A post-apocalyptic short story of revenge.
That was my name all right — Roulette. I reminded myself of that now. Nothing else remained of that identity.
Roulette — the only part that was still me.
Before all this, I had an identity. I was a whore. That was the only word we knew for it. I was in a stolen troop carrier driving into the unknown, a place I knew from words alone. I could never go back to my life. That identity was gone now, leaving an emptiness in me. We define ourselves with the facts of our life — a job, a place that’s home, and the people close to us. Without those sources of identity, I was a name and a face.
Staring out at the rubble on the side of the road made me feel alone. There wasn’t anything human out there for miles. A whole field of rubble went out into the distance, the shards of a destroyed civilization. A few highrises dotted the rubble afield. A post-apocalyptic existence didn’t give people opportunities. You did what you could get.
The smiling faces of my sisters made me happy. Excited chatter moved through the cabin of our liberated troop carrier. The uneven ground shook us. The rough sound of knobbed tires on gravel echoed around us. It was too late to turn back and go home. What we’d done was irrevocable.
It was revenge. That was all there was. Sometimes you want to be free just once and see justice done.
Did they have to kill our sister? Did they have to kill Jet in one of their petty games? And we weren’t supposed to do anything about it? We were supposed to shut up and take it like a million other things
It happened a few hours ago.
There I was under this muscular guard. Moans escaped my mouth. Sounds he had to hear for something I wasn’t feeling. It wasn’t working like it should. He chugged away like a train engine — rocking back and forth as he slid in and out. Sex was supposed to be great, but as a job, it wasn’t. I played along and faked the rest of the way.
The sweaty guy got off me. He was spent, and I still didn’t feel a thing. So many guys went through, they started to blend together. Remembering a face I’d seen for seconds and sacrificing a life for it wasn’t worth it.
The tat on his neck snatched away my breath. He was one of the guys that ruined Jet. The tat proved what I couldn’t any other way. Four guys were too much at once — Mother told them. We were theirs to take.
Jet wasn’t the same after. She couldn’t take it. She told them No the next time. That was enough. They shot her between the eyes.
I drew the sharp sticks in my hair — sharp after what happened to Jet. I turned to my lover for a kiss, and the pointy end went in his neck.
He spun away.
I jabbed it in deeper.
My feet were around his middle — he couldn’t escape.
He fell to the floor with me on his back.
I took the massive gun from his holster. My sisters reached the same conclusions I had. Four near dead men were in our home.
Their troop carrier was outside. Our folly was simple, killing men we shouldn’t have. Someone would come around, looking for the valuable equipment. They would find us, and all of us would die. We knew it would happen from the beginning. The price of revenge wasn’t too high. It was the lives of a few in an abysmal world. Lives didn’t mean much anymore with billions already lost and countless dying each day. After a while, loss became meaningless, maybe even a gift if used right.
Our life wasn’t happy. It was the plaything of the rich and powerful. They did what they wanted. We shut up and took it. I didn’t want to live and die that way. I wanted my life to mean something — anything at all — taking something instead of being taken.
All sisters — Daisy, Fen, Held, and me got into their troop carrier.
It was benches and screens on the inside and a shell with slits on the outside. A bench opened. The chemical smell of new rubber filled our heads. There were suits warped and twizzled into a scraggle of material that could stretch to any size — taught rubber on our bodies. I pulled the zipper down to feel the air on my chest. How could people breathe stuffed so tight in rubber?
There was nowhere we could have gone dressed like we had been, in clothes tattered from generations of use. We’d be spotted and gunned down on approach that way.
Their gun belts were too big, so they hung on at an angle. We had hours before anyone came looking for the troop carrier. They hid their tracks well to associate with us in the rubble. Our home drew power and sustenance from their business. Underground they went to find us in mazes of track.
Getting the map of the high rises around and the places we could do something more with our lives was easy. Mother made trades, our services for anything they had on them.
The troop carrier swerved around debris and rubble, sliding to a stop. With massive guns drawn, we walked out. The chill wasn’t severe in the warm rubber. There was the high rise — gilded green and gold. A barrier of plasma flew high into the sky to match. Rings of steel zigzagged in circles around.
We weren’t getting out the way we went in.
One guard had survived our revenge with raspy breaths. We’d pushed his hand against the screen inside the troop carrier for recruit badges. Held knew the computer every which way. That was enough. Getting him dead with another jab of a sharp stick, we’d taken the badges as points of steel in our thumbs. It didn’t hurt having those bits of steel implanted. It was just a dazzle of light.
We crossed barriers of steel and burning plasma. Walking through the steel doors and across the lobby, we entered a granite pillbox bank. The doors shut behind us. The short, mousy-haired teller behind the counter looked us over. The vault was on the opposite end. Held got on the terminal.
Fen drew guns too soon.
An auto-turret swung down and locked on.
My heart beat in my chest.
A thump and the shot fired — a scream from the teller.
Another thump and Fen fell to the floor.
Blood gushed from her stomach — too much blood.
Fen was my sister. I didn’t want to see the life wick away from her like I’d seen Jet’s. I didn’t want to bear witness.
I couldn’t bear witness again. It would break me in two, and then, everybody would die too.
Held took down the guns. The room blinked into darkness for a second. The doors behind us locked with a click. A gun was in my hand. Held hacked away at the terminal. Daisy had Fen’s head in her lap.
I pulled Daisy away and held her close to me. My gun went to Fen’s head, and a shot rang out. Our sweet young Fen was gone — to be no more.
I knew it was wrong to end her life seconds too soon for my own sake, but so much was wrong with our world.
Jet shouldn’t have died. Whores we shouldn’t have been. In that place, in those rubber suits, in that granite bank, we shouldn’t have been, but we were. Fen was dead. We all would be soon, and life couldn’t be lived that way.
The vault was behind us — the tiny teller in front of us. I took my gun and fired at him.
The small teller ducked. Glass shattered.
I pulled the mousy-haired teller over the counter to the floor.
“What kind of game is this?” His voice shook. We were a game to them, our lives were used and discarded like poker chips.
I didn’t want to turn and look at Fen. Nothing made sense now, but a few things came to mind. We had an out now. Held had the destruct trigger in hand to incinerate the troop carrier and the evidence of our crimes with it. The troops from the carrier were burned to cinders. This could all be explained away — a case of mistaken identity. We were on a job to realize a fetish, a fantasy of the mousy teller — sex with bank robbers. It would be easy to fuck Mr. Teller and become whores again.
I had to ignore the rotting corpse of Fen. That I couldn’t do. If she wasn’t dead, we would make it all go away.
There wasn’t an out now.
All the cards were played. The more we took control, the worse it became — fewer and fewer options. I dragged the impish teller across the bank and threw him at the vault. It scanned the biometrics of the teller I’d thrown at it.
He slumped to the floor, knocked out from my throw. The swinging door swept him aside. There was nothing inside.
Alarms blared. Held was at the terminal again.
Her body jerked around, sitting there by the wall, facing the terminal. Sparks went through her hair. Smoke wafted up. Her body was stiff. She didn’t slump. She didn’t relax. She froze.
Held was dead. Sweet Held, the smartest was no more. We didn’t have time to think. The auto-turrets fell from the ceiling and opened fire.
I pulled Daisy over the counter with me. The rubber suit slipped through my fingers. Daisy screamed as bullets cut her to pieces. The shots rang out after her screams ended. I shook. Tears rolled down my face. It was over. There was nothing left. The machinery of progress and survival of the richest chewed me up. There was nothing I could do hiding behind the stone counter. The bullets cut out, but the auto-turret spun with clacks.
The doors scraped open. Boots marched across the pillbox bank and identified bodies. Fen, Held, and Daisy wouldn’t have names without my confession. Mr. Teller was Michael Crawford. They shot him dead like he didn’t mean a thing.
Everyone was dead but me. Silent tears rolled down my face. That wasn’t supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to survive without them. We were supposed to die together, at the same time. I wanted to survive too bad, and I had. There wasn’t anything left for me. I put the gun in my mouth.
I couldn’t pull the trigger.
They found me.
A table was before me. The cool steel of the tabletop chilled my arms. My rubber suit was sticky and tight as ever. A crisscrossing web of iron was at my back, cutting the light falling across the table. The guard that hauled me away sat there before me.
“Name?” His deep voice echoed around my head.
“Really?” He was bored. I was the most interesting thing he had to deal with for a long time. Their defenses were impenetrable.
“Yeah, I fuck people for a meal. Got a problem with it?”
“How do you work up the attitude?”
I spit across the room. Good manners didn’t do favors in the rubble. It got you raped. I wasn’t a nice girl that got ruined. I was the corrupter.
“Good news, they want you upstairs.”
I let him talk at me for a while. That was all you could do sometimes. The privileged kept to their blather, ignorant of the matter at hand.
“I don’t know why they want you upstairs. My orders are clear. You’re not to be harmed.”
I could tell it wouldn’t be good. They wanted me whole. No one knew I existed. Everyone was dead. I’d seen the bodies as they took me away. It wasn’t good news — not good at all. Why did they want me? I couldn’t say, but it wouldn’t be good. Fear chewed at me.
After killing the guard in my bedroom a few hours back, I’d felt nothing. I still felt nothing, but fear was making a comeback. Feeling too much got you killed in the rubble. It took a lot for me to feel something. It was all too much now. I wanted it to end. The machinations of fate were too much. The unknown was before me, and I was scared as I should be.
“You must have something interesting under there.”
“There’s nothing. Trust me.”
“Mind if I take a look? Seeing as you’re in the business.”
He took hold of the cuffs between my hands, and they popped open. The door latched shut with a clang.
He held my throat up against the wall.
“Shut up.” He got the stick strapped to his back and held it to my throat, ready to deliver a shock to paralyze my throat, killing me.
I couldn’t breathe. Sputtering for air, black took over my vision. I couldn’t see, couldn’t speak.
He peeled back the rubber. His hands searched me. He was so strong, I couldn’t fight. His lips found mine.
My hands found his gun and grabbed on.
He pushed me against the webbed window.
I pressed the gun in my hands to the soft spot under my chin.
His hands locked onto the gun.
I pulled the trigger, and nothing happened.
He got the gun from me and threw my rubber suit at me.
Two guards in rubber suits held my arms. I walked between them, not wanting to make them angry — I didn’t want to get hurt again.
They took me through rusted hallways with bands of bright steel. We went around corners and up flights of steps. It made my head spin. The bright bands of steel grew into entire corridors and entire floors. We stopped at a set of gleaming doors. The doors slid aside to a tiny room with no windows.
The corridors had no windows either.
My burly guards and I got in the tiny room. The doors shut behind us.
I felt motion. My ears popped. The doors opened.
A tall, wide woman was waiting for us. Yellow light bathed the room. Sheer draperies hung about the place in place of doors. Light stone pillars supported a stone ceiling. Pillows and cushions were everywhere.
Padded furniture filled the rooms. It was like the pictures in books.
We didn’t see the sun anymore except there, like in the books. They handed me over to her.
The big woman took my arm. They left, and the doors shut.
I was a rag doll in the lady’s hands. She was so much bigger than me. She tapped a stick to my suit. The suit formed seams and peeled away. I held everything in place. The rubber blackened in my hands. She shoved me into a pool of warm water. The ash washed off my skin.
I did what she said — I didn’t want her angry with me.
“Dry.” She threw me a thick towel.
A clean smell covered me.
She tossed a sheer dress at me. I put it on. Nothing would be left to the imagination. It was long and joined in the middle with magic where the ends met. She threw me into a chair.
My hair lengthened by a stick she waved across my head. She swirled my hair around and stuck it in place with sharp pins.
“The Prince needs a compatible host and mother for his offspring. That’s you. Aren’t we lucky, dear girl?”
I spit across the room. It wasn’t a bad thing in the rubble.
She grabbed my cheeks, making my lips open like a fish. “Cut that out, dear.” She pressed a pin on her ample bosom. Pain radiated from the pins in my hair. I screamed in agony until it stopped.
She took me from that room through others to a room with a gilded cage swinging from the ceiling. She dragged over a stool. The cage door swung open.
I wasn’t going in there.
“Step up, dear.”
I shook my head.
Electricity arched over me.
I cried out, but goddammit I wasn’t going in.
She shoved me.
I fell against the steps.
“Up you go.”
The electricity surged again. I cried there on the top step.
Then my legs moved. I couldn’t stop it. My body stood up and ascended the steps. The gilded cage shut with a twang.
She left me. I was there for hours and hours. A plate piled high with food was within my reach and a jug of wine. I sat on the floor. The wind blew through the room. It was warm against my skin. The sheer fabric blocked nothing. I felt in my hair for the pins. I took a hold and pulled. My fingers tingled painfully. I took a piece of hard bread and put it between my teeth.
No one could hear me scream. That matron would rush in and zap me.
I pulled the pin free, screaming into the hard bread. Tears flowed down my face. The taste of metal filled my mouth. Then, it stopped.
I stuck the freed pin into the lock of my gilded cage. Then, pulling another pin arced electricity through the pin in the lock, making the door spring open. I jumped down from the cage. The dress bound my feet together too tight. I ripped off the front in a wide strip. I went in the direction of the breeze. It led to an archway and a long strip of stone sticking out into midair.
I walked to the end and looked out below. Green stretched out far and wide, and gleaming glass towers rose up miles under my feet. It was the world before.
Before the rubble, before the disaster, before everything went wrong — before.
My life was over. I wouldn’t be the Prince’s concubine. He would impregnate me in the way all men wanted me. I would bear his son or daughter. If a daughter, the whole thing would repeat.
If I struggled, if I refused him, if I didn’t eat — they would take control and force me.
My life was over.
They wouldn’t have control. I took a step and floated away to peace — my death at last.