Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the SCIENCE FICTION genre (05/10/07)
- TITLE: Scavengers
By Allen Scovil
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"It was a television." Babareya leaned against a door in the derelict house, trying to free it. It popped open. "Now, come. We must see if there is anything of value in this room.
He stared at the screen, remembering the stories Nana had told, then followed his mother. He started pulling drawers in a dusty old wooden dresser, pushing aside any clothes because they would be too deteriorated by this time to be worth salvaging. He pulled out a cylindrical object that rattled when he shook it. "Is this something?" he asked.
His mother came over and took a look at it. "A battery-free flashlight." She pressed the button and smiled when it lit up. "This is most excellent. Your father will be proud of you."
Shimato grinned at the mention of his father. "When is he coming home?"
Babareya's expression grew somber. "Not soon. He has been sent to the radiation-free areas around New York. Next month, he said in his last letter."
Shimato was disappointed. "What's he doing there?"
"So many questions. Back to work, or we'll have little food for the table next week." She felt sorry that she had to put him off like that, especially on his first salvage operation. While her husband Marato was away, however, she couldn't talk about his salvaging of materials from the old skyscrapers. It was dangerous work. She tried to trust him into God's hands.
The boy checked the rest of the drawers while his mother explored the closet. After a couple of minutes, she said, "That's all here. Next room."
That door opened more easily, but there was little to search for. The roof had been damaged by a tree years before, and the rain had ruined everything.
In the last room, they turned up a chest of toys in reasonable condition, and some children's books. Babareya was very happy about those. There was profit in children's goods.
"Where are all the people," Shimato asked as he checked some shoes. He felt uncomfortable about trying them on, as if the owners might come back and be displeased with him. He threw them aside.
"Destroyed in the terrible days of destruction many years ago." She checked several items, but they all required electricity and were therefore useless.
"People forgot about God. They did all kinds of detestable things, and some they even sent around the world on those accursed televisions and computers for all to watch." She crossed herself anxiously at the mere mention of these unforgotten evils.
"Oh." Shimato tried to imagine things so horrible that they scared his mother. He couldn't think of any. "Are we done yet?"
"There is one more room on the main floor I must check. Then we go to the next house. You take these toys down and put them in the wagon." She handed him the box. "Come back for the books when you're done."
In the kitchen, she found a large number of untarnished utensils that would fetch a good coin, and she pulled some of the deeper drawers out. Once she had filled these with her treasures, she carried them to the wooden, covered wagon out front. It was drawn by a pair of large, patient dogs who were lying on the grass, waiting. She looked around for her son. "Shimato? Where are you?"
"Here, Momma." He was still inside the house, watching his reflection in the television as he jumped about. "Did you ever see moving pictures on a television."
"Thank the good God, no. Now come so I can mark this house." She nailed an orange square onto the front door. Another one finished, ready for demolition.
As she closed the door, the television blankly watched them leave. Empty again.
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