The Woman (Dark)

She was tired. It had taken hours to walk to the clinic from her home. She had no horse, and only the rich or mechanically skilled could make the necessary adjustments to cars to convert them to steam power. In her overindulged life before the fuel crisis, she’d never taken the time to learn such skills, and rich was a word that could no longer apply to her.

She sighed, listening to the weary click of her heels on the pavement. So quiet, the streets nowadays echoing with the hollow ring of horses hooves, or the tired trudge of human feet. She rarely ventured this far from home nowadays. It was too difficult, having to walk everywhere, but today she’d dressed in her best black dress and most comfortable heeled shoes and set out for the clinic, the last few hoarded dollars in her purse. She might not be rich anymore, but she had the price of the vaccine.

Standing in front of the clinic, she gazed in resignation at the queue. A sigh escaped her, but she stepped into the line to wait, silent, with the rest of them until her turn would come. It seemed she was not the only one with the price of the vaccine in hand. Either that, or many had come, simply to try their luck at beggary.

The line moved interminably slowly, feet shuffling forward, necks craning, murmurs of impatience rippling like wind across water. She wondered if she was the only one here who remembered what wind across water looked and sounded like. Surely no one here was old enough to have seen pooled water? None of them could have been born before all surface water was gathered into the government holding tanks, and none of them could possibly have traveled far enough to have seen the ocean. She closed her eyes, calling a vision of long ago to her mind. A silicon white beach, crystal blue ocean, crested with white as waves rolled and crashed upon the shore. All gone now; or as good as. She couldn’t afford to travel there anymore either.

“Are you in good health, under sixty and is there any chance you could be pregnant?”

She started, blinked, looking to her right into the impassive face of the medical attendant. Her turn had come already. She must have advanced in the line without realising. A nod from her and the medic made a perfunctory examination, checked her ears, her teeth and shone a light in her eyes before he handed her a cup.

“Through that doorway and provide a sample.” He waved her off when she proffered the fistful of bills hastily dug from her purse. “Pay at the end. Move on.”

Moving with the other women, she carried her small cup of urine to a counter, set it down, waited as it was lifted by an expressionless attendant who dipped a small paper stick into it and read the result.

“Denied.”

She stared at him, stupidly. “What?”

“Pregnant.”

Speechless and frowning, she was ushered out of the clinic into the street. Pregnant?

She couldn’t be. It was not possible. There had to be a mistake. But how could she tell them the truth that she was lesbian, hadn’t slept with a man in over fifteen years?

The truth of her non-gravid, vaccine eligible status would be her death anyway.

They shoot lesbians, don’t they?

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