It was early Saturday evening having spent the afternoon at Shane's, sitting by the fire and playing cards. The main topic of conversation, as it had been for the past couple of weeks was the abduction of Mary and the kids. Hannah more than a little obsessed with what happened. Mostly due to nobody was talking about it since the house had been razed to the ground. Hannah tried in vain to speak to the neighbours. Had the heard a van outside the house before the fire, where had the family's bodies been taken too and other such questions. Every one of them was met by silence and suspicion, so she stopped asking.
Shane never doubted what Hannah had seen and heard, but he was scared. Similar stories were often traded in hushed conversations at work. If you believed or worried about everything you saw or heard you would never be able to sleep. He knew they traded in fear to keep his sort in line, but most of all they used neighbour against neighbour to keep them under control. He was glad Hannah had stopped asking questions. Someone would have sold her out eventually.
An hour before curfew, he walked Hannah home and stayed with her until her parents came home from work. Since the fire she hadn't wanted to be in the house on her own. Tonight, she'd seemed sadder and more preoccupied than ever. He just didn't know how to make her feel better.
Arriving home, just before the curfew alarm sounded, he was greeted by his mother in the hall.
"You keep cutting it too fine, Shane."
"I had plenty of time, mum."
"How many times do I have to tell you, that if they see you out after curfew, they won't be bothered listening to your excuses. They will shoot you in sight."
He moved forward and hugged his mother. "You worry too much."
She kissed his cheek. "You make me worry too much- you and your father. Going around acting like the rules and curfews don't apply to you." She squeezed him tightly.
"What's for dinner?" he asked, trying to distract her.
"Stew again. I managed to get some beef at the market. It was a bit ropey, but I've cooked it long and slow so it should be good. The queues were longer today, than ever."
"Mum, your food is always good". He followed his mother into the small kitchen and washed his hands at the sink.
"Compliments on my cooking Shane! What are you after this time?" she enquired with a smirk.
"Nothing I promise" he answered, "can I not give my old mum a compliment every once in a while?"
She gave him a gentle shove. "Any way, how is Hannah?"
"Fine," he lied. "She has a new job, cleaning at the Council offices. She gets a hot meal there, too."
"That's great. I hope it works out for her."
"Is Dad home yet?" he asked, changing the subject again.
"Yes, he's just in the cellar fixing something". Shane smiled to himself. He knew exactly what 'fixing' meant. "I'll just go and say hi."
The familiar smell of damp and home-brew lingered in the air, as he made his way down the creaky staircase. His father was resting in an old armchair, eyes closed, holding with a small mug of beer. The bottom step creaked louder than the rest and made his father jump.
"Hey, pull up a box." His father gestured motioned to an old wooden crate.
"Aren't you supposed to be fixing something?"
His father laughed loudly. "Shane, you and I both know that your mother doesn't believe that old story one bit."
"No, she doesn't."
YOU ARE READING
The NumberedScience Fiction
Imagine the second you're born, a consultant removes you from your mother's grasp and runs a battery of genetic and physiological tests on you. Thirty minutes later they give you a score out of one hundred which denotes your level of perfection. If...