Muddling Through. Flash Fiction.

Diana shifted uncomfortably, the line was moving slowly and she’d been standing for hours. She shuffled forward slightly as the person ahead of her moved up. The line snaked back and forth on itself, with stained and rusting metal barriers corralling the crowd, the people in line didn’t speak for the most part, they stood in silence, reading or listening to music. Guards stood around idly, one or two rested their hands on the butt of their guns but most just looked bored. Overhead a plane screamed past, Diana’s heart jumped, her body telling her to run, but she, like everyone else in the line, ignored it. There hadn’t been an attack in months, but still that noise got to her. The man in front of her pulled a thermos out of his bag and unscrewed it, pouring himself a cup of watery looking tea. He caught her glance,
“Would you like some?”
Diana smiled, “No, thank you though.” She didn’t like tea, never had, but the offer meant more to her than anything. It was these little moments of kindness that reminded her they were all in it together, the entire human race was just trying to muddle through the best they could.

The line shuffled forward.

Diana looked up at the large posters around the square, faded and tattered they gently undulated in the light breeze. She remembered when those posters had been put up, when the words “We Will Defend our Planet!” actually inspired hope, when they thought they had a chance to win. Now she wasn’t so sure, the war had been raging but it didn’t seem as though there was any end in sight. The broadcasts boasted about victories and how they were keeping the lines together, but Diana wasn’t convinced. Her sister had lived near the border until a few months ago and she said that every day the aliens were pushing just a little bit further. There were also the rumours of conscription, no one seemed to know if it would happen or not but the rumours said anyone between the ages of 18 and 35 would be conscripted.

Diana could see the doors of the warehouse ahead of her, if anything it made the waiting worse, she was so close she could just about hear the people at the front chatting. She felt a spike of annoyance, why couldn’t they just get their shit and move on quickly? From somewhere at the back there was a shout, then another, Diana looked around but couldn’t see anything, a second later there was a loud gunshot. Diana ducked, as did everyone else in the crowd, then the armed guards started shouting it had been taken care of. Diana straightened up, probably just a scuffle over food, she was just glad it wasn’t bad enough for them to clear the square, they wouldn’t let you save your place in line when that happened.

Finally she was at the front, she handed over her list and tokens. The man behind the counter grabbed out two boxes, stacked on top of each other, then he vanished into the warehouse to grab a few things for her. She always hated waiting like this, she always felt guilty, like she was doing something wrong, the guards all eyed her suspiciously as she waited. The man returned a moment later and threw a few things into the boxes, “we were out of some of the items you requested, I’ve marked them on the list, if you’re here a bit earlier next time we might still have them.”
Diana bit her tongue, it wouldn’t do her any good to get into an argument and it wasn’t like he’d care that she’d been in line since six A.M. She grabbed the boxes, “Thanks.” and with that she left.

The walk home was the worst part, she always had a nagging fear that someone was going to attack her and steal her food, it hadn’t happened to her, yet, but it was happening to others. She walked with the boxes gripped tightly, her head down and shoulders slightly hunched. She walked quickly and didn’t make eye contact. This was always the worst part of her week. Up ahead was her building, at the door she pressed her side against the card scanner, it beeped as it registered the card in her pocket and the door clicked open. She pulled it the rest of the way and stepped inside. The lobby was small and dimly lit in the afternoon sun, the lifts weren’t running, they only worked for two half hour periods a day to save electricity. As the door clicked closed behind her she felt ehrself relax. Diana ignored the lifts and went into the stair well, she had wanted an apartment as high as possible when she first moved to the city, she wanted an impressive view, now she was happy she could only afford a place on the second floor.

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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