The After-Web: Rebuilding

Below is some exploratory scifi fiction writing I did in college. The premise is survival in a dystopian world, years after a global crisis that centered on the internet itself beginning to entrap and kill those using it:

My heart pounding in my throat already, I can’t stop to catch a breath, I have to keep moving; if they catch me, that will be the end of ‘me.’ Weaving through the abandoned ruins, I must leap over the various corroded remnants of a world too quickly forgotten: a tricycle covered in overgrown plans, the decaying corpse of a wild dog, the rusted out fender of a once glorious Mercedes – nothing but trash getting in the way of my escape. Fortunately, I’ve had some practice at this; I know where I’m going.

     I duck through the broken window of one abandoned home and wait to watch the patrols rush by through another murky pane. This deep into the Dumperbs it would be hard for their hounds to catch my scent amongst the decay, especially if I round back. I sat breathing for a moment before I knew it was clear to get going again. I took a quick glance around, ‘no relics here,’ and was off.

     In the past eight years running has become the ideal form of transportation, if by ideal you’re taking into account the lack of ‘man-power’ to keep oil and gas pumping and cars moving as well as the fact that the Old World Decay made it difficult to bike. I was the fastest runner I knew. Of course, I used to only be able to compare myself to Grandma which made it easy. After she died I had to venture out into the world and soon my talents were tested against the other Bitch Brats. Taylor was the only one who could keep up, but somehow I still managed to pull ahead at the last second and beat her in every race. Running had become a way of life. We ran from the wild dogs, we ran from the patrols, and we ran for fun – I guess really, running had become the way of life for us.

     I quickly found the stash of relics I’d hidden in the debris and started back towards our Shelter. From the outside in it didn’t look like much – in fact, it looked just like everything else: horrible, decrepit, disgusting – but that was the point. It began with one home where we’d found a secret living space in the basement and over the course of the last 7 years together, the Bitch Brats had created an underground palace. Aside from running and finding relics, digging to expand our fortress was really the only other thing we could do to occupy our time. We’d even managed to connect to another home that had a large greenhouse and huge privacy fence; the fresh food at our table rivaled that of the Global Jury.

     It was different the first four years or so, everyone was still scared enough to mind their own business. We would go to the supermarkets and stores, to the abandoned homes in the area – where ever we thought we might find something we’d need – and just take stuff. No harm, no foul. That was before the Global Jury made looting illegal again.

     They claim it’s for our safety, but we’ve been getting along just fine; we don’t need their compound and rules to survive. So what if they want to reestablish ‘civilization,’ they certainly didn’t ask us. How the hell does some random group of women get the idea that they can just take control anyway? Granted, we Bitch Brats take control, but of ourselves… and only others if they happen to threaten our way of life.

     Once I made it through our booby-trap-esque security system I breathed a sigh of relief to be home again,

“Ladies, I’m home!”

     I let out a long billowing howl and waited not long before I could hear their replies through the corridors, Taylor was of course the first to reach my side,

“Elisa!”

     She exclaimed as she plowed into my side, nearly knocking me and my bounty onto the ground. I’d only been gone for a couple hours, but since our ranks had been picked off one by one until it was just us four, we no longer took any homecoming for granted.

“Oh hey Tay-Tay!”

     I let out a growl and playfully bit her ear. I could hear Tracy and Alleah in the corridor approaching fast and looked back up just in time to see their crazed smiles approaching full speed,

“Leelee!”

     They cried in unison and as they hit me and Taylor, we all went down together. Hitting the ground we laughed and rolled until I remembered what I had found in the Dumperbs,

“WAIT!”

     We all froze,

“What is it Leelee?”

     Alleah, the youngest and sweetest of us all asked sheepishly, her curious eyes already wondering toward my satchel.

“Don’t be mad…”

     I began and the girls immediately scattered,

“NO!”

     Taylor looked at me enraged, the other two clamored behind her terrified.

“It’s no big deal, it doesn’t even work…”

     I tried pushing a dust-packed power button again to no avail.

“Get it out of here, this isn’t ok!”

     Taylor looked as if she were going to burst a blood vessel.

“Are you going to take it out of here?”

     I asked deviously; I knew that none of them would touch anything that could potentially access the internet.

“Are you kidding me?! If you don’t get it out of here I’m going to beat you!”

     Tay was fuming now, but I didn’t care – she might be older, but I was the clever one.

“What then? You’re going to take it out of here after I’m bruised and bloodied?”

     I smiled slightly, I didn’t want her to get too mad but I couldn’t help it.

“Seriously, I am going to kill you!”

     She stomped away, the other two close behind.  Alleah turning her head just before rounding the main corridor. ‘Whatever… it can’t hurt me if I don’t turn it on…’ I turned the old smartphone around in my hands and sat staring at it – had I not pried it from a skeleton’s bony grip I would have never believed that this tiny device had killed someone… ‘But how?!’ Even if I wanted to mess around with it I couldn’t; it was eight years old, the battery had corroded and the screen cracked from the climate. ‘It’s harmless’ I thought and I shoved it back into my satchel.

I picked myself up and dusted off. I would go put the contraband in my cave before dinner – lord knows I’d be a dead woman if I tried to show it to them. I put it high up on my rock shelf, you couldn’t even see it if you weren’t looking. ‘Why do I even bother?’


     In the main cavern the girls were slow to set out the dinnerware; I could hear Taylor in the kitchen banging anything she got her hands on. I glanced at Tracy and she dodged my eyes; Alleah smiled and then seemed to remember she wasn’t happy and quickly turned away too. I walked past them both unconcerned.

“Taylor, you have to talk to me… Tay. Tay!”

“What?!”

     She turned from our water basin and I was surprised to see tears in her eyes. Taylor was tough; as the oldest I suppose she felt she had to be.

“Taylor, it’s dead. It’s not going to hurt us.”

“It’s not that… I know… It’s just…”

     She turned away again. I went up behind her and wrapped her in my arms tightly. I whispered in her ear,

“What is it Tay?”

“I was grounded… I- I wasn’t allowed to have my phone… that’s – that’s the only reason I didn’t die with the rest of my family… I just…”

     I released my squeeze enough that she could turn toward me; she wiped her face and took a deep breath,”

“Stupid huh?”

     I wiped the last stray tear and smiled,

“You?! Never!”

     We both shared a giggle.

“Look, I’m sorry… I’ll never mention it or anything like it again… I don’t even know why I took it…”

     I began but she soon interrupted,

“No, no… it’s fine… like you said, it’s dead right?! Why should we give it anymore of our lives than it’s already taken? Do what you want with it… next time though…”

     She trailed off,

“Yes Tay?”

     I encouraged,

“Next time bring me one… I want to destroy it!”

     I’d never seen such hate in a person’s eyes.

“Otay Tay, you got it.”

     I squeezed her arm. With that we grabbed the rest of the necessities for dinner and went to join the other girls.

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