The war against the Octomonsters had dragged on for years and nearly everyone was sick to death of the chaos it wrought upon the people of earth. Food rations had even been reduced to ten ounces of squidmeal and two ounces of powdered milk per person per day; barely enough to keep a child fed.
“If my tax dollars are paying people to blast lasers at giant space octopi, I should at least get to eat a decent meal!” Hobart Wilkers growled as he picked at the unappetizing squidcake on his plate.
“Hobie, please!” Trudy hushed her husband. “The war might end any day; that’s what the television’s been saying!”
They turned their attention back to the TV to watch the daily totals creep across the screen: …..120,709 Earth casualties…… 309,450 Octomonster casualties.
“See Hobie?” Trudy squealed and clapped her hands. “We can’t call off the war now – we’re winning!”
Out in the Barrens there was no telling what might happen to a man between dusk and dawn; there had been recent reports of grisly deaths, and rumors eventually began to resurface about the Mutes, eliciting wide-spread panic.
Originally the name Mutes stood for Mutants – which is what people called the savage survivors of the nuclear winter that had wiped out the original cities of the Barrens many years ago – but because Mutes supposedly could not speak, the name took on a double meaning.
“If the Mutes are back we’re all done for!” Was the general cry of the Barrenites. “The only way we can survive is if we become them. We must all become Mutes!”
It took months for the only doctor in the Barrens to remove the vocal cords of all the citizens. But when it was done, the streets were as safe and silent as the grave.
The statue in the lobby of the Ministry of Sins gave Morgan the creeps. He tried to keep his head down as he scuttled past, but at the last second his eyes would inevitably snap toward it. It was the figure of a judge, and his cold granite gaze peered directly into the part of the brain where shame was stored.
The Minister had installed the statue in an attempt to stem the tide of sinning; however, it only seemed to curb the number of sins committed in the lobby, which were admittedly few to begin with.
That morning a woman walked in and Morgan watched as she wilted under the gaze of the judge. She blushed uncontrollably and made a break for the exit, but Ministry’s Sin Elimination Force immediately detained her.
“A guilty conscience doesn’t run.” The Adjudicator reminded her as she was led into the interrogation chambers.
The drop in temperature that night descended like an icy lunatic onto the city, and when Mia woke up the next morning, she could see her breath before she even turned on the light. She jumped out of bed, cursing, and threw a sweater and jeans on over her pajamas.
Mia turned on the radio and caught the tail end of the weather report.
“-the surviving meteorologists suspect that this cold front will be hanging around for quite some time!”
“Tell me something I don’t know!” Mia snapped.
After wrestling herself into her snow pants, Mia wrapped herself in an enormous parka, and opened the door. The arctic blast was staggering, but she held her ground, and bustled outside.
A mastodon herd had passed through the neighborhood, completely crushing her car, and leaving frozen excrement all over her yard. Mia was going to be late to work for sure.
Fathoms below the surface of the earth, Faith was eating breakfast inside Ecostation #38411. It was the first station equipped with TruSun™ and a Screenscape with season detector. For the fall, Faith had chosen a view of a wind-blown prairie, which looked ruddy and frosted that morning. She glanced around her cramped quarters, sipped her vitamin tea, and sighed. It was time to get to work.
Because of tragic failures in previous Ecostations, all applicants were now screened for mental abnormalities prior to acceptance. Faith kept her results hanging on the bathpod mirror: “Certified Normal”.
Faith tidied her sleep station, then crossed to her work area and put on her helmet.
“EC38411 Reporting.” A viewing screen descended.
“Good morning, EC38411. Please enjoy today’s selection of commercial advertisements. As always, you must rate each one from 1 to 5. The advertisements will automatically pause during meal hours, and then resume. Have a good day!”