Read Pipe Dreams Online

Authors: Destiny Allison

Pipe Dreams

BOOK: Pipe Dreams
9.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

P I P E  D R E A M S

Destiny Allison

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pipe Dreams

Copyright © 2013 by Destiny Allison

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

ISBN-13: 978-0615823744

ISBN-10: 0615823742

 

Kindle Edition

 

 

 

 

To Steve, Kyle, Seth, and Luke. You are my world.

 

 

 

 

 

P
ROLOGUE

 

 

O
n the day the rebellion
was finally quelled, Vanessa Kovalic emerged from her grandmother’s apartment and joined other survivors on the street. Tacked to every tree and taped to streetlights, storefronts, and abandoned cars was a flyer printed on a single sheet of white paper. It read:

 

THE BULLETIN

Edenton
, New York         Volume 1, Issue 1

Where ther
e is no need, there is no greed

 

Citizens of Edenton, before we lost all communications, we learned rebels on the mainland released a bio-weapon. Known as the Blue Flu, the weapon is wreaking havoc and millions of our brethren are dying. Through God’s grace, we have been spared and may be the last hope for humanity.

We advise you to stay away from birds as they are potential carriers of the Blue Flu. We are under absolute quarantine. No one may come ashore or leave the island. Arrangements have been made to supply the city and keep it safe.

In response to the rebellion – staged by members of the People’s Protest – and the effects of the Blue Flu on the mainland, a new government has been formed. Under its guidance, we will implement a New Social Order. Together, we will eradicate greed and ensure equality. From the ashes, we will build a society free from strife.

All citizens are required to work. Managers will assign jobs based on prior experience. The managers are our drivers, for they will steer us where we need to go. Workers, united as equals regardless of race or gender, will be provided with food, clothing, and other necessities. Those who fail to report immediately, work, or comply with the new mandates will be cast out. The Fallen will not share our resources or benefit from our protection.

Finally, law enforcement departments have merged. They will be housed under one roof, known as the Watch Tower. Watchers are establishing a safe zone so workers can perform their duties unmolested. Families and married couples may petition to relocate inside the Zone.

Join us in praying for our fellow man in these sad times. With God
’s help and yours, we will overcome the challenges ahead.

 

The Administration

 

Vanessa’s mouth fell open and she paled. Young, frightened, and unsure, she followed the crowd through silent streets toward the new sorting office. The staggered progression was like a funeral procession, only no one shed tears for the dead.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

Morning was a small mercy.
At the window, Vanessa pulled a few dry crumbs of cooked, ground beef from her pocket. Lint covered and rank with garlic, they were a treasure. On the fire escape, the scrawny, gray cat meowed as he picked his way across the metal grate. Just out of reach, he stopped, swishing his tail.

“Here kitty. Here Hercules. Come on, boy,” she called. Her efforts to coax him closer were futile. Until recently, she hadn
’t liked cats. Aloof, unresponsive, and arrogant, they had irked her. Now, she hungered for the warmth of his tiny, scabbed body in her arms.

He meowed again. Not wishing to prolong his agony, Vanessa dropped the meat onto the ledge and stepped back. Hercules pounced. Then, without a glance in her direction, he disappeared. Wistfully, she closed the window, twisted her abundant, auburn hair into a bun, and hurried out the door to savor a few, precious minutes in the park. Between the buildings, a shaft of sunlight cut the shadows on the street like a knife. Soon, pigeons would crowd the square and the callers would begin their chants. Vanessa shuddered. The callers were like her nightmares; a daily reminder of a life lived in fear.

At this hour, the park was empty. Tall trees towered above her. Their leaves shimmered in the early light. She settled on her favorite bench near the edge of the concrete square, opened her arms to the sky, and took a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth, ocean breaths.

Did she still remember yoga?  Had they gone for coffee, laughing and gossiping after class?  Did she gather with her girlfriends to share tragedies that seemed important then?  She rolled her head and closed her eyes. The sun warmed her bare neck. Stilling her mind, she imagined her grandfather
’s face. Rich with wrinkles and erratic hairs, it was her totem. He had died years before the rebellion, but she carried his memory like a prayer. He, too, had survived a holocaust. Perhaps she would also live to rejoice in life. Thinking of him, she whispered her daily mantra. “Let them come. Please god, let them come. I’ve earned my vengeance.”

Something brushed her ankle. Jerking her leg away from whatever slithering thing had braved the morning, she slapped the pavement with her purse. Nothing moved and she dared a glance beneath her. Amidst dead and rotting leaves, an arm was barely visible. Vanessa startled, but did not scream. She didn
’t need to rouse the callers from their dirty sleep. She just needed to leave. As she began to walk away, a tiny voice scratched out a noise that sounded horribly like, “Please.” Vanessa froze. In the silence that followed, there was no voice, no wind, no movement. The hushed world waited, as if everything would take its cue from her.

She peered beneath the bench. The girl
’s naked body was thin, the kind of thin people protested about before protests didn’t matter anymore. In those days, her pale skin and prominent bones would have been envied. Had she known proms and boyfriends, or gone to high school with a ponytail hanging river-sleek down her narrow back, the girl would have been beautiful. Instead she had learned to dumpster dive and cook rats.  Born a fraction too late, she was just another street waif, a barely living legacy of human greed.

As instructed, Vanessa avoided the Fallen and their children on her way to and from work. They were the outcasts, the undesirables. By refusing to comply with the mandates, they had been relegated to the streets, fending for themselves without benefit of food, electricity, or other conveniences. The drivers, smug in their management positions, cautioned against them, warning of theft, disease, and other unsavory possibilities. Had they been warning against something else, something worse?  Part of her suspected their horrors paled in comparison with her own.

“Please,” the girl said again, her small voice a cold hand on Vanessa’s throat. In the empty park, a piece of trash tumbled across the square. A bird landed in a tree. Warily, she squatted and pulled a wet leaf from the girl’s pale face. One of her eyes was blackened. Dried blood clung to the corner of her mouth. Bruises colored her shoulders and neck. Vanessa could not avert her eyes. They were drawn to nipples, raw and red. Welts peppered the girl’s belly. Her thighs were pressed close together and, around one ankle, a pair of dirty panties hung crusty and stiff.

Vanessa turned her head. In the square, pigeons wobbled this way and that in search of crumbs long gone. The sun lit the windows above the vacant shops. Her bus would be here soon. If she missed it, her driver would leer and offer her an exchange. The memory of his hairy hands, slick with sweat on her breasts, made her cringe. Each time he touched her she died a little more, but, in spite of the hurt, her heart still beat.

The girl whimpered. A tear trickled down her dirty face. How long had it been since Vanessa was so young?  Six years? A lifetime? The girl should have been sneaking out of the house, kissing a boy behind the stadium, and learning to drive. Vanessa hesitated. Though fed, she was not strong. She couldn’t drag the girl out and carry her anywhere. Compassion for the Fallen was forbidden and any effort on the girl’s behalf would not be forgiven.

Pushing a strand of blond hair as fine as spider web from the
girl’s battered face, she felt her own eyes welling. The girl moaned, but Vanessa had to go. The sun was rising. The callers were coming. Her driver was waiting. 

A call rang out from across the square. “Woo Weeeee!  Gonna be a fine one!”  Startled, she fell back, hitting the ground with a thump. The girl was well hidden under the bench and Vanessa had to move. She jumped to her feet and sprinted toward the bus stop, armed patrols, and normalcy.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

 

Tucked into the alley, his
dark skin blending with shadows, Jeremy cursed as Vanessa fled toward the imagined safety of her sterile world. Why hadn’t he told the callers to stay away? He tapped the tips of his teeth together, flicked a fly from his arm, and ambled over to the bench. Vanessa would stop to check on the girl on her way home. Of this, he was sure. She had lingered long enough to convince him of her compassion.

“Ashley, girl, come on out now. Can you move okay?” he said, bending to look at her.

“I’m okay, Jeremy. I’m sorry it didn’t work.” Ashley crawled out and brushed the dirt off her skin.

He offered her a coat and they walked slowly to the concealed entrance to their underground home. They had named it the Gate to please the children, but it wasn
’t a gate at all. Instead, the building’s brick façade was broken by a large crack that looked to have been badly patched with cement. Only the initiated knew the patch was an illusion.

“Go on, get in. Get warm. Mariah will have something for you,” Jeremy said.

“Aren’t you coming?” Ashley asked.

“I
’ve got work to do.”

“Can I come?”

“No. You’ve done enough. I must have lost my mind letting you lay out there like that.”

“It wasn
’t up to you.” Ashley’s wide, blue eyes flashed in her bruised face. Stubborn and insistent, her dog-with-a-bone tenacity brought out the worst in him. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and let out a breath.

“Ashley, you
’re getting old enough to know things. What you did today was dangerous. I need you to exercise some judgment. You could’ve been hurt.”

“I already am hurt, and I
’d do it again. If she hadn’t spooked, we’d of had her,” Ashley replied.

“Bullshit. You don
’t know that and neither do I. Girl, you’ve got a mouth as big as the moon. It’s time you learned how to close it.”

Ashley tightened her lips and squared her shoulders. Without another word, she wedged her thin body through the Gate.
When she was out of sight, Jeremy slouched against the brick, the strain of their exchange an extra weight. After a minute, he sniffed, pulled himself upright, and adjusted the brim of his ball cap. It wouldn’t do for people to see him slouching. As he turned toward the park, a voice rang out, loud and taunting. Narrowing his eyes, he watched Michael saunter into the light. Honey-colored and strong, Michael seemed to float over the ground as if some sweet song played inside him all the time His long dreadlocks framed a face at once gentle and razor sharp. As he approached, his smile faded.

“How
’d it go?” he asked, nodding toward the bench.

“It didn
’t.” Jeremy fingered his jacket sleeve and stared at the thin weeds poking through the cracked asphalt. The silence between them grew. After a minute, Michael focused his yellow-flecked eyes on Jeremy.

“What
’s up?” he asked.

“Nothing. Doesn
’t matter,” Jeremy said.

“You worryin
’ again?”

“Just leave it.” Jeremy looked away and Michael grinned, revealing big teeth and pink gums. His laugh, melodious and deep, swirled in a cloud around his head and sent a flock of birds flying.

“We’ll be okay, man. Shit, we’re always okay. We’ve got you, right?”

“Fuck you, Michael.”

“Damn, man, I’m just playin’.”

“Yeah, well I
’m not. Don’t you get it? I’m tired. Really, fucking tired. This shit’s got to give.”

Michael ground the tip of his shoe into a loose scattering of crumbled concrete and put his hands in his pockets. Looking up, his expression sobered.

“So what happened?” he asked.

“I don
’t know. Maybe if you’d waited before you started in, we might of had her. What the hell were you thinking?”

“Don
’t pull that shit with me, Jeremy. Just ’cause you’re all stoked on her like she’s some great salvation don’t mean she’s what you think she is. If she was gonna do it, my call wouldn’t have made a difference.” Michael’s eyes were marbles, hard and bright. Jeremy uncrossed his arms and cracked his neck.

“You sure about that?” he asked.

Michael shook his head and let out a slow breath. “Look, I’m doin’ my thing, you’re doin’ yours, so lay off.” 

Jeremy stared at the sky. It stretched like a bright, blue ribbon between the stained buildings in the alley. Mrs. Johnson used to hang her wash out the second story window where now the wind sucked a tattered curtain through a broken pane. Her aged arms had jiggled when she scolded Michael and him for not visiting more often. In a thin, print dress and flowered apron, she had enticed them with her juicy meatloaf and sweet tea. They were heaven compared with the microwave dinners they had eaten then. Gone like so many, he missed her. He rubbed his face and rolled his neck, banishing the memory.

“Okay. I’m sorry, man. We cool?” Jeremy asked.

“Yeah. We
’re cool. So what are you gonna do?”

“Keep following her, I guess. What else is there?”

“Yeah, I hear you.” Michael gestured to the park. “Well, I’d better get back at it.”

“Right. Can
’t let anyone know we’re not really bad-ass motherfuckers, can we?” Jeremy replied.  He smiled thinly as they slapped hands. Then Michael slid back into the shadows, the rhythm of his swagger in time with a rhyme.

 

 

BOOK: Pipe Dreams
9.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Killing Hitler by Roger Moorhouse
The Tied Man by McGowan, Tabitha
Whiplash by Yvie Towers
Shifting Positions by Jennifer Dellerman
Frederica by Georgette Heyer
Wicked by Cheryl Holt
Mr Forster's Fortune by Church, Lizzie
The Disappearing Friend Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner