The Bloody Finger
Part III of III
Story by Kate Kreke
– Kate is from Chicago and moved to England to get her Masters in Creative Writing from UEA where she fell in love, procreated, and now lives in rural Devon spending her time trying to convince a four year old that she can’t have naps anymore and has to go to school now.
The cat was acting suspiciously. Camilla could see him from her window. He was handsome and shit at hiding when he was up to no good. Her nerves were not in the mood for this today. The email might come at any point this week, which was enough to worry about without having to chase some half-dead mouse around the garden.
Getting up from her computer her concerns were confirmed when she could see the cat’s sister out there too. They only were ever together outside if they had some poor little creature cornered.
Camilla grabbed the shoe box – kept solely for these situations – and went to shoo the cats away from the plant pots. Between the feet of a plant pot was a gorgeous unscathed tiny vole. Every bit of it was round: its big-dark eyes in its sweet face and its little cowering body. Moving the plant pot caused the vole to shoot forward into the shoebox – just as Camilla had planned. Lid on, Camilla took her well-worn path to the forest behind, on her edge of the suburban sprawl.
In a nice sunny bit of hedge she opened the box to let the vole spring free. The vole didn’t spring. It sat washing its little face with its little paws.
“You’re free.” Camilla gave the box a wiggle.
“Off you go.” Camilla gave the box a shake.
“Come on!” Camilla turned the box upside down and shook.
The vole stayed.
Camilla felt frustrated and jealous at the vole not leaping at its second chance at life.
“Come on.” Camilla tipped the box sideways and with her right index-finger gently nudged the vole closer to the edge.
The vole chomped both its top and bottom incisors cleanly into the pad of Camilla’s finger. For a few seconds it clasped on as Camilla instinctively whipped her finger round. The vole finally released with a mighty squeak and flew to the ground with a thud, only then bounding off into the greenery.
The pain was surprisingly searing and the blood from two clear little puncture wounds began to drip.
When Camilla returned the handsome cat was still stalking around the plant pots while his smarter sister was warming herself in the sunshine on the desk. The computer pinged with a message alert before Camilla could wash her hand. Pushing the cat to one side and tapping the screen to see who the e-mail was from – smearing blood on both – she saw she had indeed got the email. She didn’t open it (that would tell headquarters that she had received the message) but she knew what it would say:
“Dear Citizen 4283-C78-F733,
It is with great regret that we must inform you that today will be your day of termination. We hope you have enjoyed your two months of retirement and have made peace with friends and loved ones. We greatly valued your work and dedication and we thank you for this next great sacrifice to the greater good of our glorious society. Your termination means more resources and opportunity for those younger and more able, just as the generation before enabled us to survive and thrive. Thank you again. Relax and feel proud of all your contributions, especially this last great one, as you go off to the greatest adventure and enteral peace.
Please stay in your home. The process will start shortly.”
Illustration by Yana Papova
Camilla left her house immediately.
She had a plan. She was not going to be a victim. In Camilla’s mind victims were people without plans and if you make enough plans you won’t be a victim. For years Camilla had been slowly building a shelter in the woods. Modern people feared anywhere without pavements. She had made the land her own: self-sustainable, self-reliant, she would not be a drain on anyone’s resources. She would go up there and in a good 20 – maybe 25 – years, old age would take her naturally on her terms, not SocietyCorp’s.
Dark woods at night were nowhere near as terrifying as bright suburbs on a weekday. One twitch of a net curtain and Camilla’s plan could fail. A wet drop fell on her leg. Checking the blue sky and seeing neither clouds nor birds, she realized the drop was blood from her finger. There were spots trailing on the pavement behind her.
Using the key under the smiling frog she nipped into Florence’s house. Not part of the plan, but not suspicious. After all, Florence was about to inherit the cats: Camilla could be just leaving a note, not getting a plaster. Camilla washed and thought she looked pale in the bathroom mirror. She assured herself it was only the shock.
Leaving from the backdoor worked out brilliantly as Florence’s garden back gate led to the dog walkers’ path around the woods.
Camilla passed no-one. The plan was working but she still felt sweaty. With her back to the woods she eyed civilization one last time and stepped backwards into the greenery. Once in its leafy hold she turned and took off running for her shelter. Everything was there ready for her meticulously-planned new life. She walked in streams to throw off any scent. She covered herself in clothes lined with Mylar so no one could use heat seeking vision to find her. It was like wearing a sauna, she was pooling with sweat by the time she made it to the shelter.
It was early evening when she stepped into her earth-mound home and the solar-powered heater was starting to hum into life. A cat greeted her. This one was self-reliant; its mother had taught it how to eat mice, not wait for a tin of food.
As Camilla removed her right glove she realized pooling inside it wasn’t sweat but blood from the vole bite. The throbbing from her running slowed; the throbbing from her finger took over. She moved to the window for light. The plaster had slid off and the wound appeared bruised purple-black. That darkness started to seep down her finger, hand, arm. As it spread up her neck and down her torso her legs gave and she collapsed, not knowing if she was a victim of SocietyCorps’ better plan or if nature really could be so randomly cruel.