A Carefully Ordered Life
Hannah was terrified. She held her unnamed newborn son tight. Hannah didn’t have the heart to name him until she knew if he would survive. There was nothing wrong with him except that he was born under a population restriction. His conception occurred before the destruction of the Old World, but she was unsure that it mattered. Those who survived the holocaust became sex fiends in trying to repopulate the now barren world. Every fertile female was pregnant and thus, the government imposed the inhumane restriction. The number of infanticides grew faster than the bellies did; some died in utero, but most died after birth.
“What if we don’t get the painting?” She said, adjusting her position in the hospital bed. Art imposed the order of life these days. No life existed without a painting.
“We’ll run as fast as we can and hide in the mountains,” Jack said. Jack took on the responsibility of Hannah and the baby when his brother, the baby’s father, died. It was no small task, but he took it on willingly. Hannah’s beauty inside and out touched his heart and made it easier.
“They’ll find us eventually.” Tears misted her vision, creating two Jacks where only one stood.
“Then we’ll run some more.”
“That’s no life for a child.” The tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks. Jack sat on the bed beside her and wrapped an arm around her. He studied the sleeping baby before responding.
“It’s better than no life at all.”
Hannah closed her eyes and exhaled. She let the vision of them running flicker through her mind for a few moments. She pictured the scarce vegetation, even in the mountains. She envisioned the sickness from the poisoned streams, and the danger from the madness of the mutated and hungry animals. In everything she saw, there was an absence of hope.
“There’s no survival out there, Jack. The radiation destroyed everything. We’d never last one night out there, let alone with a baby. No.” She lowered her voice to a whisper as the tapping of heels in the hallway reached her ears. “We’ll have to fight. If they take him, they’ll have to take me, too.”
Jack squeezed her tight. “Then I’ll fight with you. We’re in this together,” he said, matching her tone with a church whisper. The hallway was quiet again. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
The gentle stomp of rubber soles on linoleum flooring stopped outside her door and knuckles rapped on her door before it opened. A man dressed in all black with scars decorating his face stood in the opening with a smile.
“Hannah Jones? My name is Noah Achors. I am here from the National Reproduction Society in regards to the birth of your son.” He sounded as sinister as he looked. He moved towards the bed and extended his hand. Hannah shook it warily.
“Yes, I am she.” Her voice trembled against her will. Jack squeezed her again in reassurance. “This is Jack Fay.”
Noah smiled again and let his eyes fall on the baby. “What a beautiful child. Have you decided on a name yet?”
“No. I was…” Hannah let her eyes fall to the floor. “I was waiting.”
“That was a smart move. Miss Jones, I’m afraid I have some news to share with you.” The ominous tones of his words were not lost on Hannah.
“I won’t let you take him!” The words spat from her mouth before she could stop them. Noah stepped back from the bed.
“You must let me do what I came to do. You will all die if you don’t.”
“Death is better than life without him. We won’t give him up without a fight!”
“Perhaps you should practice silence while I share the news before I change my mind!” Noah’s face had turned purple in the exchange, making the scars on his face pop out like scarlet ribbons. Hannah opened her mouth to protest, but Jack held out his hand to stop her. Noah’s complexion returned to its pasty white state and he continued. “It is good that you haven’t named the child because the state has bestowed a painting on him. Engraved on the bottom you’ll find his name, and the art reveals his destiny.” A myriad of emotions crossed Hannah’s face and gave him pause. He touched her arm with his hand. “It might not be what you’d choose for him. It might not be what he’d choose for himself, but it is a life, and a good one at that. His father died a hero and his life is reward for his father’s bravery.”
Another man dressed in all black entered the room carrying the painting. He passed it to Noah and exited. Noah held it at arm’s length, its image hidden from the couple on the bed, and sighed.
“It is a good rendition,” he said. He turned the painting around so they could see it. Hannah gasped at the visage of a handsome brunette with crystalline eyes dressed in all black. Her eyes soaked in the images of the background, all revealing different parts of his life in orderly detail from this moment in the hospital to the last moment in the coffin, his face wizened and his hair grey. Hannah groaned in horror at the lot cast for her son’s life. Noah smiled again.
“Congratulations, Miss Jones,” he said as he left the room.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with “Art imposes order on life, but how much more art will there be?” -Bob Dylan” and I challenged Tara Roberts with “‘The night was calm and the wind was quiet that night.’ was how Tillie always started her story of the events that happened at the harbor that fateful night.”
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