This short story by me, Michele Roger was originally published at 365tomorrows.com on March 17, 2018. I'm offering it here, for free. Please, please comment and share if you enjoy it. Thanks
Just Like Dolls
by Michele Roger
I make the coffee in the French press like I do every morning. Then, I regret it by the time I reach the City Freezing Works. A doubled edged elixir, the coffee rouses me from bed and then inspires uninhibited vomiting but the time I reach downtown. I can’t blame it all on the coffee. The Freezing Works is a place of immeasurable hope and devastating despair. I want to find him. Yet, I pray that I will never come face to face with his waxy stare.
As I walk the six blocks downtown, I think of myself at his age and the comics that consumed me. The technicolor, paper end of the world glowed with an intense inferno of nuclear devastation. Who could have predicted that the actual apocalypse would have been so silent, lethal? Plausible deniability enrobes governments in a blanket of stoicism while they all point the finger at one another. It doesn’t matter who released the virus-infused nanotechnology. Humanity is dying in new and confounded ways.
There is a sound of suction as I push open the doors. The one-time car factory is now another world encased in ice. A light precipitation falls gently like snow from the ceiling as I show my ID to the guard. While his movements confirm that he’s alive, this place, this frozen hell shows the toll it has taken on his soul. His eyes are as lifeless as the bodies inside. The sound of him flicking the switch makes my stomach lurch again. I swallow the juices erupting to the top of my throat and the water flooding my mouth. This factory that once built a shining city and carried a nation befittingly showcases its dead. Just like dolls, its citizen’s faces frozen in time.
Wrapping my arms around myself in an attempt to physically hold myself together, I enter the side conveyor labeled the children’s section. I tremble from cold and fear as I gaze into each little face. I want to brush back the tattered hair in their eyes. I want to tell them their mother is coming. I want to lie to them and say it will all be okay. One by one, I confirm none of the milky eyes that stare up at me resemble my own. A part of me exhales. He’s out there, hiding like a good boy.
At the end of the month, the factory will re-route the factory conveyor belt. The line will not return to the industrial freezer. Instead, the corpses will travel to the other end of the building where the City has installed an incinerator. I wonder when I too will join the line. Who will be left to claim me? What will the nano-bots feast upon when none of us are left?