Friday, December 17, 2021

New Age Threat

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

birthday ~ cake ~ ice cream ~ candles ~ card

submitted by:

Another drop in flash fiction!

Another birthday in the trenches Marta thought, as she pulled on her boots and gear. She was on foraging duty today, birthday or not, and she really didn't have time for all the reflections playing in her mind like an apocalyptic montage, but they weren't likely to end any time soon either.
It honestly felt like one day things were normal and the next she was living in a commune of strangers who had to defend themselves and scavenge every little thing they needed for awhile.

It wasn't overnight. That was the trauma talking.

Things had been headed that way for a long time. The changes hit one after another and were accepted as the new normal just as quickly as they started. Deadly tornadoes, people in the south freezing to death in blizzards they were in no way prepared for, viruses, droughts, violent attacks over resources... The goalpost for normal moved as fast as the times, and people pretended there wasnt an old way of living to get back to anymore rather than choose the inconceivable notion of actually reducing our effect on the environment. No one could dare give up cars until there was no longer a safe interstate to drive on... And now thinking about a car seemed so ancient. Supply chains might as well have been as long ago as the Roman Empire at least in the sense that they had once existed. Bartering was definitely still a thing and trade routes had retaken the highways of yore. Everything old was new.

She shook the thoughts away as she packed her go bag making sure to stick a couple of the oatmeal cookies her partner Emily had baked for her as a gift. Homemade treats were still Marta's favorite declaration of love.

Every day a small group set out into the woods around them to get foods and items they couldn't make or hadn't yet grown on the land they occupied. The duties rotated between patrols and security, decision councils, foraging, repairs, medical, and tending the farm. Everyone learned how to do every job and everyone rotated by the week. Most shelf stable items and medical supplies had already been scavenged but once a month, the foraging group went to the trading post 10 miles north of their camp to get things in low supply at home like bandages and peroxide. And of course more ventilators. There were definitely still a few viruses to be wary of bringing back to the children who were born after The Crumbles and didn't have any natural immunity or vaccinations.

The group set out but quickly split up to cover more ground. Each person had to learn a distinct whistle or call in case of trouble so they could be found and rescued or warn the others to get out without actually revealing more folks were there. It felt safe. No the system wasn't foolproof but it had worked so far for years even with some close calls.

Why do I sort through all these memories I'd rather forget? she thought and got busy to escape her own brain.

She found a few huge chicken of the forest mushrooms, some puffballs, and a shitload of acorns. They didn't need the acorns for sustenance but they made a good treat for some of the animals in moderation. There were some wild onions and fennel for tea. Juniper for all sorts of uses they'd figured out over time including a few berries this year! She really wanted them to grow their own and maybe just maybe the berries would finally win out. She had a distillery set up already thanks to knowledge passed down from her dad and they often traded some crude corn whiskey and occasionally vodka at the post. But junipers meant gin... and gin would definitely fetch more in trading. She found some pecans that hadn't become the winter stock for the squirrels in the area yet and then moved on to another patch of the woods with a small stream so she could stop and eat one of her cookies. She could hear some of the group in the distance.

She lost herself in memories of Emily and how they met while she ate when something pink caught her eye across the stream.

What the fuck?

She got up, dusted herself free of crumbs and crossed over. It was flamboyantly pink--her actual favorite color and not olive drab as she joked with her new family--and she was just out here yesterday, and it definitely hasn't been there.

Hm. Maybe a surprise from her group? Maybe Emily had put them up to it?

She got a little closer and could see it was a rather large but flimsy box like the kind moderately expensive birthday cakes might come in. She missed birthday cake. And birthday cake flavored coffee. And ice cream. Ugh. Coffee ice cream.

She opened the box hoping for cake and getting mighty disappointed. There were 32 birthday candles that had once been lit and a card.

"To Rachel" it said in embellished almost calligraphy style writing. Her heart was pounding. Rachel had been her name before all this happened. She'd wanted a fresh start away from the life she lead in the before times. No one here knew that name and had no one of knowing. She was sure of it. She migrated pretty far from her actual home to get a fresh start at great risk just to leave all that behind.

She opened the envelope and card inside. It read, "are you going to tell them who you really are or am I?"

She looked up and around herself. Who could it be? A dead branch broke in the distance. She turned to look and went white with terror as a figure stepped from behind one of the trees in a full black jumpsuit and old school hockey mask like something straight out of a slasher film. She quickly crumpled the card and shoved it in her backpack and called frantically to the others as it (he?) turned and ran.

And she knew, in every fiber of her being, this wouldn't be the last time he would come around. It would never end. 

Some things really don't change.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

Wandering Web Designer

What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom


  1. You're eventually going to let us know who she is, right?

  2. Sounds like Rachel has been made 😱

  3. Yes! I need to know! You can't leave us like this, hopefully more to continue in the New Year! Happy Holidays!