The Not-People. Short Story.

The not-person carrying her heavy things stumbled slightly, she unthinkingly rushed forward to help, but by the time she reached them, they had regained their balance. She paused, realising what she had almost done and, blushing, she stood back and allowed them to continue. That was the problem with these not-people, not people, things. She shivered slightly, no one else seemed to have a problem with calling them things, no one but her.  No one could understand her discomfort, not really. They’d tell her the reasons why someone would be uncomfortable, but follow it up with something like “but they can’t feel it. They don’t know anything else. Are we supposed to just let them rot in the streets?” They had been around since she was a child, if not before, though her grandparents never discussed them and seemed to have a regal disdain for them. They reached the house and she stepped forward to open the door, standing aside to allow it to enter. The not-person walked through the doorway, “please, place them in the kitchen.” She waited until it stepped outside before entering the house herself. She didn’t want to get trapped with one. She placed the money in the open palm, carful not to touch it, then she gently, but firmly, closed the door. It stood there for a moment longer, then turned and went back the way they had come. She stood on the other side of the door, peering through the keyhole, making sure it had left. It just seemed so unseemly. The dead brought back as servants. Shaking her head she went into the kitchen to unpack her items.

Suzanne was an oddity, not just for her dislike for using the not-people, but also for the fact that she didn’t own any herself. No one could fathom why she wouldn’t buy a couple, they were cheap, plentiful and required little maintenance, which they took care of themselves. No one seemed to be discomforted by them or put off by the faint whiff of formaldehyde that always followed them. She didn’t quite know the mechanics of the things. Different people said different things. Some said that their bones were replaced by machinery, that they were just sophisticated robots, others said they had been brought back through a combinations of science and a hint of darker magic’s. She didn’t care how they were created, she was happy as long as her dealings with them were minimal.

There had been rumours lately, that there were groups who thought like she did, although their take on it was more extreme. They wanted equal rights for the not-people, breaks, payment, a name. She didn’t like them, but she wouldn’t go as far to say that they deserved any of that. She believed they deserved to rest. Most people unthinkingly allowed their bodies to be used this way, not her. As soon as she was legally eligible to become one, she had marched herself down to the local Offices Of Life and had her name struck from the lists. Children were not allowed to be used in such a way, unless it was under very, very special circumstances. She had heard stories of people bringing their children back and getting them to re-enact the last day of their child, or to just continue on living what ever life the child had before. Of course this was banned, but there were still rumours, there were always rumours. Like the supposed sex club where one could interact with the not-people on an…intimate basis. She didn’t like looking at the things, she didn’t know how people could stand letting themselves be touched by one in such intimate ways. Not that she would know anything about that of course. She was a spinster, an old maid, and quite happy with that. She didn’t want companionship, she wanted to be left alone with her thoughts and books. She wrote occasionally, though she believed it was terrible and would never admit doing any such thing to anyone. It was just a pleasant hobby. All her writings were stored in her desk. She would never show them to anyone, but she couldn’t bring herself to destroy them. She wished often that she had a more acceptable hobby, such as painting or playing an instrument, but not everyone could be so lucky.

Her favourite stories of late were the ones that depicted the living dead, she could see something in zombies that she saw in the not-people that worked. Though they were of course, much more docile. She had occasionally used the word to describe them, it didn’t feel disrespectable to her as the name fit, in the hopes that people would start using the moniker, but it never seemed to stick. They of course would barely remember the popularity of zombies all those years ago. Once the creatures had been created and put into public use, the creation and consumption of zombie material was carefully monitored. It wasn’t removed or destroyed, but people were carefully guided away from such things until it remained nothing but a vague memory. Most of the time whenever she mentioned a zombie, someone would ask if those were the things that ate people, few ever connected that a zombie was once a person themselves.

Suzanne had unpacked her things with little fuss, even though it was just herself in the house, she failed to understand why someone would need one of those things as a servant. How difficult was it really to cook or clean? She managed just fine. She sat in her little room, where she came to think and read and write, and looked out the window. Watching as they walked by. Not just the not-people, but the people too. How difficult it was to tell them apart from such a little distance. Sure the not-people moved in a slightly jerky manner and they were, for the most part, the only ones carrying anything, but from here ,they all looked the same. There was a loud crash as one of the not-people dropped what ever they were carrying, their owner started shouting, it was hard to hear through the window, but Suzanne suspected it was about how much the item had cost. Not that it would do the man any good, the not-people weren’t paid wages, nothing could be docked, there could be no real punishment. The not-person stood, head bowed, taking the yelling stoically. The man seemed to run out of steam, looking dejectedly at the remains of his packages. The not-person raised their head, it was tilted slightly to the side, then it started to walk off. The man called after it in rage, but it didn’t hear him. It just kept walking. A crowd of people and not-people had gathered around the angry man, one by one the not-people dropped what ever they were carrying and began to walk after the first one. Soon the street was littered with packages and people, standing gawping at the not-people that passed them by. One person started to follow when another put their hand on their shoulder, pulling them back. Suzanne stood from her desk and went outside, the people were looking around nervously, muttering to one another. Suzanne, never one to stand around gawking, looked for the nearest not-person and began to follow them.

She walked for almost an hour before they reached their destination, through out the journey she had only seen one other regular person, everyone else had stayed away. The not-people marched down towards the stadium, filling it past capacity, they stood in lines, taking up as much space as possibly, filling the pitch and the stands. There was a small stage in the centre, Suzanne couldn’t quite make out the person standing there. The speakers crackled at they came to life. “Spread the word. You’re free.” The messenger repeated it over and over again, the not-people looked confused, a low rumble started at the front and spread to the back, the rumbled changed tone from confusion to euphoria, the crowds of not-people started to cheer, the noise was deafening. Suzanne was stunned, she didn’t even know they could talk.

The not people were filing out, Suzanne amongst them, but they didn’t seem to notice her. They spoke to one another, making strange and guttural sounds, Suzanne allowed herself to be directed by the crowd, infected by the enthusiasm. The crowd of not-people stopped, there was another crowd in front of them, this one yelling, angry. Suzanne looked and saw her friends, neighbours, all shouting and screaming. They surged forward, ready to attack, Suzanne and the not-people stood stunned for a moment, then as one, they too surged forward. Suzanne fought against the crowd, pushing and shoving to escape, but there were too many of them, all around her, pulling her back, corralling her.

The noise had died away, now there was just silence. It seemed so complete. Suzanne moved slowly up the stairs, she had found a small place to hide and she stayed there until she thought it was safe. The street above was littered with bodies, she couldn’t tell who had been the people and who were once the not-people. Shaking and pale, she stepped over the bodies, a new day had begun and with it, came many great changes.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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