They Shoot Horses – Part 3

Here’s part three of this dystopian short story.  If you missed parts one and two then scroll down to find them.  And please leave me your comments below.

I drift off for a moment in the quiet – but then a shout wakes me up: we’re moving again, and if I don’t shift I’ll lose my place. I walk a dozen paces and now I’m in sight of a Screen once more: with a sigh I put my case down and sit on it. I finish my sandwiches and lob the wrapper at the nearest rubbish-chute. We stay here for a long time: I’m tired, but even closing my eyes feels like a rare privilege.

Soon it’ll be dark. The evenings are the worst time – during the day you can kid yourself that life has some kind of purpose and that you’re headed somewhere, albeit slowly and painfully. But the evenings are when I miss home the most; I miss my kitchen and my living-room and my cat. I wonder who’s living there now. I hope they’re looking after the place. I miss my friends, too. Sometimes I look at the stray cats who scavenge in our rubbish-chutes, and my heart contracts. I would give them my scraps but if you get caught, they throw you out and shoot the cat for good measure. Stray pets are vermin now.

Feeling bored, I take out my phone to have a quick peek. 3 new calls, it says – and I feel suddenly happy. In the end, it’s those small things that keep you going. But I must save this treat for later: so I put the phone away and glance up at the sky. It’s dusk now, and tinged with an echo of sunset. As soon as it’s properly dark the queue will stop; and then I’ll look at my messages.

Sometimes I pretend that dinner is a three-course meal with wine: some days I dream up a whole menu and imagine the security guards are waiters and I’m snapping my fingers at the nearest one and saying ‘A bottle of the ’42 Merlot!’ Then I find my neighbour staring at me, wondering why I’m chuckling. In reality dinner is another pack of damp sandwiches. After dinner I have my treat of the day; a cup of cocoa from the vendors. It’s not as good as the stuff I could get from a Q-runner, but it’s not bad. I never could go to sleep without a hot drink.

Everyone’s glancing up at the flickering street-lights. When they come on properly we’ll stop moving; then the shouting will start, as those that can afford it yell for a Q-runner to sleep here while they go home. It’s not cheap, but at least they can sleep in their own beds.

I wish I could.