bags full of clothes. One sister held onto a small Pomeranian and shushed it whenever it started barking. Behind them their mother walked with arms outstretched. She held their baby brother out towards the people in the cars. She hoped for sympathy, but found only indifference. The turmoil of the past weeks had caused even the most kindhearted people to become cold to the suffering of others. Some passengers stared at the woman holding the young child unmoved, for emotional detachment had become their shield, their protection against cruel reality. Those that hadn’t become hardened turned their heads away in shame and embarrassment. This long line of shuffling, moaning, desperate people ambled forward while around them the flames drew nearer.

Julie had driven all night to reach the city and now that she had arrived she found herself going the opposite direction of those that were fleeing. They were like a massive wave and stopped all her motion and made it impossible for her to move in their opposite direction. She left the freeway when the first gap opened up and drove her truck through the city-streets. After weeks of fighting, rioting, and looting, the streets stood ravaged and empty. Fires burned on every block and bodies littered the ground and she had to swerve to avoid them. 

The city was still dangerous. In some areas fighting was still taking place. She turned on the radio and hoped for useful information. She found mostly static. Most of the stations had been abandoned or destroyed and it took her a while before she found a weak signal. 

"... of the Party Leadership rather than surrender to our forces, barricaded themselves at their headquarters — and some in their homes — and continued to fight until the end. Several of the People’s Regiments reported that some killed themselves and their families before they could be arrested for their crimes—"

Julie turned off the radio and drove in silence. She felt sick. Only fanatics could justify killing their families. Was Peter a fanatic? Could he do what those others had done? The past few years had changed people and not for the better, but was he capable of doing that? Killing his own daughter?

She thought back to Peter before he had joined the Party. He had been an even-keeled pacifist who took only a passing interest in politics. She hadn’t wanted him to join. They had fought about it for a long time. The Party was notorious for the fanaticism of its members, but Peter saw membership as a good way to stay safe from the rising instability in the city. The Party stood for security and protection and Peter argued membership would mean safety.

Julie believed him. When he first joined the Party things were just as he had promised. Crime grew as more climate refugees sought asylum in the city. Before joining the Party Peter had viewed the Refugees as unfortunate survivors of circumstances beyond their control, but his opinion changed when he became involved in Party politics. Overnight his opinion changed and the refugees were now parasites and criminals. His distrust and paranoia grew the more involved he became with politics.

Julie pointed out how much he had changed but by that point he was too far gone to listen. Soon Peter was advocating what he had always been against — violence and murder.

Despite Peter becoming more radical, Julie held out hope that she could save him. Her attempts were met with a growing viciousness until one night it came to a head. He had grown tired of listening, tired of her attacking all the good that the Party was doing and tired of hearing her subversive comments. She had become too vocal and treasonous and had become a liability to his standing in the Party.

To teach her a lesson he broke her jaw and shattered her orbital socket. He told her that she had left him no choice. As a Party member, he couldn't afford to have her around. The police arrived and as Party members they laughed at the situation. After talking to Peter they put Julie in handcuffs and placed her in the squad car. Peter had leaned into the window before they drove off and promised to kill her with his own hands if she ever came back to take Elena.

The police dumped her on a road outside the city. Eventually she was picked up by others like herself, people persecuted by the party and forced to leave the city. It was with these dissidents and traitors that she found refuge in the mountains. For two years she had bided her time and waited for the day she would return for her daughter.

When Julie arrived in the old neighborhood the streetlights were dark and the homes stood silent. Flames marched steady and impassive down the hills towards the houses. The truck squealed to a halt outside her old home. Julie stared up at the second floor window and imagined Elena waiting for her. Peter’s car was in the driveway. He wasn’t off fighting somewhere in the city. Unlucky. She pulled a revolver from the glove-box. She checked the cylinder. Six slugs loaded. Only if I have to, she told herself. Only if I have to. 

Smoke enveloped the night sky and the ground was covered by a dense layer of ash. The air was hot and breathing was painful. Julie walked to the front door with the collar of her coat pulled over her mouth. She paused with her hand on the doorknob. She had promised Elena she would come back and here she was. Peter had promised he would kill her if she returned. One promise was going to be broken before the night was over. Julie’s jaw hardened and she opened the door. She slipped inside and crouched and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness.

The blurry outlines of things slowly came into focus. Empty beer cans and trash littered the ground but otherwise nothing had changed. Surprisingly, the couches and other furniture were where they had been when she left. Where was Peter? Drunk. Dead. The house was silent and nothing moved. She could hear herself breathing. She sensed Elena. She was close. She could feel it.

All caution went to the wind. She rushed towards the staircase. Her hand touched the handrail of the staircase the same time she stepped on an empty liquor bottle. Her foot sent the bottle spinning across the floor and it bounced off the wall with a loud thud. Julie froze. Stupid. Idiot. She held her breath and waited.   

In the darkness something moved. From the other side of the room the blue-light of a cell-phone flashed on. Peter’s face shone in a halo of light. Julie gasped in surprise. His skin was waxen and pale, and his eyes stared at her from shallow pits. They had lost their spark. Their life. "I thought you'd come back," he said. "I've been waiting for you all night." He sat in the recliner with a shotgun resting across his lap. He patted it and smiled like a fox. "Remember what I promised?"

"Where is she?"

Peter said, "Safe & sound," and leaned back.

"I'm taking her with me—"

"The hell you are,” He tapped the trigger guard of the shotgun. “We're staying here. Together. No one is leaving nowhere."

Julie said, “Are you insane?” She pointed towards the door. ”Have you looked outside?” The whole city’s on fire and you want to—”

“I told you I’d protect us but you had to keep running your mouth,” he spoke fast, “and if you had just stayed loyal — if people had just stayed loyal and did — and did what the party asked we wouldn’t be here.”

"It’s over Peter. Can’t you see that? It’s all over—"

"You buncha' traitors," he spat the words. “It’s not over — you think it’s over, but it’s not. We have the military coming in. We only wanted the rats to show themselves and you did — you fell for the trap — I knew you would traitor bitch!”  

Julie moved her hand towards her revolver. “I don’t care about any of that, Peter. I only came for Elena."

Blotches of red appeared on Peter’s face. "You’re not taking her." Peter stood and threw the shotgun to the ground. “I promised—” and he rushed her.

The revolver was in her hand but before she could pull the trigger he was on her. His hands wrapped around her throat. His forearms bulged and her airway closed. Her shoes scraped and squeaked on the hardwood floor. "Daddy always keeps his promise" Peter screamed.

Julie panicked and dropped the revolver. She dug her nails into his arms and pulled away layers of flesh. But he didn’t relax his grip. She struggled for air. Her eyes bulged and her vision dimmed. She tried to scratch at his face but her fingers fell short. Finally her feet stopped kicking and her hands stopped thrashing and her arms fell flaccid to her sides. And she dangled from his hands like a puppet.

"Daddy, the fires— the fires, daddy!"

Peter dropped Julie in a heap and looked up.

"Daddy, the fires are coming," Elena yelled from her room.

Peter looked down at Julie and then up towards Elena’s room. He knew Julie wasn't dead. He could hear her rasping for breath. He would have to come back. He disappeared up the stairs.

When Julie regained consciousness she could hear Peter coaxing Elena back to bed.

"It's going to be alright, baby," he said. "Daddy's gonna go out with his friends to fight the fires and protect you and everyone else—"

Julie scrambled on the floor until she found the revolver. Upstairs Peter continued to calm Elena with reassurances and loving words and Julie was reminded of the way he had been before he joined the party. He had been a good man and a loving father. In the dim light her resolve wavered and her grip on the revolver weakened.

“Will you keep me safe daddy?” Elena said.

“Of course I will, baby,” said Peter.

Peter stomped down the stairs when he returned. He paused on the last step before throwing himself towards the spot where he had left Julie lying. He landed on empty space. His head swiveled from side to side looking for her. Julie had crept up behind him and when he realized this he spun around to meet her. But he was too late and Julie brought the revolver down on top of his head with all her weight. Peter collapsed to the ground with a moan.

He legs kicked, he wheezed and his eyes rolled back. Julie stood over him and pointed the revolver at his head. She fingered the trigger. One shot and it would be done. She hesitated. He was still her father. He was a bastard. But he was still her father. She put the gun away. Red and orange light was filtering into the room and making it bright. Peter was out cold. She would leave his fate to the flames.  

Julie took the stairs two at a time and threw open Elena’s door. Through the window she saw that the neighboring houses were on fire. She went to the bed and picked her daughter up in one motion.

Elena was in a daze but she instinctively wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck and buried her face in her shoulder. She mumbled through half-closed eyes, " Daddy's fighting the fires, mommy,"

"I know, baby. That's why I'm here. Daddy needed help and he wanted me to come get you." It was the first time Julie had held Elena in two years and her little girl was taller and heavier than she remembered. Yet her hair still smelled the same.

"I knew you would come,"

"I promised I would, baby."

But Elena was already asleep.

October 16, 2020 04:02

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Ahmia Peters
17:20 Dec 10, 2020

Nice story btw do u have a sister named Isabella if so she is in my social science honors class


Adrian Solorio
22:32 Dec 12, 2020

Thanks Ahmia! Nope. No sisters named Isabella, haha


Ahmia Peters
16:10 Dec 17, 2020

oh ok lol sry for asking


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