The Green Kangaroos
The words can’t travel further than Mia’s mind. Try as she might, her lips won’t work right. Then again, they’re often out of order when she doesn’t get her atlys. Thoughts get lost somewhere between brain and tongue as if devoured by that beast with a bottomless belly. The doctors call it “addiction,” but Mia calls it “playtime with a deadline.” Based on the frigid temperature assaulting her body, she figures her deadline is close.
“Why’d you hafta throw it out, Mama? Why’d you hafta hurt me like that? I can’t see it, Mama, and it’s so cold. It shouldn’t be so damn cold. It’s September. You should be at the ranch, and I should be high. Why’d you hafta ruin my high, Mama?”
The last time she saw her mother, the woman had looked too old. Mia knows it’s her fault her mother has aged so fast, but she doesn’t even remember how old Mama is supposed to be. Time doesn’t move normally with atlys pumping its own ticks and tocks into her brain. Hell, she can’t even remember her own age. Mia’s pains are no indication—she ached with the same sickness in her twenties, in her thirties, and now, well into her sixties. Her pain is a constant reminder of Mama’s. Each pang screams, “Don’t you know what this does to me, Mia? Can’t you see how this hurts your poor mother?”
“Yes, Mama, but being separated from my junk hurts too.”
In the irrational cold, Mia thinks nothing could compare to having her atlys taken away. But the sudden thud of her face hitting what feels like a brick wall hurts so much worse. Fighting against vicious wind, her eyes open to a whitewashed world. Through frigid tears, it appears more theater than reality, but the cold is too intense to be fake.
She peers across the tundra, her teeth chattering so hard she’s convinced they’ve broken. When she sees a metallic dome peek through the snowy gale, she automatically thinks it’s a mirage, but there’s something about the way the doorless structure shimmers that Mia finds familiar. She tries walking toward it, but her legs icily refuse. Her brain screams, bashing against her skull for escape while her veins splinter beneath her skin. As her other organs join the violent dance, Mia’s thoughts become garbled in her gazpacho mind—except for one:
GET WARM NOW.
Her hands tunnel through the snow, tossing it aside as she digs the hole she believes will save her life. Without a scrap of lucidity remaining, she digs for warmth like a zombie who believes human brains comprise the Earth’s core. She hits something solid and combs back the snow, her brain spending its last moment of clarity on the most painful sight of Mia’s life.
Mama’s face is blue-gray. Scales of frozen skin chip away when Mia wipes off the frost, giving her a glimpse of her imminent future. She wants to help Mama, to push warm air into her, but she has none to give. There is no helping Mama. There is no helping Mia.
When the second body in the tundra is still, the dome’s exterior shimmers again. A rectangular panel illuminates, and a woman’s face appears on the metallic skin. The eyes fix on the corpse, and the lips part, her voice ringing across the frozen dark.
“Time of death: 1600 hours, March 18th, 2099.”
No one regards the words with any importance. When the door opens, the face disappears, and two people emerge dressed in silver insulated suits. They grab the corpsicles and pull them through the drifts like sledges without riders. When the door closes behind them, the dome is a secret again.
For the time being, there is no more junk left out in the cold.
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About Jessica McHugh
Jessica McHugh is a novelist, poet, and internationally produced playwright running amok in the fields of horror, sci-fi, young adult, and wherever else her peculiar mind leads. She’s had eighteen books published in seven years, including her bizarro romp, “The Green Kangaroos,” her Post Mortem Press bestseller, “Rabbits in the Garden,” and her edgy YA series, “The Darla Decker Diaries.” More information on her published and forthcoming fiction can be found at JessicaMcHughBooks.com.