Fortress. Short Story.

Helen pulled back the curtain and peered out onto the street. There was no one out there. At least, no one that she could see. She let the curtain fall back into place and opened her fridge. She would need to stock up on more food soon, but for now she was fine. Helen jumped as something crashed outside. There was yelling, though she couldn’t make out what they were screaming about. She moved back towards the window, moving slowly. Once there she peeked out again. Two men were walking down the street, they seemed to be yelling at each other. A woman was walking a few feet ahead of them, head down and weaving as she walked. Drunks. The lot of them. There was another smash, this time she saw it, the beer bottle glittering in the streetlight as it arced upwards. The woman stopped walking, turned around and Helen got a good look at her. She wasn’t less of a woman and more of a girl, looked all of about sixteen. The girl yelled something at them, then stormed off. One of the men started after her, but the other stopped him. The girl disappeared from view. The men stood talking for a few minutes before setting off in her direction. Helen wondered if she should call the police. No. Let them sort it out themselves. She didn’t want to get involved. It would be such a hassle if she did, they’d want a statement and she didn’t really see anything after all, all she knew was they were drunk. The girl could be of age for all she knew. She let the curtain fall back into place. Besides, she didn’t seem scared or anything, she had plenty of time to run away if that was the case. Yes. It was better to just leave them off.

Helen uncovered the TV and sat down. It was time for the news, and it was important to keep up with those things. Even if they were lies, it helped her sift out the truth. She watched as images flashed across the screen, scenes of violence and war. It was all terrible, but she knew that wasn’t the real danger. They were hiding something and she knew it, why else would they focus on death and murder so much? Obviously because there was something out there that was much, much worse. She didn’t like how the newscasters made eye contact with her through out the broadcast. They knew she was watching and they kept giving her subtle smirks. No one else would notice, but why would they? They were meant for her.

Once the news was finished she unplugged her TV and threw the blanket over it. It wasn’t one of those smart TVs, it was just a plain old TV she had for years, but she knew they were watching her. It could receive picture and sound, so it stood to reason it could send it back just as easily. She didn’t mind so much, she didn’t really talk so there was nothing to overhear, so she just covered it all with the blanket so they couldn’t see either. After all, she was a woman and she needed to keep her modesty. Not that she strutted around her apartment nude, mind you. It just seemed a prudent precaution.

She took a book from her bookshelf and started to read. Soon it would be time for her to note down the things she had seen, but for now she had free time. She used to have a computer, but she got rid of it when she realised how easy it was for them to spy on everything she was doing. Of course it all went into the mass void where everyone else was too, but why risk it? They had no reason to pay attention to her, but she knew how these things went. She was a woman who lived alone and had very little contact with people. She could disappear very easily and no one would notice and if they did, well, they wouldn’t care. Her family were dead or avoiding her. They wouldn’t notice. She didn’t have friends. They would come for her, use her in their experiments, conduct their testing then throw away her corpse. She knew there were many people out there, they had a great selection, but it just seemed prudent to remove herself from the pool of candidates as much as possible.

When Helen finished her reading she took out her current journal and started to write in it, short hand and brief. She never looked over past journals, but it seemed like a good idea to keep a record of things. Perhaps if they did come for her they’d realise how much of an asset she could be. After all, she was perceptive and she had figured out who their agents were, how they monitored people. Someone like her could be of use. If they came for her she would still have a chance, however small, to convince them of that and the journals were just written proof. She didn’t particularly want to work for them, but if the choices were that or death, she knew which one she’d choose.

Once she was done filling in her journal she checked the food supplies again. She had enough stocked for three months if anything happened. There was no harm in making sure she wouldn’t be left without food. She made sure everything was still sealed and made sure the perishables were in date. After that Helen started making herself dinner. It was an easy affair, pasta with a meat sauce. After Dinner she carefully packaged up the leftovers and placed them in the fridge, they would do her for dinner for the next few nights.

With everything done she double checked all her windows and doors to make sure they were locked. At each window she pulled back the curtain, checked the lock and peered outside at the street below, making sure that everything was ok. With that done she sat down again with her book and started to read. She would have an hour of reading, then an hour of observing the streets outside before bed. She smiled to herself, today had been a good day.

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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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